Visited three National Parks (Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades)- CHECK
Walked Pacific Ocean beach- CHECK
Rode Cascade Loop- CHECK
Attended women’s moto camping event (without actually camping)- CHECK
Caught up with old Navy buddies- CHECK
Made new friends (through homestays and random meets)- CHECK
Visited most northwest city in contiguous U.S.- CHECK
Ate awesome seafood- CHECK
I felt like I had covered quite a bit of ground in the state of Washington, and that it was time to move on! After finishing the Cascades Loop, I caught the ferry in Edmonds to Kingston and worked my way back down US-101 until I found myself once again along the Columbia River and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. As I shivered slightly under my raingear, it seemed fitting as droplets of rain rolled off me onto the NPS Dismal Nitch placard I was reading along the waterfront. It was at this north shore cove of the Columbia River, near its outlet to the Pacific Ocean, where a “miserable and soaked to the skin” Corps of Discovery team was pinned to jagged rocks and a steep hillside for six days, as a fierce winter storm raged around them. Captain William Clark named the dreary spot “that dismal little nitch.”
I continued tracing the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail and visited Fort Clatsop, the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery over the winter of 1805/06. The replica fort, based on Clark’s sketches, now serves as an education and visitors center. As I’ve gained more life experiences, have interacted with more people unlike myself, and have actively tried to round out my Louisiana public school education with historical accounts from other perspectives, I’ve come to realize how one-dimensional my knowledge of history has been. I’ve been grateful for the recent addition of the native American perspective, shown side-by-side with the traditional Euro-settler American versions, at most of the NPS sites I’ve visited on my journey thus far. At Fort Clatsop, I watched two movies, back-to-back that did just that. Neither tried to justify right or wrong, it just presented two different perspectives of the same event (the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery 1805/06 winter encampment). The experience provided lots of food for thought.
After a cold and wet, yet educational day, I followed-up on a local recommendation for good seafood and had dinner at the Silver Salmon in Astoria. The salmon was delicious and the fresh broccoli much appreciated 🙂
By morning, the rain had let up, so I loaded the bike and continued to follow US-101 down the coast. As I passed through Seaside, I saw several runners along the street and realized this was Hood-to-Coast weekend! A flood of great memories came rushing forward from my time as a member on a Hood-to-Coast relay team exactly 20 years ago! I was in graduate school at Florida State University in 2002, and, due to a loophole in NCAA eligibility associated with military service, I was able to run cross-country on the university’s developmental team- at the age of 34! No, I wasn’t very good, and the only time I ever placed was when the coach ran us in the Gasparilla Classic in Tampa, FL- a race with age categories 🙂 I was planning to go out and visit my Navy buddy Eric in Oregon on a school break, but he had already committed to driving the support van for a Hood-to-Coast team. Long-story-short, I ended up going from just a visiting passenger in the van, to a team alternate, to a team runner by the time I showed up for the visit! The race is a 128-mile relay run by 12 runners, from the top of Mount Hood, to the Pacific coast, at Seaside, OR. It’s been so long now that I can’t remember how we did, but I do remember that we finished (I think around 28 hours) and that I ended up running three separate segments, totaling around 20 miles during that time. Yes, it was painful. And yes, it was a BLAST!
With roads blocked and a bunch of hungry runners hitting town at one time, I decided to skip a stop in Seaside and continued on to Cannon Beach, just a little further down the Pacific coast.
I walked the beach as the tide came up, then headed inland toward Portland for a visit with a Navy buddy from my VP-17 Hawaii days. I hadn’t seen Chris since we had a mini-reunion with a few shipmates for Mardi Gras in 2000 at my parents’ house in Louisiana, so it had been 22 years. We spent the first couple hours catching up on each others’ lives and who all we kept in touch with. When I brought up Eric and the Hood-to-Coast event, he commented that Eric still lives in Oregon, not too far away, and that we should see if he wanted to get together for dinner. And just like that, we had a mini VP-17 reunion! It’s such a testament to how strong military bonds are that folks you served with decades ago will rearrange their schedules, on short notice, to put you up for a night or to have dinner with you. It was so incredible for the three of us to get together for dinner at BG Food Cartel and to reminisce about “the good old days.”
The next morning after breakfast, it was time to move on, so I continued my journey south down the Pacific Coast Highway.