Sarah & I woke up early, had a quick breakfast, said our goodbyes, and were on the road at 8:30, heading west toward Tillamook. The drive was only about 90 minutes, and was very pretty as well as traffic-free once we cleared the Portland metro area.
A tourist-trap for cheese addicts like myself
(warning, this is a lonnnnng post with many pictures!)
The beauty was marred somewhat, as it was for the rest of our trip through Oregon, by the scars of clear-cut logging on some hillsides, some replanted but still obvious, many naked and awful-looking, looking like exactly what it is: pillaged land. I’ll attempt to refrain from soapboxing on this too much, other than to say: clear cut logging sucks.
Before long we arrived in Tillamook, a somewhat depressed community, other than its famous cheese factory, which was our first destination. We arrived to find a tourist trap par-excellence, with oodles of merchandise (most of it not-cheese-related) and hoardes of people. This was at 11:00 on a Wednesday morning, mind you! I hate to think what the place must be like on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Workers on the Tillamook Cheese Factory floor
Nonetheless, it was worth a visit. They have a self-guided “tour” (really a pair of enclosed walkways above one of the factory floors), and it was interesting to watch the industrialized cheese-making process. We queued up for the sample tasting line, waiting for longer than it was really worth, considering that over half of the flavors they had to taste were the same ones we have in our markets at home. The ones that were new were: cheese curds (I’m becoming addicted to these – they’re weirdly delicious and squeaky!), garlic cheddar and black pepper cheddar, all good.
Tillamook Cheese Factory
We purchased some cheeses for the road, and, finding the line for their ice cream bar entirely too long, went back upstairs to the smaller, and uncrowded ice cream station there. My mother, as well as our Oregon Coast travel guide, highly recommended the ice cream here, and we soon found out why – it’s delicious! Sarah had a scoop of toffee pecan and one of root beer, and I had french vanilla and mint chip. All flavors were excellent, with a flavorful, creamy ice cream base (forget about calorie counting these!).
Debby D’s Sausage Factory
After enjoying our ice cream, we headed south towards Tillamook’s other cheese factory, the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. On the way I was “forced” to make a detour when I saw the sign for Debby D’s Sausage Factory – a brief tasting necessitated some purchases to keep our cheese company, and then we continued the few miles to the Blue Heron.
The Blue Heron French Cheese Company
This was a little disappointing, as I was hoping for a less-touristy version of the Tillamook Cheese Factory, but what we got was nothing more than a store housed in a barn, with a farm animal petting zoo next to it. They make only two cheeses here, a brie (very good) and a smoked brie (very strange – I don’t think I’ve had smoked brie anywhere before). We bought a small wheel of the brie, and a blue cheese from the somewhat nearby Rogue Valley, then headed a few miles south out of town to the Tillamook Air Museum.
Inside the Tillamook Air Museum
This museum, housed in an old blimp hangar that is the largest wooden structure on the planet, had a good variety of mostly-military aircraft, and the usual “rah rah” educational film. An interesting quasi-related note: during WWII, the Japanese twice tried to bomb the Oregon coast with incindiary bombs in the hopes of setting Oregon’s vast timber forests aflame, as these forests were instrumental for building the aircraft the US military needed. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for us, western Oregon, in addition to being heavily forested, is also extremely wet. One bomb, destined for Port Orford, failed to detonate, and the other exploded near Brookings with little effect.
Tillamook Air Museum, in the largest wooden structure on Earth.
After seeing honestly more small military airplanes than we were really interested in, we returned north to Tillamook and, after searching for an ATM for a few, picked up the 3 Capes Loop, en route to our hotel for the evening.
The 3 Capes Drive was beautiful indeed, and some construction by ODOT allowed us to enjoy the environs for perhaps a bit longer than planned. The stretch to Cape Mears reminded us a lot of Tomales Bay in Point Reyes – a long skinny bay with green hills on the sides, very pretty.
Cape Mears Lighthouse
Cape Mears was the first of many lighthouses we would visit on our trip south, and it was the smallest by far (the shortest one in Oregon, in fact). Because it’s no longer in use, you can walk up to the top and the light room, which was interesting. A good many Common Murres congregated on the rocks just offshore, making a pleasant racket. Other birds seen included Brown Pelicans, Brandt’s Cormorants, Western Gulls (and probably some hybrids), and White-crowned Sparrows.
The other “feature” of Cape Mears other than its lighthouse is the “Octopus Tree,” a Sitka Spruce that grew in a funny shape. Since it was only a 0.25mi walk from the parking lot, we paid it a visit. An interesting tree, but not worth a special trip, that’s for sure!
The Octopus Tree. Oooh. Ahhh.
Continuing south on the 3 Capes Loop, we arrived at Cape Lookout, a 2-mile long peninsula extending due west.
View of the west side of Netarts Spit from a roadside turnout
Our plan had been to hike to its tip, but it was pretty foggy to the north and windy all around, so we cut it a little short. It’s a beautiful walk, however, with great views to the south (and none to the north, due to the fog). I was pleased to find a few wildflowers blooming: Self-heal, several Aster sps., Seep-spring Monkeyflower, a Nettle sp., and a Claytonia sp. Some Giant Trillum had gone to seed, which was interesting since I hadn’t previously seen Trillium seeds.
Giant Trillium seedhead
On the waters far below, several Common Murres swam about, along with more Brandt’s Cormorants.
The Cape Lookout Trail
The trail started to lose altitude and after a bit, we decided to turn back, not really wanting a “real” hike with only the promise of high winds and fog at the end of the cape! Other than the views, the foliage was verdant and abundant, a pleasure to hike in.
Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock, from the Cape Lookout Trail
After our nice little 2.5mi’ish hike, we continued on the lovely 3 Capes Route, shortly ending up in Pacific City, our destination for the night. We cheked into our room at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, which turned out to be a great (but expensive) place, complete with fireplace, ocean view deck, mini kitchenette, and glass glassware.
View from the deck at our room at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda
We relaxed, then had a tasty dinner at the Pelican Brewery across the street, then relaxed some more and called it a night.
(The next post will likely be several days off – I have over 300 photos just from that day to sort through!)