May 30, 2001

The Day Our Lives Changed Forever

Day Seven: Sandlake, OR to Portland, OR

This was it! The day was here! Nothing would stop us from seeing the Octopus Tree! *Deep breath* Another sunny and warm day in beautiful Oregon was on tap and waking up under the 300 thread count sheets at the Sandlake Country Inn was the perfect way to greet it. Things only got better when T. rex Deena delivered our breakfast on a covered tray outside our door and gently knocked.

Yeah, I could live like this. The food was delicious - can you believe I saved the menu? (In case you don't really know me, I don't really save anything except in my head. I LOVE throwing stuff away - but I knew I'd be writing this stuff someday, so I saved it.) Hoang and I savored our food and lounged around in the Inn's soft robes and simply enjoyed the moment for what it was. Ahhhhhhh. Hoang and I kissed and said, boy, that kiss just seemed more romantic here somehow!

Enough lollygagging - it was finally time to drive up to Cape Meares State Park and straight to what had better be the coolest tree known to man - The Octopus Tree. So we got our stuff together and bid Deena adieu - I even went in for a hug just so Hoang could see how far her mini little T. rex arms could wrap around my admittedly skinny body (Answer: Not far... Not far at all) and we loaded up the car and hit the road.

Sigh, another distraction on our way to the Tree. We were a few miles from the coastline but had still managed to stumble upon a beach. Or, more aptly, a "Sand Lake." There are actually giant sand dunes farther south in Oregon, but we didn't know that at the time and had fun with this mini-desert. The idea of the picture here was that Hoang was lost on safari somewhere in Kenya. That special secret part of Kenya with Douglas fir trees:

I rescued Hoang from the pride of lions - dandelions and antlions, that is. What's an ant lion? Now you know. Pretty rad little critter. Anyway, after the quick romp through the soft sand we headed out to the coast and then north up to the "Three Capes Loop" and finally to Cape Meares.

The roads along "Loop" are pretty tricky to navigate and rather narrow. There are many turnoffs to views - some official, some not. Once we got to the loop (a 20 mile or so system of scenic roads along the coast) we found ourselves stuck behind a very slow driving older couple from South Dakota. Ugh. The first place we saw to turn off and soak in the beautiful views was the same place the old South Dakotans decided to take in as well. So we all did.

Back to the cars and on to the next spot - which we decided to skip ... Just like the daggone oldsters from the heartland! On and on this continued and after a few more stops, we recognized just how creepy we were being. So like any couple of goofballs, we decided to follow them all morning into the early afternoon. We followed them down their wrong turns, knowing they were wrong turns. (Remember, we NEVER make wrong turns.) We stopped at their stops and parked right next to them. We never looked them in their eyes, but we were always near. Yeah, they hated us.

Nice view

From Cape Lookout State Park to Netarts Bay and finally to the Octopus Tree, we shadowed their every move. Once near Cape Meares, they tried to fake us out and get rid of us, but I shimmied on my back underneath their car and held on to the frame as they drove up to the next parking lot. But then Hoang told me to give it up - that was "Cape FEAR" not "Cape MEARES." Oh. I had no problem leaving the poor folks alone, though, since we were there - the home of the Octopus Tree!

Cape Meares State Park offers up several trails leading to different items of interest: The beach, the lighthouse (there's always a lighthouse), and of course, the Octopus Tree. We had teased ourselves long enough - there was no debate, it was straight to The Tree! The path to The Tree is a lovely graded and wide trail skirted by tall, straight fir and spruce sentries. It was like we were entering a cathedral of sorts...

The jaunt was short for within a couple minutes - HOLYCRAPHOLYCRAPHOLYCRAP - there it was! The birds all flitted away and left us in silence as a bright ray of late morning sunshine pierced the canopy to alight the most beautiful tree either of us had ever seen. The Tree, in all it's naked woody glory, standing - nay, living and breathing before us. Its tentacles spiraling towards the heavens that gave this mighty Sitka spruce life.

Hoang and I stood silently in awe for what seemed like an eternity. We slowly approached the beautiful beast and said nothing - as words failed us. We circled The Tree and I began snapping pictures as if The Tree would somehow instantly vanish before us, as if it were a dream all the while. I crept over to Hoang, never relinquishing my Treeward gaze, and asked her to pinch me. She did and at that moment I knew - The Tree was real. It really was.

I can't remember how long we stood there, staring at this wondrous creation, but it may have been hours. Our trip was now complete; I contemplated running back to the car, speeding to the nearest airport, and getting the quickest flight home. The Octopus Tree had ruined the rest of our trip - in fact, I feared it may have ruined every other vacation we'd ever take together; riding a bike at sunrise down a volcano in Maui in 2005? Lying on the beach in Kauai in 2003? Ascending Mt. Katahdin in 2004? Enjoying Bastille Day on the French Riviera in 2004? Pshaw - for we had seen The Tree. And it was good.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention this excellent parody site of the Octopus Tree. Or is it real? My explanation is that someone was even more mesmerized by the Octopus Tree than we were and began hallucinating.

After circling The Tree one last time, we continued down the path to the cliff overlook, several hundred feet above the coastline. Hoang turned to me and said, "I have seen all I need to see on this earth, goodbye." Fortunately, I wasn't listening to her and snapped an excellent floating head picture - one of the best of the trip. The flash from the camera snapped her out of her delusions and we safely walked back to the parking lot. May you all be as fortunate as we were to have seen the Octopus Tree. Phew.

Since this would be our last stop at a beach on this trip, we made our way down to the Pacific and cavorted barefoot in the ocean one last time. Once again, Cape Meares is another stunning place with sheer cliffs, sea stacks, and soft sand beaches. Hoang snapped a purposely "cheesy" picture of me (the reason will become clear later) and after soaking in the views one last time, we climbed back up to the car.

We did make the cursory stop at the stubby little lighthouse, of course, and even toured the inside of it. As this was our 8th or so lighthouse in the last few days, and since we had just experienced The Tree, it didn't really hold our interest too much. So we made our way to the car, took out the map, and hit the road inland towards Portland.

On the way east, we passed through Tillamook, home of the world famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. In case you weren't aware, this part of the country is pretty renowned for cheese. In fact, this point was reiterated on Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report just last week when he interviewed the US Representative for this area as part of his 533 part series, "Better Know a District." (California's 50th is "dead to" Colbert and Texas's 22nd has been retired, hence the missing 2 districts - since you were wondering.)

Anyway, I'll let Colbert explain Oregon's Fifth Congressional district: "the Fightin' Fifth is famous for two things - logging and cheese making. So when you visit, you can lay a log and cut the cheese in one afternoon!" So true, so true. And now that I've elevated the discourse here, I'll continue with our adventure.

Since it was now mid afternoon or so, we were pretty hungry. Fortunately, the Cheese Factory had a rather well-stocked gift shop complete with a huge array of free samples - otherwise known as "lunch." We must have each eaten a pound of various cheeses, up and down the aisles we went, vacuuming up everything from bland cheddars to crazy stinky soft cheeses. Mmmm-mmm.

Afterward sufficiently binding our bowels for a solid 3 days, we took the self-guided tour of the factory. Cheese is one of those things that you don't really need to know how it's made. Like bacon and babies, the result is wonderful but the process is rather disgusting. What's more, there's something strange about watching old women in hairnets perform menial labor for my viewing pleasure. It kind of gave us the creeps, elitists that we are. And here, finally, is Hoang's "Cheesy" picture:

Get it? Not funny? It kind of is when you realize we thought of it an hour prior on the beach at Cape Meares now though, isn't it? At least the town name is funny... Read all about the Tillamooks. Whatever, after the tour we each bought a cone of their delicious homemade ice cream and considered our lunch a healthy success. Here's a webcam of the Cheese Factory for the heck of it. And hey, check it out, The Octopus Tree was on "Ripley's Believe it or Not!" Take it from us: Believe it.

Sated with enough cholesterol to last us a few days, we drove northeast up to Oregon's biggest city, Portland. I had heard good things about the city, so we were both looking forward to spending a couple days there. Although it was now rush hour, I drove into the heart of downtown, just to check it all out. It was amazing - the traffic flow was non-stop and I quickly learned why. You can only drive straight or take right turns at every intersection - this pretty much insures the traffic will never get stopped up. It took some getting used to, but if I knew the streets, it would have been a breeze. We parked and took a walk down the reclaimed Willamette River. The massive Mount Hood loomed in the distance (Highpoint! and Hoang and I questioned why we live in Connecticut. Again.

We stopped in a local pub to glean some city flavor and pick up the free city paper to see what was going on in town that week. I believe we may have sampled some of the local brew, though I'm not sure - I am sure that I got a parking ticket (the first of many on our future travels) before driving across the river to our hotel. In a fit of frugality, I had booked two nights in an Econolodge. The W it was not.

But it wasn't so bad, despite Hoang claiming the bedding stunk like body odor - hey, this was Portland after all - home of all sorts of dirty hippies. After checking in, this was further evidenced by our dining mates at a nearby Tapas restaurant. The restaurant was actually quite nice, and the lychee martinis we had made it all the nicer. But what was up with the dirty dude in torn clothes and a tear-inducing stench eating nearby? We were learning that this was the norm in Portland - and we were determined to find out why.

Fortunately that guy didn't stay for dinner and we ended up having a great time. We ventured up and down that Boulevard that night (we were in the NE section of town which we later learned was a bit rougher than some other areas. We met and yapped with the locals and got some good hints on what to do with our full day in the city tomorrow - which you'll enjoy reading about right here, of course.

The room's sheets were changed upon request and so ended yet another incredible day of our 2001 Pacific Northwest vacation. May you all dream of Octopus Trees tonight.

Go on to Day 8

Back to Day 6
Pacific Northwest Trip 2001 Home
eXTReMe Tracker