It’s Not All Beaches

Oregon’s wild beaches are certainly beautiful, but we also love forests… and there’s plenty of those along the coast too.Douglas fir, red cedar as well as the more familiar Sitka spruce and hemlock tower over the ferns and the rest of the understory. A hike to see Drift Creek Falls featured a nifty pedestrian suspension bridge in the woods……and some unique mushrooms, among other pretty sights.We checked out the Tillamook State Forest Center, with neat interpretive exhibits about the history of the region and how the forest has recovered from widespread fires in the 1930s and 40s.  The center also had a pedestrian suspension bridge leading to hiking trails, and it was a nice spot to watch a little dipper bird fishing in the creek.  Ferns lined the hiking trails……and fall color made for beautiful reflections in the water.While the dominant fall color in the Pacific northwest is yellow, red is always my favorite.After getting a nice forest and fall color “fix”, we headed back to the coastline and beaches… I can’t even remember them all – there were so many!We decided that “too many beautiful beaches” is a great problem to have.We finished up with a late afternoon stop in the small town of Depoe Bay, watching gray whales blow and admiring the narrow inlet from the ocean into the protected harbor, where two Coast Guard 47′ Motor Lifeboats waited to assist anyone in trouble.


As mariners we have a special place in our hearts for lighthouses, so we wanted to check out as many of Oregon’s as possible.  They are set on headlands about 40 miles apart, with a light that’s visible for 20 miles so with reasonable visibility a mariner should start to see the next lighthouse just as they’re starting to lose sight of the last one as they move up and down the coast.  In the Tillamook area we were able to visit Cape Meares lighthouse……and enjoy the view as the fog rolled in.Notice in the photo above that the water around the rocks looks blue (reflected from the sky), and the color in the foreground is gray reflected from the fog.

Since the fog put a damper on seeing sweeping ocean vistas we headed back to the town of Tillamook, which is an agricultural valley – particularly for dairy.  You may or may not have heard of the Tillamook brand – it’s well known in the northwest for cheese and ice cream, and they have quite a big visitor center to show how they make some of their fabulous products.They had free samples of cheese, but you had to buy the ice cream… even though the length of the line made it look like they were giving it away for free!  Their store had some special varieties and flavors.  Hard to resist.Another cheese maker had a shop and farm yard nearby, so Jim couldn’t resist climbing up on a tractor – one of his very favorite things.And I found a sheep to pet!  As a knitter, I look at sheep as “sweaters in waiting”.The next day was bright and clear once again, and we spent the day exploring Cannon Beach just to the north.  It’s known for a beautiful beach as well as for a particularly large sea stack – a free-standing rock.  Haystack rock is 235′ tall – a big beastie!The tiny dots to the left of the rock are people.  And at low tide there are some marvelous tide pools at the base, full of tiny hermit crabs, chitons, starfish and anemones.The sand on many of these Oregon beaches is pretty firm, which makes it easy to walk on – not so tiring – and we enjoyed taking long strolls down the beaches as well as checking out the town’s shops (microbreweries, yarn and ice cream).

Heading Down the Oregon Coast

We’ve always heard good things about the Oregon coast, and we were excited to really spend some time exploring (most of) it.  We quickly discovered that there are about 74 State Park/Recreation areas along coastal Route 101 alone!  And of that number, about 16 of them have campgrounds.  Wow!!  The coast seems like an endless stretch of wild beaches – some broad and sandy, some rocky and rugged.  Sunset Beach State Park was a great example of how the tall spruce, Douglas fir and hemlock forest comes right down to the beach…The fine sand… rocks and tidepools… and the mist of salty air made for a spectacular setting.In the distance we could see Oregon’s northernmost lighthouse – Tillamook Rock, also known as “Terrible Tilly” because of its location on an offshore rock constantly pounded by the surf.A little farther down the coast, near the town of Tillamook, we hiked out to the promontory at Cape Lookout, with vistas of more beautiful beaches……the sounds of barking sea lions, and deep forest.  We were very lucky to have clear, dry weather – much nicer than we expected to find in the “Pacific North-Wet” in October.  The salal bushes still had a few flowers blooming, which made the bees happy.Despite the long, muddy, root-y hike out to Cape Lookout we still had enough energy for a short hike to see Munson Creek Falls in the late day light.The fall color wasn’t the best because the northwest had a pretty dry summer, but fall is my favorite season and I’m happy with any color at all.  Even these tiny mushrooms and pretty green leaves made me smile.  Beauty all over the place, great and small.