In Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, you can walk along the shore on an asphalt path. The path is called the Astoria Riverwalk and runs almost 13 miles from one end of town to the other and beyond that to the east.
The Riverwalk runs parallel to railroad tracks layed down more than a century ago. A 1913 trolley regularly rumbles down these tracks, noon to 6. The single car is usually crammed full, standing room only. That’s one of the reasons Nebra and I chose one late afternoon to travel the Riverwalk by foot into town for supper. It is only about a mile and a half from the lodging on 34th Street and Leif Erickson.
The air is invigorating, cool now in the 60s with a light westerly breeze in our faces. We wear wind-breakers. Unbelievable that in 48 hours we have gone from an inferno in Phoenix to this in Oregon.
Only a few pass us on the Riverwalk. Some afoot, some jogging, a few on bicycles.
The Columbia has little activity. Several huge tankers are anchored in mid-stream waiting for what I do not know. Across the river to the north, the hills and mountains of Washington rise up as an emerald wall. To the west, the horizon is broken only by the 4.1 mile Astoria-Megler bridge that leads to Cape Disappointment and other interesting and historic places in Washington.
A tug boat ushers a tanker under the bridge, guiding it around the treacherous sandbars. The Columbia’s mouth is known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” A sign listing those sailors who have perished in these waters rests at the side of the Riverwalk.
Between us and the river is a lush strip of wild bushes and a few trees. Nebra stops to examine wildflowers and patches of blackberry and huckleberry. My camera is busy shooting the mossy-coated, green piles sticking out of the water. At one spot we see gulls (or are they terns?) resting atop of every one, all facing west to the setting sun.
As we close in on Astoria’s downtown, a concoction of museums, like the Maritime, restaurants and brewers pop into view. The main drag, Commercial Street, is up a few blocks on the left.
At 8th Street, we swerve south into the main part of Astoria. It is at this point of departure from the Riverwalk, we find at the Buoy restaurant. It’s No. 2 on Trip Advisor, says Nebra, who venture inside to check the menu. She says there is a window in the floor looking down on the docks where a sea lion lazed.
And so the walk ends. It has been pleasant.
The Riverwalk, I think, is an ideal way to become acquainted with this little logging and fishing city at the edge of America near where the Lewis & Clark Expedition made history.