Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 8 - "Ocian In View! Oh! The Joy!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

I was hoping for a nice sunrise so I could dabble in photography but the clouds were relentless.   After a seafood omelet at the Pig N Pancake, I moseyed over to Fort Stevens State Park.

My first thought upon opening the car door was “This place smells like my breakfast!”  A few short walks to some little inlets were pleasant, but it was not until I stood on the observation deck at the base of the jetty when it really hit me..

As Captain William Clark said on November 7 1805, “Ocian in view! Oh! The joy!”  While he may have been a poor speller by modern standards, he certainly captured the moment for the both of us.  It was my eighth day of vacation but the first moment I really saw the Pacific Ocean (on this trip anyway). For those of you that are geographically impaired, Seattle, while on the water, is not on the Pacific.  It is located on Puget Sound. 

I could argue that the hour or so spent on that observation deck was one of the best single hours of the trip.  Crashing waves.  Sounds. Smells.  Everywhere I looked, I was finding birds I so rarely see.  Rhinoceros Auklet.  Parades of Brown Pelicans (joining the hundreds already on the beach).  Common Murre.   Heermann’s Gulls.  Brandt’s Cormorant.  Western Gull. 

Tootin’ around in the park turned up Pacific-slope Flycatcher (quite common actually), singing Pacific Wren, Bald Eagle , Lesser Yellowlegs, and quite possibly one of the angriest Golden-crowned Kinglets I have seen in almost 20 years of birding.  

After taking a few minutes to explore the wreck of the PeterIredale, a steel-hulled, wind-powered cargo vessel that wrecked on the coast in 1906, I opted to move along to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park.  Like the Nez Perce Park, it is a series of units scattered about on both sides of the Columbia River mouth (Washington and Oregon).

The cornerstone unit, if you will, is Fort Clatsop.  After successfully reaching the Pacific Ocean in late 1805, the Corps voted on a location to spend the winter of 1805/06.  From their vantage point on the north shore of the Columbia River at a spot called Station Camp (present day Washington), they voted unanimously “This blows. Let’s go over there…” Ultimately, they established Fort Clatsop in present-day Oregon. 

The original fort, as you might expect, is long gone.  It was turned over by Lewis and Clark to the Clatsop Indians (whom they named it after). They apparently used it for a few years. It certainly fell into disrepair and was likely chopped up for firewood as it rotted out.    A replica fort, constructed in the 1950s on a site believed to be the original location, burned down in 2005.  By the end of 2006, Fort Clatsop 3.0 was accommodating visitors.

Interestingly enough, we can not say exactly what the Fort looked like.  The modern construction (as well as Clatsop 2.0) is based from a sketch in Clark’s journal (they were writing monsters during the entire journey).  It clearly shows a four-sided structure.    Some references in the journals of the other Corps members suggest that the Fort was actually a three-sided deal.  No references suggest that the original plans were altered.  So, if one were to poll a room-full of Lewis and Clark historians on the design of the fort, you would likely get different answers

Any way you look at it, it was a neat place and I am very happy I went there.  The opportunity to walk the very woods the Corps of Discovery walked was really quite inspirational. While the birds were a bit quiet, the smells and feel were as close as I can imagine.  They absolutely “one-upped me” on birds. They were the first to record a California Condor for science.  One was shot while it was partying on a whale.  I did not see a single Condor. 

A few minutes before lunch was spent securing lodging.  Cell phones signals for my carrier were basically zilcho but the nice woman at the gift shop let me use her personal phone outside to get campsites lined up for the three nights I would need them.  I would later regret this plan, but I’ll deal with that later….

Lunch was at the Wet Dog Café/Astoria Brewing Company.  The clam chowder was certainly good but that is not why I was there, of course.  The five beers in the sampler included Bitter Bitch IPA, DaBomb Blonde, Old Red’s Amber, Poop Deck Porter, and Volksweissen.  All where exceptional except for the Bitter Bitch; that was super-exceptional.  Visually.  Aromatically.  Palatably (is that a word?).  Damn good.  Life beers #1,061 -1,065 down the hatch.  I got a ball cap, too.

Using this wonderful page for Oregon birding as a reference, I spent the rest of my day birding the coast.  While I did not travel the same way the Corps did (I had a car, after all!), its allure was every bit as compelling. 

Locations along the route included Sunset Beach, Seaside Cove, Haystack Rock and Jetty County Park.  Seaside Cove was certainly worth a stop. Anytime you are along the a rocky coast in the Pacific Northwest in August and see black birds with a striking black-and-white pattern as they move from rock to rock, you should give them a second look. I certainly did. They turned out to Black Turnstones (life bird #647).  Watch those barnacle crusted rocks.  I gashed my knee brushing against one trying to get a better shot.

Jetty County Park was great, too.  Pigeon Guillimot and Marbled Murrelet were, of course, awesome.  Watching the young Peregrine try to take said Guillemot and Murrelet was pretty neat, too!  Certainly a youngster, that bird has a lot to learn. The Phalaropes along the far shoreline were just too far to name.  (I was told later they were probably Red-necked Phalaropes.)

The town of Cannon Beach was my stop for dinner.  As I was approaching Bills’ Tavern Brewhouse, a flock of Red Crossbills zipped over.  2x4 Stout, Asa’s Premium Blonde, Duck Dive Pale Ale, Foggy Notion Weissbier, Ragsdale Porter, and Rudy’s Red were sampled (#1,066-1,071). I scored all of the beers as average, but I did like one aspect of it.  I was able to do a side-by-side comparison of the stout and the porter.  A lot of beer snobs can’t really define what separates the two styles.  In this case, the stout was certainly darker, creamier, and with more alcohol tones than the porter, but that could just be the way it was brewed.  Interesting.

Lodging was at a tent site at an RV park.  Like Clark said, “Oh! The joy!”  Can you taste the sarcasm?

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