January 19, 2015
We had wonderful Oregon weather the day we toured Cape Meares. It changed at least every five minutes. We had beautiful blue skies with sunshine, then rain, then partial clouds, occasional wind, soft mist and everything in between. It was as though we were in a weather bubble in a Children’s Museum and someone was gleefully flipping the controls back and forth leaving it on one setting only long enough to view the effect before choosing something else. We may be nuts, but it was kind of fun. We had our fleece and rain jackets so we didn’t care.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
Cape Meares is a State Scenic Viewpoint. It has Oregon’s shortest lighthouse (38 feet) which sits low down on the cape placing it below the fog line. This is the first lighthouse we walked DOWN to. You actually see only the light as you approach and you have to circle down the path to see the house portion beneath it.
If you look below and to the left of the lighthouse, you can see a rainbow. How neat is that?
The park has a few hiking trails and several nice overlooks for viewing the wildlife and surrounding shoreline. This wildlife could include whales (nope, still didn’t see any), sea lions, dolphins and porpoises as well as the shorebirds that nest on the cape and on nearby rocks such as common murres, pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants and pigeon guillemots. They have a peregrine nest on a facing cliff that should be getting put to use before too long but nobody was home when we were there.
We had a beautiful view of Three Arch Rocks off to the south. These are the same rocks we nicknamed the Kissing Turtles because that is what they look like from the beach near our campsite. From Cape Meares, we can see three separate rocks and three distinct arches. It helped that the sun was glinting behind them so it lit up the openings for us.
There are two observation platforms right next to the parking lot so hiking is not required to get a decent view but you do have to walk a paved path down to see the whole lighthouse. A short hike back up through the woods behind the parking lot will take you to the other star of the park, the Octopus Tree. This is a very large Sitka spruce that has no central trunk. All the branches reach straight out from the middle, only a few feet off the ground and some go for a distance of more than 15 feet before they take a right angle turn and reach toward the sky.
We decided to stop for lunch at Oceanside and see if we could find the tunnel we read about. Lunch was at Roseanna’s Cafe. The food was good and the view was awesome. We felt the portions were a bit small for the price but it is a beach resort town. The dessert menu set us to drooling as soon as we got in the door. John considered skipping lunch and going straight to dessert (yes, that would be my corruptive influence), but I talked him out of it. I almost regretted this when he decided he didn’t need dessert. The meal was saved though when I talked him into taking something home for later.
Oceanside looks to be made of a whole lot of beach rentals. I’m sure there are full time residents there but most of the people we saw on the beachfront were not locals. The town appears to be rows of houses lined up one above the other, stair-stepped up the side of the cape, and all looking out to sea. There was a hotel across from the Cafe that had full glass walls facing the ocean. I’m not talking large windows, I’m talking floor to ceiling, wall to wall glass. It was like an aquarium for people. It would be an awesome place to watch the winter storms, and the sunsets, and watch for whales, and just generally hang out and go zen.
The beach is nice but the really cool thing here is a tunnel that a local resident dug and blasted straight through Maxwell Point. You can see the tunnel entrance toward the lower right and Three Arch Rocks off to the left.
After a small landslide they shored up the one side closest to the town with concrete but the rest of it is rough rock. You have to go when the tide is out but it is a very neat thing to do. We walked through the tunnel, stumbling on rocks until our eyes adjusted, and popped out the other side about six feet above the aptly named Tunnel Beach.
This is a cobble beach where people hunt for agates and stroll down for a close look at Three Arch Rocks where the Stellar Sea Lions haul out and numerous shore birds nest.
Getting back to that landslide. We originally planned to go up near Tillamook then follow the Three Capes Loop across the bottom of Tillamook Bay, check out the spit at the mouth of the bay where once a whole beach resort was built then faded away as properties were reclaimed by the sea and thus approach Cape Meares from the north. This would have let us complete the full Three Capes Loop Scenic Drive. We found out that the section of road between Cape Meares and Tillamook Bay was closed indefinitely due to landslides. Checking online we discovered that the road we had planned to drive had shifted nine feet… NINE feet! This was over many years but the majority of the slide was in the last few years. We read where Oregon DOT explained how they had patched this road and that road after slides as part of their general road maintenance. As we hiked along the beaches with steep cliffs we saw signs of recent and not so recent landslides where chunks of land just peeled away from the bluffs and slumped to the beach. As we wandered the park we spotted abandoned blacktop roads that just drop off into rubble as the ocean eats away the land beneath them. This seems to be commonplace on the coast but is fairly new to us. And it definitely makes us think… and keep a little bit farther back from any edges than we normally would.
It was a good day trip and we enjoyed it but after we returned home we realized there were numerous geocaches in all the areas we had been and we had just forgotten to look for them. Ah well, it gives us an excuse to return.