What a sweet delight it was to spend a week with my father's sister. Aunt Katherine will be 90 in several months, but that is not her defining factor. She is smart, funny, active, fun-loving, and ready for adventure.
After several days in Bend (central Oregon), we took off for the coast to visit places she loved but thought she would never have a chance to visit again. We headed straight through Salem and hit the three capes area just south of Tillamook. After playing on the beach, we checked in and headed for a dinner of dungeness crab in Garibaldi, overlooking the ocean. It just so happened that the young man she was in love with during college ended his career as principal in Garibaldi High School, thus starting the recounting of her love life over the next few days.
She went to college in the middle of the depression and what a different experience that was: her folks sending her $5 a month to help her out, boarding in a private home with two other students, cleaning to earn book money. These years also started her down the road as a Democrat, in that FDR had a program to educate bright young people as part of the New Deal. I had never heard about that program, but the country recouped its investment in Aunt Katherine as she spent her life teaching high school English and Social Studies with a long stint on the school board.
The next morning, after making a trip to the Blue Heron Cheese Company, we went to Ecola State Park, after struggling through the upscale tourist trap of Cannon Beach. The flowers in this town were gorgeous, worthy of the reputation of the northwest as an ideal gardening location. Ecola mean whale and was part of the Lewis and Clark adventures. We spent most of the day at the park, before heading north to Astoria. We crossed the Columbia River on the
original "Bridge to Nowhere," shocking both of us with a dizzying rollercoaster sensation as we plunged straight down to the water at 55 mph on a two lane road with cars passing us. See how the bridge is high on one end to let ships under it and is at river level the rest of the way.
It was shocking the immediate change in the coastline, from sandy beaches and huge rock formations, to gentle shores and islands covered in evergreens. It was almost like a caricature of my vision of Washington State. But after that bridge crossing, we decided to search out some coffee. I could only find a drive-through espresso hut, which didn't have fresh coffee, I asked Aunt Katherine if she wanted a latte. That was her introduction to mocha lattes, "I've never had coffee ever give me this type of jolt," and she asked that we find a mocha latte the next day in Hood River!
We crossed the Columbia that evening on the Puget Island ferry, which brought back poignant memories for Aunt Katherine of arranging to have the ferry there at 2 a.m. to return home with Uncle Buck and his band after playing for the dances in the small towns in Washington. When she met Uncle Buck, she was teaching at Clatskanie, the new high school teacher in a small logging town. The other teacher was also the principal and she boarded at his house. His wife took care of screening all the young bucks coming round to woo the new schoolteacher. She was asked to a dance, and she checked if it was OK, in that her last school would have fired her for going to a town dance. This town was different. If she didn't go and fill her dance card, they would consider her haughty. Uncle Buck was a musician and one of the best dancers, and stole her heart.
The next morning we started down the Columbia River Gorge. But now I have to start dinner so the story about my grandmother homesteading on the Columbia River will have to wait for another day.