The second tour my wife arranged was a tour of the Oregon Coast, again with the Oregon Tour Company.
First reached by Lewis and Clark on Nov 15th, 1805, the Oregon Coast is where “Goonies Never Die.” This is a reference to the fact that several scenes from the Goonies movie were filmed in Astoria, Oregon.
We had a lot to see in a very short period of time, so I will give the highlights of the tour.
Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park is perched dramatically on the edge of Tillamook Head. Ecola Park Road winds through old growth rainforest before emerging at one of the Oregon Coast’s most famous views, overlooking numerous rock formations and the capes and headlands miles to the south. Paved walking trails provide vantage points for panoramic views including the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse lying just offshore on a lone rock in the Pacific. We looked for the elk that are sometimes grazing in the meadow but all we found was there poop. We did see some Bald Eagles flying overhead.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse sits abandoned on a rock about a mile off the Coast at Ecola State Park, just south of Seaside. It earned the moniker “Terrible Tilly” due to the challenges in construction and operations during its tenure. The lighthouse sits 133 feet above sea level and is 62 feet tall. Commissioned to guide ships entering the Columbia River, Tilly operated from 1881 to 1957. Since it was decommissioned, it has changed hands several times, and was most notably used as a columbarium (a storage place for the ashes of the deceased). It is currently privately owned and has no public access.
The first recorded journey by an American to what is now Cannon Beach was made by William Clark, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in early 1805. The expedition was wintering at Fort Clatsop, roughly 20 miles to the north near the mouth of the Columbia River. In December 1805, two members of the expedition returned to camp with blubber from a whale that had beached several miles south, near the mouth of Ecola Creek.
Clark and several of his companions, including Sacagawea, completed a three-day journey on January 10, 1806, to the site of the beached whale. They encountered a group of Native Americans from the Tillamook tribe who were boiling blubber for storage. Clark and his party met with them and successfully bartered for 300 pounds of blubber and some whale oil before returning to Fort Clatsop.
In 1846, a cannon from the US Navy schooner Shark washed ashore just north of Arch Cape, a few miles south of the community. The schooner hit land while attempting to cross the Columbia Bar, also known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The cannon, rediscovered in 1898, eventually inspired a name change for the growing community.
Cannon Beach is very much like a small New England town in respect to its architecture. The homes are mostly small but, I assure you, very expensive.
Haystack Rock is a 235-foot (72-meter) sea stack in Cannon Beach, Oregon. It is sometimes claimed locally to be the third-tallest such “intertidal” (meaning it can be reached by land) structure in the world, but there are no official references to support this. A popular tourist destination, the monolithic rock is adjacent to the beach and accessible by foot at low tide. The Haystack Rock tide pools are home to many intertidal animals, including starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs.
Visitors are encouraged to responsibly explore this exceptional natural area, walking only on sand and bare rock to avoid destroying the sea life that can take years to recover and preserving this outstanding natural area for all to enjoy. It’s best to plan your visit to Haystack Rock an hour or more before low tide. Always practice beach safety when exploring the intertidal zone, be aware of tides and never turn your back on the ocean.
Cannon Beach Bunnies
Cannon Beach has discovered that no agency has responsibility for the booming population of feral rabbits that has overtaken the popular beach town.
So, why so many bunnies in Cannon Beach? No one seems to know for sure, but one bit of lore that keeps getting passed around is that it had something to do with a local woman who decades ago apparently just let a bunch of them loose.
The Daily Astorian newspaper reported that some residents complained last month about a bunny infestation. They say their lawns are coated with rabbit poop and the bunnies are eating their gardens. But the city has investigated the issue and says the bunnies slip between the cracks of every state and local agency. Because they are feral — and not wild — state wildlife officials can’t help. And because they were released illegally at some point, the city can’t relocate them anywhere. Shelters are already overrun with unwanted rabbits. And the City Council doesn’t want to trap or kill the rabbits because they are popular with tourists.
Talk about a Catch-22!
Tillamook Cheese Factory
A visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory was a highlight of the tour. It is a place where you can (and we did) spend a lot of money.
I once had a consulting engagement with Hilmar Cheese. I thought it was a pretty big operation, but it paled in comparison to the Tillamook Operation. The manufacturing floor is as big as a football field.
Bigger, however, is the shopping area. You can buy chesses (of course), bread, wine and fudge.
The fudge is about the best I have ever had. I highly recommend it.
Because of its proximity to whitewater kayaking areas, my wife and I have thought about the possibility of moving to Oregon. However, we discovered that the area is prone to storms – BIG storms. These storms can be dangerous and deadly. Sneaker waves (a disproportionately large coastal wave that can sometimes appear in a wave train without warning) have killed several people along the coast in recent years. To give you an idea of how big the waves can be, below is a picture of Haystack Rock during a storm in December.
The Oregon Coast is also subject to tsunamis. Tsunamis triggered by nearby earthquakes offshore Oregon as well as distant tsunamis caused by earthquakes across the Pacific Ocean have struck the Oregon coast, the worst of which was in 1964. Four people in Oregon died as a result of that tsunami. To show you how serious the tsunami threat is, just look at the sign below. I’m familiar with hurricane evacuation routes, but have never seen a tsunami evacuation map!
A tour of the Oregon Coast is a pleasant way to spend a day, especially if the weather is a bit cloudy, cold and rainy (as it was when we took the tour). I’m pretty sure it would have been more fun if the weather was warm and sunny.