Written by btwood2 on 02 Oct, 2005
I read somewhere that Oysterville Days would be happening on the coming weekend, and then couldn’t find anything more about it. No one we asked seemed to have heard of it, and Visitor Center staff in Seaview had to dig deep and make a…Read More
I read somewhere that Oysterville Days would be happening on the coming weekend, and then couldn’t find anything more about it. No one we asked seemed to have heard of it, and Visitor Center staff in Seaview had to dig deep and make a phone call before they could confirm that at least there would be a quilt show Saturday at the old schoolhouse in Oysterville. But that was good enough for us, and we took off mid-morning to check it out. It would also give us an opportunity to explore the northern part of Long Beach Peninsula.
On the way, we stopped at the Port of Peninsula in Nahcotta, south of Oysterville. Impossible not to notice were mounds, no, make that mountains of oyster shells everywhere: in black-netted bags in big tubs within chain-link enclosures, stacked on wooden pallets, and piled high in dump trucks on the parking lot. Soon one of the trucks backed up onto an unloading platform/fueling station. I watched fascinated as it began to dump its load into an already full oyster boat (Carol Ann) below. The three-man operation – driver, dumper, and guy on the boat – continued until the truck was empty and boat a bit lower in the water. The guy on the boat climbed up onto the oyster mound with a hoe and pulled the last shells into his boat. "I’ve never seen so many oysters," I said to a man passing by towards the wharf. "Oh, those aren’t oysters; they’re just the shells." "Shells…?" "Yeah, they dump them onto beds where they want oysters, and the shells attract larvae." "Larvae??? (I realized I was sounding like a complete idiot.) "Oysters go through a larval stage before they become oysters," the patient oyster man explained to me, and proceeded onto the wharf to his boat.
Larvae don’t sound particularly appetizing to me; something insect-like, cottony and alien. According to Merriam-Webster, larva is from the Latin mask, the early form of an animal that at birth or hatching is fundamentally unlike its parent and must metamorphose before assuming the adult character. I learned tadpoles are also technically considered larvae. Oyster larvae are called spat. My oyster education could have been considerably furthered had we stopped at the Willapa Bay Interpretive Center, but instead, our stomachs took precedence as we drove a few miles back to a colorful and inviting hot dog stand we’d passed on the way. Sandy sets up her dog stand in various places, most often a few miles west of Nahcotta on her property on Bay Avenue, which is also Highway 103. The dog stand, pictured here with Sandy, is bright enough by itself, but is impossible to miss in front of the matching red-roofed building with bright yellow siding. Sandy in her red apron matches too, but the winning touch is her hat, in the shape of a hot dog on a bun, squiggly mustard lines atop. We thoroughly enjoyed eating our Polish sausage dogs at the picnic table next to a teapot garden. Teapot garden? That’s right – old teapots and teakettles placed whimsically among bushes and flowers and a glass bottle tree. Don’t ask; just believe it!
Well fed, we continued on until we neared Oysterville. The turnoff was blocked off; no cars allowed in during Oysterville Days. But a big yellow school bus shuttled visitors from the impromptu parking lot in a field to the edge of the old town. Oysterville, on Willapa Bay, sometimes described as a semi-ghost town, is more than 150 years old, incorporated in 1852. Not surprisingly, oysters were the big draw, the tasty but smaller Olympia oysters indigenous to the area. But by the 1890’s, they’d been over-harvested and Oysterville’s boomtown days came to an end. Eventually, larger Japanese Pacific oysters were introduced, further contributing to the smaller oysters’ demise. The bulk of the trade is now in Pacific oysters, though in some areas attempts are being made to re-introduce the as yet not extinct Olympia oyster. Uniquely, Willapa Bay oyster growers own much of the muddy flats and tidelands favored by oysters as habitat and out of which they are harvested. Because oysters are filter-feeders, they are hyper-sensitive to polluted water. Oyster growers have been at the forefront in pushing for development of laws, agencies, and grassroots groups that protect and improve water quality.
As the bus let us off, we walked down Territory Road towards the music. Fiddler and guitar player were combining strains melodiously in a waltz as a few couples danced. Some were dressed in period clothing. Dancing turned out to be the "price" of admission. Somehow Bob managed to sneak past without "paying", but not before taking a rare shot of me "dancing" with a pleasant gentleman from Astoria. Such was our introduction to Oysterville.
Our impression as we proceeded into the historic district was far from ghost-town-like. Most of the houses and buildings were in tip-top shape, with well-groomed gardens and signs telling of their history. (Just under half of Oysterville’s 52 houses are occupied summers.) Clumps of people were gathered around artisans and craftspeople demonstrating their skills at streetside booths. Wood carvers, a blacksmith, cheese and soap makers and ladies at spinning wheels were happy to explain and even invite observers to participate. A team of two horses pulled wagonloads of visitors up and down the streets.
Through reading the signs in front of each home, the school, and church, one is able to piece together Oysterville’s history. One home is named tsako-te-hahsh-eetl, Chinook for "place of red-topped grass/ home of the yellowhammer" (a type of woodpecker). Generations of Chinook people summered here to gather oysters. It was from Chinook leader Nahcati that two white settlers, R. H. Espy and I. A. Clark learned of the succulent oysters. They had him to thank also for saving their lives; lost in a dense fog in Willapa Bay on their way to meet Nahcati, it was only his continuous drumming on a hollow log (he knew they were coming) that led them to land and safety. Espy and Clark knew they’d been shown a good thing and settled down to business, marketing the tasty oysters for shipping largely to gold rush-era San Francisco, where they became a culinary favorite. By 1855, with over 500 residents, all needed businesses and facilities (except, ironically, a bank), Oysterville became Pacific County’s seat. Oyster farmers stored their gold in their mattresses!
The quilt show proved to be a small but nice collection of hand-made quilts in traditional designs hung inside the one-room schoolhouse (which converted from school to community center in 1957). Old photographs of Oysterville residents on schoolhouse walls provide a glimpse into the past. Outside, I learned from a retired ex-Seattlelite living in Oysterville now (population count is an iffy 48) that the peninsula is thick with black bears. Family of his living a bit further up the peninsula spot them almost daily. As human population and housing continue to expand and bears are squeezed, human-bear encounters will likely intensify and could become problematic.
Where the courthouse and jail once stood, a wooden sign informs that on Sunday morning, February 5th, 1893, a day of infamy for Oysterville, South Bend raiders snuck into town, broke into the courthouse, and carried away the county records. South Bend, on the Willapa River on the mainland, as it grew and prospered had apparently been clamoring to take over as county seat. Although a county-wide vote in 1892 favored South Bend, Oysterville was reluctant to give up its title and filed a lawsuit. South Bend’s forceful appropriation/stealing of county records (depending on whose viewpoint you go by) ended the dilemma, and South Bend remains county seat to this day.
Our next stop was Oysterville Sea Farms. The old cannery, also a historic building, farms and sells oysters. At the small shop, you can buy oysters in the shell, opened, canned, or smoked, clams, plus cranberry products and historical books about the area. Bob was chicken, but I had to try an oyster shooter. It came in a little cup with some cocktail sauce. The oyster itself tasted… soft with an unusual but not unpleasant flavor I wasn’t able to liken to anything I’d ever tasted before. I like raw fish in sushi, but raw oysters are a taste I’d have to acquire with practice. A few days later, Bob came down with a stomach flu; I didn’t. Since we’d eaten basically everything the same except the shooter, I teased him that the oyster probably protected me against whatever made him sick.
I love cranberries! Not only because their juice is tart-tangy-sweet tasting, and sauced they’re a key ingredient in Thanksgiving dinner, but they’re also particularly healthful for the urinary tract. Dried, they’re great in granola, my morning survival food. Originally growing on the East…Read More
I love cranberries! Not only because their juice is tart-tangy-sweet tasting, and sauced they’re a key ingredient in Thanksgiving dinner, but they’re also particularly healthful for the urinary tract. Dried, they’re great in granola, my morning survival food. Originally growing on the East Coast, they were called ibimi (bitter berry) and various other Indian names. Cranberries were sometimes used as an ingredient in pemmican, travel food for North American indigenous peoples. Dried meat (bison or game), fat, and berries were pounded into highly nutritional cakes that didn’t spoil and traveled well. Benzoic acid in cranberries is a natural preservative. Well, it’s clear I’m a big fan of cranberries.
Not surprisingly, the Cranberry Museum was at the top of our list of places to visit around Long Beach. Once on the grounds, as we got out of the car, we began to realize this facility was much more than a museum. Besides several buildings and a greenhouse, we could see small groups of people walking on paths through a good-sized field next to the buildings. We decided to take advantage of the still sunny weather (clouds were looming) and take the self-guided tour of the bog first. We took a brochure from the mailbox and started our tour of the Demonstration Cranberry Farm.
Clumps of heather in white and shades of purple grow at the entrance to the bog to attract bees. As we walk down the path, we notice tiny flags of many different colors among the berry plants; these are placed next to experimental varieties. A raptor pole stands to draw hawks and owls, natural predators for rodents, which can damage the berries. There’s also a section marked Danger – No entry, to which pesticide has recently been applied. The brochure and signs along the way inform us of basic cranberry facts, such as that they grow on vines, not bushes, that they are grown either in peat or sandy soil, and that it takes four years after planting from cuttings to harvest the first crop. Once these perennials begin flowering though, a plant can continue producing for over 100 years.
Squatting down close to the berries (it’s late July), I see they’re unevenly beginning to color for harvest from late September to early November. This particular farm is wet-harvested, which means these berries will be used for juice or sauce. Only dry-harvested farms produce saleable fresh berries. We arrive at the pond at the end of the field, used for irrigation and to attract wildlife. As if on cue, a doe appears cautiously grazing at the edges of the field. Moving slowly so as not to frighten her, we make our way back to the museum.
The museum shares a long white wooden building with the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation, a research facility started by Washington State University in 1922. In 1993, WSU was about to close the facility and sell the farm. West Coast cranberry growers formed a nonprofit corporation, bought the farm, and began to operate the research facility cooperatively, partially supported by WSU. In the two-room museum, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about cranberries. Cranberries made their way west along with settlers from the east in the early 1880s. Prime West Coast cranberry growing areas are Bandon and Seaside in Oregon, Long Beach and Grayland in Washington, and southern British Columbia. More than four times the commercial acreage of these areas (8,000 acres) is still grown back east in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey (34,000 acres).
Some unusual technologies were tried to speed laborious manual cranberry picking before present-day techniques. Many of these old machines are on display here. I got a kick out of the cranberry suction picker, a giant vacuum cleaner-type machine with multiple hoses attached. Nowadays for wet harvesting, the bogs are flooded and a beater that knocks berries off the vines is driven through. As they float on the surface of the water, they are collected by a long floating boom. The dry harvest picker looks more like a rideable lawn mower. Additional info about processing is presented and a video about the cranberry industry can be viewed. Cranberry growth cycles are typically 16 months long. Beyond growing and harvesting techniques, challenges for growers include several damaging insects and numerous weeds, among them the cranberry girdler moth, black-headed fireworm, black vine weevil, buttercup, silverleaf, and lily of the valley.
So where does the word cranberry come from? East coast settlers named them craneberries either because their blossoms resemble crane heads at a certain stage where they’re dipping down, or because cranes like to eat the berries, which often grow near their nests. Eventually the e was dropped and went from long to short vowel: crănberry.
I heard it through the cranberry vine… So much for the educational, now for the fun part: the gift shop. A free sample of cranberry preserves on a cracker proved too tasty for me not to buy a jar. From cranberry colored glass vases and decorations, to cranberry Christmas wreaths, trees and ornaments, to children’s books such as Clarence, the Cranberry who Couldn’t Bounce, it’ll be hard to avoid buying something in this packed little shop. Even plush and stuffed winking, dancing cranberries! It’s a good thing we live in a space-limiting motor home; otherwise I would’ve undoubtedly bought some irresistible but un-needed items!
What’s not to like about cranberries? I came away from the museum-farm-research center loving ‘em even more. A piece of new info I learned here is that at least in Washington, 99% of the 125 cranberry growers represent small family farms, with growing acreages averaging only 11 acres. The 10,000 tons of cranberries produced in Washington yearly bring more than $10 million to the state’s economy. Good tasting, healthful, gentle to the landscape, and long-living – maybe I should find a job in cranberry promotion…
Museum and gift shop open 10am to 5pm daily, April through December Address: 2907 Pioneer Rd., Long Beach Phone: 360/642-5553 Website: http://www.cranberrymuseum.com
It was one of those misty Northwest coast days where the air is super-saturated with moisture, every blade of grass and even the tiniest weed dripping, and I was wishing I’d put on hiking boots instead of water-absorbent tennis shoes. We were walking out…Read More
It was one of those misty Northwest coast days where the air is super-saturated with moisture, every blade of grass and even the tiniest weed dripping, and I was wishing I’d put on hiking boots instead of water-absorbent tennis shoes. We were walking out to the lighthouse at North Head, and my socks were getting wet. But the ethereal quality and hushed silence that pervaded our walk soon had my thoughts elevated to higher planes than soggy feet.
Both North Head and Cape Disappointment lighthouses are located in Cape Disappointment State Park, 2 miles southwest of Ilwaco. Both are still functioning lighthouses, alerting seagoing vessels to the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River. Rough seas, high winds, and river bars have been factors in over 200 major shipwrecks that occurred here, justifying its title as Graveyard of the Pacific. North Head is the younger of the two lighthouses, completed in 1898, only two miles north of the older Cape D lighthouse.
The fog was thinning just a bit as we approached North Head lighthouse. It was hard to believe on this tranquil day that North Head is renowned for its wild winds, frequently measured at over 100 miles per hour! Winds may have been a factor in the demise of the lighthouse keeper’s wife in 1923. It’s not clear weather she fell or jumped from the high cliffs on which the lighthouse is perched, but speculation is she was depressed by the long gloomy winter, wind, and isolation. In any case, her body was recovered by the assistant keeper. It’s rumored that she haunts this lighthouse.
Inside the lighthouse entrance downstairs sat a park volunteer dressed in 1800’s garb, while her husband was showing tours of the lanternroom, 69 steps up and 194 feet above sea level. North Head lighthouse was built because the Cape D lighthouse just wasn’t visible soon enough to ships coming from the north and they continued to wreck. North Head began operating with a first order Fresnel lens, replaced by a smaller fourth order lens and electricity in 1937, a revolving searchlight in 1950, and a rotating beacon light in 1998, which can be seen 17 miles out to sea. Automation in 1961 meant lighthouse keepers were no longer needed, leading to deterioration of lighthouse and keepers’ residences. The Coast Guard restored lighthouse and buildings in 1984.
Why disappointed? Sea captain John Meares named Cape Disappointment in 1788 after he tried to enter the Columbia River, missed passage over the bar, and ended up at this headland he disappointedly named. The name stuck, though in 1792, Captain Robert Gray was successful in crossing the bar into the Columbia River. Lewis, Clark and party were far from disappointed when they stood here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Cape Disappointment lighthouse’s construction in the 1850’s was marked by mishaps. The bark Oriole, full of building materials for the lighthouse, wrecked on the cape in 1853. All supplies were lost; the bedraggled ship’s crew narrowly escaped with their lives. In 1855 the lantern room was built too small for the huge first order Fresnel lens, and had to be taken apart brick by brick and rebuilt. Wonder if someone got fired for that costly mistake. First lighting was in 1856. Cape D lighthouse stands 53 feet tall, 220 feet above sea level.
Cape D’s interior is rarely open to the public and today was no exception. After my ¾ mile hike to the lighthouse, I took some time to savor the views. Far below, colonies of dark sea birds stood out starkly against the white rocks at water’s edge. The rounded Interpretive Center stands high above the cliffs to the north. East jetty extends far out into the Columbia, a few ships and boats plying their way into or out of the river mouth.
Directions: North Head Lighthouse – on North Head Lighthouse Road; take N Head Rd-Hwy 100 west out of Ilwaco; follow signs for North Head Lighthouse. Easy ½ mile loop trail from parking area to lighthouse and back. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse – follow N Head Rd-Hwy 100 south; follow signs to Fort Canby. Moderate 0.7 mile trail to lighthouse from Fort Canby. Information: 800-360-4240; Park office: 360-642-3078 Daily use fee: $5 per vehicle
Written by btwood2 on 01 Oct, 2005
As we entered Long Beach from the south on our way to the RV park, the first thing that caught my eye was a pink pig and a black-and-white spotted cow floating high up in the air. As we got closer, I saw that…Read More
As we entered Long Beach from the south on our way to the RV park, the first thing that caught my eye was a pink pig and a black-and-white spotted cow floating high up in the air. As we got closer, I saw that they were big windsocks, belonging to Ocean Kites, one of the many colorful kite stores in town. With its murals, kite and gift shops, and many pocket parks, Long Beach remains bright and upbeat even on overcast days, which, truthfully, were few and far between during our stay. It lives up to its self-described name, Fun Beach, and only a very jaded child would not find fun stuff to do here.
The arch on Bolstad Street’s beach access proclaims World’s Longest Beach. The maker of the arch exaggerated, or perhaps in the interests of tourism, ignored longer 90-mile beaches in Australia, 75-mile Cox’s Bazar Beach in Bangladesh, and a 55-mile beach in New Zealand. Now, as to whether Long Beach is or isn’t the longest uninterrupted natural beach in the northern U.S. – I don’t care! It’s undeniably LONG and it’s a GREAT BEACH! Why? You can jog up or down the beach as if in a dream and it never seems to end. Frequent wind makes it optimal for kite-flying, Long Beach has hosted Washington State International Kite Festival for more than two decades during the third week in August, and Sandsations’ sandcastle building competitions, during the third week in July (the week before we came), have broken several Guinness world records for tallest creations in this art form. The World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame is in a small building downtown. They were supposed to have moved to a roomier space by Summer 2005, but perhaps this fell through. We decided to save our $5 admission for another time.
Jake, the Alligator Man: I don’t go out of my way looking for side show curiosities, but Marsh’s Museum in Long Beach is an example of this peculiar tradition. I went inside mainly to see Jake the (obviously fake) Alligator Man. Jake’s hyped in tourist brochures and magazine articles, and even on area billboards. He’s the mummified head and torso of a long-deceased monkey seamlessly attached to the tail of a similarly defunct alligator. He’s the main attraction and star of the show in this cavernous "museum" store full of oddities and attic rejects. Jake the Alligator Man even has his own website and fan club, Jake’s Place. I kid you not. Wellington Marsh Sr. opened what became the "museum" in 1935 in Long Beach. It was more of a tavern then. Cash-short during the Depression, people would swap junk from their attics for a beer. Eventually, the business grew to a collection of… very odd things and weird stuff, in the tradition of P. T. Barnum. Jake was auctioned from Whitney’s Museum in San Francisco in 1965 for $750, and ended up at Marsh’s, which was run by Wellington Marsh Jr. by then. Now Marsh’s grown grandkids run the show. As they say at Marsh’s, If you haven’t seen it at Marsh’s, you haven’t stayed long enough.
Beach highways???: The first time I walked out to the beach at Pacific Holiday RV park, my first thought was, "There is something wrong with this picture." For a California-grown person, the thing that doesn’t fit is cars and trucks right on the otherwise pristine beach, driving merrily through the sand and parked at water’s edge. The state of Washington, though, designates beaches as state highways, with a 25mph speed limit. Certain areas are posted off-limits to vehicles between April 15th and Labor Day. Personally, I’d prefer my beach experience without any vehicle, any time.
Beach boardwalk and Discovery Trail: If walking on the sand is not for you, you have several other choices. A half-mile of spacious boardwalk runs between dunes and beach from Bolstad Avenue to Sid Snyder Drive. Winding beside it is the much longer paved Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, 8 miles long. Both trails are well maintained and educational. The boardwalk has signs describing fauna, flora, and historical facts of the town. Discovery Trail is more artistic. North of town on 26th Street, a 20-foot bronze statue, Clark’s Tree, marks the north end of the trail. A basalt monolith and gray whale’s skeleton are found farther down. The paving stops at Seaview and becomes simply sandy beach, then turns to gravel as it begins to climb towards Beards Hollow, reaching its high point at an overlook, then descending to Ilwaco using surface streets and ending at the Port of Ilwaco. I walked the stretch from the monolith to just south of the whale skeleton.