There are many things I enjoy about blog writing. First and foremost, it helps me relive the experiences through writing and photography. It helps jog my memory of the many wonders I have had the privilege to see, touch, taste, and smell. And it’s a great way to meet people, having led me to 75% of my current RVing community.
But of my 484 posts here, none have been so fun as my Astoria post from 2014. I had never had a blog post go “viral” before, but suddenly I started getting comments from people I didn’t know. Someone posted a link to a local Facebook page, and many Astorians came calling to offer more suggestions. It was so much fun to have them validate that I had captured the essence of a town for which their affection was so palpable. For this reason among many, Astoria will always have a special place in my personal history book.
Not only did I want to show Don Astoria, but given how much I enjoyed it last time, it was a “non-negotiable” stop on my return trip to the PNW. Well, non-negotiable only as far as my ability to negotiate a place to park, that is! Fort Stevens State Park? Fuggetabout it! Over 300 sites, and still the campground is always full! After a drive through the park revealed a good number of empty spots, I stopped to inquire. The woman behind the desk actually guffawed, “We still have another 70 people yet to check in tonight!”
There is the Lewis and Clark RV Resort, but my tendency is to steer clear of anything with the word “Resort” in the name. The nearby golf course tells me it’s not within my budget, as does their lack of rates displayed on their website.
So to be near the “heart” of Astoria, that leaves one option…the little Pier 38 RV Park that I accidentally found two years ago, which caused me to U-turn on my way out of town after thinking there were no other RV options. But in doing some research to see if I could reserve a couple of spots, I learned of plans to close this gem of a park for good. All listed phone numbers refer back to the voicemail of the previous manager, no longer employed by the park. Online news articles point to mismanagement as the reason for decline and dereliction, leading to the decision to close. Although they have brought in new management to clean the place up, he has also been tasked with shutting it down.
It’s the weekend before the rumored closing date, so I am willing to roll the dice. Regardless of whether it’s closed or full, we have no other option in this area but to keep driving inland. So I decide to take a chance. Rather than pull both rigs down into the small park, we leave my Winnie and Tracker parked at the Marine Museum and use Don’s Navion for reconnaissance.
As we pull in, the first thing I notice is the place has been cleaned up. The grass is neatly manicured, and no longer are there rigs looking like RV Chia pets, covered in ivy. I notice a big “CLOSED” sign on the small building, but there are a dozen RVs still in the park. I spot a couple of people sitting outside, so I approach and ask if they know where the manager is. I meet Kit and Barney, who tell me that the new manager, Michael, is away, “So pull up on the grass here beside us and wait….he left without his dog, so he won’t be long.” Kit confirms the rumor that the park is closing. She says maybe he will let us stay, and maybe he won’t. So I am on my best behavior when Michael arrives. 😉
We are in luck! We meet Michael, the kind and friendly manager and his “girlfriend” Lady, the most well behaved dog I have yet to meet. Michael now runs the place like his own little community. He gives us a dry camping spot right on the front row! Not only do we have a great view of the mighty Columbia River, but at an affordable price without having to pay for services we don’t need.
I am happy to say not much has changed in Astoria over the past two years. It’s a bit more crowded than I remember, but then it’s salmon season! There is a buzz of activity next door at the boat dock, where both personal as well as commercial boats line up at the cleaning stations with their bounty from the sea.
Another kind of crowding is the influx of transient visitors from California…the sea lions! During my last visit, it was June so they were out to sea looking for a mate. But this visit, there are an estimated 5,000 of them lounging around on the docks, resulting in a musical cacophony that can be heard all over town. The noise could get a little annoying at night until I remind myself…“Oh…that barking I hear is sea lions!” Not something one hears every day.
The Sunday Farmer’s Market seems to be more vibrant than ever. The selection, quality and variety is among the best I have seen, particularly in a town the size of Astoria. With live music and plenty of food truck options, it’s a great venue for a Sunday stroll.
But the biggest difference is the weather. The typical 60 degree days have taken a hiatus as a heat wave moves through town. So instead of city activities, we head for the beach two days in a row. The beach near the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale is crawling with kids, so we drive down toward the South Jetty and turn in at a sign saying nothing more than “Area B,” and have the entire beach to ourselves. Bliss! I didn’t expect to be walking barefoot on the far reaches of a northern Oregon beach in shorts and a tee shirt.
We end up staying four nights in Astoria, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Had we not had a deposit down on reservations in Portland, we would have no doubt stayed until Michael turned out the lights. Yes, in spite of hoping the owners would come to their senses and see that this is the best way to give people a the chance to fall in love with Astoria as I did in 2014, the lovely little Pier 38 RV Park is sadly no more…(sniff)