Three Capes Scenic drive today, including Cape Meares Lighthouse and Octopus Tree, then visited the Pioneer Museum in Tillamook.
03.25.2008 - 03.25.2008 45 °F
This morning we decided to drive the "Three Capes" scenic drive.
The name has me a little confused. When we were driving down the eastern seaboard, we learned that major headlands that jut out into the ocean enough to impact currents are often called 'Capes". Other types of headlands include penninsula's and promitories. Here in Oregon it seems that every spit of land is called "Cape" such and such? Maybe they really are 'Capes', or maybe the west coast naming schemes are just a little different, I'm not sure. Looking at our atlas however, it's hard to picture the NW coast of Oregon as having the same impact on ocean currents as Cape Cod, Cape Fear or Cape May on the east coast.
At any rate, going with the map names, our route today took us by Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares - "The Three Capes".
First, we started by driving south a few miles from the campground to check out Pacific City. It was pretty cold and rainy out, so we didn't do much there, but I wanted to have an idea what it looked like. I softened Mom up a bit with a couple of donuts (she's not too fond of cold, damp weather). We passed this Great Blue Heron along a river that didn't seem any happier with the wind then we were.
The wind makes for more dramatic ocean shots of course, such as this one from "Anderson View Point".
On the above shot, you can slightly see three rocks in the distance. These are call Three Arches Rocks National Wildlife Refuge. We saw them again later from Cape Meares on the other side. It's hard to see from this angle, but all three rocks really do have openings in the arches. It's also hard to believe, but in the early 1900's it was considered a big sport (or entertainment?) for boats to take people around the arches so they could shoot at the nesting murres and puffins. Finally some naturalists convinced Teddy Roosevelt to declare the rocks a N.W.R. and got other legislation passed to stop the slaughter. Today, the Three Arches has the largest nesting colony of murres south of Alaska.
Back to the Capes for a moment, we had stopped at Cape Kiwanda last night also, which is a cool place but doesn't seem to consist of much more than a sand dune? The road goes past Cape Lookout somewhat inland and the only way to see the actual Cape is to hike out to it. Cape Meares is another story - you drive out most of the way to a large parking lot. It has a lighthouse, which is an easy walk from the parking lot and lots of signs about the cape including this nice little welcome area:
In spite of the nasty weather, two volunteers from the Whale Watch group were on duty (in yellow vests below) and stayed for their entire shift! And even though there weren't any whales to be sighted (we had learned before that high winds make it almost impossible to spot whale spout) - these brave folks stayed on duty and chearfully greated visitors and offered to show them (including me) some whale baleen, pictures from previous sightings and tell us about all things whale! I have developed a whole, new admirations for volunteers of all sorts!
After leaving the whale watch overlook, I headed on down to the lighthouse. While it isn't open for touring this time of year, like most of the other west coast lighthouses - it is up on a bluff and so the building isn't very tall. You can easily see the First Order Fresnel Lens just by hiking down to it. Also, this turns out to be one of only two, eight sided Fresnel Lenses with a Red glass covering every other panel - the other is in Hawaii. This creates an alternating Red/White light pattern. (Sorry the pictures are so dark, it was hard getting good shots today.)
As I hiked back up from the lighthouse (after searching unsuccessfully one more time for whales of course), I couldn't resist one more shot of the wind blowing across the waves. Interesting sight, but I'm glad I wasn't in a small boat down there!
Of course Mom was waiting in the RV during all my hiking around, so I didn't really want to leave her stranded for too long (she does have all the comforts of the RV, but still) - but there was one more sight I had to check out. Cape Meares is also home to the Octopus Tree! This is a giant, old Sitka Spruce that has just been deformed over the years by all the rough coastal weather. Each of the six candelabra limbs is about 12 feet around and some extend out about 30 feet from the base before turning upwards. The base of the tree is about 50 feet around (in circumference).
Mom may have been getting a little bored in the rig, but she was really glad I got the pictures of the Octopus Tree since she'd been a little curious about this also (not enough to brave the weather, but curious). I was dressed OK for the weather so was fine, but was also ready to stay warm and dry for awhile, so we headed back out on the road towards Tillamook.
Yes, we have gone in a circle again and returned to where we were yesterday - Tillamook! However, today we decided to visit the Pioneer Museum, having already visited the Cheese Factory yesterday. Ah, the places we go in search of campgrounds (and scenic routes). Anyway, back to the Pioneer Museum. Are you ready for a surprise?
Think back to all those beaches we didn't visit in Florida because the local communities didn't allow any RV parking near their beaches. Look what we drove up to right across the street from the main entrance to the museum! Not "No RV Parking", not "RV Parking OK", but "Recreational Vehicle Parking Only" (emphasis added, ho, ho)
RV Parking Only - Oregon is rapidly becoming my new, favorite RV'ing state!
Pioneer Museum - this may be a little misnamed. They do start out with a "Steam Donkey" outside - one of the earliest attempts to mechanize hauling lumber during the timber days of early Oregon (and WA for that matter).
Inside the Museum were also lots of displays about the pioneer days. Upstairs however (without any photos by me for some reason) was a very large room with display's about natural history - stuffed birds mostly. It was all very educational and informative, signs about what was what and why. If you had a few weeks to study this room, you'd probably come away very well informed. A small room off to the side also had displays about rocks, what they look like before & after polishing, where they're found, etc. Again, very well marked and described. (I did take some pictures here, but thought better about uploading them - pictures of rocks just didn't seem worth showing off.)
Finally, on the first floor and basement were lots of displays about how folks lived in early Oregon (e.g. Pioneer Days). We've seen rooms set up as in earlier era's, what make this one interesting was the information. A book was set up in this room with a diagram showing every object in the room and a list describing the objects.
Unfortunately, this was the only room they had documented this thoroughly - but my guess is they'll keep working on it until more of their exhibits are as well described. They did have a kitchen set up for display also. I'm not sure why it was behind glass but it was.
In the basement were several old vehicles actually used in this area. The first one seems to be missing it's top, but it's a 1906 Stagecoach. The next one, a 1902 Holsman is an automobile, not a buggy (but it looks more like one). It wasn't very powerful, whenever they had to go uphill, the passengers had to get out and help push it! Finally, there is a 1909 Buick - to have any of three of these would make any museum proud!
There were more exhibits tucked around different corners in the basement. They were all interesting, but not as well organized or marked as the ones upstairs (I wonder if these exhibits can get promoted to higher levels if they behave themselves and improve their signage?) Anyway, here is an interesting collection of washing machines from different era's. I'll spare you my photo of the horse bits...
Of course by the time I got back upstairs from the basement, Mom had already finished going through the Museum and the gift shop and was more then ready to hit the road. (I seem to take longer in these sorts of places, maybe it's the camera?)
The next stop was Rockaway Beach. We saw this on the map and I thought with a name like that, it had to be a cool beach for rockhounding - Not! This is what we found, more like Cape Kiwanda (I forgot to mention it had a brand new set of Condo's overlooking the Sand Dune):
So we just kept heading north on Hwy 101. My goal was to get to the general area of Fort Clatsop tonight so we could tour it in the morning. We had a little time, so when I got to Arcadia Beach I decided to go ahead and check it out. I picked up a few more agates there as well as some petrafied wood. Having way too much fun beachcombing - even in the rain.
There isn't any camping at Fort Clatsop, so Mom checked the atlas and found Fort Stevens State Park, near Fort Clatsop (Lewis & Clark Pacific NW Winter HQ) and Astoria. Surprisingly, the Rangers Station was still open even though it was 30 minutes past the posted closing time. They still had space although there were a lot of campers here in spite of the lousy weather. It turns out Fort Stevens is one of the most popular state parks in Oregon! In the summer it's often booked up well in advance, but more on that tomorrow.
It was very cold and rainy most of the day, so Mom wasn't interested in doing too much, but she enjoyed the Pioneer Museum in Tillamook. We also played some rummy cubes tonight, so I think that perked up Mom a bit (as well as the hot cocoa).
Miles Driven - 105, Cumulative -19,383
Camped at Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria (Full Hookups, no charge for Showers, what's not to like?)
Provisions: Gas $46.38 for 12.886 gallons at 129,174
Donuts at Pacific City...