What do you do when the weather is unseasonably nice in February? Sit inside and admire it out the window? I think not.
Last Monday was a warm, clear, balmy day in a season that’s normally grey and rainy, and more of the same was expected the next day. The weather dude made a particular point in his oration; on the coast the temp could be pushing into the 70’s. Even someone as oblivious as I am can recognise a no brainer when I hear one and my wife was quick to agree – an excursion to the coast was called for.
But where? The default excursion from Portland is typically Cannon Beach, about a 90 minute drive to the northwest. But both my wife and I thought I’d be nice to go further afield for a change. After throwing a few ideas back and forth we settled on doing the three capes scenic loop. It’s a longer drive, about 210 miles round trip, but it still leaves enough time to stop at the capes and enjoy some of what they offer. The capes for our little crusade were Meares, Lookout, and Kiwanda.
Sometimes spur of the moment can bite you. This time those snapping jaws decided to chop off access to my Nikon DSLR – when I went to grab it I discovered its battery made doornails look lively. Deader than the houseplants I used to try to grow. I had to see how well I could do with a smartphone camera that didn’t have the fancy lineage of an iPhone, with an assist from my wife’s point and shoot.
Ever heard of Tillamook cheese? Tillamook is an Oregon coastal town, about a 90 minute drive west of Portland, and was the jump off point for the scenic loop. So intent were we on our crusade that we ignored a side trip to the cheese factory (or more to the point, a chance for one of the many varieties of yummy ice cream that can be found there.)
The first stop was Cape Meares. This spot immediately puts the lie to the idea you’re driving a loop: from Tillamook you take highway 131 to Netarts, but instead of heading south towards the other two capes you head north about 4.5 miles, past Oceanside, all the way to Cape Meares where 131 ends. Cape Meares not only has great views, it has other items of interest too.
Folks who’ve read my diving posts know I always enjoy finding an octopus. This time I found one in a forest.
This odd shaped Sitka Spruce has no central trunk. It has a circumference of 45 feet, with limbs extending as much as 16 feet before heading for the sky. It’s 105 feet tall and is estimated to be 250-300 years old. It isn’t known what caused this shape, but I did notice some smaller, less leggy versions in the area.
There’s also a lighthouse.
The lighthouse was built in 1889 and commissioned on January 1, 1890. The tower stands 38 feet high and is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. The light was a five wick oil lamp with a reflector to increase the light. It was turned by a 200 pound lead weight that was wound by a system similar to a grandfather clock. It turned 2 ½ hours on one winding at a pace of 4 minutes per full revolution.
Imagine trying to keep that light lit and spinning in the dead of night.
Despite being lit by mere oil lamps, with the help of a Fresnel (pronounced “Fraynel”) lens made in Paris, France the primary lens produced 18,000 candlepower and the bull’s-eye lens produced 160,000 candlepower. The light could be seen 21 nautical miles at sea.
The oil lamp was replaced in 1910 with an oil vapor light similar to the Coleman lanterns of today. This was replaced in 1934 with electricity. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1963 and replaced by an automated light next to the old lighthouse. That too was decommissioned in 2014, as modern shipping can safely navigate without it.
Further south, a collection of islands make up a wildlife refuge.
In the early 20th century, Arch Rock’s large population of birds and sea lions attracted hunters, who collected game or just shot animals at unsustainable rates. Fortunately, in 1903 conservationists brought this to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, and four years later it was declared a wildlife refuge.
They also make a pretty nice silhouette.
The next stop was Cape Lookout. We headed south and got back on the loop, following the coastline. A drive of about 6.25 miles past Netarts gets you to the cape.
Cape Lookout is a state park, including a campground and day use area near the beach, as well as the higher headlands that make up the cape. We stopped at the day use area, but for those with more time the main cape trailhead is a mile up the road. The headland extends about a mile and a half out into the ocean, but with the meanders that trail is 4.8 miles round trip. It’s a wooded path, with limited ocean views until you get to the end.
With that we’ll push pause on our excursion until next week. In our next episode we’ll see a bit more of Cape Lookout, travel onto Cape Kiwanda, get experimental with the photography, and emulate desert nomads. See you then.