Days 24-27 (August 23-26)
Cape Disappointment State Park (WA).
Don’t come here, you’ll be disappointed. SAID NO ONE EVER. Well, except for that one guy maybe.
Cape Disappointment is the ill-fitting name assigned by English fur trader John Mears to the northern bluff at the entrance of the Columbia River. Mears asserted that the river shown on earlier Spanish maps did not exist – believing the body of water he sailed to be a bay because of its size – when in actuality he had found the mouth of the giant river.
The rich history of the Cape, the grand Columbia River, and the city of Astoria (explored in our next post) are fascinating.
Within a few hours of arriving at Cape Disappointment State Park, we are so taken with the park that we decide to stay three nights to soak up the history, trails, and beaches.
We walk, nap, and read at Benson beach in sight of the North Light lighthouse. Benson Beach is perfect for kite flying (or in our case, watching kite-flying). In fact, the international kite festival is going on concurrently just up the road in Long Beach, although we don’t make it to any of the Long Beach festivities.
The state park also has a small but stunning sheltered beach called Waikiki, from which one views a second lighthouse. Two lighthouses within two miles!
The beaches are home to ever-changing driftwood forts and sculptures and giant stumps from long-ago forests.
Both beaches are quite dog-friendly, making for many happy pups and their humans.
We hike trails to the North Light and it’s nearby keeper houses, which remind me of an Edward Hopper scene…
And to the spot where Lewis and Clark first see the Pacific Ocean, at the confluence of the ocean and the Columbia River.
We walk through and climb atop a still-standing battery (although the fort and cannons are now gone), and read of how the creation of the jetties has changed beach to rainforest and wonder at the stunning growth that could happen in just 100 years. We are surrounded by tree giants and 6 foot tall ferns and feel as though we’ve entered a Jurassic world.
The north jetty is closed undergoing repairs during our visit, although that gives us something new to look forward to seeing on a future visit.
Although the tent campsites and overflow Rv parking are a bit underwhelming (no privacy), the lovely Long Lake is at the back of our site, and on our last morning here I crawl out of the tent to see two black-tailed does grazing at the back of our site.
We drive into the working fishing village of Ilwaco to check out an antique mall, resupply, and have lunch at Salt Hotel & Pub overlooking the bustling harbor. Salt Pub’s food, service, and atmosphere are quite good. One day I hope to come back and stay in the hotel too.
Cape Disappointment will offer quite different experiences to the visitor depending on the season and the weather, but isn’t that part of the fun of visiting Pacific Northwest beaches?