One of my favorite places to go for a daytrip is the Washington coast and, in particular, the area around Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The town of Raymond, located where the Willapa River enters the bay, is just 70 miles and 1½ hours from home. I have passed through it many times on my way to explore Washaway Beach or the fishing town of Westport.
On this trip, my main goal was to look for migrating shorebirds. I knew the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival was coming up soon, and it spotlights the migrating birds, as well as year round residents. We have had a warm spring, so the migrating birds might already have come and gone, but it was worth a try and as good an excuse for daytripping as any. Besides, I had a new camera to try out. A quick check of the tide tables told me it would be low tide in Willapa Bay around 2:30 the next day (Sunday, April 26) and low tide is a great time to look for shorebirds foraging in the mudflats exposed by low tide. And that was that.
I got an early (for me) start on Sunday morning and arrived in the town of Raymond about 10:30. For the first time in all my trips to the coast, I decided to stop and visit the Northwest Carriage Museum. The friendly museum manager gave me an overview of the collection and how the museum came to be. Several of the carriages were used in movies in the 1930s and 40s, including: “Gone with the Wind”,“Jezebel”,“Gentleman Jim”,“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, and “The Little Princess”. I also learned that six more carriages will soon be added to the collection, so I will have to stop by again some time.
A freight wagon and rusty steel figures leave no doubt in the visitor’s mind that this is the place to see old horse-drawn carriages.
I inquired if it was okay to take some pictures and learned that cameras are welcome. As a courtesy to other museum visitors, I refrained from using flash. The only real snag I ran into was the lighting; it was impossible to avoid reflections and lens flare. Even so, my new Fujifilm HS50-EXR camera was able to take some pretty clear photos.
C-Spring Dress Landau — A Landau was essentially a convertible, as it had a soft top to raise in inclement weather. The coachman was seated up high as a status symbol for the wealthy to point out that they could afford a coachman.
Summer Coupe Brougham — Note the window ribbon, used for raising the windows to keep out rain or dust
Studebaker Stanhope — The Stanhope was also known as an “Izzer”, derived from a rural colloquialism meaning something that is modern and up to date, as opposed to a “Wuzzer” that was old-fashioned. “Yes sir! I want an Izzer, not a Wuzzer!” In 1893, when this buggy was made, it sold for only $77.50, thanks to Studebaker’s modern steam-powered factory machines.
Stagecoach — Made in 1888 in Stockton, California, the stagecoach was used in movies in the 1930s. Amazingly, up to 12 people would have been packed into this stagecoach.
You can see a slideshow of the entire carriage collection at http://nwcarriagemuseum.org/our-collection/
When I left the museum, I noticed a strange-looking building that demanded a closer look. Apparently, the main road used to cross the Willapa River by this bridge, which was dismantled, except for one end.
Das Brückenhaus is German for The Bridgehouse. This is a private home built on what remains of a bridge that used to cross the South Fork Willapa River in Raymond.
It turned out the best place to view that eccentric home without intruding on the residents’ privacy was at the public fishing pier and boat dock, where I found this intriguing piece of public art.
Sturgeon Fisherman — A hundred years ago, it was common for fishermen to pull “three yards of sturgeon” out of the Willapa River. The sturgeon depicted here is only about 7 feet long, but it still inspires fish stories at the public fishing and boat dock in Raymond.
As it turns out, Raymond (population around 2,800) has a lot of public art by local artists. Made of steel and allowed to rust in the marine air, there are many pieces around town and along US-101.
I continued to wander around on foot and saw a lovely mural up ahead. As I approached, I saw that the building belongs to Ugly Ed, enterprising purveyor of new and used items and also apartment rentals. Too bad they were closed on Sunday or I would have gone inside.
After lunch, I continued west along the northern shore of Willapa Bay and although the tide was out and plenty of mud flats were visible, not a lot of birds were to be seen, even in the distance.
Washaway Beach, not surprisingly, was gone.
I went on north, along the coast, another 15 miles to Westport. There is always something going on in the harbor there. In this case, a couple of fishing boats from Newport, Oregon, were offloading their catch.
Several people were fishing and crabbing on Float 20, as usual. And, in case you were wondering, it is Dungeness Crab they were catching, minimum size 6¼ inches across the body.
And I even managed to photograph some birds!
Common loon — It surfaced only for a few seconds before diving again and each time I spotted it, the bird was 30-50 feet away from where I had last seen it. I thought a Common Loon was strictly a fresh water diver, but I am pretty sure of the ID, even if it was fishing in salt water.
Western Gull — a common sight at the coast, but with my new camera, I was finally able to shoot one as it glided by.
Oh, and if you were wondering what took me 10 days to get around to posting this blog, I have been busy with yardening — everything from mowing the yard to tilling and planting the garden — but that’s another story for another day.