Monday, June 09, 2008

Evening colors on the Columbia River

These two photos were taken from the back deck of our store. Online the store is Tapir and Friends Wildlife World. We simplified the name for our brick and mortar location (or rather siding and pilings location) in Astoria, because it's the rare customer here who knows what a tapir is before they arrive, and we thought "The Animal Store" would be easier to remember. We get the occasional person looking for dog food or cat collars, and we direct them down the street to the pet store. More and more, people arrive out of curiosity or because they now know us and are looking for an unusual stuffed animal or other animal-themed gift for someone in town.

But that's a digression. I took these photos because I enjoy the changing colors. In this case, it's nearly sunset, and the river has taken on a peach-hued glow. If you click on the top picture to enlarge it, you can get a better view of the faint long line at the left just above the water. This is the Astoria-Megler bridge, crossing the four-mile span to Washington. The light sliver of color at the top of the photo is the sky, while the darker peach color which makes up most of the background is the shape of the hills across the river. The dark gray post at the left is the railing of the River Pilots' building, where the guys sleep when they're off-duty.

The pilot boat passes by several times on an average day, taking river and bar pilots to the big ships going up river or out to sea. The bar at the mouth of the Columbia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for a ship to leave or enter the ocean. It's been called "The Graveyard of the Pacific," and many wrecks lie at the bottom of the channel. The pilots have distinct jobs - there's a pilot to guide the ships across the ocean, another to guide them across the shifting bar at the mouth of the river, and yet another to guide them up the Columbia River to either Longview or Portland. It's interesting here in Astoria to watch the pilot boats take the guys out to the ships and bring them back. This is one of the changing points. Another is on the high seas, and we can't see that operation from here. The pilots climb up and down ladders on the sides of the ships, and we can see them from various points in Astoria, including here. I'll post pictures of that activity at some other time.

The second photo shows the base of the radio tower that still broadcasts signals from several stations. The transmitter room is in our building. On the right is the back end of what used to be Englund Marine, a well-known nautical supplier, now moved to the other end of town. Condos are planned for the site. I'm dreading that, to be honest, and have signed a petition to block it. I've heard that the design is very nice, but one of Astoria's best features is the river and the views. The condos will be three to four stories tall and, equally as bad or worse, they will extend much wider than the current building, blocking more of the river view east of us. Now that I'm on my soap box, let me note that in Europe, rivers become the heart of many cities, with parks and public walkways featured. In the US, probably a vestige of when our cities were built - the industrial era with its focus on productivity, not on the preservation of nature or particular consciousness of esthetics in that sense, we've backed our industries up to the rivers. When I lived in Palisade, Colorado, near Grand Junction, you could barely get to the Colorado River at any point in Grand Junction proper because of the industrial parks or buildings that owned the riverfront land and made eyesores out of it. Shortly before I left Colorado, they began to build a river-walk trail outside of town, which was very nice, but nobody yet had addressed the river as being a potential beauty mark of the town. Astoria does have an extensive river walk with an extension planned in the next few years, but here we're schizophrenic about it. We've got the walk, used by many for walking, jogging, biking, skate-boarding, and sight-seeing, which is fantastic, but then we plan projects like this condo, which will block access from the walk to the river front, and views from the hill behind and from the highway (or Marine Drive, as it's called in town). One of the things I love about this place is the view of the river and beyond as you drive into town, and in a number of locations that's already been obliterated since my arrival in 2001. So anyway - the old building is shown here in the glow of evening.


Catherine Todd said...

"... in Europe, rivers become the heart of many cities, with parks and public walkways featured."

That's one more reason why I loved Europe so much. You put it into words. Gracias amiga. Hope the condos don't ever get built in that location. Like my favorite Medieval museum in NY. The river and the forest view across the river is one of the best things there.

tapirgal said...

Catherine, as always thanks for your comment! As per our email, the museum you were trying to remember is the cloisters.