Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Sun Sets on Our Stay Along the Oregon Coast

The campground's Independence Day parade.
Enjoying Tillimook and Blue Heron.
The Cape Meares Lighthouse
The trail, beach and Octopus Tree at Cape Meares.
In the background is cloudy Cape Lookout as seen from Cape Kiwanda then hiking through those clouds.
Cape Kiwanda
Munson Creek Falls
Watching the sunset over Three Arch Rocks.

We spent our last week on the Oregon coast at Netarts Bay Marina and RV Park near Tillimook. The park is on the bay which is known for its clean waters. This is because the tide almost completely empties then refills the bay twice a day. We had one of our quietest 4th of Julys ever as we just stayed in the park that day. Our highlight was the parade pictured in its entirety above. We did not even hear or see any fireworks. The weather was dreary, overcast and foggy so we just chilled. We learned later this was not a bad decision since the fireworks were hard to see because of the fog.

The surrounding area is known for its dairy farms and cheese processing and we enjoyed visiting the Blue Heron French Cheese Company and Tillimook Cheese. The Blue Heron has a country store atmosphere with a wonderful selection of products and offers meals, wine tasting, clothing and, of course, their famous brie. We took advantage and indulged ourselves. At Tillimook Cheese they have all the above and offer tours of the factory. Being dairy country, they also have great ice cream which we both really enjoyed.

The RV park is on the Three Capes Scenic Drive and each cape is unique. At Cape Meares there is a lighthouse that is, at 38 feet, the shortest on the coast. As with most Oregon lights, it sits 217 feet above the sea on a cliff so it can be seen for 20 miles out to sea. This light is no longer operating but the Fresnel lens is still in place and allows for a really up close view. When it was in operation the light flashed red and white. It is strange to walk down the hill to the lighthouse and be able to look directly into the lantern room. Just off shore is the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge that, like all of Oregon's sea coast rocks, are protected habitat for birds and other wildlife. In the same area is a very unusual Sitka spruce known as the Octopus Tree. Rather than having one central trunk, it has several growing out of a large base. From the cape we hiked through the forest down to a secluded rocky beach. Even though it was the holiday weekend we had the trail and the beach to ourselves.

The second cape on the drive is Cape Lookout which includes the forest covered headland of the cape and a long sandy spit that separates Netarts Bay from the Pacific. We hiked five miles to the tip of the cape through the forest where low hanging clouds were clinging to the trees. It was windy and eerie as the trail meandered for one side of the cape to the other. We went from the calm quiet on the lee side into fierce winds which blow up the sides of the cliffs that plunged into the ocean below. At different spots along the trail we could see Cape Mears and Three Arch Rocks to the north but Cape Kiwanda was hidden by the clouds.

At Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City the overcast skies were not nearly as bad as at Cape Lookout. This cape is very different from the other two with a mix of solid rock and a huge sand dune with only a few trees growing on top but no forest and a huge haystack rock just off shore. Climbing the dune seemed to be the thing to do as it was covered with people walking up and then sliding, running or rolling down so, of course, we had to join the fun. We did not get out to the tip of this cape because a wedding, which we did not want to disturb, was being held along the trail. Another wonderful thing in Pacific City is the Pelican Brew Pub where we enjoyed a great meal and a couple of their beverages.

On Tuesday we drove to the Tillimook Forest Center and discovered it was open Wednesday to Sunday. Oh well, we always say we can't do it all and need a reason to return to places in the future. We did go to Munson Creek Falls, which at 319 feet, is the highest on the Oregon coast. It was a small but impressive falls at the end of a box canyon. We also realized our stay along the coast was coming to an end and we had not seen a sunset. With a favorable mix of clouds and sun we drove to Oceanside and were rewarded with the spectacular view of the sun going down behind the Three Arch Rocks. AWESOME!!!!!


Patti said...

Great blog & the photos make me want to be there/go there too!

Patti said...
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