Post Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail Tale
Day Five: Terrible Tree Trimming Timing, Real Waterfall View, A Bridge Not Too Far, Couples Photographer, Life In The Fast Lane, I Hear It’s A Riot There, Clam Chowder Parade Begins, Not That Cannon Beach Hotel, Last Two Rooms Left In Town, Take Off Your Mask, Does This Beach Ever End, I Am A Rock, The Elusive Puffins, Sweating With The Prawns & A Local Legend
There are not enough superlatives for A’ Tuscan Inn. Comfortable bed, great shower, fireplace in the suite, a personable hostess and a fantastic location just minutes from the historic center of McMinnville make this B&B shine. Speaking of our “personable hostess,” Erin concocted another great start to the day. We started with a honeydew, poppyseed muffin with local homemade raspberry peach chardonnay jam. Perfect way to start the day.
Next out was the Quiche with morels, bacon and Pepper Jack cheese served hot out of the oven. Finally, a plate of brie, tomato cheddar, dried fig almonds, Pepperoncinis stuffed with goat cheese along with sliced apples and strawberries ended our morning feast.
Kim told us the night before that he had a Zoom meeting that would last a few hours, so it was fortunate we had our own car. Looking for something to see before heading for Cannon Beach, I noticed on the map that Willamette Falls was about an hour away. I quickly read that Willamette Falls “is the largest waterfall in the Northwestern United States by volume, and the 17th widest in the world.” I probably should have read more before we left.
The drive took us through farmland and hazelnut orchards that were surprisingly green, even with the lack of rain. What we didn’t see much of were vineyards. Considering Willamette Valley is such a big wine producer, that was a surprise. We pressed on. In about an hour, we saw a sign for the Willamette Falls Overlook exit on Highway 99E. As we approached, the next sign proved more ominous “Ramp Closed.” It seems that we picked the day when the trees at the Willamette Falls Overlook were being trimmed, which will teach me not to go out on a limb. We took the following exit assuming there would be other great places to see this “wide, four-story tall waterfall.” You know what they say about the word “assume.”
There was a place to stop off the highway, but I couldn’t believe those were actually the falls, located in an industrial area. We didn’t even bother to take a photo as the view was less than stellar. (luckily the website Atlas Obscura took a similar one below…)
It seems Willamette Falls has been closed to the public for 150 years. Oregon City is planning the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a new waterfront area that “will become a four-season destination attracting worldwide tourism so future visitors will get a close up view of the falls.”
I subsequently learned we actually missed an opportunity to see Willamette Falls from the Oregon City Municipal Elevator, which happens to be the only outdoor municipal elevator in the United States, and one of only a handful in the world. This is why I plan most of our trips long in advance, but in fairness, I had no idea Willamette Falls would even be on our radar until ten minutes before leaving McMinnville. Live and learn.
Our GPS then took us on a circuitous route through Oregon City to get back on the highway. As we were disappointed in not seeing the view of the waterfall I expected, I asked Tracy how long it would take to go to Multnomah Falls, a place I stopped at a few time on business trips, but hadn’t seen for more than two decades. “A little over an hour,” she replied, and since Multnomah Falls to Cannon Beach was about the same driving time as McMinnville to Cannon Beach, we figured we’d arrive in CB about the same time as Kim and Mary.
Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is, as we learned, the “most visited recreational site in the Pacific Northwest,” with approximately two million visitors. We parked in the middle of I-84 (yes, there was a parking lot there), walked under the highway and we were at the Multnomah Lodge (there is also an exit further up that allows you to drive and park at the lodge, but this lot was small, and there were no spaces available.) We walked over a bridge to a lookout of the lower and upper falls and a bridge that seemed relatively close.
It was hard to get a great photo of the entire waterfall from here, because the sun sat directly on top of the fallsI was deciding whether to make the short 0.2 mile trek to the bridge situated both above and below the falls, when people started asking me whether I could take their photo with the waterfall behind them. This became my job for the next 20 minutes or so as Tracy hiked up to the bridge (my non-repaired knee was not feeling stellar anyway).
The lower falls is 69 feet in height, while the upper falls extends to 542 feet. Tracy took this photo that reminded her of me.
She made sure to stay on the trail, since signs stated that there are frequent occurrences of falling rocks.
There were nice views from Tracy’s vantage point …
… and, of course, the requisite flower photos.
Tracy and I had our obligatory photo taken by another amateur IPhone photographer, and we walked back toward the car.
Once again she dared me to to attempt this creek crossing. Not being one of the Great Wallendas, I passed. We also decided it was too long a drive to Seattle to see my cousins.
Getting back on Interstate 84 heading west proved to be a minor challenge. From the parking lot, one needs to merge into the fast lane to exit. A car in front of us attempted this feat, merged too slowly and came precariously close to the front of an oncoming speeding semi. The truck driver had to slam on his brakes to avoid crushing the rear end of the car.
It was now that I wished I had read the Subaru manual on how fast it goes from 0-60. With Tracy craning her neck backwards to gauge speeding automobiles, I eased on to the entrance and when she yelled “Floor it!” (she really did yell), I made my move, and we’re still here to talk about it today.We made a quick stop alongside the Columbia River (the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America) to learn a little history of the area, and then took the two-hour trek to Cannon Beach.
Our original travel plans had us stopping in Portland for the next two days, but when we called our hotel a couple of weeks before leaving they said many of the restaurants were closed and if they were open, it would only be at about 25% occupancy due to a virus surge. Our hotel also said Portland was a riot to visit at the moment, so we decided to go to Cannon Beach instead. Next time, hopefully.
Kim & Mary stopped in Seaside for lunch and a walk on the boardwalk, while Tracy and I pushed on to Cannon Beach, where we dined for lunch at Driftwood Restaurant and Lounge, the restaurant where we would also eat at on our first night for dinner.
My Crater Lake sweatshirt (ok, that’s really touristy) came in handy here (as did the nearby fire pit table), since the only tables left were outside, and a Nor’Wester (a new weather pattern I coined for the Oregon coast) made the wind chill a tad uncomfortable for a Southern California boy.
I needed something to warm the inside, too, so I ordered my first clam chowder of the trip (but far from my last) and a terrific wedge salad; Crisp iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon pieces, crumbled bleu cheese & homemade bleu cheese dressing, while Tracy ordered the chowder with a green salad. The wedge salad could feed a family of four.
It was only a Thursday, but it seemed like half the population of Oregon was in Cannon Beach, which must be why when I tried to reserve a hotel, there were basically only two rooms at any good hotel still available in town. We snatched those two up in the nick of time.
In the heart of town we spotted the Cannon Beach Hotel & Restaurant. Tracy said, “Looks like we got a cute place for the next two nights.”
Inside, at the front desk, I said, “We are the Mai Tai Tom couple (not our real names), and we have reservations for the following two nights.” Perusing her list, the woman said. “We don’t have a reservation for you.” Luckily I was in my “EuroTom” vacation state of mind (calm and relaxed) and not my “CollegeTom” mood (just a bit temperamental), which no one ever wants to witness again.
I confidently checked my email from the hotel to prove to her we did indeed have a room reservation, however when I found it, much to my chagrin, the confirmation was from The Inn at Cannon Beach. “That happens a lot,” she stated, so as not to label me a person “who has turned into his parents” from a Progressive commercial.We headed south and passed this guy, who I surmised was on his way to a Jimmy Buffett concert.
A little more than a mile south of the wrong hotel was the correct hotel, and it was spectacular. The Inn at Cannon Beach is situated at the south end of Cannon Beach, one block from the ocean. There are a number of cottage-style buildings, with gardens and plenty of Adirondack chairs interspersed throughout the complex.
Our rooms were huge, each with a fireplace, sitting area, a small kitchenette, complete with microwave and fridge, plus a large bathroom with a walk-in shower. Upon arriving, we were afforded the choice of fresh baked cookies or taffy. Since they didn’t have a dentist on call, we chose the cookies. Waiting for Kim and Mary to get settled in the room next door, we turned on the news in time to see that the CDC said people who were fully vaccinated could now go outside safely without a mask. We threw our masks into the fire (just kidding).
Across the street from our hotel and a block down, we walked onto the large, sandy beach, where, in the distance, stood famed Haystack Rock. Unlike a side mirror on a car, distance were actually farther than they appear.Except for that tsunami thing, it would nice to have one of these homes.
Some of the photos look like a tsunami is arriving, which could happen since on our drive down the coast, those “Tsunami Zone” signs were prevalent.
Luckily, no tsunami appeared (just cool cloud formations), but there were many more magnificent photographic opportunities.
Cannon Beach is definitely for the birds.
We started walking toward Haystack Rock, a basalt seat stack that is 235 feet tall. Besides being an Oregon landmark, Haystack Rock is known for its birdlife, especially the Tufted Puffins (sounds like an 80s rock group). Had it been low tide, we could have walked out to the rock and perhaps seen some of what turned out to be elusive birds, as they like to hang out here from early spring through late summer. First, of course, we had to get adjacent to Haystack Rock. Although as we walked the Rock became larger, it still seemed like we were far, far away. Along the way were some stunning views.
Families, with their kids frolicking in the water, made for enjoyable viewing. The kids were having a blast. Finally, we got to the closest point we could get to Haystack Rock, which was formed millions of years ago by lava flows.
We could see why this is the “most photographed spot in Oregon.”
As the four of us took photos of the rock, about a million birds flew out. Where’s Alfred Hitchcock when you need him? There were no signs of the elusive puffins. It was like looking for a needle in a Haystack Rock.
As we had noticed throughout Oregon, people take their dogs seemingly everywhere. Please don’t show this to Frankie and Remi.
Kim went the Ansel Adams route and shot some black & white photos of this scenic area.
Dinner time. Back to the Driftwood we traveled, and fortunately people with reservations (like us) were seated inside. Driftwood has been serving food here for more than 75 years (1944), so they must be doing something right. The Driftwood website states, “Our caring staff is known for their friendliness and service.” We were lucky enough to get a living legend as our server. It seems everyone in Cannon Beach knows Nancy, who obviously is a beloved fixture, and also one funny lady.
Tracy and Mary were trying to decide on which bottle of Chardonnay to share. “Not to worry,” Nancy said, “I’ll bring a taste of both for you to try.” They were big tastes.
Kim and Tracy both dined on Driftwood’s fish & chips; Hand cut Arctic cod, deep fried in light batter, which they deemed very good.Mary decided to have the special, a Shrimp Louie. I thought about having one, too, so Mary and I could sing Louie, Louie.
Instead, I threw caution to the wind, which should be the Oregon’s coast motto. I started with the Chilled Prawn Cocktail appetizer that came accompanied by a homemade cocktail sauce with fresh horseradish in it. Oh my God! Although I started sweating like I was in a sauna, I couldn’t stop dipping those prawns to get more of the heat from the sauce. I finished seconds before I believe my eyeballs would have popped out of my head. Compliments to whoever came up with that cocktail sauce recipe. I somehow recovered to enjoy my petite filet with baked potato and garlic bread for dinner.
All the while, Nancy was holding court with many of the regulars as they sought her out to say “hello.” Finally, a gentleman (I think he might have been a former mayor) gave Nancy a hug and threw out compliment after compliment. All in all a tremendous night and a great meal.
Somehow, back at our hotel, Tracy and I had enough room to finish off most of that rum cake (that we warmed in the microwave) from Bistro Maison the night before.
We turned on the fireplace, set the timer on it and drifted off to sleep.
The four of us would get on the road together tomorrow and head up to the first settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. While there, we would tour a Victorian marvel and visit a historic column on the top of a hill. Then we’d venture back toward Cannon Beach with a little detour to a national park named after a couple of guys who made a famous expedition.
NEXT: CHAPTER FIVE – ASTORIA/LEWIS & CLARK NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Day Six – Europe’s “Fattiest Pastry”, Oregon’s Oldest City, Captain’s Quarters, Saved From The Fire, A Crowning Monument, In Lewis & Clark’s Footsteps, On The Boardwalk, You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Root Beer Floats, Surprisingly Good, A Sticky Situation & Beachy Keen