Not long ago, my daily travels took me across the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon on three different bridges. My professional life coupled with my interests and avocation often call for travel in between the state I was born in and the state that I live now. I feel fortunate to claim both and have been privileged to become more acquainted with their beauty and offerings.
In the same vain perhaps, albeit less conveniently, were some of the first explorers to our region in the Corps of Discovery. I find it remarkable that they too traversed the Columbia in search of the right spot to settle for a long and wet winter.
The Corps spent roughly 10 days on the Washington side of the Columbia, stopping first at the aptly named Dismal Nitch before proceeding to Station Camp and Cape Disappointment further west.
One of the lasting heritages of their voyage across the United States was the development of parks, facilities and other recreation opportunities created to ensure that we have an opportunity to experience just a small portion of what they may have seen and felt as they discovered this climate and land for themselves.
Such is the case with the Discovery Trail on the Long Beach Peninsula, named for the Corps and the time they spent there. The trail connects the communities of Ilwaco, Seaview and Long Beach for residents and the many visitors that frequent the area.
While opinions on the subject vary, it’s hard to beat a relatively flat and paved path. The eight-mile Discovery Trail has trailheads at Cape Disappointment and just north of Long Beach, with many access points in between. In past experiences, my family has enjoyed scooting, biking and running on the trail. We find the geography and scenery quite wonderful.
I recommend starting near the Port of Ilwaco or find parking near the Beard’s Hollow section of Cape Disappointment State Park and head north on the trail. The trail is cut out of the dunes and beach grass like a snake that hasn’t quite mastered the art of camouflage.
The many bends of the trail keep it interesting for users of all ages, and as the trail winds further toward the tip of the Peninsula there are opportunities for peace and tranquility with the ocean never far from your view or your earshot.
In Long Beach, you can dismount your bike and take a few steps on an enchanted wooden boardwalk, where there’s no shortage of delicious seafood fare, ice cream or other treats. On the way back, you'll likely notice some of the many statues, cultural markers and information displayed. My favorite are the salmon-themed bike racks and those that hearken back to the experiences of the Corps of Discovery in 1805.
The beauty of the paved trail and its very beachside location is that the path is usable year-round. On a recent morning, I encountered a strong wind from the southwest and the type of heavy mist that seems to penetrate your raincoat in a matter of moments, no matter what precautions you took. I felt, if for just a second, as those in the Corps did when they first made their discovery.