Day 277 – Oregon Coast Highway
I found a campsite last night at Fort Stevens State Park
which didn’t make my scenic drives book.
The campgrounds were enormous:
550 sites. It was like a small city. Before I left the park this morning, I
enjoyed some of the sites; the first being the wreck of the Peter Iredale. There is nothing special about the wreck of
the Peter Iredale. It was simply a ship
that had sailed 28 days from Mexico that was bound for Portland to pick up some
cargo. Strong winds and rough seas
forced it onto the shore where a portion of the ship remains today and has
become a popular tourist attraction and hence its fame.
Just inland from the beach is Coffenbury Lake. The tranquil lake, nestled in the trees, is
stocked with trout and a popular fishing location for campers. Petey and I took a short walk along its shore
before turning north to Astoria.
Astoria, a bustling seaport, is located where John Jacob
Astor’s fur-trading company established a post that became the first permanent
European settlement in the Pacific Northwest.
At first I was slightly disappointed, but then I drove to the top of
Coxcomb Hill to visit the Astoria Column.
I’m not sure what I expected; but the Column 125 feet high and constructed
of concrete was remarkable. It is one of
12 historical markers erected in the early 1900s between Minnesota and Oregon. The markers were a pet projected of Ralph
Budd, president of the Great Northern Railroad.
His goal was to salute explorers and early settlers for their contributions. John Jacob Astor’s grandson and the railroad
financed the cost of the Column and the thirty acre site. The city prepared the land and access
The Column was dedicated in 1926 and cost just over $27,000
to construct. It includes a 164 step
staircase which was replaced in 2008 for $600,000! A frieze, over 500 feet long, of 22
significant events that occurred in the region wraps around the exterior of the
Column. The Italian Renaissance art form
used to decorate the Column is called sgraffito which combines paint and
plaster carvings. Italian immigrant
artist, Attilo Pusterla depicted scenes such as Indians greeting explorers, the
Lewis and Clark expedition reaching the Pacific, and the arrival of the
railroad with over 200 brown figures.
The views from Coxcomb Hill which rises 600 feet above the
Columbia River were breathtaking. To the
north a barge approached the Astoria Bridge that connects Washington to Oregon
as fog enshrouded the southern coast of Washington. To the south rivers snaked through the lush
green hillsides while low clouds hung above the evergreens. I’m certain the views from the top of the
Column, from which visitors may also throw a small wooden glider off the
balcony and see where it lands, would have also been spectacular except that a
cloud blew in and blanketed the area.
Before leaving and turning south toward Fort Clatsop
National Monument, I grabbed a cache hidden to the side of a nearby trail and
also logged the Column as a virtual cache.
I was just pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. Fort Clatsop National Monument marks the
location where Lewis and Clark with their crew wintered upon reaching the
Pacific Ocean. I visited the rebuilt
fort and followed a path to Netul Landing where the expedition came ashore
after its journey along the Columbia River.
Along the way I stepped over a slug and spotted a bald eagle!
In addition, the path led me past remnants of the logging
industry. Poles or pilings, logs from 80
year old Douglas fir trees, are 60 feet in length and are embedded 20 feet into
the river bottom. The rows of piling
were used during log sorting and raft making processes.
From Fort Clatsop National Memorial, we continued south
along the coast to Cannon Beach where a 235 foot tall Haystack Rock towers
above. The bullet shaped monolith is
one of the most photographed sights on the coast…naturally I snapped a few
After a morning outside on a windy, yet glorious day, I
reached Tillamook and took a self-guided tour of the cheese factory. Forty pound cheese blocks ride conveyor belts
to cutters where the cheese is sliced into two pound loaves. Workers peel a thin layer of cheese off the
top and sides of the block which gets dumped into a container for
shredding. Thereafter, the two pound
loaves are sorted. If the cheese loaf is
over two pounds it is shaved. If it
weighs less than two pounds a thin layer of cheese is added. The loaves are then packed and sent to the
warehouse to age.
The factory includes eight vats of milk. Each vat holds 53,000 pounds of milk. It takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound
of cheese. On average, each vat makes
three batches of cheese per day. Over
1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant every day and approximately 167,000
pounds of cheese are processed daily.
There are 120 dairy farms in Tillamook County with around
28,000 cows. The average herd size is
150-200 cows. For every milking cow, the
farm generally has a young cow as well.
It costs $1,500 to $2,000 each year to feed a milking cow and half that
for a non-producer. The average yearly gross
income per cow is $3,500. A cow can
drink a bathtub full of water per day.
It takes two gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, and a cow
can produce six to eight gallons of milk a day (100 glasses). There are approximately 350 squirts of milk
in a gallon!
After the self-guided tour I sampled a variety of the cheeses. Tillamook is best known for its medium cheddar, though the line at the ice cream counter made it seem like ice cream was their specialty.
Back on the coast, I stopped at Cape Meares State Park
located at the northern part of Three Capes Scenic Loop. Cape Meares is home to a hundred year old
light-house which offers magnificent views of the rock coast and the Octopus
Tree. The Sitka spruce, which can be
reached by taking a short trail through the forest, has no central trunk, but instead
six limbs which extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before
turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and
between 250-300 years old. It is unknown
whether forces of nature shaped the tree or if Native Americans played a part
in its formation.
I tried visiting the second cape along the loop road, Cape
Lookout, but after a handful of detours, I threw in the towel and moved onto
Cape Kiwanda State Park. The park is
known for its red and yellow sandstone cliffs.
Photographers enjoy capturing the colors on SD cards while hang-gliding
enthusiasts enjoy launching off its dunes.
I have to admit I was disappointed in the cliffs. I must have arrived too late in the day, as
it was a bit shadowy, but the crashing waves were a joy for the countless
surfers. The enormous rock guarding the
harbor with the sun shining through a small opening was somewhat cool, however.
Continuing south on Highway 101, I reached Lincoln City,
home to the shortest river in the world.
D River flows 120 feet from Devils Lake into the Pacific Ocean. After a quick visit, we moved on to Depoe
Bay, the world’s smallest navigable harbor, only six acres.
We followed the coast all the way to Newport before turning
inland and traveling through the wine country on our way back to Portland. It was a long, yet wonderful day! ETB
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