We enjoyed our stay at Astoria and would like to return some day, but it was time to move on and so we headed south along the coast to Winchester Bay, a small fishing town that we’ve visited before. But before leaving, we visited the remains of old Fort Stevens, and the gun emplacements built during WWII for the defense of the Oregon coast. We weren’t aware of it before we first visited here, but Oregon was the site of two Japanese air attacks in 1942, and Fort Stevens itself was shelled by a Japanese submarine that same year . The fort was one of three built to guard the Columbia River, the others, Fort Canby and Fort Columbia are on the Washington side of the Columbia. Walking through the ruins on the bluff overlooking the Pacific, you get a sense of the massive fortifications protecting the huge guns located here. While the guns have been removed, you can gauge their size by looking at the large holes where the gun turrets were located. This is an interesting area of history, now surrounded by bike paths, campgrounds, and hiking trails.
At Winchester Bay, we stayed at the Winchester Bay RV Resort at Salmon Harbor, one of our favorite places on the coast. The park is built right on the harbor and river, and our site allowed us to pull in to within 20 feet of the water, giving us a great view through the windshield of boats, waterfowl, and harbor seals. It also gave me a chance to do some crabbing from the shore. I tried a device called a “crabhawk” – it's a hinged, spring-loaded net that’s cast like a lure, and when on the bottom, unfolds to reveal the bait (in this case, a chicken leg). When pulled, it snaps shut trapping the huge, delicious, Dungeness crabs so that Keith and Brenda can cook them up…….at least, that was the idea. Everything worked according to plan – cast, watch rod tip for “crab action”, quickly reel in……all went well except for the size. Instead of big crabs, all I caught were little crabs….dozens and dozens of little, foul-tempered, angry crabby little crabs. We had fun watching the action when I dropped the crabhawk on the ground and opened the trap – fast-scurrying little crabs would flee in all directions looking for someone (me) to pinch – it’s amazing how fast those little suckers can move. (Little known fact: crabs, no matter how small, can exert the same force with their claws and pinchers as a full-grown Pit Bull) After three hours of recycling dozens of little crabs in and out of the harbor, I gave up and vowed to get my crabs at the market – it’s worth it to pay someone else for the trouble…..and not get pinched.
This area had a lot of places to explore; we enjoyed seeing the Oregon Dunes, Umpqua Lighthouse and Museum, and walking the beach near the jetty and oyster farm. It was fun to just sit on the jetty and watch the gulls, pelicans, and cormorants compete for a spot on the oyster floats. The lighthouse, on a hill above the jetty, had an interesting museum that told the story of its occupancy by the Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard. This is a great area to visit, although during the summer it’s crowded and noisy as people bring their ATVs to play on the dunes. But for our visit, it was quiet, peaceful, and we certainly couldn’t crab about being here (sorry, I’m on a roll with the crab stuff).
We again headed south on Highway 101, stopping at viewpoints overlooking the ocean along the way. At one stop, we looked down on the beach to see hundreds of California Sea Lions on the beach and in the water. It was an amazing sensory experience – the sight, the sound, and oh yes, the smell! You’d think they’d be cleaner after spending all of that time in the water!
We spent time in Bandon, a quaint little town with a great state park and lots of restaurants (our kind of place). During our time here, we visited with the volunteer coordinator for the Shoreline Education for Awareness organization, and happily agreed to spend next summer here as wildlife interpreters, something we’ve come to truly enjoy doing . We also experienced an amazing winter storm, but more on that later. For now, we’ll leave you with a picture of the Bullard’s Point lighthouse and the hope that you’ll come back and see us again!