Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Taking you to Cranberry Fields Forever

Sunday, January 23, 2011

OLA: Taking you to Cranberry Fields Forever

a Berry Bog on Cranberry Coast
For the first time in many days, sunlight drenched southwestern Washington’s fields! Although it was forecast to be a high of only 43*F, Bill and I quickly seized the opportunity and drove our little red Saturn west towards Ocean Shores where the Pacific meets the southern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. At the Visitors Center in Aberdeen, the Olympic Gateway, we were convinced to go south instead to a different coastline.  So, ‘let us take you down where we're going to…cranberry fields forever…’ 
the tallest lighthouse in the state of Washington
Westport, a commercial fishing town
The first town on the Cranberry Coast is Markham where Ocean Spray brings all the berries for processing and transporting to the different parts of the USA. At the western end before going south is Westport, the big commercial fishing town of Washington. Actually from there you can see Ocean Shores at the other side of Grays Harbor on the mouth of the Chehalis River.  The fishing town boasts of the tallest lighthouse in the state and a Maritime Museum showcasing several huge skeletons of whales. 

skeleton whales in the Westport Maritime Museum
Ocean Shores from the Westport side
Driving south on Highway 105 we reach Grayland (pop, less than 2,000), site of the Annual Cranberry Festival. There we found many cranberry bogs that were started by the Finnish farmers nearly 150 years ago.  Cranberries are a fruit crop that is grown in wet, marshy areas called bogs.  They grow best where there is a cool growing season and no extreme cold.  They are found mostly in the provinces of Canada but in the US they are grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington.
Washaway Beach from a washed away tree
coastline changes since 1891
Next on the loop is a special little surprise with a lot of camera moments. North Cove is a small town famous for the Washaway Beach. The sketch on the left shows you how much of this 2-mile stretch has been clawed away by the Pacific Ocean since 1891. A little further east is Tokeland spit named after Chief Toke. It is where you will find the Shoalwater Bay Casino, the friendliest little casino on the coast. There is also a small Marina, an RV Resort on the Willapa Bay and a historic hotel built in 1855.

a house just teetered on Washaway Beach
Willapa Bay is also the source of 15% of the oysters consumed in the United States. So the next towns you encounter after leaving the Cranberry Coast from Tokeland are Raymond and South Bend. The latter is dubbed the ‘Fresh Oyster Capital of the World’. All around town are hills of oyster shells kept for new farming beds. Pacific oysters have been grown in Willapa Bay for over a century and the 10,000 acres devoted to the farms there harvest an average of three to four million pounds per year.
an oyster shell hill in South Bend
2 of 200 steel sculptures in Raymond
A little north of South Bend, upwards towards Aberdeen and then Elma, at the beginning of the end of our day’s loop is the small town of Raymond.  It is known for its Wildlife-Heritage Sculpture Corridor, about a mile of enchanting steel sculptures of wildlife and people along Highway 101, State Route 6, and throughout downtown Raymond. Incorporated into the Raymond landscape in 1993, the two hundred sculptures were designed by local artists to reflect the area’s great heritage.
the strange space ship at a little corner market
the house that 40 sausages built
The Cranberry Coast brought us many little surprises like a little store that sold 40 different kinds of sausages, including, of course, cranberry sausage and the little corner market in front of which is a strange space ship! We started the day thinking we were going to Ocean Shores.  That trip is postponed for another sunny winter day. We enjoyed taking you down to where we finally went to cranberry fields forever, where the land turns bright red, the coastline always changes, and seafood reigns supreme.
another beautiful sunset on the way home