Exploring Cape Disappointment

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Saturday, January 4, 2020

I was pretty tired by the time I left North Head Lighthouse. I’d already gone on two hikes and spent an hour listening to a very disappointing sales pitch. I debated just heading back to my condo, but decided I couldn’t leave without at least driving by the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. So, I continued heading south.

North Jetty, Cape DisappointmentBut when I got to the very, very tiny Cape Disappointment parking lot, I couldn’t see anything. The parking lot was in a little bowl; the sides rose steeply for about 30 feet, hiding everything on the other side from view. A path lead up the side of the hill, but my feet and ankles were so stiff and tired! I didn’t know if I could do another hike. But, I hadn’t come this far…

I slid out of my truck and stood for a few minutes, stretching my feet and ankles. It felt good, and I could feel some of the stiffness leaving. They still hurt, but I could go up one of the paths, at least for little way. I didn’t have to go all the way to the end; just enough to catch a glimpse and maybe a couple of photos so I could say I came.

I walked across the parking lot to the path and started climbing. I wish I’d brought my trekking poles with me. The path climbed steeply up the side of the bowl and then switchbacked across the top of the ridge. This was a visitor center. I didn’t really want to go to a visitor center. I wandered along the front, taking photos of the ocean.

And then I saw it–off to my left, at the end of a point a little further to the southeast. It would mean another hike as I saw no other road into the park.

Battery Harvey Allen, Cape DisappointmentI followed the path around the side of the visitor center and came to another cement WWII bunker thing. (Battery Harvey Allen.) This one was quite a bit bigger and more elaborate than the other. And it, too, was missing doors and windows, leaving it open to the weather. Kids and dogs were running through it, playing games, screaming and laughing and having fun. Their voices echoed through the empty rooms. I was intrigued, but too tired to take a closer look. I’d come here for the lighthouse. And, I found this bunker just as creepy as the other, even from a distance. I’d need something like a zombie apocalypse to convince me to go inside.

The path turned into a muddy trail, winding downhill through the woods. I had to be very intentional in my steps to avoid falling. Again, I wish I had my trekking poles, but I hadn’t even brought them with me on this trip because I had not planned on anything but beach hikes. Live and learn! I should always bring my poles and a daypack with the ten essentials, just in case.

Deadmans CoveA short distance into the woods, I came to an intersection with a side trail that led down to the parking lot. If I had come up this trail, I could have bypassed the visitor center. But I hadn’t even noticed it when I was in the parking lot. Oh, well!

I continued on until I came to another intersection. This time, the side trail was blocked off with a sign that said Deadmans Cove was closed. Awww! I climbed up a small ledge on the side of the trail to look over the sign. Deadmans Cove was a very narrow opening in the cliffs with a small rock island in the middle and a sandy beach at the end. Water churned as the ocean tried to bully its way through the narrow opening. I’m not sure why the cove was blocked off, but the name might be a clue.

I climbed down off the ledge and continued down the trail. It soon met up with a paved access road that ran alongside the Coast Guard station, and then climbed a hill to the lighthouse. Ugh! Another hill!

Coast Guard StationBut I knew the lighthouse was just up ahead, and the climbing path gave me a better view down into Deadmans Cove. It really did look like a scary place in which to get caught by the tide. Cool, but scary. I’m sure the name was well earned.

I passed by another WWII structure on the side of the path. This one was really small, just a cement shed. It looked more like a bus stop; I had no idea what it was for. I’m sure it was important at some time. Moss now climbed its sides, and ferns crowned the top like green hair. Its two empty windows and large, gaping doorway stared blankly up the hill.

The lighthouse appeared a few minutes later. Honestly, it was a little disappointing. Not very tall and very weather worn with peeling paint. While North Head Lighthouse was all white, this one a had thick black horizontal stripe in the middle and a thick black band around the upper observation deck. It seemed much smaller than the other lighthouse; much less majestic and kind of tired. With a name like Cape Disappointment, I expected something bigger, much more grand. But, it was still cool. It was, after all, a lighthouse. Lighthouses are always cool.

The inside of the Cape Disappointment LighthouseI walked around the grounds and peaked in the windows. Again, it was well trashed by time inside and could use some serious restoration. I would have loved to have been able to go inside. If it were restored, that is. In its current state, it looked haunted.

However, while the lighthouse may have been a little disappointing, the views from the bluff were not. I could see the North Jetty sticking out into the ocean to the north, and Jetty A sticking out way into the channel to the east. Waves crashed into both jetties, and boats bobbed as they fought their way through the Columbia River entrance. This is one of the most dangerous boating areas in the world, known as the “graveyard of the Pacific.” As I found out later, this is also the area from which the man was rescued from the sailboat that washed ashore at Surfside this morning.

The views were stunning. I could see for miles out into the Pacific, all the way to the horizon, as well as across the mouth of the Columbia River to Oregon. The late afternoon sun highlighted the winter colors in the grass and shrubs. White-capped waves contrasted starkly against the deep blue sea. I took a bunch of photos, and then headed back to the parking lot. The sun was about to set, and it was getting a little chilly. Although my feet and ankles hurt like hell, the hike was worth it.

I was very happy to see Big Red. The padded driver’s seat never felt more comfortable as I cranked the heat and headed north, back toward my condo, for my last night with Worldmark.

Nothing left to do but pack up and head out in the morning.