Exploring the Oregon Coast

"The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul."


State 20: Oregon - November 14, 2017


We woke up at a Walmart in St. Helens, excited about the day’s events! Today, we drive West for 86 miles through the Clatsop State Forest enroute to Cannon Beach, OR as a launch point to explore the states shoreline via Route 101. Nate and I love oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and anything having to do with water. Hell, we even like jumping in puddles! I can’t wait to see the surprises the Oregon’s shore has in store for the Cross Country Couple!

The drive through Clatsop State Forest was breathtaking, and reminiscent of our visit to Washington’s Olympic National Park a few weeks ago. Tree branches coated with a thick carpet of bright green moss cascaded over the windy two lane forest road. Occasionally, a brilliant ray of sunlight would pierce the overcast sky illuminating the moss like a neon sign in the night. Unlike Olympic National Park, Clatsop State Forest is not federally protected, and open to logging at the discretion of the Oregon Department of Forestry. We had the misfortune of witnessing the destructive consequences of their discretion first hand. Every few miles, our scenic surroundings would be abruptly imposed upon by acres of barren wastelands consisting of uprooted tree stumps, and mountains of mangled branches littering the landscape. We counted 32 logging trucks whom passed us on our drive. It was quite disturbing to witness such carnage first hand!


The seaside town of Cannon Beach has a very interesting history. The first American to visit the area now known as Cannon Beach was the famous explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expeditions in 1805. William Clark described Cannon Beach in his own words as, “The grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless ocean". In 1846, the Navy schooner; USS Shark sank after hitting the Columbia Bar off the Oregon Coast. In 1898, One of the sunken ship's cannons were discovered washed ashore on the town's beach, and the town name was officially changed to Cannon Beach in 1922. The exact cannon for which the town is named resides in the city’s museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed during our visit. It would have been very interesting to view an example of 19th century US Naval History, which also provided the inspiration in the naming of the town!

Next, we parked Rosie, and made our way to the beach in search of the Cross Country Couple's “Historic Location” for Oregon; Haystack Rock. Haystack Rock is one of the most iconic and photographed geological formations in Oregon. At 235 feet tall, Haystack Rock towers directly adjacent to the beach, and the smaller rocks which surround it are called needles. LOL!!! Get it? Needle in a haystack! Haystack Rock is able be reached on foot during low tide via a thin strip of rock and sand. Every year, an average of 10 people get stranded on Haystack Rock when the tide comes in prompting a rescue by the Coast Guard. We did not visit during low tide, but we managed to get as close to the formation as we safely could. If we went any closer to Haystack Rock the title of our next blog would have been “The Coast Guard Rescued the Cross Country Couple”.

Surprisingly, the most challenging part of getting to Haystack Rock was the wind. I am not talking about a gentle refreshing ocean breeze on a warm summer day. I am talking about sustained 65+ mph winds with significantly more powerful gusts! Lori and I walked across the beach with our arms interlocked, and still we were both barely able to stay vertical! Every time I took a picture, Lori anchored us down by wrapping her arms around my waist, or we would have both blown away! Twice, my Iphone almost blew out of my hand, and once Lori blew out of my grasp. I snapped a picture of the wind carrying her away before running down the beach to rescue her! I actually saw a seagull attempt to take off of the beach against the wind, and watched in shock as it hovered in midair for 30 seconds before landing back on the beach. I later did some research, and discovered as I suspected, seagulls are not supposed to hover in midair!

As fierce and relentless as the wind was, it also served to enhance the beauty of the beach. The wind whipped away the top layer of sand leaving behind the most beautiful mosaic on the surface of the shore. The gale force winds fueled the waves of the Pacific, and they violently crashed upon the shore in a tremendous thunder. The ferocity of Cannon Beach was unparalleled, but so was it's beauty! This stop will be a forever memorable experience of our cross country journey. We hope you enjoy the beautiful pictures below as we risked life and limb to get them.

After leaving Cannon Beach, we drive 42 miles South on Route 101 to Tillamook, OR to partake in the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Food” for Oregon; Tillamook Cheddar Cheese. Founded by ten independent dairy farmers in 1909, the Tillamook County Creamery Association or TCCA is a dairy cooperative of over 100 dairy farms in Tillamook County and employs over 900 Oregonians. The Tillamook Cheese Factory is the production site for the TCCA where they manufacture and sell dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, butter, sour cream and yogurt under the "Tillamook" brand name. The Cheese Factory produces more than 170,000 pounds of cheese each day, packages one million pounds of cheese each week, and has the capacity to age 50 million pounds of cheese simultaneously! By far, the TCCA’s most famous product is Tillamook cheddar cheese. In March 2010, Tillamook's Medium Cheddar Cheese beat out 59 other competitors to win the highly coveted gold medal in the World Cheese Championship hosted in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2010 and 2011, Tillamook sponsored the National Grilled Cheese Invitational in Los Angeles, CA!

Each year, 1.3 million tourists travel from far and wide to learn about the cheese making process at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The visitors center includes a self-guided tour from a viewing gallery over the main production floor, and include video presentations and interactive kiosks. Unfortunately, their visitors center closed in March of 2017, and a new one is in the process of being rebuilt and scheduled to open in 2018! In the interim, they set up a temporary visitor center, which was better than nothing. There were 2 parts to the visitor center, and we began our tour with an explanation of dairy farming. This section consists of a series of plastic cows, and dairy equipment used to milk them. The displays depicted a typical “day in the life of a dairy cow” in a very distorted version quite far from the actual truth. The most disturbing display was “Cows have their ears pierced too". The aforementioned statement makes light of the identification tags used to pierce a cow’s ears by equating them to humans piercing their own. Here is the truth! Humans have their ears pierced as a fashion statement, and we have a choice on whether or not to do so. Dairy cows have their ears pierced for identification, and have no say in the matter. Clearly, this is not the same! Please see the pictures below.

We then proceeded to the next section of the visitor center, which consisted of their gift shop, and retail store. We began by sampling of 6 different types of Tillamook Cheese. Each of the 6 cheeses were in a large bowl housed in an unrefrigerated large plastic buffet. Despite my better judgment and risking food poisoning, I tasted a sample of each, since it was our famous food for Oregon”. The exterior of each cheese cube had a hard and crusty membrane, and the inside of each was soft, sticky and at room temperature! It was so disgusting, and I felt as if I was going to be ill! I will say there was one unique type of cheese called smoked pepper jack I found it quite enjoyable. However, I was too grossed out by the other old crusty lukewarm cheese samples, I could not stomach buying any of their cheeses. In addition, the gift shop featured a series of refrigerated cases with all of Tillamook’s dairy product offerings, and shelves of sweatshirts, coolies, magnets and more all proudly featuring the Tillamook brand name. Please see the pictures below.

Our experience at the Tillamook Cheese Factory left much to be desired, and was overall kind of cheesy! However, I would like to give Tillamook a lot of credit for one positive action they took, which generated nationwide attention! In 2005, Tillamook was the first of the big national dairy brands to ban the use of Bovine growth hormones used to artificially boost a cow’s milk production. The Bovine Growth Hormones most commonly used today consists of the artificial grown hormones RBST. According to a study performed by the European Union, RBST use often results in severe and unnecessary pain, suffering and distress for cows from mastitis, foot disorders, and reproductive problems. There has been concerns throughout the world RBST may be connected to an increase in certain types of cancer, although studies have yet to make a definitive link. Nevertheless, The European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and Argentina, have all banned the use of RBST in cows. However, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, and 14 other countries have approved RBST as safe for commercial use in dairy and beef. Is RBST safe? Who are we supposed to believe? Since the experts can’t agree, I personally would air on the side of caution, and only buy dairy products marked RBST-free. Tillamook took a lot of heat from the dairy industry, and the Food and Drug Administration for their decision to discontinue the use of the artificial hormones RBST. The Cross County Couple commends Tillamook for putting the health of their customers before the profits of their cooperative.

Please see the additional pictures below of our trip along the Oregon Coast including some sea lions we encountered.

After departing Tillamook Cheese Factory, we drove 67 miles South to Newport, OR where we found a Walmart to spend the night.

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