A July 2005 trip
to Tillamook by btwood2
Quote: An enchanting land of rocky ocean capes, thundering waves, secluded beaches and forests, shellfish flats, dairy cows grazing in lush green fields, and delicious cheese and ice cream awaits you. Crowds? Only at the cheese factory. Congestion? Very few stoplights encountered. Freeways? Forget it!
After first contact , it took less than 50 years for local indigenous populations to be decimated from over 2000 to less than 200. The 1850’s saw many white settlers, their cows, dairies for milk and butter, and a school. The cheeses for which the county is now famous didn’t start being produced until 1894. Concomitantly, fishing and lumbering also developed.
Tillamook County Creamery Association, "home of Tillamook cheese" was a highlight of our stay. I’ve been buying baby loaves (2 pounders) of Tillamook cheddar and pepper jack for years. The self-guiding tour was extremely informative and efficiently set up, though crowded even on a weekday. Not surprising, since many of the million plus people who visit this cheese factory do so during the summer months.
Cape Meares, with its short, spunky light house, scenic viewpoints, and wildlife refuges, topped the cheese! The surrounding forest is old growth, and nearby grows the sacred Council Tree (Octopus Tree).
Small towns in the vicinity are not without their charms. Wheeler has a wonderfully restored old hotel that’s now bed & breakfast inn upstairs, shops beneath, and antique stores. Garibaldi’s port is quite active with commercial and sport fishing and excursion boats, a maritime museum, and defunct lumber mill smokestack looming tall over the town. Nehalem’s main street is abloom with hanging baskets and pots of flowers everywhere. Rockaway Beach has seven miles of fine white-sand beach and an excursion train.
Very photogenic rock formations jut dramatically out of the ocean on this stretch of coast, among them Twin Rocks at Rockaway Beach, the Three Graces between Barview and Garibaldi, and Three Arch Rocks south of Cape Meares. Alot a full day for Three Capes Scenic Route, encompassing Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. Then drive back up to Tillamook inland, through bucolic Cloverdale, Hebo, and Beaver, along the Nestucca River.
Beyond cheese, Tillamook has other attractions. You can’t miss seeing the Tillamook Naval Air Museum if you enter northbound on Highway 101. It’s in an old blimp hangar of vastly impressive size. Tillamook Pioneer Museum downtown contains many historical records and documents, Clatsop-Nehalem woven baskets, and pioneer displays. Latimer Quilt and Textile Center, a combination museum/living arts and research center, is housed in a restored 1930’s schoolhouse.
Beach safety is essential on the Oregon Coast. A mean rip current, "sneaker" waves and lots of driftwood create hazards too; waves can make lethal projectiles out of logs. High steep cliffs and jetties are slippery when wet and unstable even dry. We rarely even dip our toes in the water. With summer water temperatures between 50-55 degrees, hypothermia can develop quickly.
Getting around while there: Your own vehicle is the easiest, but Tillamook County Transportation District has busses that drive town loops and port loops between 8AM to 5PM except Sundays, fare. They provide service to some coastal Tillamook towns and Portland daily, and very limited service on Sundays.
ARA memberships can sell for between $1500-2000 or more, but we stayed here for $8 a night, thanks to our Resort Parks International (RPI) membership, with whom ARA is affiliated. RPI sites are restricted to middle level on the bay side of the highway. (The resort straddles Highway 101.) This was just fine with us. Though the hookups were set up for backing in, most of the motor homes pulled in for the view and made do with longer cords and hoses.
Two swimming pools are up the hill across the highway. The climb is a bit steep if you’re not in shape, but parking is available for driving over. A building next to the pools contains showers, a kitchen, and rooms for special events. Just beyond in a woodsy area of spruce and cedar, more RV spaces and rental units. The kids’ pool, though attractive-looking, was unheated and unused. Both adults and kids were using the overheated adults’ pool, which felt more like a hot tub, far from refreshing. Perhaps management was trying to atone for the non-working Jacuzzi, beautifully covered with a knotty pine gazebo, but itself cracked and empty of water. Blame the waterlogged, shifting Oregon coastal soils. The manager told us they were working on getting it fixed…
A big white barn-like building near the entrance holds laundromat, soda machine, recreation room with ping pong and pool tables, and half a basketball court where kids can shoot hoops. You can buy bait, tackle, and some groceries at the waterfront country store. The adjacent clubhouse, with continuous bayside picture windows, serves weekend breakfasts, and has an exchange library and puzzles for those so inclined. Though not actually gated, the security kiosk is manned 24 hours, and all visitors are required to stop for a pass.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 16, 2005
Paradise Cove Resort and Marina
32455 Highway 101 North
Though it was beginning to cool off, we chose to sit outdoors at a table on the enclosed wooden deck. The dark green plastic patio furniture décor was accented by hanging sphagnum moss pots growing trailing plants, as well as pots on the ground growing brightly colored flowers. A small lily-pond fountain against the fence made tinkling watery sounds. We ordered our customary pitcher of Bud and one glance at the menu was a no-brainer, at least for my pizza-holic husband: Pizza tonight! Deluxe pepperoni to be exact.
It continued to cool off as the sun lowered in the horizon and we sipped our beer. The wait was encouraging for a pizza that advertised using homemade sauce and fresh bakery crust. But too long for us to continue sitting outdoors, so we moved ourselves indoors to eat our steaming hot pizza. I’d classify it as a good, respectable pizza in every way: tasty sauce, good assortment of veggies, medium crust baked golden-brown. Ghost Hole’s pizzas only come in one size: large. Full after eating only half of it, we went home with a box containing another pizza dinner. But before leaving and while finishing the last of our beer, a young car salesman named Tim gave us lessons on the tricks of playing video-poker on the old as well as the new machines (5 total – do a casino make in some states). To top it off, he sent us on our way laughing with a really funny medical-political joke. No, it was not complimentary to the present administration.
Ghost Hole, I wondered where that name came from, until I saw it on some maps of the area. It’s a popular fishing spot just south of town, out in Tillamook Bay. Indoors, next to the Danger Men Drinking sign is a Penny Lane street sign. Beyond that, Beatles Boulevard and various posters and magazine cutouts of Beatles from early to late. "The owner likes the Beatles". Total cost for the pizza and beer: $21. And the enjoyment of hanging out with locals instead of other tourists. Other menu options: six other kinds of pizza, a whole page of burgers, non-burger specialties such as fish ‘n chips, shrimp ‘n chips, chicken strips, steak and cheese.
Ghost Hole Public House
409 Garibaldi Ave
In the abundance of antique and collectible shops, it’s easy to lose yourself in yesteryear. Our favorite was Wheeler Station Antiques, appearing deceivingly small from the outside. Inside, it’s a multi-level antique mall plus snack, ice cream parlor and espresso bar, and visitor center. Not junky or dusty, each section, meticulously maintained by its vendor to the smallest detail, is a feast for the eyes. You think you’ve seen it all, but there’s another short stairway leading you to yet another small space full of potential treasures and nostalgia.
Wheeler Hotel: Walking along the shops on Wheeler’s main street, Highway 101, I was drawn to what appeared to be a small time-warped office, with tomato-red walls and hanging chandeliers. A Civil War era jacket was hanging on the coat tree next to the roll top desk. Had I stumbled onto a museum of sorts? The building itself was the Wheeler Hotel building, and Wheeler Hotel was neatly painted in red on the glass doors at the top of the stairs. No "private" or "keep out" signs to discourage me, and I soon found myself wandering its halls admiring the tasteful and unique décor. My eyes fell on notes clipped next to the doors of some of the rooms, on which was written "Welcome, _____" with keys stuck in the door. Though tempting, that bold I’m not, so I walked on finding what I later learned is the "common room", pictured here.
In the meantime, Bob was chatting with one of the shopkeepers below, and I called him on cell phone, suggesting he might want to come upstairs to see my find. He’d no sooner arrived, than one of the guests emerged in stocking feet to get some ice from the frig. It was her first stay here and she was totally loving it. Views from the common room and every room and suite overlook Nehalem Bay. The guest raved that even her Jacuzzi had a gorgeous view! As we conversed, proprietor Winston came to say hello. He and his wife (and 9-year-old son, I later learned from one of the newspaper articles on the wall) live in the back part of the hotel. This interesting and creative couple (originally from L.A. and New York respectively) was motor-homing around the U.S. when they discovered Wheeler and the then very dilapidated and falling-apart old hotel, and decided to settle down here. The year was 1998. After 2 ½ years of hard work renovating and beautifying, they began taking guests in 2001.
Time flew by, with Winston graciously showing us some of the rooms not yet occupied by guests. Take a look at them yourself; you can view each room on Wheeler Hotel’s website. Nightly peak season rates range from $60-110 and include expanded continental breakfast, free DVDs you can view in your room, and the morning paper delivered on your doorstep. Winston showed us how for larger families and groups, several of the rooms can be connected to form suites of 2 or even 3 rooms, from $125-240 nightly. The hotel has a massage room, courtesy phones, and high-speed internet access as well. Back woods of Oregon? Hardly! More like best of both worlds.
Like many of Oregon coastal towns, Wheeler began as a mill town in 1910, named for its founder, lumberman C. H. Wheeler. When the railroad connected Wheeler with Portland in 1911, growth and commerce thrived. Lumber and shingle mills did excellent business, and finished wood products were transported by rail to Portland. An early arrival to Wheeler was Dr. Harvey Rinehart and his bride in 1913. He was to establish the Rinehart Arthritis Clinic, which became quite well known, attracting patients from far and wide. For some time, the clinic was housed in the old Wheeler Hotel. In the 1940’s, Dr. Rinehart’s son Robert and daughter-in-law Dorothy, both MD’s, joined him in Wheeler to practice medicine. Between 1953 and 1989, Wheeler even had a hospital.
But by 1990, due to geo-economic-political changes, no more physicians were practicing in town. The end of that year, grandson of Dr. Harvey and son of Drs. Robert and Dorothy, Dr. Harry Rinehart, was called up for the Army Reserves during Desert Storm. By 1992, he was working in Wheeler as an employee of Tillamook County General Hospital. In one of those twists of history where things come around full circle, Dr. Harry Rinehart is now the medical director of private non-profit Rinehart Clinic, the third generation of Rineharts to be providing medical care for Wheeler citizens!
The Tillamook Burn is remembered by old-timers in Wheeler and other old lumber towns in Tillamook County. This refers to a big fire, or series of fires actually, between 1933 and 1945. The 1933 fire was the biggest, burning 240,000 acres of forest. Coming during the Depression, it compounded the region’s economic woes. Salvage logging of the burned areas was carried out until as late as 1955. Before then, massive replanting of the Burn with Douglas fir had begun, much of it by ordinary citizens and even school children. The oldest of these replanted forests are now 70 years old. In 1973, the Tillamook Burn became part of Tillamook State Forest, which also includes some unburned old forest. The state has designated up to 85% of the forest as loggable, engendering controversy between logging interests, who are eager to maximize their yield, and conservation groups, who are pushing to have the percentage reduced to 50%, which would have less impact on purity of water and wildlife habitats.
A brief video plays continuously, introducing us to the dairy farming traditions of the Tillamook area. Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) is a cooperative that began in 1909 with ten cheese factories. Today it’s owned and operated by 150 local dairy families. Pride in the co-op’s history and high-quality products is evident from the video and the many entertaining and informative displays. Here’s an "udderly amazing" cow fact: The average cow yields 10,000 gallons of milk in her lifetime.
Getting in line for a taste of cheese was what we did next, deciding we were ready for a little snack before going upstairs to view production. Even waiting in line is educational and not boring at TCCA. Since not an inch of wall space is wasted, this is where I read that besides milk, famous cheese, and other dairy products, Tillamook cows create another less –um, tasty product: 322,500 TONS of manure annually. Manure management can be challenging. Though some of it is used to fertilize fields, excess animal waste can find its way into waterways, resulting in hefty fines (up to $20,000) for pollution.
Squeaky curds were just too rubbery for my taste, but interesting nevertheless. And yes, they really DO squeak when chewed. Far better were the other samples, especially the extra sharp and the vintage white extra sharp (aged 2 years). The cheese-tasting area ends too soon in the Northwest Gourmet Foods Shop, full of tempting products dairy and non (smoked seafood for one). We got even hungrier as we passed the fudge counter, which was too busy selling to hand out free samples.
Yep, we decided it was time for a bite at the Farmhouse Café. We grabbed a menu and got in line. I’d hoped for "cheesier" selections; this was your basic burger-sandwich-soup and salad menu, with the exception of the Favorites section, 7 sandwiches that included grilled cheese. I chose the Cheese Works, cheddar and Swiss on sourdough, accompanied by fries and chocolate milk. Bob chose a ham and cheddar. Suggestions for Tillamook: Add fondues and cheese and fruit appetizers to your menu. More truly cheesy choices, please!
No longer hungry, we went upstairs to view the cheese making and packaging areas. Shower-capped women and men in white stand at stations along the lines, efficiently separating, weighing, and watching. Forty pound blocks of cheese slide along large belts coming from beyond the observation area to cheese-cutting machines, where they are cut into two pound "baby" loaves, manually separated and placed on narrower belts, then go through a packaging machine, and are inspected yet again before being transported up and away out of the observation area.
Modern-day cheese-making at Tillamook is regulated by the high-tech Cheddarmaster. But before entry into its yaws, it begins with the many pastures of contented and well-fed cows easy to spot barely beyond city limits, in all directions. It continues with the freshness of Tillamook milk, quickly stored in silos after passing quality testing. After being cooked in giant vats, Amatto vegetable coloring and rennet for coagulation and ripening are both added to the milk until it curds. At this point, nascent cheese enters the Cheddarmaster, all automatically and computerized, draining the whey from the curds and matting, turning, testing, milling and salting the curd. Into the curd towers for compression, then cooling and aging. Old-fashioned dairy tools, products, memorabilia and cheese videos can be viewed in the center of the large hall and between the full-length windows overlooking cheese production.
Quality control: Lest you think cheese-making is purely automatic, Tillamook still employs real human Master Cheesemakers, skilled in their craft and dedicated to upholding the quality of their product. Apprentices are required to learn cheddaring the old-fashioned way, to gain an appreciation and true understanding of the intricacies and complexities of the process.
Dessert! The upstairs ice cream counter was doing brisk business, and we got in line where we could study the flavors. Bob and I shared a German chocolate cake ice cream cone, and as each creamy bite melted on my taste buds, I decided that never again would I buy cheap ice cream.
Address: 4175 Highway 101 North Tillamook, OR Phone: 503-815-1300 Hours: Open daily 8 AM to 8 PM summer; 8am to 6pm fall, winter, spring
As the road curves south, it’s high up enough to view the five-mile-long, finger-like Bayocean Spit pointing north. Between 1910 and the 1930’s, Bayocean was a bustling resort, the intended "Atlantic City of the West", with two hotels, a natatorium, dance hall, and 1600 lots sold for homes. The Depression and Oregon’s fierce winter storms were too much for Bayocean. In the 1950s, most of the crumbling buildings were burned and bulldozed. Today, not a trace of it remains.
We took the turnoff to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and National Wildlife Refuge. In the covered welcome kiosk next to the parking lot, you can learn some of the reasons Cape Meares is so special. The diverse habitat of old growth forest adjacent to ocean makes it a precious haven for wildlife, birds, and plants. And then of course there’s the lighthouse.
Off the parking lot and along the path to the lighthouse are fully accessible wildlife refuge overlooks. Be sure to bring your binoculars. The steep rocky cliffs with small grassy ledges are nesting areas for the once endangered but now thriving peregrine falcon. Black orange-beaked oystercatchers can be viewed feeding on mussels, crabs and other mollusks along the rocky shoreline. Curiously, they are misnamed; they don’t eat oysters at all. Offshore, rocks are thick with common murre colonies.
Just as the path drops off, the very top of Cape Meares Lighthouse looks like you could walk right into the tower containing Fresnel lens, glowing red with afternoon sun. Standing at 217 feet above sea level, the lighthouse only needed to be 38 feet tall, the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Built in one year of iron, sheet metal, and locally made clay bricks, it’s eye a Paris-built First Order Fresnel lens shipped around the horn, Cape Meares Lighthouse began operating on New Years Day, 1890. Three keepers kept the kerosene lamps burning from sunset to sunrise every day. Keepers and their families lived isolated, self-sufficient lives. Tillamook was a 7 hour buckboard ride away, or an entire day by boat at high tide only.
With an automated beacon placed nearby, Cape Meares Lighthouse was decommissioned and closed in 1963. Soon afterwards, it was heavily vandalized and almost demolished, but area residents banded together to save it, and it became a state park in 1968. In 2003, the tower was fully repaired and reconstructed. Adjoining the lighthouse is an interpretive and souvenir shop, replica of the old workroom, which closes at 4 PM. You can’t help rooting for this spunky little lighthouse, so short and squat but determined to survive against great odds.
We returned to the parking lot via the southern path, which offers stunning views of Three Arch Rocks in the ocean and Short Beach, above which homes are perched on the cliffs. Three Arch Rocks is a group of picturesque rocks and islets rich in birds and a stellar sea lion colony. Birdlife includes common murres and puffins, guillemots, and three different kinds of cormorants. A popular sport on Sundays at the turn of the century was chartering a boat to shoot nesting seabirds on Three Arch Rocks. Naturalist photographers William Finley and Herman Bohlman were instrumental in getting legislation passed that stopped this slaughter and led to the establishment of Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Today, these rocks support the largest nesting colony of murres south of Alaska, and sea lions use the rocks as a breeding ground. No humans allowed!
Yet another wonder of nature grows a short hike southeast of the parking lot: the Octopus Tree. Held sacred by local indigenous peoples, this unusual Sitka spruce did not put its growth energy into a straight single trunk, but instead sent six limbs out symmetrically sideways and upwards to grow candelabra-like. (Sextopus Tree? I think not.) Each limb-trunk is at least 12 feet around, and the base of the entire tree has a 50 foot circumference. The scientific explanation for this phenomenon holds that the combination of strong coastal winds and sheltered hollow of its location caused this type of growth. Many old Sitka spruce share similar weather and wind conditions to this, but still grow single trunks. I choose to believe the tree is indeed sacred. Lucky enough to walk around it alone, it really does have a magical feel and strong presence.
Barview Jetty Park: We drove down the road past a booth into a large campground. It’s a Tillamook County park, one of seven, we learned, after getting a paper from the lady in the booth. Plenty of spaces for RVs and tents, six restrooms with showers spread throughout the park, most of it sheltered behind the dunes. Cost, $15 per night for tent sites, $20-25 for RVs, $5 for hiker-biker sites. A few RV and bicycle camp spaces were out in the open by the jetty. For hardier souls apparently. Though it was a sunny day, the wind was fierce.
Barview Jetty was surprisingly busy. At least, it felt that way. Not that many people, but combined effects of birds and wind created lots of commotion. Some solitary people fishing braved the breeze; a family wandered by the skeletal wooden trestles and out onto the jetty. A sign on the fenced-off observation tower facing towards the water warned ROUGH BAR.
Jetties are a fact of life along the Oregon Coast at the mouths of rivers flowing into the ocean. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) went on a jetty-building rampage in the late 19th Century, with the intent of reducing the hazards of ship navigation through river channels. Basically, what jetties do is extend the mouths of rivers further out into the sea, concentrating and accelerating water flow, scouring out sand and debris, making it less likely vessels will flounder on sand bars. Use caution when clambering around on jetty rocks though. Erosion and underlying currents, not to mention the sheer slipperiness of the rocks when wet, makes walking on jetties potentially dangerous.
The wooden posts that had formed the base of a railroad trestle were sticking up, out and akimbo along the shore. They formed an awkward contrast to the massive swirls of driftwood lying elegantly here and there among the sand and rocks nearby. Some simply look majestic in their size, but others are twisted into tortured evocative curls that stir the imagination. No wonder artists get inspired to give nature a hand with driftwood creations.
Gazing north over the wind-sculpted dunes out over the ocean, I spied Twin Rocks faintly visible behind ocean spray and sand blow. We’d seen these two sea stacks from Rockaway Beach 4-5 miles upcoast. What are sea stacks? They’re composed of basalt, the result of pre-Ice Age volcanic eruptions issuing from great fissures of the ancient Columbia Plateau. This lava intruded into soft marine sediments at the mouth of the Columbia River, cooling and solidifying into hard basaltic rock, which remained buried for eons. With land lift over time, and Ice Age-caused erosion, more headlands formed and rocks became exposed, among them, Twin Rocks one mile south of Rockaway. Best views of this sea stack is turning oceanward on Minnehaha Street. I only became aware of this later when reading more about the area, otherwise we would certainly have done so.
Less than half a mile south of Barview, a traffic turnout and recently constructed trail will take you practically to within touching distance of The Three Graces. Also composed of basalt, there are actually more than three islets that protrude out of the ocean, especially at low tide. But the biggest three gave the formation its name, and the basalt cliffs on the land side of the highway is probably part of the same structure. The Graces have trees growing on them, the middle Grace a windblown, spindly but extremely tenacious cypress tree that’s managed to hold on over the years despite forces of wind and water. The other two Graces also are bedecked in shorter trees, foliage and mosses.
Rodeo, New Mexico