Savoring history and food on the northern Oregon coast

By Carol Pucci

The Seattle Times


Does the idea of a trip to the Pacific coast this time of year leave you longing to do more than fly a kite or storm watch?

Pack your rain gear and hiking boots; your sense of adventure, and your appetite. Get ready to taste travel to Sarajevo for a dinner of roasted lamb and cherry wine; sleep in a mansion once reserved for top army officers; and walk in the footsteps of the Pacific Northwest's earliest explorers.

All await along a stretch of Clatsop County coast between the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington and Seaside, Oregon.

Here's one weekend plan:

_Fort Clatsop reopens

Beat the summer crowds and be among the first to tour the new replica of a 50-year-old landmark destroyed by fire weeks before the November 2005 bicentennial celebration of Lewis & Clark's journey to the Pacific Northwest.

Four miles south of Astoria near the town of Warrenton, the rebuilt Fort Clatsop is a good starting point for exploring the other historic sites and hiking trails inside Lewis and Clark National Park along the coast between Long Beach, Wash., and Cannon Beach, Ore.

Dispatched by Thomas Jefferson to establish a water route to the Pacific, Captains William Clark, Lewis Meriwether and a crew of 31 explorers, mostly U.S. Army enlisted men, ended their two-year journey from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean here in November 1805.

Crossing from a temporary camp on the north shore of the Columbia River (Cape Disappointment in Washington) to the south side of the river in Oregon, they set up winter quarters in a seven-room, hand-built log fort named after the local Indian tribe, the Clatsop. Here they spent much of the next three-and-a-half months trading with the native tribes, collecting information on the new plants, fish and wildlife they discovered and writing in their journals by the light of candles made from elk fat.

Working from one of Clark's sketches, community volunteers helped build a replica of the fort to commemorate the expedition's 150th anniversary in 1955. A half-century later, 750 volunteers pitched in again after the fire, this time spending a year reconstructing a new replica of the fort it took the explorers just three weeks to build.

"It was an incredible effort then as was this one," says park ranger Glenda Miller, recalling how volunteers stripped the bark off logs by hand at a building site set up at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. Four companies donated Douglas Fir logs for the walls and cedar for the floors and ceilings. Local woodworkers built replicas of bunk beds, benches, chairs and tables.

Designed to look more rough and rugged than the original replica, the new fort includes some modern improvements including wheelchair access and a high-temperature detection system.

Rangers still show school groups how the explorers made candles (substituting beef tallow bought from Fred Meyer for elk fat), but electric candles have replaced real ones on the mantel above the fireplaces in the "captains' room."

The fort reopened in December, but it will be late spring before anyone spots a plume of smoke spewing from a tall wooden chimney, a scene depicted in almost every photograph of the old fort.

The cause of the fire was a stray ember that flew out of a fireplace in one of the enlisted men's rooms and became lodged under a floorboard.

Screens have been installed on five rebuilt fireplaces, and park staffers will be trained in new safety procedures.

"It was an awful day," says Ranger Miller, recalling the morning she returned to work after the fire. "None of us wants to take a chance."

_The Officer's Inn

What a difference a century makes. The Lewis & Clark crew made do with wooden bunks for beds and elk hides for blankets. By 1905, the U.S. army officers and their families stationed at nearby Fort Stevens had it much better.

The United States had just defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War and liberated Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Plans called for an expansion of Fort Stevens to protect the nation's interests on the West Coast. No tents or crowded bunkhouses for this crowd. The top officers slept in colonial-style, two-family homes surrounding park-like parade grounds.

Fort Stevens was a military base for 84 years, from the Civil War through the end of World War II. It's now a 4,000-acre state park with ocean and river beaches; lakes for fishing and swimming; camping facilities and a military museum. The officers' quarters were sold as private homes, with the exception the 6,500-square-foot Officer's Inn. A B&B for 10 years, it had been closed for a year when Astoria residents Kim and Steve Nurding bought it at auction from the Oregon State Parks Department in late 2005.

They reopened it in March 2006 as a B&B, carrying out the military theme in rooms decorated with antique furniture, army helmets, bugles and photos of war heroes. The duplex boasts pressed tin ceilings, a wrap-around porch, oak fireplaces, two living rooms, two kitchens and dual sets of staircases - one for the families and the others for the servants.

The inn books up for the murder-mystery nights the Nurdings sometimes host on Saturdays, but my husband and I were the only guests on a rainy Friday in early March. We were upgraded from the $100 "Major's" room in the back of the house to the larger "General's" room ($150) overlooking the parade grounds.

With nothing more strenuous than a scenic coastal drive on our agenda for the next morning, we awoke to a breakfast fit for a military march. The army officers slept in style, but I doubt if they ate this well. Kim's cinnamon rolls, eggs Benedict, fresh fruit and asparagus kept us going through lunch.

_A taste of Sarajevo

Ask a local where to have dinner, and they'll send you into Astoria, a 200-year-old Columbia River city with a rich maritime history and a proud population of Finnish immigrants.

The town has been enjoying a tourist revival recently, with new hotels, a waterfront trolley and art galleries and espresso cafes filling vacant downtown storefronts.

When it comes to eating, it's mostly routine steaks and seafood at prices that seem high for a small town. So I had to pull over when I spotted the words "Traditional Food of Bosnia" stenciled on the window of a plant-filled restaurant across from the F.O.E. hall on Commercial Street.

Vancouver, Wash., residents Ken Bendickson, and his wife, Fordinka Kanlic, opened Drina Daisy a year ago to showcase the Mediterranean-style "comfort food" she cooked for 25 years at a restaurant she owned near Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.

I spent time in the Balkans a few years ago, and nearly everything on her menu brought back memories. There was a burek, a pocket of phyllo pastry folded and baked around cinnamon-laced ground beef and topped with sour cream; cherry wine made in neighboring Croatia; and the familiar ajvar, a puree of roasted red bell peppers and baked eggplant Kanlic served with thick slices of homemade bread the texture of angel food cake.

Most surprising were the prices. Most dinners were in the $10.50-$12.50 range.

My husband's plate of paprika-spiked beef goulash prompted a tap on the shoulder from the man at next table over.

"Good, hey?

"Fantastic. "Do you come here often?"

"Just about every week. We live 50 miles away."

I live 200 miles away, but I'll be back, and I guarantee it won't be to fly a kite.



WHERE: The towns of Astoria, Warrenton and Hammond are in Clatsop County at the northwest tip of Oregon, about a four-hour drive from Seattle. Take Interstate 5 to Olympia, Highways 8 and 12 west, toward Aberdeen and U.S. Highway 101 north toward Long Beach, crossing the four-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge into Astoria.

PARK INFORMATION: Fort Clatsop, 92343 Fort Clatsop Road, four miles south of Astoria near Warrenton, off Highway 101. Visitors center is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. winter (entry fee, $3) and until 6 p.m. in summer ($5). See or call 503-861-2471.

During peak summer months, a shuttle bus runs from the Netul Landing to Fort Clatsop every 15 minutes. Drive 1.5 miles past the entrance to Fort Clatsop, park and pick up the shuttle, or walk to the fort along a mile-long path that skirts the river. Watch for river otters and bald eagles.

Fort Stevens State Park is off Highway 101, 10 miles west of Astoria ($3 daily day-use fee). Hike, swim, take beach walks or browse through displays dating back to the Civil War at the museum. World War II and Civil War battle re-enactments in summer. See, or call 503-861-1671.

THE OFFICER'S INN B&B: Just Inside the north entrance of Fort Stevens State Park at 540 Russell Place, in Hammond. Six rooms and two, two-bedroom suites, all with private baths. Free Wi-Fi. Room rates: $100-$150, including breakfast. Suite prices vary. See or call 888-861-2524.

DRINA DAISY: Named for the Drina River in Bosnia and Daisy Bendickson, co-owner Ken Bendickson's 87-year-old mother, Drina Daisy is in downtown Astoria at 915 Commercial St. Bosnian specialties cooked by Fordinka Kanlic, a Balkan war refugee who moved from her town near Sarajevo to Vancouver, Wash., in 1999. Open Wednesdays-Sundays,

11 a.m.-9 p.m. See or call 503-338-2912.


Chamber of Commerce,

Welcome to Oregon,

Welcome to Astoria,


Carol Pucci: