Astoria Column is latest stop on park host’s trail

Fred Pynes and his wife, Pat.

Inside a small cottage just a few feet away from the Astoria Column, Fred Pynes keeps a small, bronze sculpture called “End of the Trail.” The art depicts a warrior hunched over an equally exasperated horse with a spear loosely coddled in his right arm.

Pynes, 80, became the park host at the Column and moved into the cottage last May. From just outside their door, Pynes and his wife, Pat, can see sunrises over Saddle Mountain and sunsets under the Astoria Bridge. Though it will likely be his final occupation, he plans to continue the volunteer role until he reaches the end of his own trail.

“It’s just breathtaking up here,” Pynes said. “I don’t get tired of it.”

After growing up in Eugene, Pynes played football and baseball at Idaho State. He then spent time with the Coast Guard before moving to Lebanon in 1965. For nearly 50 years, he worked as a restaurateur in the Willamette Valley town and volunteered at a local hospital after retirement.

The couple had been hoping to move closer to family members who live on the North Coast. But Pynes needed to find a way to occupy his time before agreeing to the move.

“They’d been trying to get my wife to come here, but they didn’t know what to do with me,” Pynes joked.

A family member eventually pointed Pynes toward the park host opening.

Job duties include opening bathrooms and walking the perimeter in the morning, making sure the site is adequately staffed and checking upcoming weather patterns and local events to anticipate higher traffic at the Column. In exchange for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the popular tourist site, he and his wife live rent-free at the one-bedroom, fully furnished cottage.

“I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Pynes said.

Other than the cottage, Pynes does not have much privacy. He has dealt with some people who noisily entered the park after closing hours, but has not had any excessively unpleasant encounters.

“It kind of goes with being in a park rather than being in a residential neighborhood downtown,” Pynes said. “We haven’t had anybody that’s been disagreeable at all.”

When the park is open, the ability to interact with people from across the globe can be as much of a perk as the views.

“You kind of see it every day through fresh eyes,” Pynes said. “It’s an honor to be a caretaker of such a beautiful monument.”

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