Monday, March 28, 2011

Of Whale Breath and Truffle Shuffling

Yesterday I took a sweet trip to Astoria and the Oregon/Washington coast with a few friends. It was one of those great Sundays that starts early in the morning with a road coffee and egg-and-cheese and ends when you get back home fourteen hours later, in dark, and realize you've lost your house keys.

We first hit up Fort Clatsop National Park, where Lewis, Clark, and the boys over-wintered in 1805-06, huddled together in dark and smokey cabins, perpetually soggy and stanky, no doubt. Then we jaunted on over to Fort Stevens State Park and walked the beach. Do not think of sunshine and warm breezes, dear reader. No, this is the northwest. Think of Oh, the Wind and the Rain, building clouds, long, slow but serious waves, the twenty different ways the color gray has to be beautiful. Think of hard-packed, too-fine-to-even-feel-on-your-fingertips dark, nearly black sand. Captain (Yarrrgg!) Iredale's blood-rusted skeleton of a shipwreck. And sand dollars, and golden tussocky-banks reflected back in shallow ribbons of puddles. It had been a while since I've seen this coast, and right away I remembered why I love it so much. The play of light, the clouds, the rain all have this perfect drama to them. Its a good place to brood or pine or pace, but I'm always too happy when I'm out there to do any of those things.

Still, it was cold, and it was wet.
Naturally we needed spirits and sustenance to warm up.
Enter Astoria's Fort George Brewery and Public House. Coincidentally, on this very day The NY Times ran a lovely little travel piece on Astoria, the sweet nearly-seaside town famous for fish canneries, Victorian houses built up the hill, and... yes, The Goonies. I challenge you to spend a day bumming around Astoria and not make at least a dozen references to Sloth, Chunk, slick shoes, one-eyed Willie, Baby Ruths, Rocky Road, or Our Time (down here).

Hell, here is a quick clip reminder just one example of the brilliance of this film:
Chunk's Classic Confession.
I wanna play the violin!
The town still glows with the golden sheen of 80s cinematic genius.

photo credit: David Plowden

Across the impressive Astoria-Megler Bridge (that's the longest continuous truss bridge in North America, folks! Its about four miles long!) over the Columbia River into Washington and over to Cape Disappointment, which did not live up to its name.

Not even a little...

 Instead, the cape offered various delights and firsts...

1. First direct sun of the day.

2. First time I have (attempted) to fly a kite in approximately 18 years. (Thanks to whoever left that raggedy triangle of plastic emblazoned with friendly Dr. Seuss characters, lashed to broken branch. It was fun.)

3. First puffins I've ever seen in the wild! Total badasses, riding some sick waves.

4. First gray whales any of us had ever seen, though some of us have often tried. Okay, if you want to split hairs and get super technical about it, we didn't see any fin or physical part of their fifty-foot mass... but we did see their telltale white plumes not far from the coast. We saw their breath. Whale breath! Isn't that amazing? Pods of grays (Eschrichtius robustus) are currently traveling up the coast, traveling north to the Arctic, on one of the longest known migrations of any animal. They swim around, singing their strange, ping-like song, opening their comby baleen mouths, scooping up sediment, and sifting enough tiny crustaceans to somehow, amazingly, fill up their 36-ton-bodies. And we share the same planet with these giants. And we were just close enough to watch them breathe. What a wonder. What a day.

Astoria Column: 164 spiral steps
No Gromit?
All the best ladder-climbing is illegal

1 comment:

  1. Love it.
    You're such a good write and I am jealous as a result.