Exploring Tillamook County, Kari-style!

I had about an hour after saying goodbye to our old home & forest before meeting my dad & Dona who had driven down to the coast to have lunch with me. After driving slowly along McDonald Road enjoying the beautiful lush scenery of cow fields and coastal range, I stopped in Nehalem to shop. There really are only a few stores in the town, pretty close to how it was when I was growing up doing my Christmas shopping there. I did, however, find a really cool old glass Japanese fishing float at an antique store. Its probably about 10” in diameter, has the old rope still on it & barnacles too! I’ve wanted one of those old floats since I was a kid & have never managed to find one on the beach, so I might as well buy one. I think it’ll look nice having a bit of the coast back in my home in Utah.

In Manzanita we got some box lunches from a deli in the same location that Blue Sky Café was when I was in high school. I worked there as a busser & a prep-cook. I loved it! Its right above the café where my dad’s old surveying & engineering office was. So many hours spent in dad’s office throughout growing up… Hanging out as a kid, then my very first job was cleaning his office, and then I finally was able to work as an assistant secretary to my aunt Julie starting when I was 14. Manzanita sure has come a long way in the past 20 years. Its always been a cute little beach town, but now its even more developed; all kinds of cute little shops & restaurants along Laneda Avenue in cedar shake buildings. Talk about charm!

We enjoy our lunch on the rocks at the end of Laneda right on the corner of Ocean Avenue. The same spot that Tiffanie & I used to sit on the rocks for hours on end. Not much else to do in that sleepy little town back then other than watch tourists. Speaking of tourists, I couldn’t believe how many people there were on the beach! It again was a perfect weather day for the beach. Not a cloud in the sky or breath of wind anywhere – absolutely magnificent! I was there in my sundress, warm, enjoying the beach. My dad asked as we waded in the still freezing cold ocean, if I could remember such a beautiful day on the beach growing up. “Never!” I replied. It really was a gift to enjoy such a day.

With Dad & Dona, in a SUNDRESS, on the Manzanita beach!

After our short stroll on the beach, it was time for me to hit the road. I had exploring to do! I decided that I wanted to explore the areas of Tillamook County that I wasn’t so familiar with. Nehalem is in north county & I’m definitely a north county gal. I barely could remember many places at all down in south county. But first, I stopped  by the Nehalem Bay Winery. Why not? I had never been before. I guess it makes sense, I moved to Portland when I was 18 & was too young to go then. Of course I had been back visiting over the years, but never had made it, so this time I did. The wine was fair, but I bought some bottles anyway, for posterity’s sake. Nice to have some wine bottles that say Nehalem Bay.

Back in Sofia, I headed south on Hwy 101. I had asked Mr. Mulcahy where he recommended that I get some fresh crab for dinner. He referred me to Kelly’s, a marina just north of Rockaway Beach. He guaranteed it was the best crab on the north Oregon coast. It was a fun experience stopping there. The crabs were live, caught earlier that day. You pick one out & they boil it right then & there. After it cooks, they show you how to clean it if you’re so inclined, which, of course I was. They showed me how to drink the “crab butter” which is all the juices that are in the shell once you open it up & also found the heart for me to eat – so yummy! Crab in my fridge, further south I drove.

Its really hard to skip a Tillamook Ice Cream cone while passing through, even though I’ve been to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for ice cream many many times.

Realize though, that it was one of the nicest days ever seen on the Oregon coast. Needless to say, the cheese factory was nothing less than a zoo! The 45 minute wait for an ice cream cone was definitely worth it as I licked my favorite flavors, Coffee Almond Fudge & Mountain Huckleberry. Yummmm!

It brought back memories of working the gate at the Tillamook County Fair as a kid, too. Each day we worked, we got a free ice cream cone. Every day I’d get the same flavors, and I’d work all 5 days as my mom organized the entire gate & ticket sales. That’s a lot of ice cream! Our church manned the gates as a fundraiser for our private Christian school.

Oh what fun I had roaming all over that fairgrounds from dawn to dark, taking tickets during my shifts and during my off hours exploring the 4H barns full of cows, horses, bunnies, and chickens, the beautiful flower displays, the grange displays, looking through all the vending booths, eating my favorite fair foods (deliciously gooey cheese blimp, onion rings, yaki soba noodles, and bratwurst with sauerkraut), wandering through the carnival, watching the horse races & the topper of it all, watching the pig-n-ford races! Maybe I’m biased, but the Tillamook County Fair really is one of the best small town fairs out there. One of these years, I’m going to make it back during fair time. I just missed it by a week this year.

I deviated from Hwy 101, as I wanted to drive the Three Capes Scenic Route. My research of the 40-mile route indicated that is the most spectacular stretches of scenery on the Oregon Coast if not the entire west coast. Sadly, I couldn’t remember ever driving the whole route. How could I be from Tillamook County & not have driven this road? Also, I wanted to try to make it to each of the light houses along the Oregon coast.  The initial part of the route is driving out along the Tillamook Bay, such a pretty scene with Garibaldi & Bay City across the bay.

Tillamook Bay

I drove down the long road out to the Bayocean spit. Bayocean used to be a town out there in the early 1920’s that eroded into the ocean. The story always fascinated me.

Sofia & the bay

The community of Cape Meares is a tiny little place. Not necessarily meant for RVs I realized as I got to the end of the main street & had to turn around in the middle of the intersection as dead end signs were all around. Little did I know it was only the beginning for me of trying to turn around in tight places!

Cape Meares has a big spruce tree that I stopped to see. It was designated in 2008 as the largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon. It stands 144 feet tall, 48 feet in circumference and 15 ½ feet in diameter, its estimated to be 750 to 800 years old.

Cape Meares Big Spruce

Now, I don’t really know if I believe it’s the biggest spruce tree in Oregon. There is a spruce tree that Snuffy took us too up Rector Ridge Road in Gods Valley that we always called the Big Spruce. It is a really big spruce tree too! Its just not known to the public as its way off a main road. We always loved having that secret tree way up in the woods behind our house. We’d take our friends there sometimes & show them that really big tree. I thought of visiting it on this trip, but didn’t want to risk my luck by taking Sofia up Rector Ridge. LOL!

Cape Meares view

I checked out the lighthouse (I’ll post a blog of lighthouse pictures later) & the Octopus Tree which are also in Cape Meares park. The Octopus Tree is also a massive Sitka spruce with branches like giant tentacles growing from its 50-foot base. According to historians and Tillamook tribal descendants, it was a ceremonial tree with the branches trained this way to hold cedar canoes and other ritual objects.

Octopus Tree

Driving south past Oceanside, I remembered a special lunch date I went on there once with a dear guy, Dave. Netarts, I didn’t really think was much to write home about, although they do have a nice large bay with lots of signs about clamming that interested me. Driving down the windy bumpy road, I realized that this drive was called a “scenic route” and not a “scenic byway”. It definitely was a small town back road with more slide areas than not! Cape Lookout was next and I have a hard time remembering if I have ever been there before. Finally, after a lot of slow twists and turns (there was no way to drive fast on that route!), I arrived in Cape Kiwanda.

I hadn’t realized how excited I would be too see the dunes of Cape Kiwanda! I couldn’t wait to find a spot to park Sofia & get down to the beach! The fog was starting to roll in off the ocean by this point, as is typical when it’s a hot day in the Willamette Valley. The beach here was packed as well with trucks all over the beach. Pacific City is one of the few places you can still drive on the beach.

Cape Kiwanda beach

They launch dory boats from the beach there. I went out one time with our friends, the Coons, when I was about 13. I thought it would be a fun day fishing out in the ocean; I had never been on a boat in the ocean before. It was fun driving down to the beach & riding the boat as it crashed through the breakers on the way out. However, the minute we slowed down & started fishing, I was over the edge absolutely seasick! What a horrible day! All day long, I lay snuggled up in the bow slowly eating red grapes – the only thing in the lunch that I could possibly imagine eating only to promptly throw it back up. Yuck!

Thank goodness I have better memories of Cape Kiwanda as well. I remember field trips there in grade school, all us kids racing to the top of the big sand dune, then rolling & sliding all the way down. Also, checking out all creatures in the great tide pools at the base of the sandstone cliffs.

Climbing up the smaller part of the sand dune & walking out past the fence towards the ocean is the “Natural Area”. A “dangerous area” as the sign points out, but definitely the most spectacular. Looking down on the ocean pounding into the sandstone cliffs is quite a site to see.

Cliffs & Pacific

Those cliffs hold a special place in my heart. It was my eighth grade initiation party at the end of my seventh grade year. We were all supposed to be over on the big sand dune playing capture the flag. LOL! Monty & I never did play capture the flag that day. Instead we found a natural cave area under a forest of beach pines there on the cliffs. What a romantic spot it was to make out with the waves crashing below and gulls serenading us. Its pretty hard to top a time and a place like that when you’re in 7th grade.

I left the cliffs wanting to climb all the way to the top of the big dune. And so I climbed, up and up and up. Stopping along the way to look around, laughing that everyone climbing kept stopping & doing the same. There is no easy way to climb up a 500’ dune!

Made it to the top!

View to the north

I ran, laughing, all the way down the dune! Oh, what FUN!! Totally makes you feel young & alive running down a sand dune!

The sun was setting as I walked the beach back up to Pacific City. What a fantastic day I had enjoyed, exploring Tillamook County just the way I wanted to.

Cape Kiwanda sunset

I planned to stop in quickly for a beer and a cup of chowder at the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City before driving further south before finding a spot to camp for the night. As I was nearing the restaurant, I saw an old friend from Spokane sitting there! Dave & Wendy live in the Portland area now & had come down for the day with their kids. I hadn’t seen them in years. They invited me to have dinner with them and the restaurant was able to accommodate the extra person. It was so great catching up with them! After dinner, I managed to snag the very last RV spot at the local RV park; the parking angel my friend Alisa gave me was definitely on overtime that night!

The day turned out exactly as it should have. What an incredible day!!!

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