A Storm Chasing Weekend to Remember

This winter, head for the North Coast and revel in buckets of Oregon rain.

By Rachel Ritchie February 2, 2015 Published in the February 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Surprise! It’s a dreary day in Portland, and cabin fever is setting in. The great outdoors beckons in all its ragged drama. Waste not a moment: the antidote for what ails you lies at the mouth of the Columbia River, where a mighty current from the Canadian Rockies dissipates into the vast swells of the Pacific Ocean above a notorious system of bars and shoals. This is the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” where as many as 2,000 ships have met their demise. In other words, it’s your wind-whipped destination for a day of quintessential Northwest storm chasing.  

Fort Stevens State Park 

For more than 80 years, this swath of land was an active military fort with a series of bunkers designed to defend the mouth of the Columbia. Looming in the fog, you’ll find a fitting welcome to your tour: the Peter Iredale shipwreck of 1906, rising from the sandy beach like a massive iron ribcage. From there, head to the park’s northwest corner and brave the South Jetty Observation Deck, which stands above the roiling ocean at the tip of a rocky spit, where ocean spray reaches two stories high. 100 Peter Iredale Rd, Hammond, Ore

Buoy Beer

Dry off at Astoria’s newest brewpub with a view, housed in a refurbished 1939 fish processing facility on the Astoria Riverwalk. Pair a roasty, carameltly winter ale with fried Willapa Bay oysters in the gleaming, 44,000-square-foot space as you watch massive container ships plow through waves beyond a wall of windows. Don’t leave without a glimpse of the resident sea lions in repose beneath the patch of glass floor. 1 Eighth St, Astoria, Ore

Image: Allison Jones

Frite & Scoop

Ice cream is appropriate cold-weather fare—when it’s brown sugar bourbon flavor, swirled with actual pecan pie filling. Grab a scoop or two at this super-cute new parlor, just down the Riverwalk from Buoy Beer. 175 14th St, Astoria, Ore

The Coffee Girl

Perched on Pier 39 in the oldest cannery building in the West, surrounded by barking sea lions, the Coffee Girl serves up artful lattes and fresh-baked pastries in a homey room of leather couches and picture windows. Sidle up next to a window, wipe down your pane (squeegees provided), and revel in coziness as storms rage beyond the glass. 100 39th St, #2, Astoria, Ore

Cannery Pier Hotel

Image: Cannery Pier

If you find yourself charmed by Astoria and unready for the drive home, head for the Cannery Pier Hotel, an architectural gem built in 2005 atop 100-year-old pilings. Every single room boasts a fireplace and a river-facing balcony with views reaching north beyond the Astoria-Megler Bridge to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in Washington. And if you’re still weary from the storm outside, you’ll probably need a hot-stone massage at the hotel’s in-house spa. 10 Basin St, Astoria, Ore

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