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Letter from Elk City: Nothing disappointing about Cape Disappointment

By Staff | Jun 18, 2009

Sunsets at Cape Disappointment, above, and at Willapa Bay show nature at its best. EDN photos by Michael Tidemann

I spent four days at my sister and brother-in-law’s cabin on the Washington-Idaho border. Besides my sister and brother-in-law, their son and grandson were there.

After just about a full day’s deliberation, Tim, my nephew, decided to install a new laminate floor in two rooms. So, with the help of his son Timmer, they managed to put it in through the course of a day.

It was the first major improvement that had been done for some time, my sister said hintingly to her husband. When were were alone, though, Ken, my brother-in-law, later told me how much work he had put into the cabin the previous summer. I guess we all have our perspectives.

Their cabin rests on a hillside with a commanding view of the surrounding peaks. Since it rests on a quartz vein that was once a gold mine, it took some effort to dig a well. My sister and her husband are still debating as to how much they should spend to actually get the water INSIDE the house which is where it probably belongs.

As a result, there’s a rustic beauty to their cabin. It gives you a good idea as to how the miners and pioneers must have lived 150 years ago.

Sunsets at Cape Disappointment and at Willapa Bay, above, show nature at its best. EDN photos by Michael Tidemann

We returned from their cabin to Spokane and I headed west on I-90 across the high desert so typical of eastern Washington and Oregon. While some people may not like the endless miles of sagebrush, I rather enjoyed it. The landscape turns your thoughts inward and you contemplate things you would otherwise seldom think about.

Toward Seattle, I encountered snow again at Snoqualmie Pass then followed the winding road down to Highway 18 just east of Seattle. It’s a great shortcut around the Seattle metro area, and a more direct route to Tacoma where my nice and her husband live.

I was just in time for dinner, of course, and we sat down to a heavenly meal of Copper River salmon.

The next night we went to a birthday party for an old friend of my niece who was also coincidentally a relative of her husband. I was immediately struck by how laid back everyone was. Northwesterners seem to have a different take on life than people in other parts of the country. They take time to enjoy life, and parties and social gatherings are far more common. And everyone enjoys the outdoors.

After visiting for a day and a half, I headed west toward the coast and hit Aberdeen, Wash., that Sunday night. Aberdeen is probably best known as the hometown of Kurt Cobain of the grunge band Nirvana. I wouldn’t doubt that more people visit Aberdeen to pay homage to Cobain than for any other reason.

It was at Aberdeen that I first noticed how many homeless people were on the road. Many were young, probably under 18, and included both males and females. There were a number of older homeless people as well. It really opened my eyes as to how bad the economy had become in the Northwest.

I took Oregon 105, the coastal road, past Grays Harbor, the Pacific shore, and Willapa Bay where I camped for the night at the same campground where I had stayed eight years before. While it’s not directly on the ocean, Willapa Bay offers spectacular sunsets.

The next day I took 101 over the the Long Beach Peninsula and followed 103 as far at it went to Leadbetter Point State Park. Just south of the park a juvenile brown bear of about 400-500 pounds bumbled across the road.

That night I stayed at Cape Disappointment State Park. It was right on the ocean, and it made a great backdrop as I cooked up a great dinner of fresh scallops.

Cape Disappointment is well known as the graveyard of the Pacific because of the large number of shipwrecks that have taken place there. Many a ship met its end as it was “crossing the bar” where the Columbia River meets the Pacific. Even today, Coast Guard choppers are a constant presence over the shoreline.

For me, though, the pounding surf was a lullaby that sent me off to sleep.