At 8:30 yesterday evening, I got up from my spot on the sand, and made my way to the surf line. I was standing on the edge of the continent, camera at the ready, crashing waves from the Pacific Ocean lapping at my feet, as the westering sun dipped toward the horizon. I was there to capture the sunset, the culmination of an absolutely perfect summer day. I’d been worried about seeing the sun set all afternoon, as fog banks played a constant game of hide ‘n seek with the rugged Oregon coastline, but with minutes to spare it was obvious this one was going to be a beauty. A distant drift of fog offshore had blown to the south, and the wispy streams of clouds racing across the sky were not enough to obscure that magic moment. I glanced around me, and was amazed by the sight: hundreds of people lining the shore, all in roughly the same spot – just out of reach of the incoming tide – cameras in hand and tripods at the ready. I laughed out loud, the whole image was so surreal.
And then the sun touched the sea, and despite the massed throngs, I was completely alone for a minute.
It was the ideal way to spend a Friday in late July. I had a full day, leaving the house shortly before 10 AM, and not returning until after 11 PM. Rather than give a blow-by-blow description of the day’s activities, I’ll sum them up in a list, because I have to say – if you’re looking for the ingredients for a perfect summer day – this is it.
List of Ingredients for a Perfect Summer Day
- Coffee to get you started. I stopped at McDonald’s for a cup to fuel up for the drive. The drive-through lanes were packed, so I went inside, where I encountered a girl in front of me who could not figure out the difference between a #2 combo and a #5 combo (the answer: one has an egg, the other doesn’t). I think she was hungover. Or stupid. Maybe both.
- Cheese. Upon arriving at the coast, I stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a bite to eat. Made a quick beeline through the place (been there many times), focusing on the free cheese samples, before heading to the cafe for a grilled cheese sandwich with turkey. You can’t have a proper adventure on an empty stomach!
- Wine tasting. Next up was the Blue Heron Cheese Company (hey, Tillamook has a lot of cows). I paid $5 for five samples of wine. My favorite? The pinot gris from Eola Hills…but I’m already familiar with that one. There’s something naughty-feeling about drinking wine in the early afternoon.
- A waterfall. In this case, Munson Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Coast Range. Conveniently located seven miles south of Tillamook, the waterfall was an easy 1/4-mile trek from the parking lot. It was big, I’ll give it that.
- A lighthouse. The Oregon coast is notoriously rocky and wild, and as a result, lighthouses are plentiful. I drove out to Cape Meares, west of Tillamook, to check out the lighthouse there. It’s on the small side, as far as lighthouses go, but has a beautiful red octagonal-shaped lens, one of only two in the U.S. And the view from the cliff top? Stunning.
- A weird natural wonder. Minutes from the Cape Meares lighthouse is the Octopus Tree, so named because of its unique multiple trunks that sort of resemble tentacles from an octopus. It was even featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
- A “secret” beach. Oregon has an abundance of beautiful beaches, most of them well-known. But Short Beach, a small crescent-shaped swath of sand nestled between Oceanside and Cape Meares, is completely unmarked. I found the entrance only because I knew where to look for it; you park on the side of the road and descend “The Stairway of 1,000 Steps” to reach the bottom. Once there, you’ll find a fairly secluded beach with a large rock formation and a waterfall spilling over the cliffs through a wooden flume. Very cool.
- A panoramic viewpoint. If you’re a shutterbug like me, you’ll need a great place to pull off the road and snap a few pics. There were plenty of these on the drive north. The views, when not fog-shrouded, were incredible.
- A nice dinner. After a day spent exploring, you’ll have worked up an appetite. In Cannon Beach, I stopped at my favorite little spot, Ecola Seafoods Restaurant and Market, for a crab cake and salad topped with fresh Oregon bay shrimp.
- A sunset. As mentioned before. A great way to end the day.
Here are some photos of my outing.