After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I left The Battery Russell, we were starting to think about dinner. Auntie Katie looked on her phone and saw that The Astoria Column was on a hill overlooking downtown, where the restaurants are. Why not go see the column, and then go get dinner?
We drove under the Astoria bridge, which is over four miles long, and through a thick forest on the way to the top of Coxcomb Hill. We were overlooking the Columbia River, with a view west to the Pacific Ocean and east over miles of forest.
The overcast had gone and we were in dazzling sunlight. We looked at the painting on the 125 foot column, but not for long, because as soon as we found the staircase inside, we knew we had to climb it.
Up and up and up, around and around…164 spiral steel steps. I just kept holding on to the railing and not looking any further than my feet.
The Astoria Column was built in 1926 with railroad and business money to commemorate Astoria’s role in the development of the northwest. It is patterned on Trajan’s Column in Rome and the Place Vendome Column in Paris. The paintings on the outside show important things that happened in Oregon history.
Finally, the top! The views were even longer, the perspective even better, the breeze even cooler, than below. It was almost overwhelmingly beautiful. We all just stood and stared, feeling light headed.
Then we remembered. Dinner! Auntie Katie and I knew we were working on borrowed time, as all of us were getting spacey and a tad cranky. It was time to find food. We walked down, watching our feet at every step, played Animal Impersonator for a few minutes, and headed off
The GPS directed us to Mo’s, which is famous up and down the Oregon Coast for clam chowder.
Once we had some steamer clams and crackers we all felt better, and we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the water. We filled up on hot dogs, fish and chips and Petrale sole, and were ready for the long drive back to Portland.
Auntie Katie drove, the kids slept, and I watched the forest get dark and thought about how grateful I am for my life.
After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I finished exploring the wreck of the Peter Iredale and brushing the sand off our feet, we headed further into the Fort Stevens area to something marked on the map as The Battery Russell.
This is a series of rooms, platforms, observation stations and gun emplacements that was installed by the Army in 1890 and was used until 1910, de-activated, then re-activated in 1941 to 1945. It held two 10-inch rifles with 30 ton gun barrels, designed to defend the coast from enemy bombardment and guard against beach invasions.
The guns have all been removed, and what is left is a fascinating combination of stark grey concrete and swallow’s nests surrounded by wild roses and blackberry bushes. There are stairs and ramps, cavernous rooms and pits, where groups of kids (including cousins Jasper and Kestrel) can play Capture the Flag or Hide and Seek.
There are signs posted: This area contains pits and deep drop-offs. Watch your children! So naturally, the kids took about two minutes to figure out where the pit was, then ran around like kids do.
When the other kids left, the cousins made up other adventure games. Auntie Katie’s role was a villain who had captured Kestrel, but Kestrel had more energy and kept escaping our dungeon. Eventually Auntie Katie and I (her loyal minion) rounded up the captive and her friend (Jasper0 and hauled them off to the next adventure.
Yesterday, Auntie Katie invited me on an adventure with her and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. Under grey July skies, we drove on the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River into Washington! This is my first time crossing this river since living in Portland. We drove north for a while, and then we crossed the same river AGAIN, because we turned west as it turned north. Believe it or not, this took us back into Oregon.
We stopped at The Berry Patch Restaurant, a nice friendly diner, and had hamburgers, tuna melts, and fish and chips, then drove to Fort Stevens, which was a U.S. Army Fort from the Civil War to World War II. We never made it to the fort.
We got sidetracked. By a shipwreck.
The Peter Iredale was a four masted steel barque sailing ship that came aground on the beach in 1906. It was never salvaged, and has sat right on the beach since then, slowly falling apart.
It is now a beautiful wreck, with barnacles and layers of thick steel revealing wonderful colors. From inside, you can frame to world through its openings. The kid in me wanted to climb it, but adult me realized that was a monumentally bad idea. So I just stared.
Seagulls nibbled on huge, very dead, Dungeness crabs. Jasper and I came up with a story that there had been a giant seagull party, and the shells were the “take out” containers left lying around.
Since we were on the beach there was sand castle building, of course. We all got sandy and wet. It was marvelous. There were also thousands of tiny gelatinous sea creatures that had washed up onto the shore. About an inch long and as big around as a knitting needle, these hollow remains were squishy underfoot and did not interest the seagulls.
There were more adventures during the day, and I will tell you about them tomorrow.
I have told you how sentimental I get about certain plants, especially ones that remind me of your Great Grandma Billie, my Momma. She had a hydrangea that had been a wedding present from her landlady in 1946, and she loved it.
You and I found a little hydrangea overgrown by some other plants in your very own back yard, and trimmed the other plants back so it could get more sunlight.
I have found, in Portland, hydrangea heaven. I have never seen so many, or such beautiful colors! It must be the wet winters and the intense summer sunshine, the humidity levels, and the volcanic soil. These plants are really happy.
And every time I see one, I think of Great Grandma Billie, and you. She died exactly one month before you were born, Liza. She knew you were coming and cherished the idea of another great grand child, but never got to meet you.
Watching you grow up to know the difference between a magnolia and a maple, learning to ride your bike and read, being brave and smart, would make her smile and warm her heart.
Yesterday was Cousin Kestrel’s seventh birthday! Her party had the theme of Princess Kittens, so of course special things were needed.
I walked over to their house in Ladd’s Addition early Sunday morning to help Auntie Katie make the cake. She had gotten the hard work done already! She had baked, sliced, filled, chilled and crumb-coated this marvelous kitten cake. All I needed to do was give it a nice layer of fluffy pink frosting and watch Auntie Katie put on the face.
It is always wonderful for a mom, like me, to visit her grown up children and get to watch them recreate some of their happy childhood memories. It is comforting to know that all that hard work did some good.
After the cake was ready, I walked home and worked on the story, baked cookies, and rested up. Then Grandpa Nelson and I rode our bikes back down for the party. Lots of little girls, a few boys, and kittens! We made tiaras with ears, colored kitten pictures, ate the lovely cake, and the whole party made a parade to the rose garden nearby for a photo shoot. I stayed at the house, because Cousin Jasper was feeling overwhelmed by all the excitement. It was kind of nice to be quiet, I admit.
Presents were opened, hugs were given, and the party was over. Grandpa Nelson and I rode back UP the hill home and crashed. We both napped and drank lots of water.
Then, at 6:00, it was time for the Rowhouse condos potluck! We took homemade bread and butter, snickerdoodles, and wine. We ate and talked and drank wine for hours, getting to know more of our neighbors and enjoying the warm evening. When we hauled ourselves back up the stairs and home, I was truly spent and slept like a log.
Yesterday I told you about the Multnomah County Poor Farm at Edgefield, just east of Portland. Today I will tell you what The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, did with the farm.
The brothers had been successful at creating restaurants and pubs out of scruffy buildings, but had never taken on a project this big. There were 292 acres and every inch of every building and every square foot of land needed work. Flooring was damaged from broken windows letting in animals, vandals and rain.
The first building they got up and running was the Power Station in 1991, as a guest hotel, theater and restaurant. People came, stayed, paid, and the brothers’ bankers realized this could be a success.
The brothers envisioned what they called a “down-the-rabbit-hole” experience, a place like nowhere else. There would be no phones, no televisions, no smoking, just food and wine, beer and cider, sunshine, rain, gardens, art and comfort.
Once the Power Station was up and running, work on the main building, called The Manor, got under way. Having been built for people in wheelchairs, all the doors were really wide. The brothers decided that rather than replace every single door, they would have a staff of artists paint each one, making each room a unique place. That worked so well that they hired more artists, and now art covers all the doors, ceilings, and is hung on every wall.
The building had been vandalized while it was empty, including someone painting a pentagram at the head of the main staircase. The brothers wanted good energy, not bad, in their place, so they hired a troupe of bagpipers to come out. The musicians formed a circle around the pentagram, played “Amazing Grace,” and painted over the evil symbol.
The gardens needed redoing. Patrick McNurney was the landscape guru for the property. There were almost no trees, and lots of weeds, but he knew that the land was fertile. He was instructed that there shouldn’t be any straight lines in the gardens, and that the plants should all dance together. He succeeded beautifully.
There is an herb garden, fruit and vegetable garden, and winding paths through groves of aspens and birches. There is a spa with a serpentine hot tub to float and nap in. There is currently a winery, brewery, bakery and distillery on the premises. Yes, it IS heaven.
We enjoyed our day at Edgefield. On the way to the place, we found Ben Pilchuck and his partner blowing glass in the old shop. We had brunch The Black Rabbit Restaurant (there’s a story in the name, too), then a tour around the place with Thursday, who has been working for McMenamin’s for 35 years. She is funny and knowledgeable, and I will be talking to her more, I hope.
It would take weeks to see the whole place, and pages more to tell you all about it. I will show you this wonderful place when you come to visit.