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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Theme Day: "Empty"

There's something serene and peaceful about a place where you can see that what used to be there at one time is now gone. Maybe it's a touch of nostalgia, or maybe the place looks better with the "thing," whatever it was, fading away. Maybe both. Much of the pier has fallen away since I arrived here in 2001. I remember an old house trailer sitting to the left of the main dock on what is now just a flimsy, crumbling remnant of a platform. The scene definitely looks better without the trailer! I wonder if it fell in, or if they took it away. There seems to be an intense sensation of open space on this part of the River Walk.

Today is Theme Day (the first day of each month) at City Daily Photo, and this month the theme is "Empty." Click here to view thumbnails for all participants. For more pictures of water, check out Watery Wednesday. For outdoors? Outdoor Wednesday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oregon Electric Railway Co., 1903-1945

There are treasures everywhere you look, and this one sits by the side of Marine Drive, unattached to a museum or institution of any kind. It's one of the hardest things I've photographed so far for the Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo blog, only because you can't get to some of the angles, and because of the rotting bamboo fence around it. I would like to have shown the wheels, and I would like to have shown the lettering on the side more clearly. It says, "Oregon Electric Railway Co." and "1903 - 1945." It's been preserved with a brand new coat of paint. This was the best single photo I could come up with.

This caboose may have nothing to do with Astoria's history, but may have been acquired by local railroading enthusiasts.

Sunset over the Columbia

Sunsets like this one over the Columbia River and Cape Disappointment in Washington don't happen every day, but they do happen often enough. A few people will always be out enjoying them on the River Walk or from any vantage point on the hill. Sometimes the clouds are high in the sky and dramatic. Other times, like today, a fog bank or low clouds come in off the ocean and add variety to the horizon. I love the way the high, smooth clouds catch the color and diffuse it. The bridge is the same one you've seen before with the two tall towers over the shipping lane. This is the more northern end of the 4-plus-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge from Oregon to Washington. Ah, yes. Have a happy Mellow Yellow Monday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Speech denied: City Daily Photo blogger is missing in Tehran

Sunday afternoon, June 28. I've just heard that after more than a week, he is home! The blog and the thoughts still stand. Here is the original post:

Speech denied, Tehran: When I started the Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo blog, I became part of a family of bloggers called City Daily Photo. Last week, one of the family (Tehran 24) was arrested while covering the aftermath of Iran's sham election. His last post was on June 17. A year ago, he was posting from his city like so many others: photos of food, flowers, parks, buildings, businesses, people. Then the elections took place. Life Magazine published his photos on June 20. Today I'm taking part in City Daily Photo's voluntary tribute to the photoblogger's courage and a fervent hope for his imminent safe return. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.

Speech denied and returned, my photo: The cut end of this cable depicts the sound of five radio stations going silent one day this past year with no warning. I saw it happen. In this photo, there's about a 13-foot drop from the cable to the surface of the muddy water. On the day the cable was cut, a man in a bright yellow rain slicker and face-hiding hat waited until the tide was high, slid purposefully into the bay in a boat with the motor turned off and cut the cable with a saw attached to the end of a pole. I heard the rapid grating sounds against the wires, felt the building rock, leapt up, and after the briefest glance out the window, went to grab my camera. The sabotage had been so well planned that within seconds, he was gone - had rounded the corner of the pilot building and taken off into the anonymity of this description on the waterfront of a fishing town: a human form in a yellow slicker and a small boat.

But he wasn't as obscure as he had hoped. The maritime branch of the County Sheriff's Office came out and the suspect was found. The wires were repaired and re-routed, and within hours, the stations resumed broadcasting, leaving the cut cable end as a memory. No-one seemed to know the motive, but there were suspicions. The tower broadcasts five stations owned by NNB (New Northwest Broadcasting): country music, classic rock, sports talk, and talk radio from both the very liberal and very conservative perspectives. Naturally, they tend to be controversial, and there are some that don't like what they hear. The best guess anyone had at the time is that this free-speech bandit really, really didn't like what he'd been hearing.

Many of us would probably bristle at some of the content that feeds through this equal-opportunity radio tower, but except for the ultra-rare occasion, the chatter goes on as usual. The tower soars into the sky and provides the occasional roost for birds. I hope one day everyone can be as safe commenting on or protesting what they feel is wrong, and I join my wishes that our Tehran reporter will return home safely.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Actually, it's a red-tailed hawk perched high in the radio tower that sits a few yards offshore and is one of Astoria's most prominent landmarks. It's hard to tell from the angle of this pic, but he was waaaaaaaaay up there. I spotted him as I was coming back from an evening walk. He seemed to be enjoying the sun's last rays, but he was not enjoying the fact that I kept walking closer and closer to the tower. We were probably both grateful for the zoom lens. If I thought I could creep up on him and get a closer photo without going into "optical," I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I knew that for sure when he leaned down my way and gave me the evil (I mean eagle-eyed) stare. It's rare that I see hawks in the tower, but I've seen at least one other, and one freezing morning a young and shaggy heron roosted there to get some sun on its feathers. The tower is interesting, and I'll have a photo showing what it actually looks like one of these days. Occasionally people stop by and ask if it can be purchased (for scrap metal, I assume), but it still broadcasts several stations, so the answer is, "No go."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lady Washington replica in Astoria's waters, or: Star Trek comes to Astoria

Tall Ship Lady Washington at Astoria, Oregon On Wednesday the Lady Washington passed this way under cloudy skies. The clouds and haze are still with us, so I'll go ahead and use this interesting photo for Skywatch Friday. You can see how the Lady Washington's size compares to the stern of one of the tankers that more often travel the river here. Both the replica you see in this photo and the original tall sailing ship have gathered their fair share of fame. The replica was built just up the coast in Aberdeen, Washington, in time for the 1989 state Centennial, and has been claimed as the "State Ship," which I'm sure is very different from Plato's "ship of state"! I've seen the Lady Washington rarely, but when I do it's always a treat. Some of us just call her "the pirate ship," and we all know which ship we're talking about. The Lady Washington has actually been in a number of movies, including Star Trek Generations, HMS Interceptor, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The original Lady Washington was built on the East Coast in 1787 and sailed around Cape Horn. She was named after Martha Washington and was captained for a time by Robert Gray, the man who entered and named the Columbia River (on a different ship, the Columbia Rediviva) in 1792. The Lady Washington was also the first American ship to reach Japan. You can read more about this historic vessel in Wikipedia.

It always lifts the spirits to see this beautiful ship in our waters, and she sometimes docks at the Maritime Museum, where you can get a closer look. She currently sails up and down the Pacific Coast teaching sailors and non-sailors about seamanship, customs, and about ships of her era, keeping history alive and fascinating.

This is my entry for Skywatch Friday. Come visit skies around the world today!

I want to thank all my friends who have been visiting my blog and commenting. I've had shopping cart technical issues, and then I took a day off. I am REALLY looking forward to spending time visiting your sites again! Hopefully later today :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goose bay

Several families of Canada geese have taken up residence here in a sort of bay along the river between Stephanie's Cabin restaurant and some industrial warehouses. I took the photo standing on the River Walk, which at this point is an elevated wooden platform holding up the Riverfront Trolley tracks. In recent years, it's been widened and fenced to create an easy way to see the river's sights by foot or bike. Just beyond the top of the photo is Marine Drive. The tide is low at the moment, but the river will cover the pilings. This huge log has drifted in on the current, and one day will probably find its way out to the river again to be carried to the sea. You may have to click on the photo to see the geese. It seems only a few days ago, but it must be longer, that walked this way and saw the parent geese with their half-grown goslings all yellow-brown and fuzzy. Now they're fledged nearly the color of the parents. I think one reason they like this bay is because food is so plentiful. They were pecking at the pilings one at a time in almost freaky unison before settling down.

One of the interesting things in this photo is the tufts of grass growing on the pilings - one is at the lower right, and a more spectacular lopsided one is growning on a piling towards the upper right. The pilings collect seeds and turn into forests, not only of grass, but even of small trees and other leafy plants. If the area around them were not so unforgivingly tidal, the whole place would be forested by now. Nature sure does have a way of taking back its territory if you let it - even on a piling in the river. And with 70 to 100 inches of rain per year here, it doesn't take that long.

Hop on over to Think Green Thursday and Nature Notes and see what others are thinking about today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maritime Memorial - lives remembered

This post is a continuation from yesterday's photo of the Maritime Memorial Park. In that case, the angle showed the park's situation beside the river. Today I wanted to show some of the epitaphs. Click on the image and you'll be able to see the pictures better and read the text.

Just by looking at them, you can tell that each entry recalls an interesting life and an interesting story. Let's bring one to life. I never knew about this until I'd been in Astoria for awhile. One of the oldest dates includes an image in the upper right of two horses trudging through the river dragging nets. It's called "horse seining," and here are links to three photos showing horses in the Columbia and the men that worked with them. (Photo 1, Photo 2, photo 3.) Green Island is upriver from Astoria beyond Tongue Point.

I think there are plenty of allusions here for a Watery Wednesday. And for ABC Wednesday? W = Water and Wall, and probably a lot more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maritime Memorial on the river's edge

On the River Walk in the shadow of the soaring Astoria-Megler bridge, you'll come to this small Maritime Memorial park. There's about a quarter circle of curved wall and a few benches. The vista from this spot is breathtaking, and the overall aspect is peaceful and respectful. But it's an interesting and somewhat lively memorial, too, as each rectangular space includes a name; the years of birth and death; a charming engraved image of a boat, a fish, a building, or some other reminder; and a brief comment about how the person's life related to the river or sea. The memorial is for those who lived and/or died in relation to the water. Tomorrow I'll show a photo of some of the images carved into the stone. Although there is nothing built into the wall to allow for flowers and tokens, people are creative, and you'll always find flowers (usually plastic, but not always) taped to the wall or set at the foot of it in a container. I love the bright flowers here and thought it would make a good post for Ruby Tuesday, one of my favorite days of the week. (Check out the link for additional photos featuring the color red.)

The words chiseled into the monument certainly evoke a spirit of this place. A few of them are:

. Gillnetter
. Troller
. Fisherman
. Cannery worker
. He loved the water
. She loved the sea
. Pile buck USCG
. Bumblebee employee
. Oysterman
. Cannery family
. Seafarer
. Captain of Nutsanet
. Keeper of the lights
. FV Valkyrie
. Assistant to Flatfish
. Tugboat operator
. Ocean Foods Market
. Voice on the Columbia
. Salmon buyer & smoker
. Merchant Marine
. Union Pension Advocate
. Columbia River Bar Pilot
. Clatsop Indian

Tomorrow's post will continue this theme.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Old store, new sign

Gimre's Shoe Store, Astoria, Oregon I usually buy my Tevas here on 14th Street. The sign says,

Gimre's Shoe Store
Oldest family Shoe Store in OR
Founded in 1892 by Sven Gimre
Bootmaker from Sola, Norway
Grandfather of present owners
Jon and Pete

The name you no longer see on the plaque (the same style plaque you see on other truly historic locations) is that of Kermit Gimre. He died in March 1998, a much-loved fixture of Astoria. Kermit was a son of Sven. Lee Spangler (Bend, Oregon, Daily Photo), said Kermit had a large quantity of wooden nickels made and would hand them out freely around town. You could turn in the wooden nickel for a discount in his store. Even though Kermit had died before I moved to Astoria, the old plaque with his name on it was around until this year or last, I believe. I have a photo of it somewhere, but I also found a photo online. You can see the older sign here. The Coast River Business Journal says, "Conrad and Maxwell Gimre Wolfard are from the fourth generation to sell shoes in the oldest family owned shoe store west of the Mississippi River."

The yellow lights and bit of reflection are my contribution to Mellow Yellow Monday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sergey Antonov's West Coast debut: From Moscow to Astoria, Oregon

Sergey Antonov in Astoria, Oregon, by Sheryl Todd Last night was special at the Liberty Theatre in Astoria, Oregon. Bright young star cellist, Sergey Antonov played, backed by the Astoria Festival Orchestra and conducted by Keith Clark. Eternal thanks to Stephanie Roley of Area Properties for dragging me away from my computer work on a Saturday evening. I have to admit that I would have gone in a flash if I'd known that Charlie Musselwhite, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, or J.J. Cale were playing (you get the picture), and I deliberated . . . fix the busted HTML on my web site, or go listen to orchestral music? When Stephanie told me that "this guy" was probably going to be considered the next "world's best cellist," I decided I shouldn't miss the opportunity. I was so glad I went.

Sergey Antonov in Astoria, Oregon, by Sheryl Todd I try to limit my Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo posts to one photo per day as set out by the City Daily Photo guidelines, but today I'm making an exception. Here's Sergey at work (or play) and below, I've linked to a YouTube video so you can see what the fuss is about. Sergey was born into a family of Russian cellists, which should tell you something right there, and already at 25, his credentials are a mile long. The late Mtislav Rostropovich called him "a brilliant cellist," and there are quite a few folks online who already like him better than Yo Yo Ma. "Plays with passion" is a phrase I'm seeing a lot. Even with my limited involvement with classical music, other than the chamber music and Medieval I enjoy listening to, I was immediately drawn in, felt and heard the atmosphere turn to pure beauty (the acoustics in the Liberty were superb), and I now have another icon to add to my list of musicians born to make the heart sing. The piece was Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op 33." What more can I say? Click on the YouTube video:

On Sunday night I got e-mail from Charles Noble, Assistant Principal Violist with the Oregon Symphony, asking if he might use my photos on his blog. Charles is the guy on the far right in the top photo. I appreciated the complement, and you can see the pix again with his description of the weekend and the performances here. Be sure to click on the "read more" button to get the full story. At the bottom there's a link to Charles' Flickr slideshow of the weekend with scenes of Astoria, food, practice, Sunday Market, and the beach. Have fun!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Glorious sunset on Astoria's waterfront

If this isn't a bald-faced advertisement for Astoria, I don't know what is. I love the rain, the low clouds and mist over the river, the sun breaks, all of it. But a glorious sunset like this is one of the prize moments. I was particularly taken by the way the sun lights up the one building between the two masses of silhouetted waterfront ambience. The building on the left is where the river pilots get a bit of sleep before the eight- to twelve-hour trip back upriver to Portland. The buildings on the right also belong to the pilots, and the small roof on stilts at the far right of the dark buildings is the covered end of a public pier known as the Waterfront Park, where you can watch the river traffic, the clouds, the gulls, and whatever else is going on out there. you can just see one of the towers of the Astoria-Megler Bridge in the background. More on all of that later. What a peaceful way to end a day filled with technical "challenges"!

Sometimes it takes dark to accentuate the light, and they're both beautiful here. (Today's ShutterDay Challenge = Dark.) Where is your favorite place to watch the sun set?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aerial symphony over Warrenton

The weather has been doing a bit of everything. I took this photo just across the Youngs Bay Bridge from Astoria as you enter Warrenton. This, for sure, was the photo for Skywatch Friday. The clouds seem to swell and pitch, boil up, tear apart and then drift away peacefully like shredded fleece. We often see clouds dark and low in the marine layer coming off the ocean, but today's spectacle contained everything at once. Just in time. Today's aerial symphony coincides with the start of Astoria's 10-day music festival. It will be an energetic week, with the midsummer Scandinavian Festival going on as well, and today the passengers from a huge cruise ship overflowing the sidewalks. The only thing I don't enjoy is the traffic! In case you wondered, the sign says, "Astoria/Warrenton Airport left 3/4 mile."

If you like photomemes, come check out "Reflections on Saturday." I'd love it if you'd help get it started!

And be sure to see Lee's Bend, Oregon, photo today . . . it's amazing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who says a retaining wall has to be boring?

Design Detail in Retaining Wall, Astoria, Oregon The cement retaining wall on 16th Street between Duane and Exchange had interesting pattern details stamped into it when the concrete was wet. Maybe I'll go back and correct the numbers, but my guess is they are about 16 to 18 inches across and spaced several yards apart. They're all at about eye level on the wall. So far, nobody seems to know why someone imprinted these beautiful designs in the concrete. The concrete is "fairly new" in historic terms. Someone estimated it was put here in about the 1970s, although these patterns look earlier and more deco to me (if they're in period). The wall keeps a parking lot from slipping down onto a vacant lot in the block above the Shallon Winery. Most of the marks appear in plain concrete. I liked this one with the clinging vine in front.

The spot is historic, having been at one time the Arrigoni Hotel and later (1880) St. Mary's Hospital, owned by the Sisters of Charity, and the oldest hospital in Astoria. During renovation, it was found that the old Fort Astoria stockade had been on this site. Appreciation to Karen L. Leedom for information published in her book, Astoria: An Oregon History.

This is my entry for Think Green Thursday. For additional interesting current pix, please follow that link as well as this link to more City Daily Photo blogs and travel the world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Downtown Astoria with passing ship

Astoria, Oregon - Downtown with passing ship On this Watery Wednesday, I'm posting yet another view of the Columbia River. I've been wanting to show an overview of the town of Astoria from lower down on the hill than I showed the first time and the second time. Both of those were taken from the top of the hill. I took this photo last Saturday from a friend's back deck. They have an exceptional view not blocked by any power lines! This shows the major part of the downtown area. You can see how close the shipping channel is to the town. The moving ships have a specific lane, and then if they're dropping anchor, they'll go farther out into the river. The line in the water at the left is the flat part of the bridge to Washington. The ships pass under that bridge very close to land, then they skirt the land for a few blocks and turn toward the center of the river as you can see this one is starting to do. If you click on the image, you can see the small green and white pilot boat racing out to swap pilots for the trip upriver. I explained a lot about that in this post. One of the fun things to see in Astoria is the exchange of pilots when the boats dash out to the big ships. It usually takes place right in front of the town. I'll have some close-ups of the green pilot boats later on in the blog. We had perfectly beautiful days on Saturday and Sunday. It's been more overcast since then, but it's been burning off somewhat during most afternoons.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A festive sight on any day

Riverfront Trolley, Astoria, Oregon The Riverfront Trolley runs along the River Walk almost from one end of town to the other all summer long and on nice days during spring and fall. The conductors are all volunteers who point out sights and describe Astoria's rather amazing history. You can ride as long as you want. The tickets are $1.00 for a single ride of any length, or pay $2.00 and get on and off all day long. Trolley Car 300 has quite a history, which you can read about on this site. My friend "Dangerous Dave" is one of the conductors. He points out our store as he rides the rails with his passengers, and tells them they *HAVE TO* come check out our unique collection of realistic stuffed and plastic animals. Many of them do, too! They're usually surprised to find such a place in this small town, and especially surprised to find out that we're actually a nonprofit for the conservation of tapirs! (Thanks, Dave!) Well, Astoria, Oregon, can be a surprising place. We'll just keep on bloggin' and keep on having fun :)

. Happy Ruby Tuesday!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A shimmering moment in time

Astoria, Oregon, River Scene I dug this one out of the archives from June 28, 2007. I took it from our back deck on one of those evenings when the light was so perfect that nothing could go wrong. The building in the sun's glow was a marine supply company, since moved, leaving this place temporarily empty. The lousy economy may have saved this romantic old building that seems so much a part of the river for at least another year. There is a condo in the works, of course to be much taller and wider and view-blocking than the current building, and I wish the reprieve could last forever. The structure on the left is the base of a still-active radio tower, a landmark that can be seen from almost any part the north side of Astoria.

This is my contribution for Mellow Yellow Monday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A ship's "bones" on the beach

Peter Iredale Wreck I took this photo of the wreck of the Peter Iredale in February 2008, and decided to use it today for Scenic Sunday. The Peter Iredale is a popular destination in any season. You can drive right up to the edge of the beach. There are always curious people, photographers, kids, locals and visitors exploring the ruins or waiting for that perfect photo. To me, this angle and amount of ship exposed makes it feel almost alive, or almost like it was alive at some point. I've already posted one photo from another angle with the sun turning the shore to gold. Depending on the tides, more or less of the ship's carcass is exposed, and this view is somewhat unusual. Although I've never seen it, I know people who have been lucky enough to walk on the teak deck of the ship when even more sand has washed away. It's preserved in almost perfect condition, but at the moment it's under sand again. It appears once every few years or so. Often all you will see is the prow of the ship and a few of the metal structures that held up the masts. Every visit is different because of the action of the waves over the days and weeks before your visit, the height of the tide when you're there, the time of day, the lighting, and the weather. The tides here will go all the way to the cliffs on a very high tide, and somewhat further out than you see here when the tide is low. There's always water in the small pools that form around the wrecked prow. Another of my sunset photos that you all liked was also taken here.

The ship came aground in a storm on October 25, 1906. The wreck is a few miles south of the entrance to the Columbia river. There are just under 2,000 known shipwrecks in and around this dangerous river bar, called "The Graveyard of the Pacific." Amazingly, in this ship disaster no one was hurt, and it was lucky for us that it occurred where we can enjoy the aesthetics and romance associated with old ships and the history of the days of sailing ships.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lighting at the Liberty

Lighting at the Liberty Theatre, Astoria, Oregon Last night we attended Laurel's graduation from Clatsop Community College, which is at the top of the 16th Street hill. The commencement event was held downtown in the ornate 667-seat Liberty Theatre, built after the fire of 1922 and refurbished in 2002. It opened in 1925 and featured silent movies and vaudeville acts. It's said that the accoustics are some of the best in Oregon. My camera and I were not up to the task of showing the interior at its best, and I found myself focused on the arresting ceiling with it's gorgeous period lighting fixture and the round opening allowing entry into the obscured pipes and lighting equipment. It's interesting to click on the photo and peer into the dark.

The Liberty is an Astoria landmark. The sight-lines are all good, the seating is comfortable, and there's plenty of interesting decor. At least some of the paintings depict scenes of Venice. In all, as a theater should, it takes you away from the streets of Astoria and into another world. There was a full house for graduation, so I didn't walk around and take pix from other angles. I will simply have to go back again with my camera. I did get a few other shots that I'll use elsewhere, and of course one of these days I'll show the delightful facade of the building. The Liberty Theatre is considered one of the gems Astoria has to offer to residents and visitors. It's also a key downtown location, and passengers from the cruise ship are often brought to this corner by bus. They can then catch the return bus on the same corner at specified times during the day.

I'm taking part in the Shutter Day photomeme where the theme today is "Light."

Interior of the Liberty Theatre, Astoria, Oregon

Friday, June 12, 2009

The 6th Street Viewing Platform and thoughts on what it all means

6th Street River Viewing Platform, Astoria This platform always looks tropical to me, although Astoria is anything but tropical, and this year we haven't even had that many t-shirt days so far. Maybe it's the shape of the roof, and maybe it's the colors and the poles it stands on that make it appear to be an interloper from warmer latitudes. In any event, we love it, and we usually take or direct visitors here. It's built next to the Cannery Cafe at the end of the pier on 6th Street, and it's fun to hang around and watch the ships; seals; sea lions; birds; the great, wide expanse of sky; sturgeon fishing in season; or just watch the Columbia roll on. From here, you can observe the huge ships travelling the whole length of town and farther. There's a two-level deck at the end of the pier with a pay-per-view telescope that I've never used, and an interpretive plaque about the original people of the area. The pier is only a few yards long, and is essentially part of the River Walk.

The only uncool thing in the photo, as far as I'm concerned, is the pole on the left. It's an initial part of the planned condo that was to have been completed this Spring. When the economy tanked, or maybe for other reasons I don't know, it never got started except for a number of tall poles planted in the water. They already mar photos of the river, bridge, and people's sunset photos from here, and if the building is ever completed, it will block, from the platform, one of the views everyone comes here to see - for tourists and locals alike. (In the linked photo, you can see the legs of the viewing platform at the left of the picture.) We will still be able to see a large part of the river and the flat part of the bridge, but not the tall towers that give it most of its character. Once blocked, the view will belong to only those few who buy a condo here. It's sad and stupid. I don't usually get on soapboxes in my City Daily Photo posts, but this is a pet peeve. Only eight years ago when I drove into town for the first time, you could see more of the river from the highway than you can today. Over the next few years, views may be blocked that will never again be accessible to the public. One thing I'm doing as I wander around town with my camera is to document and blog those vistas and old buildings that will someday be gone. It's happened already, and apparently we don't care enough to stop those who can afford to do it.

NOTE: I have since learned that if this condo is built, there will be a viewing deck open to the public all the way around the building. It will actually afford a beautiful view of the bridge. I still have feelings about the view being blocked from the actual river walk (bike traffic, for instance), and the height of the building. However, I've learned a lot more about the topic of waterfront views and access, how they have actually improved since earlier years, and what the ongoing issues are. As more comes up via photos, I will both learn and talk more about it. Apparently there is a lot to be said. Basically, in the 1800s, it was all about industry, which left statutes in place that we all deal with one way or another. (To be continued.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Built over water and destroyed by flames

The pilings you see are made of cement, and although these days there is no water under Exchange Street, the whole of downtown Astoria was at one time built on wooden pilings over the Columbia River. You can still see the pilings in a few locations like this, where there is a parking lot rather than a foundation. I'm standing on Franklin Street to take this photo. The street in the foreground is Exchange. We're looking across the site of the old Safeway store to Duane Avenue, then the blue building beyond that is on Commercial Street, which is the main drag going east. The next block beyond that is Marine Drive, which carries all of the westbound traffic through town, and Marine essentially skirts the river. Since the downtown area is also approximately nine blocks long, that's a lot of area built up over water and mud. There are stories of people fishing from the windows of buildings and through holes in the streets in earlier days. Fires in 1883 and 1922 destroyed much of downtown Astoria, and eventually concrete pilings replaced the wood. Today I'm taking part in the Thursday Challenge, where the theme is "old" - as in, Old Astoria.

The red thing in the middle of the photo is the trailer that housed the Bank of America until a few weeks ago after a fire gutted the building on Thanksgiving night, 2008. Tragically, one man was killed, but as for Astoria's buildings, only the corner of one block was damaged.

This blog is a labor of love, but the time I spend on it is in part made possible by Tapir and Friends Wildlife World online gift shop. Thanks for visiting. I love your comments!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Carnival Splendor and the Cannery Pier Hotel

Astoria is a port of call for big cruise ships as well as smaller paddlewheel boats that come down the Columbia River from Portland. The big cruise liners, of course, come the other way: in from the ocean. This ship dwarfs the four-storey Cannery Pier Hotel, built on the location of the former Union Fisherman's Cooperative Packing Company. The designer and owners went to a lot of work to attempt to preserve the look and flavor of the 1900s buildings. A boutique hotel will never feel like an authentic cannery, but I'm so glad they went to the lengths they did instead of building something without thought to history or location. We have a few of those, too! You can see an old photo of the Union Fish Cannery and a fleet of small fishing boats in a photo on the hotel's web site.

The cruise ship Carnival Splendor was getting ready to leave and go back out to sea. They stay for a day and then they're on their way. We've had quite a few cruise ships in already this year. The visitors come into town by bus or they can take the riverfront trolley or walk along the River Walk. They fill Astoria's streets, put smiles on the faces of local merchants, and generally seem to enjoy their stopover, even the ones who have been re-routed here instead of going to Mexico due to the swine flu outbreak this year. Astoria has many faces, and one of them is tourism. Many people drive to the coast from inland or come down from Seattle, and the ships help boost that bottom line for many merchants struggling with today's economy.

I took this pic at 8:18 p.m. on May 26. I love the way the water reflects light from the sky on most evenings here.

. ABC Wednesday, "U" is for "Union Fish Cannery"
. . . and can I include
. Window Views? There are more than I can count if you include the staterooms!

While we're at it, I'll make an additional link back to my friends at City Daily Photo, which is what got me started with this blog. It's such a great way to travel the world when I can't be doing that it real life!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More like peppermint ice cream

Most of the numerous Victorian houses in Astoria are painted in subdued earth tones, grays, blue-grays, blues, shade of white, pale yellow, greenish, and similar colors. There are a few notable exceptions, and this is one of them. This original Italianate Victorian was brighter at one time (the base is also pink) and the owners got much abuse from locals, including having their home dubbed "The Kaopectate House." Astoria's houses are a lot of fun for viewers, and often for the owners, although I've heard stories from potenial buyers and from real estate people here that there is almost not a house in town without notable quirks.

A few of these architectural details (or anomalies) show on the outside as unique cupolas, intentionally non-vertical walls (not on this one, it's the camera lens), and one-of-a-kind trim. But to those in the know, the stories are endless. I lived in a renovated apartment in a very old building one time, and you couldn't put anything round on the floor or it would quickly roll against one of the walls - but I gather that was tame. Astoria is built on such hills, the houses are so old, and much earth settling has taken place. I'm sure there will be entertaining things to show and relate as time goes on. And maybe we'll get some good comments. This house is a little more than halfway up the 15th-Street Hill, almost to Irving. The hill starts climbing at Duane, and the streets are alphabetical, going as far as Niagara.

Happy Ruby Tuesday, everyone! As I said in the title, this may be more like peppermint ice cream than like rubies, but for sure it's in the right part of the spectrum!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Columbia River Bar Pilot Boat "Chinook"

Resting in the calm, sunny waters of Hammond, Oregon, across the river from Astoria, the Columbia River Bar Pilot Boat, Chinook (the yellow one), gives no hint of what it was designed to do when at work on high seas. Both are Bar Pilot boats; I'll try to get the name of the orange one, too. Hammond is downriver from Astoria, and transfers bar pilots to and from the big ships as far as 10 to 15 miles out in the ocean during stormy weather or calm. The bar of the Columbia River is one of the most treacherous river bars in the world, and some call it the most treacherous. Piloting the ships across the bar is a specialty occupation, and the pilots have to understand not only the tides, currents, weather, and what lies below the water line at any given level of the tide, but also the capability, draft, and size, of each ship they board. The distance they navigate is short, but the importance of the job is incalculable. Many ships would wreck here each year if not for the work of the skilled pilots - or I guess we should say, the river mouth would otherwise be unnavigable by the large ships. Once the bar pilots have finished their job, a river pilot takes over, also brought to the ship in pilot boats, which I'll show another day). These green boats do most of their work near enough to Astoria's waterfront that we can watch them virtually every day. Piloting a ship up the Columbia to Longview, Kalama, or Portland, is also a specialized job, and requires about eight to 12 hours from Astoria to Portland, depending on the speed of the ship.

Occasionally we see the yellow and orange boats in Astoria, but most of their work is done on the ocean, which begins several miles further downriver from Hammond. I wish I could have gotten more of the orange boat in the photo, but there was a fence I couldn't get around. The name "Chinook" comes from a local Indian people who live in this part of Oregon and Washington. I've provided some links below that show the Chinook (boat) at work, and other interesting bits and clips. Helicopters have also been used regularly to transfer pilots in the ocean, and there's a video of a helicopter at work below with some informative narrative on the video.

What are the outdoor jobs do you enjoy watching in your town?

. Mellow Yellow Monday (see more pix featuring the color yellow)
. Photos and video of the Chinook at work on high seas
. Chinook clears the water
. Interview with a pilot
. YouTube: Boarding Vessels by Helicopter
. More about the Chinook people

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When the sun speaks

We've been having a lot of overcast, drizzly, or simply darkish and misty days. Periodically, the sun comes through and creates a spectacle like this one from the top of Coxcomb Hill where the (currently headless) Astoria Column overlooks two rivers, a bay, the mouth of the Columbia River, a couple of bridges, and the town of Astoria. You really should click on the photo and dive into the scene to get the effect of the sun's rays. The bridge spans just over four miles from Astoria, Oregon, to the state of Washington. It's actually at a narrow part of the river! I've shown two earlier views from the column, but the lighting and clouds give this one its own ethereal look for Scenic Sunday. Here are views over the southwest side of the Astoria hill and the northwest side on earlier days this year.

"Ancient Mariner" commented below, "The old local mariners call those descending beams of sunlight "Sundogs."

Cool, and thanks! What a great term. I hadn't heard that before. I love learning things like this and being able to pass them along via the blog.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The "littlest" catch?

Laurel (right), Teagan (my grand-tapir, in the red shirt) and I went to our favorite coffee spot for lunch yesterday. We had a window table at Coffee Girl, where we could watch the mist and clouds over the river and see the fishing boats as they came and went. I like the decor, the food and the people. The decor is very real and not kitchy; it includes this vintage life preserver from the Alleutian Ballad crab boat, which starred in Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. The Aleutian Ballad wintered in the dock here at Pier 39 (the building that houses Coffee Girl), and here's a photo I took of it last November. It's fitted out with seats for its new life as a tourist fishing/crabbing boat in some of Alaska's calmer waters. I happened to be looking out the window on April 2nd this year as it passed downriver. I wonder if that's the day it left here for the summer?

I actually never watched that show because I don't have TV. Did you watch it?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sunset at the Peter Iredale

Last night at the beach, the sun set not over the horizon line of the ocean, but into a dense fog bank. You can see the bony hull of the wrecked Peter Iredale at the bottom of the photo silhouetted against the waves. The beach is only about a 15-minute drive from downtown Astoria, and it's a favorite place to watch the sun go down. It's especially nice on a evening like today when the air is still wet from a recent shower. The sunset is not as dramatic as it is some evenings, but it always feels special here. Off to the left, I watched a red jellyfish-shaped kite glide among the misty clouds until they turned gold. Be sure to visit other participants in Skywatch Friday to see the skies around the world.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bright, Classic Green Machine

I couldn't help noticing this striking classic car as I passed the U.S. Customs Office on the River Walk the other day. Who knew it would be a perfect solution for Think Green Thursday and Thursday Challenge (Topic: Machines). I didn't know what it was, but Anonymous came up with "My Little Deuce Coupe." I looked it up and it matches - that's a 1932 Model B Ford. Hotrodded. I like the fact that the inside of the engine compartment (the firewall?) is painted with a black and white checkerboard pattern. Seems odd, but looks nice. Is there a precedent for this? And what about the black machine in the background. Is that a classic, too? We don't often see such cars on the streets of Astoria, and when we do, they're usually here for a rally down the coast in Seaside, or the most recent one I noticed was a few weeks ago at Fort Stevens, near the ocean. Cars show up from all over the Pacific Northwest, and our few roads are sometimes pretty jammed. One day we accidentally got into the midst of a tour of these classic vehicles in Seaside (just down the coast). We were on foot, on the boardwalk (pavement) along the beach, and it was fun to stand at the turn-around point and take pictures from all angles. There were some amazing cars there, treats for the eye and fun to see, even for someone like me who doesn't care much about what they are. I can enjoy the visuals and appreciate the love and care people have put into their pet projects. Everyone was having a great time.

Astoria has had a U.S. Customs House since 1849. The old one is preserved further east, and I'll post a photo one of these days. The current U.S. Customs and Border Protection office is here on the River Walk near the east end of the downtown area at 14th Street. I don't usually think of Astoria needing a border protection office, but actually Astoria is a port of entry to the U.S. The coupe is parked in a space reserved for business at the Customs Office.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The boats are out

This is the time of year when the small pleasure boats and fishing boats appear on the river. The water is usually calmer now and we have days at a time when you can actually see blue sky. But, blue, gray, rainy, or fine, when the sturgeon are biting, the boats are out. You can see by the buoy that the current in this part of the water is running upriver, which means that the tide is coming in. However, the river is so large and the currents so quirky that you can have an ebb in one part of the river and a flow in another nearby at the same time. It's a complex world down there. I often wish I could magically see under the water to observe the life, the currents, and the bed of the river like a cutaway view in a museum or movie.

Once again, it's Watery Wednesday. Check out the wet participants!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Light Ship Columbia

The Light Ship Columbia is permanently docked at the Maritime Museum in Astoria, and is part of their exhibit. You can take a tour inside the ship when the museum is open. I think the buoy is at least as interesting to look at as the ship, and I love its colors, faded and worn as they are. I come here often, because it's only about a block from home, and of course it's on the River Walk. I haven't been inside the museum itself for quite some time, but the unique building and some of its contents will appear here eventually. You might want to check out The Columbia River: A Photographic Journey for more photos and lots of information on the Light Ship Columbia. The hill in the distance is Tongue Point, and white building in front of it is the J.O. Hanthorn Cannery I posted the other day.

Lee commented, "Interesting story about this. It used to be moored just outside the mouth and helped ships find the entrance to the Columbia. We've come along way. The crew was so bored they salmon fished all summer."

Happy Ruby Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flying feet

If I were younger and braver, I think I'd like to feel like this. I did some stunts on a bike that amaze me now to think of them. Still, I don't know if I'd have had the courage. It's amazing to see how easily tennis-shoed kids cling to the boards with their feet, understanding exactly what gravity is going to do with them. In Tapiola Park on the south slope of Astoria, there's a wonderful skateboard arena made from an old public swimming pool. The whole pit has been reshaped for a smooth ride that goes down and around several interestingly-shaped walls before the kids pop out at a number of spots along the side. Sometime I should post a picture of the whole arena. It's photogenic. There were three or four guys doing a terrific job of swooping around the place while I was there today, and one much younger who wanted to learn. Helmets are definitely required!

Today is Theme Day at City Daily Photo, and the theme is "Feet." I love the way the shoelace casts an exaggerated shadow.

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