Silver Falls State Park was our next destination on this cool but sunny November 8, 2011. We concentrated on three of the 10 waterfalls due to time constraints for the and of the day. Walking along the winding and mossy pathways dug into the side of the slopes, Maidenhair and Sword ferns could be seen. These are aptly named as they quite literally resemble their descriptors. The temps got cooler as we descended into the darkened ravines on our way to the falls viewing areas. Giant moss-covered trees stood sentinel and browning maple leaves as big as your head littered the ground.
There weren't many birds visible in the overgrown forest, however a few Hairy woodpeckers and Juncos could be found. We got a brief look at an my personal "spark" bird; the American dipper at the outfall river and my heart was thrilled as we backtracked up, up, up the long trail back to the parking lot.
Wednesday the 9th found us in the 1,680 acre Willamette Mission State Park. The weather improved as the day wore on, however it started at 43 degrees and heavy fog until 9:00 AM PST. Willamette mission is named so because the park occupies land where the first mission for American Indians was founded in 1834 by the Reverend Jason Lee. Members of the Methodist Mission were later active in the formation of Oregon government. A monument is located in the park providing information on this settlement. The original mission buildings are represented by framed outlines called ghost structures. Personally both Barbara and I found this minimalist artsy concept of white-painted lumber "ghost structures" just plain dumb, but then maybe they were on a tight budget. Perhaps they weren't finished? Anyway, the nation's oldest and largest Black cottonwood tree was real however and stood at just over 158 feet with 110 foot spread. Interestingly enough, that tree is technically older than the US at 250 years! I scored a pair of life-birds in a clearing near the sign that talked about the tree; Golden-crowned sparrow and Lincoln's sparrow.
We drove the rental Chevy Cruze to the far end of the park where many colorful fall trees were growing near several handy park structures for picnicking. There were many birds flitting around the trees and ground so we kept busy identifying them. We saw; Stellars jays, Western scrub jays, Bushtits, Downy woodpeckers, American robins, Cedar waxwings, Golden-crowned kinglets, Canada goose, Brewers blackbirds. European starlings, Juncos, House sparrows, and Song and Tree sparrows. There is also a self-guided park map that we grabbed a copy of to assist us with our questions. We walked through a curious and beautiful grove of filbert trees, stopping to take a few pictures of the scenery before driving out the exit, past the giant poles and wires that would normally have held up acres and acres of delicious hops (the "spice" of a great beer), but now looked like the bones of dinosaur standing silent in the field.
The road we purposely chose led us to a bucolic river crossing strictly accomplished via the Wheatland ferry. The Willamette River also has two other ferries: the Buena Vista ferry south of Independence and the Canby ferry at Canby. At two dollars, the price was ridiculously cheap, however if you drove one of the 65,000 lbs+ dump trucks or 18-wheelers that were lined up on the other side; it was not (at $ 18.00 one way). This ferry is the only way to cross the river for many miles, so if you were working in that area; you pay. One nice thing for the "usual" customers is that the Marion County Department of Public Works is authorized to sell you a "toll card" at a 10% credit to be offered to the purchasers of cards in $ 50 increments...yea! Just know that the river crossing closes when it rises to a level of 15'-8"...plan your trip accordingly.
Little did we know that just ahead would a place we would spend the next few hours eating (sampling) cheese. The Willamette Cheese Co. is a small manufacturer of fine Oregon cheeses in the Willamette Valley and just happened to be open and offering tasting. We walked through the door of their "store" at around noon to be greeted with a, "Hello, would you like to sample some cheese? You'd be the first ones of the day!" Barbara and I spent the next hour sampling some of the most flavorful craft cheeses that northern Oregon had to offer while enjoying a story about each variety. We selected several prepackaged chinks of our favorites before heading south towards Salem.
A few miles outside town was the Redhawk Winery. We hadn't necessarily planned to stop at any wineries, however the name grabbed the both of us so we said why not? For a small fee, we became the first wine tasters of the day (at about 1:30 PM) to try ten of their wines. The logo was extremely cool so we bought two small glasses and a two bottles of their wine. They threw in a couple of their new labels (not on bottles) for us and we left; two happy campers. After a quick stop at the reservoir near Silverton and another at the grocery for more gourmet foods, we headed back to Lisa and Shaun's for a "fancy" wine, cheese, olives, crackers, smoked salmon, etc. evening meal.
Fort Yamhill State Park. The expansive park area is also set up for The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde as pow-wow grounds. There were multiple grandstands and LOTS of bathroom facilities available. The tribe hosts a Veterans’ Pow Wow each July and a Competition Pow Wow on the third weekend each August. Fort Yamhill Heritage area nearby tells the story of the relocation, transition and sadness for Grand Ronde’s people when they were forced from their ancestral homelands which extended from the banks of the Columbia river to the Oregon–California border onto the Grand Ronde Reservation under military guard. We took a few photos and drove northwest to Tillamook.
The Tillamook Cheese Company which started in 1851 was on our day's bucket-list so we parked the car and went in to see how that worked. Expecting something more structured with a sign-up or something; we were surprised when the tour turned out to be self-guided. We walked around the lower area and found an introductory film that gave us a brief overview of the factory and history of that area. The production was well done and informative, however someone in marketing thought it would be a great idea to incorporate a little oft-played ditty with truly bizarre lyrics that accompanied their mascot - a dancing block of Tillamook cheese with blue arms and legs - as it perpetrated its zany brand of hi-jinx. "I found love, in the fall...and it did not hurt at all..." I found myself singing it, for far too long.
Take a look at the dedicated cheese makers of Tillamook Cheese:
After a quick stop at the Tillamook Country Smoker (meat smokehouse) - just up the highway for some bags of outlet-priced jerky and a great yellow ball cap where their motto is "All hail your inner Carnivore," onward to Cannon Beach we went. There were numerous pull-outs that attracted our attention and pull-out we did. The view from the highway up and down the rocky coast we breathtaking. The ocean was wild and frothy way down below us. Small villages could be seen in the distance beneath a cover of mist. The sun was shining but the air remained cool.
We arrived at Cannon Beach around lunch time. Stopping in at their quaint Visitor's Center for a map and directions to Haystack Rock, (235 tall out of the beach sand) we parked in a convenient public parking lot and walked to the beach. Fortunately the tide was waaaaayyy out so we were able to walk quite near the gigantic rock. The rock is a federally protected wildlife habitat. We saw male and female Harlequin ducks and Black oyster-catchers as well as two new life-birds for me; Black turnstone and on the way back to the car - a Chestnut-backed chickadee. I was truly hoping for a Tufted puffin, however it was apparently not puffin season. Barbara and I ate at a chic dining place called the Lazy Susan Cafe'. We each enjoyed our meal and the ambiance. Of course we couldn't pass up a coffee at the Bald Eagle Coffee House while sitting in two big Adirondack chairs before leaving the village.
Our drive back to Silverton took us through Portland, OR and a nice 1-hour traffic jam, but we spent our time reminiscing over the day's sights, sounds and of course...birds. Oregon is definitely a place to return to as time and budget will permit. After all...we didn't see a Sasquatch or a Tufted puffin yet right?
Thanks Lisa and Shaun for being such wonderful hosts...and thanks ORGUN!