The open road called to me recently, so I answered by going on a field trip. My destination was Garibaldi Museum, a maritime museum.

I started by going to Wanda’s in Nehalem for a breakfast quesadilla, the best in the world, a propitious beginning for what turned out to be a delightful day.

The museum was conceived as a tribute to Capt. Robert Gray, the first American to circumnavigate the globe, whose achievements were obscured by the more popular Lewis and Clark.

On May 11, 1792, Capt. Gray discovered the great river of the West which he named “Columbia’s River.” His sea epic started in Boston with two vessels involved, the ship Columbia Rediviva and the sloop Lady Washington, on a trade mission to China to exchange sea otter skins for tea, porcelain and artifacts.

He discovered the mighty Columbia while seeking a safe and sheltered anchorage. The lure and lore of sailing are well represented in the museum with exhibits showing what life was like aboard a sailing vessel – how the sailors and the officers lived, slept, what they ate and how they worked. Their tools and rigging are explained, as well as their musical instruments, which the crew used for entertainment. It was an entire world which had to be self-sufficient for years at a time.

Have you ever wondered how Garibaldi got its name?  Just ask Dan Haag, (the same fellow who had the video store in Cannon Beach) the friendly and knowledgeable museum director.

I did, and he told me the story. The city of Garibaldi was named for Guiseppe Garibaldi who was the liberator and unifier of Italy. The town’s founder, Daniel A. Bailey, was a great admirer of Garibaldi and, as postmaster, had the first postal stamp engraved, “Garibaldi, Oregon, 1870.”

Besides running the post office, Bailey built a hotel at the start of the Beach Trail so travelers could rest before setting off to Nehalem, Clatsop Plains and Astoria. He also owned the grocery and dry goods store, a barbershop and a saloon. A formidable figure who knew what he wanted.

Haag knows all about every nook and cranny of the museum. He told me about different exhibits – not just Capt. Gray, but also much of the town’s history is chronicled in various rooms. One wing holds exhibits and artifacts about the city’s founding and its industry.

On the day I was there, he was hosting Will Dixon, a carver and storyteller from Oceanside who specializes in Native American folklore and woodworking. His carvings were showcased and his stories were wonderful.

One of the tales he told was about the “Orphan Tsunami” of Jan. 27, 1700, most of which we know from Japanese records. The evidence uncovered tells of a catastrophe, a century before Lewis and Clark, that now helps guide preparations for future earthquakes and tsunamis in the United States and Canada.

I’m not so sure that the state-of-the-art information regarding tsunami protection has improved much in more than 300 years – but we do keep talking about them.

The museum has Asian riches such as a mother-of-pearl inlaid screen from Korea that would be my first choice to take home and two intricately worked silk prints from China, as well as a remarkable gun collection. Every time you turn a corner, there is another artifact worth noting and learning about. The museum is well laid out, the exhibits carefully marked and everything is – as you might imagine – shipshape.

The Garibaldi Museum began as a dream of Lt. Col. Charles M. Parkin Jr. During his career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Parkin became fascinated with the voyages of Capt. Gray. He felt he was an American hero who was unrecognized, and believed that the story of Lewis and Clark could not have been accomplished, had it not been for the earlier navigators like Gray. Thankfully, he lived to see the museum opened and his dream realized.

I left the museum and migrated to the water which was teeming with boats, RVs, people, crab pots, buoys and lots of seafood for sale. I?also checked out the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad.

Think about making an excursion of it. Go to Garibaldi, see the museum, board the train and take a round-trip ride which will take you back to your car. Have an ice cream cone and head for home.

Trust me on this one: It’s a great way to spend the day! 

Val Ryan is a Cannon Beach bookstore owners. Her column runs every other week in The Daily Astorian

 Garibaldi Museum

 Maritime History

 112 Highway 101

 Garibaldi, Oregon  97118

 Open April through November

 Thursday through Monday

 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 Open December to March by appointment

 Check out the website for a calendar of events

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