Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Tale of Two Forts

In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition was about to face winter along the Columbia River and the available options for weathering a Pacific Northwest winter were to move upriver, camp on the Washington side of the river, or camp on the Oregon side. Per Wikipedia, Washington's diet was deemed too boring and the weather too rainy (the same still holds true today!). On the recommendation of the local natives, Lewis and Clark opted to build an encampment along Oregon's Lewis and Clark River in what truly was an amazing coincidence.

Encampment detail
Well, the camp was built in an Oregon winter storm which, as we Oregonians know all too well, last about 9 months or so. So the Lewis and Clark expedition soon found the Oregon diet too boring and the weather too rainy (and the same still holds true today!). Apparently they had enough of our weather and they left the area well ahead of schedule (I call it "running away") and their encampment, known as Fort Clatsop, eventually decayed as all things do in Oregon's wet climate. A replica was later built using Lewis and Clark's sketches and that replica burnt down in a 2005 fire, so another replica was subsequently built (but with smoke detectors, this time). I doubt the smoke detectors were in Lewis and Clark's sketches.

Bringing dignity and respect to Sacajawea
Dollie, Mom Gier, and I made a quick trip to visit the fort on our stay in Seaside. The fort is the centerpiece of Lewis and Clark National Historic Park and we toured the small encampment. The austere encampment is not very big and you could almost smell the unwashed bodies in the confined spaces in the wooden structures. Oh, that also might have been me, but I digress. After touring the rustic encampment, Dollie and I took a short walk on some boardwalks to the Lewis and Clark River where the view of Saddle Mountain's tip got my attention because the mountains always call me.

Happy cyclists
The next day, Dollie and I got up early and hopped on the bicycles. We pedaled up the coast highway to Fort Stevens State Park, a rather large park that is part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Park complex. Fort Stevens was built during the Civil War to guard the mouth of the Columbia against the British during the Pig War. I kid you not, we nearly went to war with England over a British pig shot by an American settler, sometimes comedy just writes itself.

What's left of the Peter Iredale
Fortunately, we never quite got around to shooting each other and both sides continued to eat bacon and pork chops with impunity. It was a much more peaceful setting when Dollie and I arrived at the park on a chilly morn. Our first stop was at the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a 1906 shipwreck that is still visible today. Since we were there so early, there weren't many people around which is not a normal occurrence, judging by all the footprints in the sand. It sure makes for nicer photographs without the thundering sandaled hordes intruding into the camera viewfinder.

A ship on the Columbia River
Using a combination of bike trails and roadways, we cycled through low marshlands to the Columbia River.  The river is the Mighty Columbia here, flowing wide, deep, and fast. We watched large cargo ships make their way upriver, presumably on their way to Portland. Fishermen by the pailful were plying their avocation along the sandy river banks.

Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia
The last stop was the south jetty at the actual mouth of the Columbia. Across the river was Cape Disappointment on the Washington state side. I wondered if the cape was named by Lewis and Clark for the boring diet, rainy weather, or maybe the Seattle Mariners. There is a wooden tower that provided a great view of the Oregon coast arcing towards Seaside in the morning sun and we partook thereof. We then completed our 40 mile ride in short order and arrived at the vacation rental as everybody else was just getting up, allowing us to smugly proclaim "40 miles before breakfast, yeah baby!" Our family thinks Dollie and I are nuts.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale
For more pictures of Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens, just click on the links below.

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