Spring break in Astoria (part 2)

Today, part 2 of the Astoria travelogue. Part 1 is here.

On the morning following our arrival, we decided to walk to a local cafe for breakfast. I did a doubletake passing by the windows of this building.

Both windows on the right-hand side of the building were almost completely obscured with the scorched leaves of a giant Schleffera arboricola.

This had obviously been here a looooong time. Long enough that there was a layer of duff down at the bottom and moss growing along the edge of the window sill. You can even see aerial roots snaking down. Must be humid.

This thing was so big that it had grown along the windows up at the top and was escaping! This has to be the largest Schefflera arboricola in Oregon.

We saw an older man go into the building later that morning. I wish I had been brave enough to approach and ask about the plant and its history. But, I didn’t have anything planned and, well, it’s a hard thing for me, at least, to open a dialogue with somebody I don’t know without some sort of preparation….(foreshadowing).

Nearby, were three impressive Epiphyllums in the window of this spa – hard to see because of the reflection.

There was a time when more businesses had live plants in their windows. Nice to see places doing that again. It feels more inviting, less sterile. I remember my grandmother once nicked a cutting off of a large houseplant at a car dealership and then surreptitiously tucked it into her purse.

Our next stop was the Astoria column, a local landmark. This is actually bigger than it looks. We’ll climb up to the top in a bit.

In the parking lot, a man in his large diesel pickup truck asked whether we needed special insurance for our vehicle. I didn’t understand his question, and must have looked confused, because he continued by pointing out that we were driving an electric vehicle. He then said (rather snidely) that we must be worried about the battery exploding, which would harm the environment that we were trying to protect by driving the electric vehicle in the first place. I didn’t really know how to respond to that, so I just looked blankly at him for a moment, shrugged, and walked away. 

I am not a car person and am always surprised when people notice our car. But, quite a few people do, and sometimes they have a few friendly questions about efficiency, charging, etc. What really caught me off guard in the parking lot, though, was that, 1) someone noticed we were in an electric car, 2) was apparently irritated by it, and 3) felt strongly enough to tell us so.

In the end, I found it amusing, mainly because this is the exact opposite of how I would respond. First, I wouldn’t have even noticed his vehicle unless he was obnoxiously revving the engine or it was burning oil. And then, I can’t imagine being ticked off enough that I would complain to  a complete stranger about their choice of vehicle. Most likely, I would have kept my grumblings to myself and moved quickly away from the source of irritation. It’s fascinating how different we all are with different thought processes and preferences. It makes for some interesting encounters.

But, enough of that. On to the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 as a monument to the PNW and the people living here. The mural depicts how the region developed over time until the appearance of the railroad in 1893. Sorry, I don’t have a close-up.

Painted murals on the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon

Symmetry makes me happy. And, so does counting (cue the Sesame Street Count von Count memories – One! Ha ah ah! Two! Ha ah ah! Three!). I counted 163 steps. The official website says it has 164.

I also enjoy taking pictures of doors (left). I have this idea that someday I will create a photo collage of doors that I have loved. This one won’t make it in though. I don’t like the large, jutting hinge. Astoria Column (middle) to scale with a random tourist in front, who I did not talk to. And, as dark as it was inside, there was still enough light for a thin coat of algae to thrive (right).

Views from the top. Remember, these were the two “nicest” days during Spring Break. It was windy, cold, and cloudy, but at least no pouring rain (yet).

View to the west of the Astoria Column overlooking the town of Astoria, Oregon and the Astoria Megler Bridge
Astoria nestled below
View from the top of the Astoria Column looking north over the Columbia River with cargo ships
Shipping on the Columbia River
View from the top of the Astoria Column looking south over the column
South-ish, I think

Another favorite thing to photograph – old, rusty grates, valve covers, etc., especially when they are unique to an area and have interesting designs. This one was fairly simple, but reminded me of the pink triangle that was reclaimed as a symbol of gay pride in the 1970s. I’d love to use a bunch of these as pavers in the garden.

After the Astoria Column, we decided to walk the nearby Cathedral Tree Trail. Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) was beginning to bloom at the trailhead.

There were many invasive plants along the trail, including holly (Ilex aquifolium), cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), and ivy (Hedera helix). I guess there is no budget for removal.

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) invading the Cathedral Tree Trail in Astoria, Oregon
Cherry laurel
English ivy (Hedera helix) invading the Cathedral Tree Trail in Astoria, OR
English Ivy

I found this tree (maybe an alder?) absolutely covered  in witches brooms. I wonder if it is attractive when it is all leafed out and whether it would make a good garden plant. I want to propagate it and find out.

Witches brooms on an alder tree along the Cathedral Tree Trail
Witches brooms on alder

I wish I was more familiar with our Oregon mosses. I noticed several along the trail and thought this was the perfect opportunity to learn their names. Here’s my best attempt based solely on matching pictures in guidebooks, so I could be wrong. These new names seem clunky, yet ethereal, slipping easily from my memory. We’ll see what actually sticks. I need to practice their names over and over every time I find one in the yard – I am pretty sure we at least have Oregon beaked moss and juniper haircap moss back at home.

Tufts of green wavy-leaved cotton moss, Plagiothecium undulatum
Wavy-leaved cotton moss (Plagiothecium undulatum)
Fern-like Oregon beaked moss (Kindbergia oregana)
Oregon beaked moss (Kindbergia oregana)
Juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum)
Juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum)
Green leaves of fan moss (Rhizomnium glabrescens)
Fan moss (Rhizomnium glabrescens)

And thinking about moss makes me wish I knew more about growing them. We have a few cement block retaining walls that would look less harsh covered in moss. That could make an interesting post – finding out which mosses are already growing on the blocks and then figuring out how to encourage them to proliferate. It also might be fun to explore whether any of our natives do well in terrariums. I don’t know about you, but none of the terrariums I’ve created have ever been as self sustaining and easy to care for as the professionals make it out to be. Anyway, I have more ideas than time, so we’ll see where my chaotic mind takes me next.

Speaking of which, next time we’ll finish up the Cathedral Tree Trail, visit the Flavel House, and then return to home base, where I’ve installed a new rusty trellis system on the side of our wood shed.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Kris P

    Nice shots. I particularly like the wide views from the top of the Astoria Column. Not a bad trip despite the lousy weather and the interaction in the parking lot. Many people are afraid of change and find it necessary to vilify it in order to feel comfortable about their own choices. But change will come, whatever their feelings.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      We had a lovely time and were surprised by how tall the Astoria Column was because it certainly doesn’t look that tall. The parking lot incident was interesting, in a way, because it got me thinking about different perspectives. Not a bad thing. Change is difficult. I think everyone struggles with it at some point, it just depends on what we are attached to.

  2. danger garden

    Moss, I adore moss. Just yesterday I was looking at our patio wall and appreciating the moss growth covering parts of it. Great photos of the Astoria column and your view points. I don’t think I could ever climb to the top because being in that enclosed space would make me panicky. FWIW I wouldn’t have asked about the schefflera in window either…

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Moss is really quite amazing. We certainly can’t get away from it here in the PNW and better to appreciate it than wasting a lot of effort to get rid of it (except on the roof – there it’s gotta go). I actually did get a little anxious climbing to the top and started thinking about the column collapsing in an earthquake. Plus, I don’t do as well with heights as I did when I was younger, but somehow managed to refocus (by counting steps) and continue up. Later, I kicked myself for not talking to that guy about the schefflera – worst case scenario would be if he was grumpy and said no.

  3. Anna K

    That Shefflera looked ready to bust out of that building… what a sight! And the mosses are just fabulous… sigh… I have a lot of moss in my yard, but nothing as varied and unusual as the ones you photographed. That said, I have no name for the moss that grows in my garden. Come to think of it, I’ve never even tried to find out what it is. Now I feel kinda bad about that. For as much as I appreciate it, I really should know what it’s called.

    As for the guy in the parking lot, he affirms my love of plants rather than people.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      It was a sense of guilt that pushed me to try and identify the mosses this time. Fifteen years we’ve been here and I hadn’t even bothered to identify ours until now. It’s too easy for me to take them for granted. Cute little things, but I always seem to have more pressing things to do. Fortunately, weeks of rain gave me an abundance of time to sit on my couch and contemplate moss.

  4. hb

    Great photos. The column is indeed much bigger than it seems without a person in the photo for scale. I wonder if the schefflera is functioning as curtains for that building. Seems like from the scorching it could use a little TLC.

    Have never gotten outright hostility with our EV (celebrated 10 years of ownership in February!). How sad you had to deal with that. How sad good manners and common courtesy are being lost in our country.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I did wonder what was lurking inside, behind that schefflera. Would have loved to bum a cutting like my grandma would have.
      I wasn’t too upset by the bad manners, more intrigued. 99% of the people we meet are nice enough. It’s just the 1% that stand out and make interesting stories for us.

  5. Linda Brazill

    I am impressed that you can identify mosses. I had a brief moment when I first started gardening and took a couple of classes; I’ve forgotten all I learned now. When we were in the PNW in 2000, I remember we particularly noticed manhole covers etc. and took photos.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I’ve already forgotten them! I haven’t been practicing! I just refreshed my memory again and need to repeat Kindbergia oregana over and over and over…

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