June 24 – July 26, 2021
The Tillamook Creamery is just off the highway as you run through town, a new facility that opened in 2018 and now hosts over 1.3 million tourists each year. Visitors can learn about the cheesemaking, cheese packaging, and the ice cream-making processes from a viewing gallery over the main production floor. Tours are self-guided and self-paced and are augmented by video presentations and interactive kiosks.
Tours inside the actual cheese processing area of the plant were discontinued in 1967 due to health and safety regulations, two years or so after I visited with my family. The factory produces more than 170,000 pounds of cheese each day, packages approximately one million pounds of cheese on-site each week and its warehouse has the capacity to age 50 million pounds of cheese at once.
We had been looking forward to this visit for quite some time, reliving memories for me and also eager to sample what appeared to be a nice-looking cheese-based sandwich menu for lunch. A hint of what was to come though hit us as we cruised a very full parking lot, finally finding a space that may or may not have been legal. We walked up to the entrance and were greeted by streams of people walking out and were stunned when we saw the lines of people waiting to order food or ice cream (two separate lines), most not wearing any masks.
We both stood in the food line for a bit and then I decided to go find a table outside. Twenty or thirty minutes later, talking to each other on the phone, we decided to abandon lunch as Joanna had been advised it would be another twenty minutes until she could order and then a thirty-minute wait to actually get the food. Instead, we repaired to the large gift shop nearby where we purchased an eight-ounce block of one of the Maker’s Reserve cheeses they produce and returning to the car, demolished half of it with an apple we’d brought with us.
Concluding that the Creamery had just reopened and was suffering from a shortage of staff, we left for the 90-minute drive to our destination for the next three nights, the Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA Resort, a little under ten miles from Astoria. This is a huge facility with dozens of RV sites, cabins, and a few tent sites. Activities abound, with two pools (one indoors), mini golf, a large trampoline like bouncing area, and numerous other sporting options.
We set up camp in one of three tent pods and spent the rest of the day and evening familiarizing ourselves with the KOA and making dinner, a simple salad made with a few of the ingredients we’d picked up at the market the day before. One frustrating element of the stay though was the deficient Wi-Fi strength and lack of good signal from T-Mobile, our cell phone provider. We’d recently switched from a long-term relationship with Verizon and would soon find that when traveling outside of large cities, Verizon’s coverage is superior.
The next morning we set out for a full day of sightseeing, starting out close to camp with a few hours at Fort Stevens State Park. Built near the end of the American Civil War, the Fort guarded the mouth of the Columbia River and is named for a slain Civil War general and former Washington Territory governor, Isaac I. Stevens. It was an active military reservation from 1863–1947 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, residing as part of the larger 3,700 acre park State Park, which itself is a part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
Our first stop in the park was at Battery Russell, built between March 1903 and August 1904 and named for Major General David A. Russell who was killed in action during the U.S. Civil War. On the night of June 21–22, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-25 surfaced off Battery Russell and fired 17 shells from her 14 cm-caliber deck guns, making Fort Stevens the first military installation in the Contiguous United States to come under enemy fire in World War II.
The Japanese attack caused no damage to the fort itself; it only destroyed the backstop of the post’s baseball field. The Battery did not return the fire because the submarine was out of range of its older guns.
Fort Stevens was decommissioned in 1947 and all of its armaments were removed, and the buildings were auctioned until finally being turned over to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. It was a cool, foggy day, mists providing a haunting backdrop as we drove to our next stop, the wreck of the Peter Iredale. It was a four-masted steel bark sailing vessel that ran ashore October 25, 1906, in route to the Columbia River. She was abandoned on Clatsop about four miles south of the Columbia River channel.
Along with dozens of other people, we walked out onto the beach to examine the wreckage, checking it out from all angles (except of course from out in the water) and pondered the vagaries of nature and how it can turn a simple voyage into disaster in the blink of an eye.
Leaving the site, we drove out to the northern most part of the park hoping to walk out on a jetty for a glimpse of the mouth of the Columbia, but a huge restoration project had closed off access, so we bushwhacked out to a viewpoint before returning to the car to drive back to the historic center of the Fort, which contains the original fortifications from the Civil War.
Here sit the 1863 Earthworks, a number of battery’s (West, Mishler, Parados, Pratt, and Smur) constructed between 1896 and 1902. As we’d spent considerable time climbing around Battery Russell, we didn’t feel compelled to do so here, but did visit the small visitor center which provided a pretty comprehensive presentation on the fort and its history.
We left the park and started to drive over to Astoria, stopping first a Starbucks for our usual Vente Vanilla Latte and one of their breakfast sandwiches, which are moderately priced, uniquely crafted (Bacon Gouda and Egg or Roasted Ham, Swiss and Egg both on an artisan roll for example) and generally a delight to consume. We wouldn’t be disappointed, and it provided us with fuel we’d need for a successful afternoon of sightseeing.
Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA: https://koa.com/campgrounds/astoria/
Fort Stevens State Park: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=129
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/lewi/index.htm