Driving Around Pacific County, Washington

Driving Around Pacific County, Washington
The Long Beach Peninsula

As some of my readers know, I’m working on a coffee table book titled Evergreen: A Photographic Portrait of Washington’s Thirty-Nine Counties. I’ve put the project on hold due to present circumstances, but I can still dream, right? The coffee table book focuses on the history and culture of each county. The counties I’ve already written up, I’ve posted on this website under the heading Evergreen. But for the purpose of this post, we’ll just be taking a leisurely Sunday (ok Monday) drive. We’ll be driving around Pacific County, Washington.

Pacific County is the Southwestern corner of the state. The Oregon Territorial Legislature created it in 1851, the third county north of the Columbia River. I wrote up my version of Pacific County’s history on March 2nd, 2019, almost a year ago. I’ll be talking about an actual drive I took Labor Day Weekend, 2016. Today, with social distancing and isolation, I cannot recommend such a drive. Instead, just climb into my Explorer and take a virtual trip with me, driving around Pacific County, Washington

Hitting the Road

When I arose on the morning of September 5th, 2016, it was too early to get the complimentary breakfast being served at the Hotel Cathlamet. Rather than sit around and wait, I jumped in the Explorer and crossed the bridge to Puget Island, one of the largest in the Columbia River. While driving around the Island’s back roads, I had to stop to take the portrait of the 1952 Cadillac that serves as today’s Classic Car of the Day. I found many other sights worth stopping to photograph, but I returned to the Hotel in time to have a hearty breakfast.

Pacific County

Washington Highway 4 follows the Columbia River from Interstate 5 at Kelso to its western terminus at U.S. 101 along the north bank of the Naselle River. Washington Highway 401 takes off to the south at the town of Naselle. Settled largely by Finns in the 19th Century, even today Naselle celebrates a Finnish-American Folk Fest every other year. While stopped, we could take the bikes off the Explorer and ride the Naselle Seaview Bike trail. If we ride all the way to Seaview, the route is 42 miles long. At this point, I’ll suggest riding on Parpala Road, along the Naselle’s south bank, till we reach US 101, then returning to the car.

Back at the car, we’ll continue west on Washington 4, turning north when we reach US 101. Soon enough we are driving along the mud flats on the eastern side of Willapa Bay. Known as the oyster capital of the world, Willapa Bay has been providing oysters to the world’s gourmands for well over 150 years.

Mud flats of Willapa Bay seen driving around Pacific County, Washington
Mud Flats of Willapa Bay (Bruceport)

South Bend and Raymond

Toward the north end of Willapa Bay, US 101 passes the site of Bruceport and heads east to South Bend and Raymond, towns five miles apart by US 101. As we drive into South Bend, we find that we’ve just missed the Labor Day parade. There are still lots of folks (and lots of vehicles) on the road, and it looks as if people have had a fine time. But at this point, my interest is in finding the Pacific County Court House, and sure enough, there it is, high on a hill overlooking the community of South Bend. The Court House is one of the prettiest I’ve seen in Washington State, and my research tells me there’s quite a history behind the building. There is also a great park in the form of the South Bend Water Park which lies adjacent to the Court House. It’s here we’ll stop and have a picnic lunch.

After enjoying our picnic, we continue north on US 101, arriving in Pacific County’s largest community, Raymond. Oysters may have been the primary “crop” for Willapa Bay, but timber is what built Raymond. And the folk of Raymond don’t let you forget it. Just look at this children’s playground in Raymond’s Fifth Street Park.

Raymond is also home to a massive carved wooden sculpture of a logger, and several metal sculptures, scattered around the town, celebrate the early pioneers of the community. Even the library goes by the name Raymond Timberland Library. A beautiful building on the National Register of Historic Places houses the Library.

A metal statue in Raymond, seen while driving around Pacific County, Washington
One of many metal sculptures to be seen in Raymond, Washington

On to the Long Beach Peninsula

Raymond is as far north (and east) as we’ll go on this trip. Heading back south on 101, we drive through South Bend, past the mud flat that used to be Bruceport, and end up in Long Beach. This is as far as we’ll go today before heading south to the Columbia, the community of Chinook, and crossing the bridge to Astoria, Oregon. We will return!

What we missed

On September 5th, 2016, driving around Pacific County, Washington, we missed three main things. First of all, we came in on Washington Highway 4. Had we driven along Washington Highway 6, we could have visited Willapa Falls and the community of Frances. Frances, a town so small that not even Wikipedia lists a population count, is the home of the Lewis-Pacific Swiss Society. I know I want to be there for the 57th annual Schwingfest, a celebration of men pretending to be Swiss cowherds who dress up and wrestle each other. If the world is back to normal by then, the celebration is scheduled for the 4th of July weekend in 2020. If I can’t have Turkish Oil Wrestling, watching Swiss Cowboys throwing each other around sounds like a good compromise.

We also missed the northwestern corner while driving around Pacific County, Washington. That’s where we’ll find Tokeland, the home of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation. Tokeland takes its name from a Shoalwater Chief Toke, and not for a certain substance that’s legal in Washington State. I want to visit it if only to stay at the Tokeland Hotel, the oldest resort hotel in Washington State.

And while we’re driving around Pacific County, Washington, I have to be back in Long Beach in August for the Washington State International Kite Festival. Again, assuming that the world has recovered from the present epidemic. You might not know it from looking at me, but I love flying stunt kites and watching the professionals show us how it’s done. The Long Beach festival is one of the best in the world, and I for one, don’t want to miss it.

The Boardwalk and Bike Path at Long Beach, seen while driving around Pacific County, Washington
Boardwalk or Park Place?
Long Beach Peninsula, Washington

Guest Site of the Day

Today’s guest blog site belongs to one of my blog school classmates. Two years ago, she quit her job to be a full-time mom. Her blog is focused on helping other moms with food and meal planning, and has great recipes, meal plans and other ideas to help with the daily task of putting food on the table for ourselves and our families. Family|Food|Freezer is a beautifully put together site where all of us can find inspiration. In the end, we all have to eat.

Recipe of the Day: Oyster Stew

I have never liked oysters. Love clams, and have eaten mussels (nuff said), but oysters just don’t figure in my diet. Maybe that’s because for the first ten years of my life, my parents couldn’t find the East Coast oysters in Montana stores. Today, you can get pretty much anything, pretty much everywhere–or at least you could before people started hoarding–and finding oysters is not a problem. This recipe calls for ghee, and even our small grocery store in Wild Horse Plains, Montana has ghee. But don’t worry, butter is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

My ex’s mother always made oyster stew on Christmas Eve. I never watched her make it, but I’d guess her recipe isn’t much different from Hayley Rycek’s recipe. This oyster stew is fast, simple, and with the exception of ghee and organic celery sea salt, made with easily found items. Just between you and me, I’d make it with canned oysters, but I don’t have a fish market close by.

Video of the Day

While I was driving around Pacific County, Washington, I drove only a couple miles on the Long Beach Peninsula. I did not make it all the way to Oysterville. Rest assured, I’ll go there next time I’m in the neighborhood. And speaking of neighborhoods, Oysterville is a Historic District, and that can cause neighborly conflicts, as seen in this video prepared by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, etc.

I hope you enjoyed accompanying me while driving around Pacific County, Washington. That’s all I have to say for now, but I’ll be back. The Editorial Calendar says that tomorrow we’re talking about Instant Pot™ cooking, and who knows what will turnip, er turn up. See ya then.


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