Travel – Cape Disappointment Trail and the North Head Lighthouse – Ilwaco, Washington

During one of our camping adventures, we decided to go to a popular, nearby hiking trail that ends at a lighthouse, (we were camping at Fort Stevens in Hammond Oregon). We were heading to Cape Disappointment and the North Head Lighthouse.

If you would like to read about our adventures traveling to and staying at Fort Stevens, click this link, “Fort Stevens State Park and Campgrounds“.

Traveling to Washington State – First, The Bridges

To get to Cape Disappointment from Fort Stevens State Park, you have to travel North, on highway 101, (US 101), then cross two bridges.

The first bridge you will cross is the New Youngs Bay Bridge. It connects Warrenton Oregon and Astoria Oregon. The bridge is a vertical lift bridge that spans the Youngs Bay.

This is the view, when entering the lift portion of the New Youngs Bay Bridge. In the distance, you can see the next bridge to be crossed, (The Astoria-Megler Bridge).

The New Youngs Bay Bridge was constructed in 1964. Including the approaches, it’s length is 4,200 feet, (1,280 meters). While traveling along it, it feels like a very long, low bridge.

When traveling towards Astoria on the New Youngs Bay Bridge, you may see this mountain off to the right. It’s name is Saddle Mountain. Some days, you can’t see the mountain at all, due to clouds and fog cover.

Shortly after leaving the New Youngs Bay Bridge, you enter Astoria. Don’t expect to see much of Astoria though, because as soon as you arrive in Astoria, you have to exit it, to cross the next bridge.

If you continued straight, you would be on I-30 East, (and see beautiful downtown Astoria), but we are going to continue along US 101, North.

I just entered Astoria and already, I’m leaving?

Do You Fear Crossing Bridges

I don’t want to discourage you from going, but if you have a fear of bridges, this may not be the best part of your day. You are about to cross one of the scariest bridges in the United States.

The Astoria-Megler bridge is the longest continuous truss bridge in the nation. This cantilever style bridge took four years to build. It was completed in 1966. It formed the final link, in the US highway system, from Canada to Mexico.

The bridges path stretches 4.1 miles, (6.6 k), spanning the mouth of the Columbia River, from Astoria, Oregon to Point Ellice, Washington. It is used by 7,300 vehicles per day.

This picture only shows the highest points on the bridge.

It is also the point in the Columbia River, where Bar Pilots and River Pilots exchange control of commercial vessels.

This is a pilot boat, that is on display, right along the North side of highway 30, in Astoria.

The bridge itself, was built to withstand the forces of wind that mother nature might throw at it, on any given day. It was built to withstand 150 mile per hour gusts.

At times, the bridge experiences 60 mile per hour winds, (but more than that isn’t unheard of). This is a concern to semi-truck drivers, as the winds on the bridge have been known to topple trailers, (with their trucks), on their sides.

According to the Daily Astorian news, on November 20th, in 2012, a 2011 Volvo truck was pulling an empty trailer, when the wind on the bridge overturned the 53 foot trailer and truck.

If you are someone who loves bridges, the bridge itself is beautiful.

Just before entering the bridge.

It feels like it is a very, very long bridge.

Here we are just coming out of the highest sections of the bridge. As you can see, we still have a long way to go, to get to the Washington State side of the bridge.

When we get to the end of the span, we will head left, to go to Cape Disappointment.

How Cape Disappointment Got It’s Name

Cape Disappointment is thought to have been named thus, due to the amount of shipwrecks that have taken place where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, (on the Washington State side).

This isn’t how it got it’s name though. It was originally named in 1775 by Bruno Heceta, (a Spanish Explorer). He named it “Bahia de La Asuncion,” or Bay of the Assumption. In 1788, John Meares, (a British Trader), renamed it Cape Disappointment. He named it this because he saw the mouth of the Columbia River and mistakenly thought it was just a bay. I guess he was expecting more, and was disappointed.

The Trail to the North Head Lighthouse

Using our cellphone’s GPS, we finally arrived in the parking lot where the trailhead starts, that leads us to lighthouse.

There is a fee for parking in a Washington State park. You can pay for a day pass, (a one time, $10.00 fee to park). Or you can pay for an annual pass to park, $30.00. Prices listed here are what was see at the time of this writing. If you want to check on prices, (and to see the days parking might be free), click, “Discover Pass“.

We paid for an annual pass, at the machine in the parking lot, and headed down the trail. The trail is said to be 1.9 miles round trip. The trail itself is in great shape.

If you are a person who loves to walk, you are going to love this place. If you are a photographer, (or just someone like me, who loves taking pictures), you are going to love this place.

My husband, on the trail, up ahead.

Here I saw a strange looking group of roots.

The bottom one, kind of looks like a hand, (a creepy hand).

One of my favorite plants is a fern. I have quite a few at my house.

These little flowers, intertwined, reminded me of twinkling little lights.

The trees are so very odd in places.

This tree seems to be lifting itself off of the ground, as if it doesn’t like getting it’s feet wet. Tippy toe ya know.

Below, is a closer look at the plants, at the base of the tree.

This is a close up of the fern, with the cluster of little flowers growing all around it. It looked as if it was designed by a florist.

Nature’s artistry.

Have you ever seen such pretty greenery?

Look closely, you will see rugged beauty amongst the foliage.

Do you see the flowers, winding around, throughout this plant?

Another odd looking tree base.

It kind of looks like an animal, ready to pounce. What do you think it looks like?

To me, this is a weed. If I found it in my garden, I’d eliminate it, permanently. But here, it’s beautiful.

Weeds have their place, but you should do your best to avoid touching the plants.

This is the same type of weed, but it has been sculpted by nature to be so beautiful. I’m not positive what this plant is, but I believe this is cows parsnip. If it is, just touching it can cause contact dermatitis on skin, (don’t touch)!

Make sure, you look around while walking on the trail, so you don’t miss these kinds of things.

There is so much to see here.

No clue what this plant is. All I know is, it grew here, for me to discover.

Another magnificent plant.

A bush with brightly colored flowers.

All along the walk, you will see beautiful, lush plants, like this. If I were a botanist, I’d tell you what all of these amazing plants are, but I’m not.

The Cove Along the Way

We came across a cove, along the way. Was it a pirates cove in the distant past?

Avast ye !!! Don’t ask me what that means. It just sounded pirate like.

From way up here, I saw a couple of people down on the beach. I have no clue how they got down there, nor how on earth they were going to get back up.

See the little island, in the center of the cove? I wonder how long the island has been there.

To the Lighthouse

Along the trail to the lighthouse, you will see other people. You will also sometimes be surprised who else might be using the trail.

Watch for wildlife, (I believe this bird is a wren).

A polite trail user, is always willing to give the right of way, to another trail user.

This little girl, came leaping out of the bushes, right in front of us. I told her, yes, you may lead the way, if you like.

At the very end of the trail, is the lighthouse. This is the 2nd windiest lighthouse location in the nation. Winds here have been recorded at 120 miles per hour.

Some people believe the lighthouse is haunted. It is said that the wife of the lighthouse keeper, couldn’t take the howling of the wind, causing her to leap from the cliff. If you would like to read more about this and other locally reported hauntings, click here, “Haunted Places on the Long Beach Peninsula“.

This is the way the lighthouse looked, when we arrived.

I didn’t see any ghosts.

From here, if you look right, you will see some of the Pacific Ocean cliffs.

Beautiful colors and sheer drops seen this way.

If you look left, you will see the North Jetty.

The long rock structure is the North Jetty.

As I had done something similar at Fort Stevens, I could now say I had stood at two extreme points on our planet. I had stood at the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean in both Oregon and Washington State.

We had such a wonderful walk to the lighthouse. It was a real treat to see all that we had seen. We hadn’t arrived very early and it was getting late in the day. It was time to head back.

Going back, we had some company.

A huge black bird, hopping from tree to tree, watching us with great interest. I think it was a crow.

On the trail back to the parking lot, the path twists and turns, and feels ever upwards. It was the exact same path we had just traveled, but what I didn’t realize when we walked to the lighthouse, was we had been walking primarily downhill.

Now, we were in a hurry to get back to the car, before the park, (and the parking lot), was officially considered closed).

It was going to be all uphill from here.

We made it back to the parking lot, (I really felt the walk back). We got in our car, and headed to our campsite at Fort Stevens State Park.

The sun was setting. Our day was almost over. I have to say, Cape Disappointment State Park, was no disappointment.

See, Saddle Mountain, on the horizon, off to the left.

There was just a couple of things left to do (Two Bridges).

If you would like to read more about Cape Disappointment, click the link.

If you would like to read more of my posts about outdoors activities, click here.

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