Monday, October 19, 2009
Clatskanie to Astoria
Captions from top: Grass and the ocean our first glimpse, Free tent site at Clatskanie city park, Peter Iredale shipwreck at Ft. Stevens State Park, Bridge from Astoria to Warrenton, Light ship Columbia at Astoria, the Columbia River valley, Us at the top of a really big climb.
Clatskanie to Astoria 10/19/09
Day 3- 49 miles
Today was much more difficult than we had expected, although we didn't really have any expectations. The Clatskanie to Astoria section has two long grades that we had to climb and descend; those were fine, but the last few miles coming into Astoria were replete with sharp short ascents and a bit of a head wind. It made for interesting riding, but this early into our trip, without road hardened legs, it made us both very tired. We rode into Astoria with weak legs and empty stomachs. We snacked on the banks of the Columbia River with sound of sea lions and boats coming into port around us.
We stopped at the Columbia River Maritime Museum for a few hours. The museum tells the story of the skilled river and bar pilots that direct huge ships up the Columbia. Apparently the Columbia River bar is also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific because so many ships wreck here. I can only imagine how dangerous the river must have been before it was completely dammed. At the museum we were also allowed to board a ship that was used as a sort of portable lighthouse in the Columbia bar area.
After we left the museum, we decided to camp at Ft. Stevens State Park campground about ten miles to the West of Astoria at the very western point where the Columbia River Meets the Pacific Ocean. On the way to the campground we stopped at a Walgreens for nutrition supplements (read: chocolate milk, candy and cookies). Dani and I have found a reborn passion for all things sweet and calorie laden. We are hungry all of the time. We arrived at the campground after 49 miles of riding tired, cold, and hungry.
I cannot emphasize how much we had hit a wall when we arrived at Fort Stevens. We were chilled and could not wait to fire up the stove, make some dinner and eat something, anything. The first thing out of the bag and in our mouths was ginger thin cookies. We managed to eat them before we even had the tent set up. It is amazing what a little sugar will do for your morale at the end of a hard day.
We had a filling dinner of tortilla soup with English muffins (actually quite good!) and went off to the showers. As we were leaving our campsite to shower, three sets of eyes were illuminated by Greg's headlamp. "Raccoons, I think." Oh yes, they were raccoons. After our showers we cleaned up around the campsite and put all of the panniers under our tent vestibule. We had left a few non-edible things on the table (no bear boxes to put food in, obviously). We realized the raccoons were closing in as we brushed our teeth. Greg and I spent at least a half hour chasing around the coons and throwing our sandals at them to scare them away. Greg even treed one and almost managed to knock it off its perch several times. We finally decided they had been harassed enough and went into our tent to sleep. I was startled awake by sniffing at my ear. To make a long story short, the raccoons harassed us all night long. They were so persistent that they even pulled one of the panniers out from under the vestibule, opened it, and stole a bag of jerky and a granola bar (which I discovered in the morning). At that point we were pretty irate from laying awake and listening to snarling, barking, cooing and growling raccoons that we thought to put the panniers with food in the bathroom where the raccoons couldn't get to them. This finally deterred them enough to where we could sleep for a little while. They still prowled around the tent all night. We both probably only got 3-4 hours of sleep that night. In the morning I told the ranger they had a raccoon problem and he said, "it's just part of the ambiance of the park." Ambiance, sure.