Thursday, August 29, 2013

What a Friend We Have In Cheeses (Oregon Trip Part III)

This is the third in a three part extravaganza[i]  about our July 4th trip to the Oregon Coast. You may wish to read the first and second posts first, but hey, it’s up to you, I’m not the blog police.

Cape Mears Panoramic
Cape Meares Panoramic (raw)

Day 5
Day 5 is usually the point in a vacation where my grandiose dreams of getting up at the crack of dawn, strapping 40 pounds of photography gear to my back, and heading out into the morning chill start to give way to the allure of soft, warm beds[ii]. Not to be deterred, I dragged myself once more out onto the beach, but didn’t find much of consequence.

GullLeast (?)
SandpiperPocked Rock
Anemones, Western Gull, Least Sandpiper, Pocked Rock

The plan for the day was an excursion out of Cannon Beach down to Tilamook to visit the Tilamook Cheese Factory. I cannot emphasize enough how much a priority this was for my wife; she comes from a cheese-loving people. The drive south through the highlands had some fantastic views of the long stretch of the Oregon coast.   We passed through a half-dozen generic tourist towns on the way to Tilamook as the land gradually flattened to rolling dairy country.

Coastal Vista

The Tilamook Factory is seemingly the big tourist draw for northern Oregon. Even given that it was the 4th of July weekend, the crowds were pretty intense. We took the disappointingly short tour which was made gloriously worthwhile by the “free cheese bins” in the tasting area at the end. I had an unhealthy amount of cheese, and then bought a massive bag of cheese curds to go. The largest lines were for their ice cream, which apparently is a local fave. The ice cream, as it turned out, was not free like the cheese, but pretty tasty anyway.

IMGP5677Cheese Line
Ice CreamIMGP5688
Tilamook Cheese Factory, Cheese Line, Cheese Factory Floor, Ice Cream Line, Family with Ice Cream

On our way back we took the “three Capes” tour of some of the refuges and parks along the coast. I managed to find some sea lions basking far offshore, and vast flocks of Murres and other sea birds. We spent a little time at Cape Meares where they have a Fresnel lens lighthouse which is apparently a big deal. The 180+ degree sweep of the Pacific Ocean visible from the lighthouse was impossible to catch on film in a way that really conveyed its vastness.

Ecola State Park
Murre Colony
Cape Meares Coast, Cape Meares Raw Panoramic, Island (B&W), Fresnel Light, Lighthouse, Cape Cliffside, Sea Lions, Murre Colony

Before we left, we followed signs to see the famed “Octopus Tree”. Sadly, this turned out to pretty much just be a tree with a lot of branches, not a tree full of octopi. However, that utter failing was buffered by the chance to see my old field nemesis[iii], the Peregrine Falcon, making dramatic dives along the cliffside nearby.

So-called Octopus Tree.

That night there was pizza and more Agricola, during which my empire of sheep expanded nicely.

Day 6
On our last full day, instead of heaving my weary carcass toward the early morning shore like an aged Elephant Seal, I lifted a metaphorical middle finger in the general direction of the beach and opted to sleep in.
The whole family went for a long last walk on the beach, watching the wildlife in the tidal pools and got good views of some fairly complacent Pigeon Guillemots learning to fly and feed from a rocky outcrop. If the Peregrine Falcon is the Brad Pitt[iv] of the bird world, the Pigeon Guillemots are the Woody Allen.

Cannon Beach
Beach Wood
(B&W) Dave and
Cannon Beach Vista, Pigeon Guillemots, Beach Wood (B&W), Dave and Mom McColgin

Since it was our last leisurely morning, we went back to the Pig and Pancake for another ridiculously large brunch. One of the local delicacies is, I kid you not, the Marionberry[v]. Unlike its homophonic political counterpart, however, the Marionberry is a fine upstanding part of the local community.

We saw Kate’s brother and his wife off after breakfast, and then went with her parents up to Seaside, another nearby tourist town. It was about the time we rolled into Seaside that we realized our assumptions about the Oregon coast, based mostly on the over-the-top floral niceness of Cannon Beach, may not be entirely universal. Simply put, Seaside was like a particularly bad stretch of the Jersey Shore on a weekend where a booking error lead to Guidofest, the Gathering of the Juggalos, and some low budget Spring Break knockoff happening all at the same time in the same place. We gave it a fair shot, but the combination of ultra-touristy schlock and outright squalor had us returning to Cannon Beach fairly quickly[vi]

The rest of the day was devoted to bumming around the beach, reading, napping and other traditional beach cottage pursuits. We managed to snag some last minute reservations at the Irish Table, a very exclusive[vii] little restaurant we had been trying to get into all week long. The meal was fantastic; full of Irish food[viii], we waddled back to the hotel.

Irish Table
The Irish Table

All week long I had been trying to get one of the fire pits on the beach outside the hotel for an evening on fire. People held on to them like they were gold mines…several times I left a chair or two down there, only to find them discarded and someone else squatting at our fire pit. On this last evening we were finally able to fend off the flip-flop-clad wolves and get our own fire going. As the evening dwindled on I noticed some folks down the beach with large lights along the beach near their fire. As the lights started to ascend, I realized they were launching fire balloons. The sight was a great way to end the trip, sitting by myself in the dark by a fire watching fire balloons rise into the midnight sky above the crashing waves[ix].


[i] Italian for “long-winded, rambling diatribe”.
[ii] It’s also about the time when I start getting tired of taking pictures. I usually end up with hundreds of pictures from the first day, and then am lucky if I feel like taking any by the last day. First day photos are perfectly composed and artistic creations from my best gear. Last day photos are likely to be half-assed phone camera pictures of food.
[iii] I hike in areas where the Peregrines are fairly common, but had never seen one in the wild before. The sheer chance of never having seen one had grown to such an extent that they were officially upgraded to nemesis status. As nemeses go, I suppose a falcon is a more impressive than having to say your primary nemesis is something like a Tufted Titmouse.
[iv] Think Brad Pitt in Troy as opposed to Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys.
[v] They use it in about everything. Marionberries in the syrup, in the milkshake, in the crepes, etc etc ect. Literally the first and last meals, and most in between, had marionberries which are pretty much just Dark Blackberries.  However, much like other things with dark versions (chocolate, Phoenix, etc.), the Dark version is inherently superior to the boring normal version.
[vi] Even the wildlife there was cut-rate. Instead of the regal Western Gulls and seabirds of Cannon Beach, Seaside mostly had actual pigeons and Ring-billed Gulls, the Ringo Starrs of the Gull family.
[vii] Their exclusivity was in part due to the populartity of their food, but also the incredibly tiny size of the restaurant; essentially the back room of a large coffee shop.
[viii] Which apparently consists of more than just steak, potatoes, soda bread, and whiskey. For instance, there was also a parsley garnish on my whiskey-potatoes steak. 
[ix] Though part of me was thinking in less poetic terms about the potential forest fire danger of launching burning things toward dry timber. 

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