On August 30th we took the grueling drive to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint at Mt. St. Helens. Johan’s driving was impressive, especially as I clutched the side of the door and gasped every time we took a turn along the way. It was well worth almost plumeting to our death about 3,649 times that day. The history of Mt. St. Helens and the eruption in 1980 is fascinating, as are the stories of people who loved the mountain so much they refused to leave during the evacuations. Eerily beautiful is the “Ghost Forest”, which is an area in the blast zone that still has hundreds of dead standing trees for miles. 37 years after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the forests and lakes are beginning to rebuild themselves.
On August 30th we attempted to see Mt. St. Helens but heavy fog would have prevented any kind of view, so we detoured to Astoria instead. We knew this as the adorable little town where Kindergarten Cop was filmed, but we later learned it is also the place where Willy the young orca made his triumphant jump over the rocks to freedom. I’m wondering why THAT is not what the town is known for. If both Kindergarten Cop and Free Willy were filmed at my house (impossible because I don’t have one right now), I would for sure make a big deal out of Free Willy being shot there.
In all seriousness, Astoria is actually known for more important historical reasons, such as being the area where Lewis & Clark first caught glimpse of the Pacific Ocean 18 months after leaving St. Louis, MO in search of the Northwest Passage in the early 1800’s. (As it turned out, the Northwest Passage did not exist but Lewis & Clark still laid the groundwork for western expansion as a result of this expedition.) For us, paved roads led the way to our first stop, Fort Clatsop, a replica of the original camp set up by the Lewis & Clark expedition. Next, the Astoria Column which is a cleverly named column that overlooks Astoria.
After climbing 164 steps to see the same view we saw from ground level at the column, we headed into town. Astoria has a 100-year-old trolley that we rode and is where we learned most everything we now know about the town. A trolley conductor stands in front ringing the bell, waving to folks on the street, and drives the trolley while another gentleman stands in the back pointing out landmarks and telling stories (relevant historical stories, not just random stories). Totally charming.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum was last on the list for the day and was fascinating. Weather at the Columbia River Bar causes this to be one of the most dangerous water passages for ships; constant and extreme loss of life and cargo caused the introduction of the Columbia River Bar Pilots in the mid 1800’s. Bar pilots hold a license that is nearly impossible to get; they ride up in small boats and use a ladder to climb on board and guide every ship that passes through this area of the Columbia River. SO cool. We also tried our hand at announcing the weather from a green screen, picked up some excellent WWII facts, and watched a 3D movie about hurricanes.
Astoria Day ended at Buoy Beer Company with fresh fish and wine for me; beer and habanero oyster deviled eggs (gross) for Johan. He said they were really good.