When I went out to walk Cali this morning, there were a few nice little waves rolling in out front. The wind had calmed and small lefts were breaking along the sandbar in front of the lighthouse. After driving up to the kiosk to book us in for another night, it was time to test my resistance to the freezing water. By now, the air temperature was getting close to 50 just about an even match for the water.
Cali ruled the beach while I paddled the outside breakers, dodging the seals to catch a couple of decent rides. My 3 mil wetsuit was no match for the conditions but I managed to last almost an hour before giving up the fight and heading in to thaw out.
The Coast Guard have a large presence in the Columbia River area and this morning I saw a large contingent suiting up in wetsuits down at Waikiki getting ready for some in the water activity. After surfing, we could hear the rumble of a helicopter off of the point at North Head. Another crew was practicing cliff rescues on the rock walls below the lighthouse hauling up dummies on their cables into the helicopter. Exciting stuff.
We have been criss crossing a lot of the areas that Lewis & Clark traversed during their explorations just a little over 200 years ago. Here at the mouth of the Columbia River is where they reached their goal of finding a way to the Pacific Ocean. They camped here as they mapped out the geography of the area before wintering across the river in Oregon. On Cape Disappointment near the lighthouse there is a museum with artifacts and history of their adventure. We off loaded the bicycles and set off to visit the Interpretive Center. We had to hump it up a steep hill to get to the top of the cape but the views were worth it. An eagle greeted us at the top then hid himself away in a tall tree.
The museum had a number of interesting displays and a timeline that you followed as you walked down the ramp, describing the journey from start to finish. Having always been afflicted with wanderlust, I am fascinated by how cool it must have been to figure out your way through all the different landscapes and cultures. In the upper hall, they had one of the old lighthouse prisms on display along with some early Coast Guard equipment. The Coast Guard rules the Cape with boats at the ready in Baker’s Bay and observation towers at the point.
We hiked through the valley and up the far side to the lighthouse startling a deer as we turned a corner. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is like the red headed step brother to his North Head counterpart. No fresh paint or B&B stays here. Things are strictly utilitarian and gritty with rust and flaking paint the prominent feature. A pair of Coast Guard sailors manned the wooden shack on the end keeping an eye on boat traffic into the River.
Ilwaco in the distance
Coast Guard parking
Just to the south lies Beard’s Hollow, a little dell that leads to the long winding path through the grasslands that run along Long Beach. We had to huff our way up a few steep climbs to reach the spot where the path turns down to the beach. The bike path is eight miles long and most of it follows the narrow strip of yellow grass between the pines and the sand. We almost reached the end when we did the math and figured we were cutting it close with the amount of daylight we had left so we turned and raced for home.
We definitely made up some time going home and arrived in time for another gorgeous sunset out on the beach with all of our neighbors. The Coast Guard had a different whirlybird out practicing for the evening session as couples strolled the sand below. A great action filled day at Cape Disappointment.