June 15, 2013 – This morning we meant to get up early, but jet lag and a long week led to a more leisurely breakfast. Fortunately this gave the fog time to clear and we were soon on our way out of Portland and headed to Tillamook. Tillamook is home to Tillamook Cheese, a collective of farmers who have been making cheese since the late 1800′s. These farmers built a shop out of wrecked and salvaged ship parts to get their product to market. The Tillamook logo pays homage to this ship, and the resilience of the cooperative. Before watching the factory workers (yes, the assembly line was running and was quite interesting to watch), make sure to check out the cheese samples. We loved the sharp cheddar and the creamy Monterrey jack. Also make sure to try some of their Tillamook Creamery ice cream - cookies and cream and anything with chocolate is highly recommended. Hint – there are two ice cream counters. Skip the crowded one downstairs and check out the one near the factory viewing platform.
Once we were fortified on cheese and ice cream we headed towards Oceanside and the coast. First up was an unscheduled stop at a lovely sand beach in Oceanside, complete with a pedestrian tunnel through a mountain (word of warning – it’s rather dark, and a bit slick, so walk carefully if you’re wearing sandals). Actually, if you’re wearing sandals and the tide is right, you can walk on the sandbar instead of through the tunnel. Just make sure you’re on the sandbar, or else you’ll likely get a bit wet. The highlight of the beach, besides the great, wide sandy section, was a group of giant rocks called Three Arch Rocks, set about a quarter mile out in the water. That and the gorgeous views of the coastline, of course.
After exploring the beach we continued a few minutes up the road to the Cape Meares lighthouse. An added bonus on the short walk down to the lighthouse was the chance to watch a baby peregrine falcon sitting in the nest. The parent falcons were out and about, chasing a bald eagle out of the bay. The baby was camouflaged very well, with fluffly white feathers and black spots. Honestly, it looked like a giant rock sitting behind two yellow flowers, until it started turning it’s head and stretching its wings.
The other sight as the lighthouse was the Octopus Tree. The octopus tree is a very old, very large, Sitka spruce. With lots and lots of arms, so you can really see how it got its modern-day name.
By now we were feeling hungry again, so we headed back to Tillamook for some grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots. Louisa enjoyed the cheddar, bacon and tomato, while Tony thought the cheddar, roast beef and bacon was the way to go. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with grilled cheese sandwiches from a cheese company.
As for the rest of the day, we spent it driving north to Seattle. Highlights of the trip were seeing a few elk out in a field, passing through Astoria, OR and over a very long bridge across the Columbia River (at a point where the river is so wide it looks like part of a bay), and enjoying some beautiful scenery.
Along the way we stopped at the Bee Hive Restaurant. This little diner has been around for quite a few decades, and is still serving up good food. If you’re looking for a fun, local, hard working little diner right off a small town main street, this is your place. Admittedly, there were a few surprises. The seafood saute wasn’t quite what we were anticipating – shrimp and scallops baked in a shallot/pepper/butter sauce – but the seafood was fresh and cooked well, so no complaints. The fried clam sandwich was well done, with thin, long strips of clam served atop buttered sourdough toast. The clam chowder was very good, and we thought the bacon was a nice addition. Make sure to try some of their berry pie, but skip the (slightly stale but definitely huge) sweet roll. Overall, we’d recommend sticking with the chowder, pie (any of them!), and fried seafood, and you’ll be good to go. And I bet they serve a fantastic diner breakfast as well. We’ll definitely stop there next time we’re driving through.