Cheeses, Treeses and Ocean Breezes (and Pinot and Gin)

Today John and I headed north once again, this time to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory and a few other sites along the way. The day dawned spectacularly bright and sunny; we had a toast-and-bacon breakfast again and set off on our way.

This is a photo of the separation tank at Tillamook, where we watched several gentlemen stick something like a large sieve in one end of the tank and push all the curds southward, while the whey drifted north. Then they used a couple of beautiful shiny pitchforks to keep stirring and separating the mass. This may sound dull but it was actually interesting enough that we lingered at this particular station for some time, eschewing the more active shunting of the cheeses and slicing of the cheeses and wrapping of the cheeses that was going on elsewhere in the factory. Afterward, we sampled the various cheeses (including cheese curds, which squeak between your teeth) and then segued into the Farmhouse Cafe for lunch, where John ordered (what else) a cheeseburger and I ordered (what else) a grilled cheese sandwich. We were actually a bit disappointed in the quantity of cheese contained in both meals; we had expected a plethora of cheesy goodness but there was simply a slice of cheese on the burger and a slice of cheese on the griller.

After buying the requisite cheese in the Tillamook shop (as well as our requisite squished pennies and refrigerator magnets), we took a trip westward and ended up on the Three Capes Scenic Route. First we visited Cape Meare, a small lighthouse which you can actually look down on before entering it. Also at Cape Meare is the Octopus Tree (it has a number of other names, but Octopus seems to suit it best – it’s been around for a long time and was a Council Tree for some of the local Native American tribes). The tree is just plain weird – it’s an enormous Sitka Spruce that has developed in a very strange way, with huge muscular arms that stretch east and west like seguaro cactus and then shoot straight up.

After we visited the Octopus Tree, we walked down to the entrance to the Cape Meare light, then up into the light itself. It’s not a tall lighthouse, since it’s set so high on a cliff, and we had fun chatting with one of the volunteers inside the light, who told us that if we took a photo through the light’s Fresnel lens, the landscape on the other side would be upside down, but the subject of the photo (in this case, John) would be right side up. The resulting photo is kind of funky but fun.

After Cape Meare, we continued down the Three Capes Scenic Route. Cape Lookout is only truly visible by taking a coupla-mile hike, so we opted not to do that and continued south toward Cape Kiwanda and the Devil’s Punchbowl. The latter was formerly a sea cave, but its roof fell in some years ago and the resultant cauldron still fills with every incoming tide. It was cold and windy up on Cape Kiwanda and a nearby wine shop looked awfully nice, so we went over for a visit. Even though they had just closed, the clerk let us in and we tasted an awful lot of very nice Flying Dutchman wine (the only winery on the Oregon coast). Finally we bought a bottle of Pinot Noir and a very nice pair of earrings for me.

Based on the recommendation of the Flying Dutchman’s clerk, we decided to head back to Newport and the Rogue Brewery for our dinner. John enjoyed fish and chips; I had a nice bowl
of steamers in an ale-and-garlic broth. Rogue also distills its own spruce-based gin; John is a big gin fan and a devotee of Bombay Sapphire, but he liked the Rogue gin well enough that we went on a wild search for a place to purchase it – we found a shop which had already closed, but with a compliant clerk who was happy to sell us a bottle as long as we had the exact amount due (which, by some miracle, we had). So we stowed the gin against another day, took the Flying Dutchman Pinot Noir back to the hotel and drank it, accompanied by some Tillamook Vintage Sharp Cheddar, Tillamook Smoked Oysters and some crackers. It was a truly Oregonian finish to our day, and we will be sorry to leave the lovely Elizabeth Street Inn and head back east tomorrow.


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