Since I am such a Lewis and Clark buff, a stop on the Oregon coast to Fort Stevens and Fort Clatsop was a no-brainer. Perched on the northwest tip of the state, it was here that Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were finally able to reach their destination—the Pacific Ocean. It was here that William Clark penned those infamous words in his journal, “Ocian in view! O! the joy!” And it was here that the men built Fort Clatsop and spent a long, soggy winter waiting for spring and their return trip east to home.
We set up camp at Fort Stevens State Park, a huge state park with 170 FHU sites, 300 with electric and water, tent sites, cabins, and yurts. The loop we were in was heavily wooded but easy to maneuver our rig. The camp hosts were very welcoming, stopping by to greet us and sell us a bundle of firewood. Our first evening, we checked the forecast and thought we had better head to the beach to feast our eyes on a spectacular sunset. While we waited for the setting sun, we watched several cars driving up and down the beach, which is allowable. The beach also has the wreckage from the Peter Iredale, a sailing vessel that ran ashore in 1906. We found a comfy seat on the soft sand and drank in the glorious sunset. Pink, yellow, orange, blue, purple,…..what marvelous colors and shapes that came from the paintbrush of God!
The next day we drove over to Fort Clatsop, the winter abode of the Corps of Discovery. We stopped first in the visitor center, looking at the displays and obtaining maps and information about the fort. We then walked down the path to the see the replica of Fort Clatsop. I was struck by how small it was. In our modern age, we construct such huge buildings, using way more materials, energy, and manpower than is necessary. When you stop to consider what our “needs” really are, you realize they truly are few. The men built only what was necessary for their comfort–a place to stay dry, rest, and prepare for the return trip home in the spring. The day we visited, a school group was having a field trip. It was fun to see and hear the interactions between the costumed interpreters and the children. There are several trails through the woods and near the waterways that we walked and talked about how the men of the Corps must have felt being here for the winter. What brave souls they were!
Fort Stevens also proved to be a very interesting place to explore. Our son and his wife had camped here and encouraged us to do the same. We were glad we heeded their advice! From the Civil War to World War II, Fort Stevens was an important military post, protecting the mouth of the Columbia River from enemy attacks. In fact, it was the only military fort to be fired upon since the War of 1812. The attack happened during World War II when a Japanese submarine fired in 1942. The little museum on site has a very interesting display of first-hand accounts of that night. We then walked along the battlements and looked out over the land and sea, imagining that dreadful and fearful night those local residents experienced.
Our visit here ended with rain, rain, and more rain. Yep, there is a reason why Oregon is so lush and green! It doesn’t get that way from sunny days with low humidity! After several hours, the rain finally let up, allowing us to pack up and head south.