Journey to Salem – January, 2019 – Part 3, north Oregon coast to Astoria

The section of US 101, the Coast Highway, north of Newport passes through beautiful country. Heading north, the Pacific was on my left, the Northern Oregon Coast Range was on my right. Some stretches of the mostly two-lane highway are close enough to the shore line that waves pounding the sand can be seen from the road. In other areas, the roadway travels between tall pines or curves inland and runs through the foothills of the western Oregon mountains, winding in serpentine fashion through forests that feel primeval.

Astoria Column at morning. The sky was azure blue high atop Coxcomb Hill early on a January morning. Astoria Column stood in bold relief against the sky as the sun contrasted the Column in light and shadow. The bottom ring summarizes the long history of the Astoria region with the phrase, “Before the White Man Came.” Spiraling up the rest of the column are pictures and descriptions of historical events since the coming of the “white man.” This image is in my Astoria collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2019.

When I finished shooting the beach in front of Newport, I set out north on US 101 towards Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River.

The section of US 101, the Coast Highway, north of Newport passes through beautiful country. Heading north, the Pacific was on my left, the Northern Oregon Coast Range was on my right. Some stretches of the mostly two-lane highway are close enough to the shore line that waves pounding the sand can be seen from the road. In other areas, the roadway travels between tall pines or curves inland and runs through the foothills of the western Oregon mountains, winding in serpentine fashion through forests that feel primeval.

The coast can be accessed by roads that lead from the highway to the sand along the areas where hills separate the roadway from the shore. US 101 is the main street in several of the small town and communities along the coast, and in many of those communities, the shoreline is just a parking lot or one or two blocks from the highway.

A 1967 Oregon law, called the Beach Bill, granted permanent public access to the ocean shore from the line of existing vegetation to the sea, regardless of ownership. Oregon is the only west coast state that provides a public easement for the entire coastline along the state. Signs along 101 and in the towns direct travelers to the nearest beach access.

The northern section of the Coast highway is a convenient getaway for folks in Portland and Salem. Lincoln City, a beach town popular with out-of-state tourists and Oregonians, is less than two hours from Portland and just over one hour from Salem. A couple of miles north of Lincoln City on 101, take Oregon state highway 18 east toward Grand Ronde, a community of the Grand Ronde Confederated Tribes. Originally a reservation created by treaty between several bands of the Kalapuyan tribe and the Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joel Palmer in 1855, Grand Ronde became a company town owned by the Spaulding-Miami Lumber Company in the 1920s, and is now a residential center on the Grand Ronde Reservation.

Just beyond Grand Ronde, Highway 18 merges with Highway 22. About five miles farther east, 22 splits southeast towards Salem and 18 heads northeast towards Portland. All of the distances mentioned in my blog are approximate. I try to be as accurate as possible using Google maps and the odometer on my X-Terra, but Google . . .

An hour (44 miles) north of Lincoln City on 101 is Tillamook. Fishing and logging are important to the Tillamook economy, but the real draw for tourists, visitors, and the hungry and thirsty is the Tillamook Creamery, a farmer-owned co-op, home of sharp cheddar cheese, creamy ice cream, and refreshing, cheese curds, and wholesome milk. The visitors’ center at the Creamery is well worth a visit.

Tillamook, the cheese capital, is just an hour and twenty minutes from Portland and an hour and a half from Salem. Travelers to Salem from Tillamook will head 19 miles south on US 101 to Hebo, then southeast on Oregon highway 22, through Grand Ronde, and continue on 22 to Salem. Visitors traveling to Portland take Oregon state highway 6, the Wilson River Highway, on a winding two-lane road through the mountains to US 26, the Northwest Sunset Highway, east of Wilksboro, then southeast on 26 to downtown Portland.

The city of Tillamook sits at the southeast corner of Tillamook Bay. A short distance north of Tillamook, a wide shoulder on the east side of 101 offers a space to park and admire, and photograph Larson Cove, pictured below and Tillamook Bay across the highway.

No Fishing. No fishing. What is one to do at 9:00 on a Monday morning? Go to the office? Let’s go fishing. But the sign (under the sea gull on the right, on Tillamook Bay) says no fishing. No worries, that’s just for tourists. Tillamook Bay is calm under blue skies in October, 2016. October, 2016. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2016 Image is in my Oregon Coast collection.
Rusty Railing and Reflection. Highway 101 from Reedsport, Oregon, to Astoria passes through enchanting, rural country. Larson Cove near Tillamook Bay catches the sunlight and washes the clouds as it reflects a cloud dappled pastel sky. The discharge from the culvert on the lower left can be seen spreading through the water. The water is from Tillamook Bay on the far side of US 101, which is to the left of the image. October, 2016. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2016 Image is in my Oregon Coast collection.

Because the beach towns are relatively close to urban areas, the traffic on US 101, particularly as it passes through popular beach towns can be heavy at times. Visitors should also be wary of mudslides during heavy rains where 101 travels through the mountains that compel detours to and through the Willamette Valley.

Speaking of rain, Tillamook County and the City of Tillamook, the Dairylands city, are subject to serious riverine and coastal flooding when heavy rainfall is added to rapidly melting snow. Because of the possibility of flooding, visitors during winter and late spring should check ahead with local authorities for the conditions.

Garibaldi is a small fishing village on the north end of Tillamook Bay. US 101 curves around the eastern edge of the Bay and through Garibaldi, then turns right, north, along the coast.

Garibaldi sits on the north end of Tillamook Bay on the Oregon coast. The town was named by its founder, Daniel Bayley after Giuseppe Garibaldi who unified Italy as a democracy. The town’s initial can be seen on the hill behind the town. October, 2016. This image is in my Oregon Coast collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2016

Forty miles (about an hour) north of Tillamook on US 101, travelers will find Cannon Beach, Crescent Beach, Haystack Rock, and The Needles. Cannon Beach, a favorite destination for beach walkers, surf swimmers, and photographers, is a smidge over two hours to Salem, and only an hour and a half from Portland. The trip to Portland follows US 101, the Oregon Coast Highway, northeast four miles to US 26, then southeast to Portland.

Haystack Rock and the pounding surf on Cannon Beach in Oregon attract many people in the summer. Visitors stroll, build hot dog fires, and are often overwhelmed by this grand, wonderful vista. Cell phones for selfies, and occasional shots of the scenery, are necessary equipment for visiting this beach. This July, 2017, image of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach is in my Oregon Coast collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2017

Haystack Rock is a sea stack made of basalt formed by lava flows millions of years ago from the Columbia Plateau and the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon. Once connected to the mainland, it is now separated by high tides. At low tides, visitors can walk out to the rock and look for tidal sea creatures such as anemones and star fish and terns, puffins and other sea birds that nest on the rock.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, stretches between sea grass and rolling waves along the Oregon Coast south of Astoria. Haystack Rock is on the right, a delicate purple bloom is on the lower left. This image of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock on the northern Oregon coast is in my Oregon Coast collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2017

The needles, smaller rock formations near Haystack Rock, center right in the above image, are also basalt deposits from ancient times.

Spruce Street and Hemlock Street run north-south through Cannon Beach. Both streets end at 3d Street at the north end of town, near the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center. To the north of the Conference Center, Public Coast Brewing welcomes visitors to Cannon Beach. Beyond the brew pub, Fir Street becomes North Alternate Route Highway 101. Drive across the bridge over Ecola Creek and turn left on East 5th Street. East 5th veers right and becomes Ecola State Park Road. Take the windy Ecola State Park Road at the top of bluffs to the State Park parking lot, less than a mile north. Ecola State Park is a definite destination for all visitors to the Oregon Coast.

Storms over Cannon Beach. On an autumn day in early October, 2016, storm clouds hang heavy over Cannon Beach, Oregon. Waves roll in from far across the Pacific, tiny figures walk the sandy beach, viewed from Ecola State Park looking south. Gray seas reflect gray storm clouds. Haystack Rock can be seen in the distance on the right, not far from the shoreline. This image of Crescent Beach, Cannon Beach, and Haystack Rock are in my Oregon Coast collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2016

The view of Crescent Beach, far left in the above image, Cannon Beach, beyond Crescent Beach, and Haystack Rock, near the horizon above, is magnificent. Breakers roll in that are born far across the Pacific to pound the sandy beaches. The imperious mountains of the Coastal Range can be seen in the distance in the above image.

Who Has the Best Shot. Three photographers were attempting to capture the beauty of a moment at Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach, Oregon. One looked out to the gray storm clouds hovering over a gray sea. One looked towards the breakers pounding the shore at Cannon Beach. One looked south, past the others, to the waves, the beach, the hills and the gray skies beyond. Who has the best shot? October, 2017. Image of photographers at Ecola State Park is in my Oregon Coast collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2017

Ecola State Park is almost mandatory for photographers. Some shoot the coast, others shoot the steel gray sea on a stormy day. Some shoot the coast, the foaming breakers, the dark, stormy clouds, and other photographers.

Pathway to a Gray Sea. The skies over Ecola State Park in early October are often gray. The sea is always a mirror of the sky, and on this day the sea off the Oregon coast north of Cannon Beach is slate gray. A sandy path leads visitors around the bend to a gray ocean and a future unknown. October, 2017. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2017

Ecola State Park affords grand views of the sea, westering perhaps to Asia. A path leads from the parking lot to the edge of the bluffs, and down over the rocks for active climbers. This path, and the one that leads to the picnic table and favored photo shoot site, above, are smooth, and negotiable by mobility limited folks with assistance. Rest rooms are available at the parking lot.

The Ecola State Park Road continues a short distance north of the first parking lot to a parking lot for the Indian Beach Day-Use Area. Paths lead down the bluffs to the flat, sandy beach below. Indian Beach is beautiful location for walking dogs or exercising, but it is not accessible by limited mobility visitors. The beach and the rolling waves can be viewed from accessible paths near the parking lot.

Football and Pushups. The surf rolls in, the sand is firm and level, the Oregon coast is a special place for exercise and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Indian Beach was flat and delightful in October, 2016.
Off Leash Area. The Oregon coast is famous for its sandy beaches. The beaches are excellent playgrounds, and delightful dog-walking areas. I wonder why one dog has freedom, but the other does not. Indian Beach in October, 2017, was great for dog walking. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran 2017. In my Oregon Coast collection.

When you are ready to leave, head back towards Cannon Beach on Ecola State Park Road to Alternate Route Highway 101, turn left, and merge back onto 101 northbound. US 101 travels inland for a few miles, then returns to the shore at Seaside, 14 miles north of Cannon Beach. 101 is the main north-south road through Seaside. Several miles north of Seaside, travelers can choose Oregon Highway 104 and visit Fort Stevens, a Civil War era fort intended to protect the mouth of the Columbia, in Fort Stevens State Park, and the wreck of the the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel-plated barque that ran aground in 1906.

Although I continued on US 101 and crossed the New Youngs Bay Bridge into downtown Astoria in January, 2019, bypassing Fort Stevens and the Peter Iredale wreck, earlier journeys took me to Fort Clatsop. To visit Fort Clatsop, travelers northbound on 101 should turn right on SE Ensign Lane, between the Walmart south of Ensign and the Costco north of Ensign. Turn right on Fort Clatsop Road at the sign. If history interests you, this replica of the original wintering over Fort built by Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery will be fascinating. Fort Clatsop and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park are open every day but Christmas.

End of a Long Journey. Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery ended their trek on the Pacific Coast, a few miles west of modern Astoria. They built Ft Clatsop to winter for four months until their return. This replica was built in 2006 using plans in Lieutenant William Clark’s journal very near or on the original site. August, 2015. This image of the Fort Clatsop gate is in my Astoria Oregon collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2015

If you visit Fort Clatsop, return to Business US 101, the continuation of Ensign Lane, and turn right. Ensign, in the meantime, has sneakily become the Warrenton-Astoria Highway. Turn right and follow Business 101, the Warrenton-Astoria Highway, as it curves north and runs along the Lewis and Clark river and across the Lewis and Clark River Bridge, then north again to cross the Youngs River. It’s not as complicated as it might sound, for there are plenty of signs. Just stay on Business 101 into downtown Astoria.

Cloudy Morning on Coxcomb Hill. Astoria creeps up the Columbia River side of Coxcomb Hill, and steps down the far side that faces the Lewis and Clark River. High atop Coxcomb Hill, visitors can photograph views of the rivers and climb to the top of the Astoria Column. The views from the top of the Column are spectacular. This image of the Astoria Column is in my Astoria Oregon collection. Copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography 2017

The image above is the iconic Astoria Column atop Coxcomb Hill. The Column offers a view of Astoria, the Columbia, and forested land to the east. I’ll write more about the Column and in my final post of this series, Journey to Salem – Part 4, Astoria. I hope you’re enjoying this vicarious visit as much as I enjoyed the multiple trips that went into making these memories, and the real pleasure it is to share these journeys with you. Please come back when you have time.

All of the images in this blog are mine, and can be found in the collections of my images at Tom Cochran Vagabond Photography. The images are all for sale as paper prints, canvases, and all sorts of unusual stuff, like shower curtains, coffee mugs, and towels. Even phone covers. Text and all images are copyright (C) Tom Cochran Photography, (C) Tom Cochran Vagabond Photography, and (C) Tom Cochran Vagabond Blog

Thanks. I hope you’ll comment.

Author: Tom Cochran Vagabond

I photograph and write about the people and places that catch my eye in the Pacific northwest and the Rocky Mountain west. I draw my palette from the landscapes and cities, rivers and highways, mountains and farm and sea coasts of Washington and Oregon, primarily. I sometimes travel farther afield, across Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. I am a seeker of sights, a will-o'-the-wisp in search of the winsome, photographing and describing the unusual, the beautiful, the engaging, and the truly awe inspiring. Welcome to my corner of the world!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.