Spring break in Astoria (part 3)

Okay, here we are, the last post from Spring Break in Astoria, OR.

After walking along the Cathedral Tree Trail for a bit, we reached the large Sitka spruce that the trail is named after. The tree itself is both taller and older than the Astoria Column at about 200 feet tall and 300 years old. It is also fairly young, by old growth standards, and the grove where it resides is somewhat open – a large windstorm took down some of the tree’s companions back in 2007. We had to wait a while to get a photo as there was a pack of boisterous kids already there. And, by that point, I had a splitting migraine, which lowers my tolerance for people and noise. Still, we were able to catch a few quiet moments to appreciate the tree and its surroundings. On a positive note, even though I find all the talking and yelling distracting, it makes me happy that parents are getting their kids outside and away from their phones. Kudos to that. We need the next generation to care about nature and they aren’t going to do that if they’re indoors all day.

The Cathedral Tree at the end of the Cathedral Tree Trail in Astoria, OR
The Cathedral Tree - An adult can almost stand upright in that cavity

There were a few marshy spots nearby and I occasionally got a whiff of western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), which was blooming. It’s funny, when I lived in the Finger Lakes region of New York, I would find hundreds of the green mottled, purple flowers of eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpos foetidus) in the woods around Beebe Lake. Back then, I was bummed that we didn’t have the yellow flowered, western species, which I thought was prettier. Now, here in Oregon, I find myself longing for the purple flowered one. Seems like I always want what I don’t have.

The first western trilliums (Trillium ovatum) were just starting.

Our next stop was the Flavel house, built in 1884-85 by Captain George Flavel, who made his fortune in Astoria as a river pilot and real estate investor.

The display plaques made much ado about the historic trees around the property, including this Camperdown elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’), which was older than the house. I was surprised that the variety had been around that long. So, I did a little internet investigation and found out that it was discovered around 1835-1840 growing in the forest near the Camperdown House in Dundee, Scotland.

There were other historic trees on the property, including these four cork elms (Ulmus thomasii). I was dismayed to see that they had been topped, but I read that same storm mentioned above also damaged the trees here too. Maybe this was the only way the trees could be saved.

Heading inside, I will just point out a few highlights, such as this wallpaper border of iris in the dining room.

My favorite place was this little breakfast nook, complete with houseplants. If I lived here, this would be my office.

There was a little wood paneled bathroom underneath the main stairs. That’s the toilet on the left in front of the white placard – I like how it blends into the room, unlike our modern toilet designs. Cute sink too.

I liked the simplicity of this hanging light fixture. It came down from the second or third story on this long, metal conduit. Seemed a little out of place, but I loved the incongruity.

This spiral staircase was used by the servants. I much preferred this one over the larger central staircase that the family and guests used. I also liked this old, moody, forest painting and exquisite frame hanging in Captain Flavel’s bedroom.

We left the Flavel House and headed over to the Custard King for some frozen custard. They had no idea what a turtle sundae was, but we got as close as we could. And no, peanuts are not an acceptable substitute for pecans. Frozen custard is one of the foods I miss the most from Wisconsin.

Across the street, the Bach ‘N Rock music store in the old Franciscovich building had some nice looking planters in front, but the traffic was too intense to go over and take a better look. In case you were wondering, the Franciscovich’s were a Yugoslavian/Austrian/Croatian family and the building originally housed a saloon.

After that, we headed home. The rest of Spring Break was mainly cold and wet, so we spent a lot of time indoors. I definitely did not accomplish as much as I wanted in the garden, which was a shame, because I rarely have large blocks of time to do garden chores. I did, however, finally get to replace the ugly white strings that served as a trellis on the wood shed. Most of the time was spent cutting down, disentangling, and hauling away all the old shabby debris of Chilean glory vine (Eccremocarpus scaber), Clematis tangutica, and Dioscorea batatas, and then gently laying the California pipevine (Aristolochia californica) vine on the ground in between bouts of pouring rain. My gosh, the Chilean glory vines and clematis are trashy! They look so awful by late winter that it was a relief to cut them down. They will resprout and bloom in no time.

The whole mess got replaced with five rusty wire remesh panels in the periodic breaks between pouring rain. Finally complete after reattaching the pipevine. Hoping this will look a little less trashy and make it easier to clean up each year. Just cut the vines near the base of the panel (except the California pipevine, of course), lift the panel off the side of the shed, and then either burn or pull the vines off. No more climbing ladders in soft, uneven, squishy clay. That’s the plan anyway.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. hb

    Really interesting trip–thanks for sharing it. Have never been in that part of the PNW and fun to see some of it through your photos.

    Beautiful job on that vine support! Bravo! it looks great.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Thanks. Just trying to class the joint up, matching our rustic place, without going formal.

  2. danger garden

    Those Franciscovich planters! Wow, somebody wanted plants there bad. Nice job on the vine support, it looks great. I thought we’d do something like that on our back fence but I’ve given up as it’s just too dry back there to grow anything.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I think I probably subconsciously got the idea from similar things on your blog. A dry fence sounds like a challenge. I wonder if A. californica would do well given where it is from?

  3. Kris P

    Trees like that spruce are magnificent but a class of screaming kids would have given me a headache too. I’m sometimes surprised how I managed to serve as a docent at my local botanic garden for 2 years (before the garden furloughed the volunteers during the pandemic and then eventually eliminated the role entirely). Of course, adults can be as bad or worse 😉

    The Flavel House was interesting too. Kudos for the work put into supporting those vines!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I prefer places a little more off the beaten path myself. I want quiet out in nature, but others want something else. So sad to hear that the docent position was eliminated. I agree, adults can be worse, especially since they should know better.

  4. Anna K

    That spruce is a magnificent tree and I love your perspective of it. It’s been a long and cold winter, and all of a sudden we have summer. It seems we skipped spring altogether this year – again. Nice job on the vine support. I love the idea of just burning off all the old vines – an excellent idea!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      The heat came quick though. Everything has grown so much in the last few days and weeds are bursting forth everywhere.
      We’ll have to see if burning off the old vines is an idea that actually works.

  5. Linda Brazill

    Hikes, houses, big trees. Sounds like a perfect break to me. Really like the look of that trellis. Works well with the building and is nice and crisp. I used to stop at Michael’s Frozen Custard on my way home for a turtle sundae. Haven’t had one in ages since the building got torn down for an apartment complex. I used to have it with coffee custard if that had that instead of vanilla. Now you’ve got me lusting for a treat.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Oh my gosh, I remember Michael’s! Sorry to hear the building got torn down. It was an iconic place to go. After we moved down to Stoughton, Culver’s was more convenient and on the way home. I miss having access to good frozen custard.

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