Arrival in Astoria

On Friday the rain was blowing like crazy. I had just breached the city limits of Astoria when it started coming down hard, making navigation even trickier than it already was in an unfamiliar place. From the highway through town, I tried to take note of the street signs and landmarks passing through my peripheral vision so I might know where to turn when I came back that way. The downtown lights were cheerful, but I wasn’t ready to stop yet. It was still early—just past noon—and I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3:00, so I kept driving westward to where the Columbia River would meet the sea. I hadn’t seen the ocean in months and wouldn’t be deterred by thunder and lightning.

I followed a series of signs to Ft. Stevens State Park, and parked the car in a lot that looked like wet clay. It was surrounded by gray, lumpy sand dunes with grassy tops and wind-scoured sides. There was a break in the rain as I stepped out of the car to wander across the sand. A few minutes earlier I had seen a partial rainbow off to the North, but now that I had a chance to look for it again, it was gone. Instead, I kept one eye on the sea and another on the darkening sky while my bare hands became chapped and reddened. A few other hardy visitors joined me out there, but I don’t think any of us stayed longer than ten minutes. The shells of our jackets rippled furiously in the wind as we hugged ourselves and laughed at pieces of seafoam skipping across the beach. I took as many photos as I could of the waves, an old rusty shipwreck, and a salt-beaten bathroom structure hidden in a sand-dune hollow, before the rain started again and I had to conceal my camera.

The day was much gentler, though still wet and windy, after the beach visit. It was mild enough that I could relax a little behind the wheel as I headed back into the city, aiming for the downtown historic district I’d passed earlier. When I finally sat down to lunch next to a window overlooking Commercial Street, I was startled by the sight of a leather hat being blown across the road. A moment later it was followed by a man wearing a leather jacket and a Bluetooth, who checked anxiously for traffic and then jogged over to the corner where the hat had paused. He picked it up, looking a bit red in the face, and opted not to put it back on his head.

After eating, and having no other plans for the day, I roamed the nearly-empty streets with my camera and backpack. I’m sure they made me conspicuous as a tourist, but there was no use in being self-conscious about it. I am a proud chronicler of my lonesome travels.

Ocean Beach - Ft. Stevens State Park

Ocean Beach - Ft. Stevens State Park

Peter Iredale

Wreck of the Peter Iredale

Downtown Astoria

Downtown Astoria

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