Do you catch yourself getting bored with a specific traveling route to a destination? Well, it happened to us the other day when we headed to the coast near Astoria, OR, to celebrate my husband’s birthday. In the past, we had done the I-5 route all the way to Longview and from there straight into Oregon. We had traveled SR 12 to Montesano and taken the 101 from Artic onwards. Or we had gone on the I-5 to Chehalis, taken SR 6 to Raymond, and then gone on 101. There are not many good roads in that part of Washington State, and after so many trips, it becomes repetitive. So, this time, we changed it up a bit again.
We exited I-5 in Chehalis and drove on the SR 6 to Claquato. Shortly before a gas station on the left, the Old Highway 603 gets you through farmland parallel to I-5, but far enough from it so you can’t see it. In Napavine, the Highway takes a right-angled corner towards the southwest, and one drives past more farms. Sounds boring? Not with all the ponds and creeks in between, the animals you see in the corrals, and the wildlife you can spot this time of the year.
And then we came into Winlock. Did you know that this small-town boasts the world’s largest egg? It is 12 feet long and weighs 1,200 pounds! It sits on a pedestal pretty much in front of the huge building of the Washington Co-operative Farmers Association, right by a big intersection. Of course, it’s not a real egg, but the sculpture of one, and it celebrates Winlock’s former status as the USA’s second largest egg producer until the 1950s. There even is an Egg Day festival on the third weekend in June every year. Now, isn’t that egg-citing?!
A few miles farther, you enter the town of Vader (no Darth, no fear!). It is the birth town of novelist Robert Cantwell (1908-1978), who was much admired by Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read his novel “The Land of Plenty”, not knowing it was about … Vader! It is worthwhile to drop by the J.K. Werden Memorial Park. Not just because there is a cute old jail with two barred cells on its site. It’s especially interesting to read that the town once was a thriving logging town with quite a few lumber mills. Weyerhaeuser bought up one of the leading mills, though, and closed it down. That was the beginning of the town’s decline. But it seems that people are picking it up again and try to make it look nice.
Choosing the Westside Highway, we rode on along the Cowlitz River’s meandering ribbon, sometimes even catching a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens. In Longview, we made a right onto SR 4, and it took us along the mighty Columbia River. The views are so much more impressive, by the way, with the ragged mountains of Oregon as the backdrop for the islands and little shore towns on the other side than those from the Oregon side towards Washington! Also, the road leads through sloughs and up steep bluffs. We didn’t stop by in Cathlamet, from where we could have taken a toll ferry from an island in the Columbia River to Oregon.
But we sure visited the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer shortly behind the town premises. It is a quiet area that consists of a lot of wetland and forest, with viewing platforms and an interpretive center. And weren’t we lucky?! We spotted white-tailed deer in the brushes next to the roadside, and elk in another part of the refuge! As a matter of fact, we loved it so well that we visited again on our way back!
What shall I say? There are wild creeks all around that part of southwest Washington, gorgeous farms, and sleepy villages. And even a historical covered bridge, in the middle of nowhere, near the village of Grays River. Of course, we drove through it, and, of course, I had to think of “The Bridges of Madison County”.
Only the last part of our trip from Naselle to the fascinating Columbia River bridge from Megler to Astoria was terra cognita to us, again. Of course, the trip took us way longer than driving on I-5 would have. Or even just on 101. Especially with our little stops along the way. But, my, wasn’t it worth it?! To be honest – I’d love to take that route again. And again …
January 11 Update: Corrected spelling of Napavine.