The ghost town of Jewell was so small I almost missed it. I parked a bit up the road from this sign (shown on the left) and walked back to what looked like an old store or gas station. The only two buildings along the highway I could find were abandoned and looked like they had been ravaged through a flood. Had this Coast Range area of the Nahalem River seen the same floods as Vernonia in 1996 and 2007? I could easily imagine this little market or gas station in its prime. A logging truck came noisily rambling down the road and parked on the other side of highway 202 from my trailer. I watched the logger in his suspenders check his load while I peered into an abandoned house.
Further north along the road I arrived in an area called the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area and was delighted to come upon a park ranger showing animal skulls to some elementary-aged children. I didn’t see any elk, as this area is famous for, but informational kiosks at the rest area filled me in on what I was missing. I drove on further in this wildlife area and discovered many rest areas with picnic tables and bathrooms along the highway.
I would be entering into Astoria by following the Young’s River that leads to the bay between Warrenton and Astoria.
Leaving Corvallis, my first stop was was in Amity for a break and a leisurely walk around town. I discovered Coehlo Winery, and decided to “christen” my trip with a flight of red wines. Luke, the pourer, introduced me to their very special Ports.
After the wine wore off, I headed straight to Vernonia through some beautiful wine-country towns. My best friend’s nephew was having a milestone birthday and invited me to camp at their place for the week. Buddy, my traveling companion (9-year-old Pomeranian), enjoyed having free rein and loved running around with the chickens and other pups on the 5-acre property.
Vernonia, a historic logging town, had the largest sawmill operation in the world in the 1920s. I wanted to know more about this quaint little town so I sought out as much history about it as I could find. Charlie (my best friend’s brother) and I paddled around in the former mill pond and wandered through graffiti covered walls of the former fuel building for the mill, near the pond.
Downtown Vernonia has a surprising number of excellent eateries. The spicy aroma wafting from the La Cabaña Restaurant lured Charlie and I in. One piña colada for me, one berry margarita for Charlie. I ordered Pollo a la Créma, a favorite of mine. Great food at a great price. While dining on the sidewalk under a faux grass umbrella, a middle-aged man drove by on his riding lawn mower like he owned the road. Assuming he’s headed for the hardware store. The little R&S Market in town has very reasonably priced groceries and a broad selection of goods for such a small town. The produce was fresh and varied. I just needed s’more mixings.
The most surprising thing in Vernonia is the Liquor/Hardware store! Yes, one location for all your weekend projects! A cocktail in one hand and rake in the other? I can picture it too easily.
My final eating out experience was at the Black Iron Grill. I have to say they have the best outdoor seating and great burgers. We had to wait a but for our food but it was worth it.
The Coffee next door, The Black Bear Coffee Company had some interesting varieties, like Cadaver Dog, Slug in a Mug, Bull Bucker and Mule Skinner. Next time I’m there I hope to try them all and sit in the sunny courtyard and maybe catch that guy with the riding lawnmower heading back to the hardware store.