22 August 1997

State Parks - Kites - Oysters

I woke up around 7:30 and headed out for my penninsula exploration day. I started near Ilwaco with the Fort Canby State Park. As with Fort Columbia, this park used to be one of the guardian forts for the Columbia river. This park is much larger and sees a lot more current-day use than Fort Columbia.

I was just doing a "drive-thru" to see what was there, because I didn't know anything about the place beforehand. I saw a sign for a lighthouse and decided to go take a look.

The North Head Lighthouse is at the end of a half-mile or so trail. Along the way I saw 3 deer grazing peacefully right near the trail. When I first saw them, I froze and then verrrry slowly and verrrrry carefully pulled out my camera. I made sure to make no sudden moves or noise. Then I put my camera away and started slowly continuing along the trail. It soon became obvious that I needn't have been so careful. They were obviously very used to people. I walked right by them and they didn't even twitch. They were 2 does and a fawn of almost the same size with fading spots.

The lighthouse itself was built in 1898. It didn't look to be in use any more. I saw a sign that said it was closed to tours and I don't know if that meant they are no longer doing tours at all or just not right then for some reason. The whole place looked kind of disused and unkept so I suspect either the structure had started to deteriorate or they just had to cut back on the personel to do the tours.

I went back to my car and continued the drive into the park. I saw a sign for another lighthouse: Cape Deception. This lighthouse was a longer (over a mile) and more rigorous hike, though not a difficult one. The trail was a lot steeper in spots and definitely designed to be a footpath whereas the North Head trail was wide enough for a vehicle. The trail was also a lot prettier...more "forest-like" and there was a wonderful view of a little cove along the way. There was also a view of the Coast Guard installation just before heading up that last, steep road to the lighthouse.

I'm not sure if this lighthouse is still being used, but the location certainly is. There's a bunker-type building between the lighthouse and the water that is definitely being used. When I was there, there was a woman in uniform monitoring the water with 2-foot long binoculars and a communications radio squawking. My guess is that she was Coast Guard but I couldn't see enough of the uniform to tell.

On the way back to my car, I took a side trip to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center but it wasn't open yet. Nice view, though.

I went back to my car and had breakfast from my stash of meals...a ziploc baggie with granola and powdered milk. Just add water, stir and eat. It was actually pretty good.

About this time, I noticed that it's around 10:00 in the morning, I'm more than 1/2way through my first roll of film and I fogot to grab another one before I left the hotel. Oooops...

I passed the pottery place again but the sign still said "Closed." It was one of those home business type things with the pottery studio in a garage. I saw a car in the parking area and the door to the studio open, so I decided to stop anyway and see if someone was around. I got out and walked into the studio calling, 'Hello?' There was a radio playing and wares all around on shelves but no one that I could find. I didn't hang around. I didn't feel right being there without someone in attendance.

I drove on to Long Beach and found a place to park pretty near the beach between a rent-a-horse outfitter and a makeshift campground for kiters. I went out on the sand and sat on a piece of driftwood to watch the kite buggiers for a while. It was pretty amazing. There were a number of them in what looked like an awfully small space. They were all zipping around, turning at random, but nobody ever crashed or tangled kite lines or anything. I kind of wondered why, with 28 miles of beach to play in, they were all confining themselves to such a small area.

I thought about getting my kite from the car and flying some, but if I did that, I'd pretty much have to stand there in one spot and I could see activity stretching down the beach into the distance. I decided I'd see a whole lot more of what was going on if I didn't fly.

I got on the boardwalk and walked down to the main festival area to watch some kite ballet competitions. It just happened to be what was going on at the time. Ballet has never been one of my favorite events so I only watched a couple fliers. Mostly I wandered around looking at all the kites being flown. There was one display of a bunch of UFO-shaped soft kite sculptures. The open "hatch" inflated them. There was also this elderly Japanese man flying little, teeny Roks from a fishing rod. I was talking with another woman who told me that he was a retired policeman from Japan and that he hand makes and paints the little kites he flies. They were works of art, too. He was wearing a vest that was completely covered with kite festival patches so my guess is that he spends a great deal of his retirement doing kite festivals.

The other thing that really captured my attention in the display area were these doll-tether things. They were stuffed doll type things sitting on the ground with a kite line tied to the hand. I don't know if they were actually staked to the ground or if they were just heavy but with the line tied to the hand, as the wind would gust and shift, the hand would go up and down as if the doll were really flying the kite. They were adorable!

There was also a vendor row down the street that leads to the beach. I was impressed with the quality of the "stuff" they were hawking. Usually, you get a lot of junk and cheesy souvenirs but there was actually very little of that. There was some beach wear...hats, sunglasses, sweatshirts, etc for people who may be improperly dressed; some jewelry...cloissonne kite pins and porcelain earings, crystal necklaces, etc; and lots of food...stir fry, smoked and fresh seafood, cajun and sushi, almost none of the usual burger/hotdog/fast food sort of thing.

I got a couple pair of earrings and some wonderful terriyaki. While I was eating, I struck up a conversation with a retired couple (Bob and Joanne) who told me about some good places to see cranberry bogs. They live about 60 miles from Long Beach and have been coming to the festival for 5 years. The festival itself has been going on for 16.

I decided to continue my tour of the penninsula after lunch so I walked back to my car and headed north again. I found the WA State University cranberry research farm that Bob and Joanne told me about. You pick up a brochure near the parking lot and head off for a self-guided tour.

It was fascinating! I'd been eating cranberry sauce and relish and the like for years and never knew anything about how they grow. What I found is that commercial cranberries don't really grow in bogs. They like well-drained, sandy soil. They do sometimes flood the bogs for harvest, though. If they do, it's called a "wet harvest" and machines with beater bars go through the bogs paddling the plants to loosen the berries, which float. Then they corral the floating berries into a corner and another machine sucks them up and dumps them into a wagon or bin. Wet harvested berries are processed to become juice or canned sauce. If they don't flood the bogs to harvest, it's a "dry harvest" and machines comb through the fields cutting off the tops of the plants an the berries. Dry harvested berries are sold unprocessed as fruit.

The berries I saw were all starting to turn red but weren't ripe yet. Apparently, bees are critical to pollination and cranberry growers generally hire bees at pollination time although your basic honeybee is vastly inferior as a pollinator to the non-domesticatable bumblebee. Most growers try to entice bumblebees to hang around by planting bee gardens and providing hive boxes.

Next stop, Oysterville where I watched oysters being harvested down on the shore. Then the ATV drove up with big woven baskets full of oysters. They were selling them fresh (in addition to other seafoods), but I didn't buy any since I didn't have any way of keeping them or cooking them right then.

I drove on to the very end of the penninsula and Willapa Bay Wildlife Refuge. A long, 1-lane road winding through a moss- and lichen-covered tree-tunnel took me the last couple miles out the refuge. There was a 1.8 mile beach trail marked in addition to other trails, but I decided to go the beach route out to the plover nesting area on the tip of the penninsula. It was a low tide, so the oyster beds were exposed and since the beach was on the inland side of the penninsula, the water was very calm. As I was walking back, the tide was starting to come in. I sat on a piece of driftwood and watched the water inch its way up the beach. Not knowing how long it would take or how high the water would get, I wasn't watching -for- anything.

The experience reminded me of an article I'd read about walking a labrynth...where you walk a path that eventually leads to the center but since you must make many turns, in and out, closer and farther from that center point, you never really have any concept of how close or far you are from the destination. It's a very meditative sort of state.

I drew a labrynth in the sand while I was thinking about this. The sand is very fine...not quite powder...and the grains are many different colors of tan and gray and black and brown.

I drove back to Long Beach and hit all the stores on the main drag looking for beach pants but didn't find just what I was looking for. I also went to the kite museum where they had a display of "bug" kites...the silk and bamboo kites made to look like dragonflies or butterflies or other insects. Each kite had a display about where the kite was made and any history or info about the type of kite in general or this specific kite. Since the museum building is so small, they can't display all of the kites in the collection at once (there are thousands). The display changes periodically based on different themes. They were also showing videos about flying the kites and the kite festival.

I then headed back to Fort Canby to make supper since I enjoyed the park so much when I was there earlier. I drove through the camp ground and out onto the jetty. I found a picnic table with a nice view of the Cape Deception lighthouse and that little cove I saw from above while hiking to the lighthouse.

I've been having trouble with my camp stove and I'm not sure what's up with it... I'm managing to get suppers cooked but it's definitely not working properly.

After supper, I hiked around the jetty admiring the shadows, driftwood heaps, patches of sunlight and reflections. It was beautiful in a post-appocalyptic sort of way...

I headed back to Long Beach around 7:30 to catch the lighted-kite night flying and fireworks. I parked near the same end of the boardwalk I had in the morning and walked to the festival area. I found a nice place out of the wind, facing the beach to watch the sun go down. Clouds were moving in and igniting in pinks, oranges and purples. By 8:15, I'm cold and obviously not dresesd to wait another hour or more for the fireworks. I walked back to the car. The car was pointed toward the festival area and where I imagined the fireworks would be so I thought that might not be too bad a place to wait and watch, although they're still a while away.

More and more people stream toward the festival area with lawn chairs and blankets tucked under their arms. Everyone's in couples and groups. I haven't really felt alone before now but I can't help thinking how much easier it would be to wait for the show with some company. Especially since it's too dim to knit. The good thing about watching from the car is that I can beat the crowds leaving...

As it gets darker, I can see the lighted kites when they poke above the boardwalk. Eventually, I decide that the lighted kites was what I really wanted to see, having never seen them before and I could forego the fireworks (since I have seen those before...). Besides, I was getting really tired and have a 20-mile trip to get to the hotel.