A Week-End By The Sea – Astoria, OR
“I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.” Bram Stoker (Dracula)
There is something about the sea I can’t resist, something that draws me in and keeps me coming back. It’s not physical either. I’m a terrible sea-person. I get seasick at the drop of a hat and so (for obvious reasons) I never sail. I’m a wimp and don’t like getting in the water unless it’s tropically warm, so it’s not that either. It’s a mental thing, a sense thing, a (dare I say it) spiritual thing. It’s the smell of salt air in my nose, the brisk breeze of the ocean through my hair, the sounds of gulls as they cry their melancholy song and the ever-changing, ever-moving water. My spirit moves with the ocean, gets lulled by it, releases itself to it.
Put a super cool town right next to the sea and you’ve got my full attention.
Welcome to Astoria, the mini-San Francisco of Oregon. Situated on the very NW tip of Oregon it sits on the corner of the Columbia River & the sea and guards the gateway to the terrible Columbia River Bar. It’s got beauty, it’s got grit and it’s got tons of cool history too.
Founded in 1811, Astoria was the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast and it retains all the historical charm of a by-gone era mixed with the hard substance of a working town by the sea. Here you’ll find Victorian Houses terraced on a hill overlooking the mighty Columbia River. The downtown area is filled with historic buildings, breweries, shops and a most excellent weekly farmers market. The riverfront preserves a long fishing history with old canneries and a restored riverfront trail (biking/walking and even a restored trolley) as well the as the working ships that are still very much part of the town today.
To add to its charm the town has a long Scandinavian History, something that obviously twangs my little heart strings and endears me even more to the area. Within 20 mins of town are two excellent beach areas, Fort Stevens State Park to the south, and Cape Disappointment State Park on the other side of the river to the north. The latter is where we are going to spend the next two months in our summer hosting job.
But I’m getting waaay ahead of myself here.
When we left the Wallowa’s last week-end we had originally planning a rather leisurely route to the coast, perhaps exploring some areas of the Columbia River we had not yet seen. A broken iPhone and an unexpected inland heat-wave switched everything around. Sometime last Tuesday Paul’s (practically) brand new iPhone6 was gobbled up by electronic gremlins and suddenly refused to either boot or charge. A quick call to Apple and a few (failed) diagnostic efforts later it became obvious he needed a new phone. Since Portland was on our way to the coast we decided to make a bee-line for town and take care of it right away at the Apple Store. At the same time we entered a freakish heat-wave where temps soared to 90 degrees. The combo made us decide to just spend a single night in the big city. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, Paul had a new phone by Thursday evening (VERY impressed with Apple service) and we were on the way to Astoria and cool temps by Friday morning.
Our next dilemma was where to stay for the week-end.
Since we’d arrived early on the coast we couldn’t (yet) occupy our hosting site at Cape D. Also, as luck would have it, we arrived just in time for the annual Astoria Scandinavian Mid-Summer Festival, a rather big to-do for the area which meant every RV park (and state park) within 20 miles was at full capacity.
Well, aaaaalmost every park.
In the back of my mind I remembered a blog post by our good friend Suzanne detailing an unusual park she stayed at downtown last year. It’s not really listed anywhere, has zero reviews and is rather (how shall I put it) “rustic” in nature with mostly permanents and/or semi-permanents as residents. But it’s RIGHT on the Columbia River, in a superb (outstanding) location to explore town. We knew the appearance of the place would scare most folks away meaning we’d likely have a chance to get in.
We decided to risk it and rolled into the park about mid-day. As expected (from Suzanne’s post) the office was closed, but there were several open sites so we just slotted into a spot and waited around. Some time later the manager came by, and (after some “negotiation” on the price) we reached a deal and signed the paperwork. SCORE!
We ended up LOVING it here!
The rest of our week-end was just spent immersing ourselves into the welcoming arms of gorgeous Astoria. We walked to the Rogue Public House (one of the most dog-friendly breweries in town, that just happens to be right across from the park), had coffee overlooking the river at Coffee Girl (one of my favorite “hidden gems” in town), biked the riverfront trail to downtown, shopped the farmer’s market, gawked at the cargo ships, and watched sunsets over the Astoria Bridge. I even hopped over to the Scandinavian Festival to check it out and enjoyed some classic Scandinavian Food and Fare, thus indulging my Danish roots. Between it all the RV park was the perfect sleeping spot. Very quiet, nice neighbors (we met several of them) with the riverfront just steps away.
We’ll be back many times to Astoria before we leave the area, but our little week-end getaway in town was the perfect intro to our summer “home”. Today we find ourselves at the beach (ahhhhhh!) and in a few days we start “work” (a term I use veeeeery loosely for what we do here), but that’ll all be fodder for a future post. For now, I just leave you with the sounds of the ocean and dreams of your own castle in the air.
- Beer & Buddies – Astoria, OR
- Astoria & Cannon Beach, OR -> Maritime Refinement & Bloody Beautiful Coastline
- The Graveyard of the Pacific – The Columbia River Bar, OR/WA
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