We’re back from our dream Disney cruise vacation. We had a magical time and arrived home late last night. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in the coming weeks. For now, my mom, Linda, is back with a brand new guest post. She and April were so nice to take over the blog while we were gone so I could have a week free to enjoy our cruise to the Bahamas. Her post about Alki Point in West Seattle was one of the top posts of 2016 and she’s here with another post about the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Like always, all photo credits belong to her.
Some of the culinary treats we have learned to love here in the Northwest are the Tillamook milk products. Tillamook yogurt, ice cream and cheese are some of the best we have tasted anywhere in the country. The product line comes from Tillamook, Oregon, a small farming town that serves as the seat of Tillamook County. It lies about 75 miles due west of Portland on the Pacific Coast at the southeast end of Tillamook Bay. The name Tillamook comes from the Tillamook people, a native American tribe indigenous to the area.
Since my husband has always loved cheese, we decided to take a trip to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory to see how their products are made. It is a 5-hour drive from our home in the Seattle area. The last 2 hours are beautiful- through the deep forests of the Tillamook State Forest and the picturesque farmlands of the Tillamook Cheese Cooperative, the organization of independent farmers that produce the milk for their products. The Cooperative also runs the cheese factory.
Tillamook Cheese Factory
At the factory you can take a self-guided tour of the cheese-making process. It was fascinating to watch. The milk is first churned into curds. Next, the curds are pressed into loaves, weighed and cut into various sizes. They are then weighed again, sorted and wrapped for commercial sale. We mingled with many families with children of all ages, watching with fascination as the automated process rolled thousands of pounds of cheese around the large facility.
A sampling station is located toward the end of the tour where you can taste all 20 or so different cheeses. And, like most tours, the final stop is the gift shop– a large store, ice cream shop and café where you can buy anything they make—cheese, yogurt or ice cream. Clothing, kitchen items, and souvenirs are also for sale. Meals are available for purchase. For dinner, we ordered the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich (after all, cheese was the reason for our visit) and it was delicious.
The ice cream counter offers samples of all of their flavors while you are making your choice of flavor. The scoops you buy are very generous; one scoop will fill you up and two will cause you to skip dinner. My all-time favorite is Tillamook Mudslide. It is described on the carton as “rich chocolate ice cream with chocolate fudge chips and a thick fudge ripple.” (Don’t judge me. I’m a confessed chocoholic.) Doesn’t that just make your mouth water? Plan on spending a whole morning or afternoon at the cheese factory if you want to see everything.
Tillamook County Quilt Trail
There are other fun things to do in Tillamook as well. If you’re into quilting or your children are into scavenger/treasure hunts, you can follow the Tillamook County Quilt Trail. At the Tillamook County Visitors Center, across the parking lot from the cheese factory, you can pick up a brochure/map that guides you to the various buildings throughout the area on which has been painted a large quilt block pattern. Many of them are on the sides of barns, located on the various farms in the area. The brochure has interesting information about each farm or business where the quilts are found. There is also the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center if you like textiles. It might be more interesting for adults than for small children.
There are many hiking trails in the area. Just before dusk, we hiked the closest one, a short drive seven miles south of town It was an easy 1/4 mile hike on a well-maintained but secluded trail to Munson Creek Falls, a 266’ waterfall deep in the forest. (The website gives the height at 310’.) It is described as the highest waterfall in the Coast Range. The brochure explains that the trail ends at the base of the falls, where there is a picnic table, but when we went, the trail was permanently closed well before the base of the falls. Trees and vines growing over the trail showed that it had been closed a very long time, and no one we asked later could tell us if or when it would open again. But you can go far enough to get a beautiful view of the falls.
In the early evening, we were completely alone on the trail and enjoyed the beauty and solitude of the lush forest. This trail is easy even for small children (with a little parental help), but there are a few short stretches of steep climbs or steps, making it inaccessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
A must-see in the Tillamook area is the Cape Meares lighthouse, situated on a bluff overlooking Tillamook Bay. Drive to the parking lot, then walk a short distance to the lighthouse. Visitors can go up into the tower in small groups, led by a docent, to see the light. The view from the tower is stunning. A gift shop is located in the base of the lighthouse with historical materials, beautiful works of art, books for both adults and children and more typical souvenirs, most centered around the lighthouse/ocean theme. The lighthouse itself is stroller/wheelchair accessible. However, the steps leading up the tower are narrow, steep and winding making using strollers and wheelchairs impossible. Make sure to watch your head to avoid getting a goose egg.
These are only a few of the interesting and fun sights and activities in the Tillamook area. There is also a Pioneer Museum, beaches with the softest sand anywhere, a golf course, antique stores, whale-watching sites, resort towns a short drive up the coast such as Oceanside, Seaside and Cannon Beach and much more. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Northwest, and we look forward to visiting again to see more of this beautiful place.
Things to know before visiting Tillamook, Oregon
Remember that the weather on the Oregon coast is usually cool, damp and often foggy, even in summer. It certainly was on the weekend we were there, in mid-July. Although the sun did break through often enough to get a few good photographs. Keep your camera handy just in case the clouds part suddenly. The sunshine may be brief. We asked a native, partly in jest, if the sun ever shines on the coast. Her delay in answering was as revealing as her words. She thought for a long moment, then said, somewhat hesitantly, “Yes, it comes out occasionally.” Bring jackets and rain gear just in case.
There are plenty of places to stay in the area, from bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels. However, if you plan to stay in the resort towns like Oceanside or Cannon Beach, you will have to make your reservations well in advance. Check with your chosen resort/hotel/inn to see what they recommend. We decided to go on the spur of the moment. We found a small, older hotel right in Tillamook just a few days ahead of time. It definitely wasn’t a luxury accommodation, but it was clean, safe and relatively inexpensive. We didn’t plan to spend more time there than the necessary sleeping hours so for us it was acceptable for last-minute accommodations. Especially since it was within walking distance of the cheese factory and other parts of town.
Would you like to visit Tillamook, Oregon?
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