Tillamook Air Museum

On Sunday when I drove from Yachats to my next stop in Nehalem, Oregon I drove through the town of Tillamook, which I knew was the home of Tillamook Cheese (and Ice Cream!).  I didn’t know this museum was here until I saw this, sitting quite a ways off to the right as I drove up Highway 101:


Kind of hard to miss….

Turns out this was one of 10 blimp bases built by the US Navy in 1942 to house blimps used to detect enemy aircraft and submarines.  There were 3 such bases on the west coast and 7 on the east coast and along the Gulf of Mexico.  There were a total of 17 hangars (combined) at all those locations and today, only 7 remain.  You are looking at “Hangar B” at the former US Naval Base – Tillamook.  There was an identical “Hangar A” until it burned in August of 1992.

This hangar is huge:  1,072 feet long, 296 feet wide and 192 feet tall at it’s highest point.  And it is made of wood!  To this day, it is the largest free-span wooden structure in the world.

Here are some more photos from outside:


To give some perspective to the photo above, here is a man walking between the airplane and the little white house on the right:


And the aircraft you see is an Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy:


Here is what the buildings looked like from the air, “back in the day”:


Now let’s pay our money and go inside:


There were several large aircraft inside, military jets, prop planes and ordinary single-engine planes.  There used to be a lot more aircraft here until Mr. Erickson decided to move much of his collection to another location (the big plane with his name on it has 4 flat tires so it is still here…).

To give you some idea of size, look for the red and white helicopter a little below and to the right of the center of the photo above.  Here’s what you’re looking for:


That is probably the most identifiable thing that most people can relate to.  It is a Bell TH-57C SeaRanger but is virtually identical to the classic Bell 206 JetRanger that State Police departments all over the country use, as well as many TV news and “scenic flights for tourists” outfits.  That should give you some idea how big this building is.  Let’s look at another example.

Here is a poster showing the sizes of various blimps:


The two most famous are the ill-fated Hindenburg (at the top), and the Goodyear blimp (near the bottom), seen by many people at sporting events around the country.  This Naval station housed K-Class blimps, about 1/4 larger than the (old) Goodyear blimp, and 8 of them could fit inside each of the two buildings here (nine if they had been a little smarter on placement!):


After looking around the inside of the hangar I went outside and took a look at the “Mini Guppy”:


If the name “Erickson” on the side looks familiar, you may have seen it on the TV news coverage of the various wildfires burning around the country lately.  Erickson is a huge sub-contractor of aircraft for construction (huge Sky-Cranes) and fire-fighting (both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft) to both the National Park and US Forest Service.  Here is what the inside of this plane looks like:


Cape Meares Lighthouse

This was all I could see of the Cape Meares lighthouse as I walked the long hill from the parking area:


And as I learned when I walked down two more shallow ramps, there wasn’t much more to see!


This is the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast, at only 38 feet tall.  It sits 217 above the ocean a little northwest of Tillamook, Oregon.  It was first illuminated  in 1890 and was taken out of service in 1963.  As you may be able to tell from the first picture it also had a red and white lens, similar to the one at Umpqua River.

As I walked back up the long hill to my car I saw these large rocks off the coast to the south:


From the first angle I could see two holes under the rocks, one in the largest and one partly visible in the one furthest to the right.



By the time I got up to the car the angle had changed slightly so I could only see the hole in the largest rock.


Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

This lighthouse, nicknamed “Terrible Tillie,” is located 1.2 miles off the Oregon Coast, about halfway between Cannon Beach and Seaside.  Because of the harsh conditions at sea and the small size of basalt rock it sits on it took over 500 days to build.  It is 62 feet tall and sits 133 feet above sea level on less than an acre of basalt rock.  It is now only accessible by helicopter.

This was taken from several miles down the coast (making it even further away):


This was taken from Cannon Beach, a little closer.


And these were taken from Ecola State Park, a little further north than Cannon Beach, the closest I could get.



Less than a month before it would be put into service a ship got too close and crashed, killing all 16 crew members on board.  The light was finally lit on January 21, 1881.  It was knocked out of service by a storm in 1934 with winds of over 100 miles per hour and repairs took over a year to make.  It was taken permanently out of service in 1957 and now has private owners.  For a few years after being converted to private ownership it was a columbarium (a place to store cremated human remains) but the license was revoked in 1999 and has never been renewed.

Here are some other photos of the lighthouse I found online:

Tillamook-Rock-1200x800 dronestragram

(Photo credit: kem5882 dronestragram)

TillamookLighthouse youtube dot com

(Photo credit: youtube.com)


(Photo credit: lighthousefriends.com)

Devils Punchbowl

This Oregon State Park is located between Newport and Depoe Bay, Oregon.  The main attraction is the huge, round “bowl” which has an opening at the western base to allow the surf of the ocean to enter it and swirl around before exiting through another hole on the north side.  It is apparently quite a show at high tide.


And here is a view from the south showing that it is, in fact, right next to the ocean:







If it looks like a duck…..

Sunday I drove north from Yachats to Depoe Bay and stopped at a State Park called Seal Rock to try my luck at bird watching.  While I was spending some time watching with my binoculars from an overlook two volunteers with the Oregon State Park system set up shop with spotting scopes to help unprepared (or underprepared) visitors see some of the birds up close, and explain exactly what they were looking at.  There had been other volunteers doing the same thing the day before at Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

I explained my frustration with getting bird pictures to one of the volunteers and she pointed out where along the shore I should walk to see something which has eluded me this far – a Harlequin Duck.  I went where she told me and scanned the rocks with my binoculars and finally spotted something:



After looking at the pictures I think there is good news and bad news.  I don’t think these were Harlequin Ducks but, instead, were Surf Scoters – another bird which has eluded me this far (and they are both variations of ducks).  Either way, while excited to see something new I am at the same time disappointed because the signs and brochures I have seen featuring both birds indicated they were very colorful.  Something I am learning about birds, including the various Puffins and Cormorants, is that they are often most colorful during mating season (aren’t we all…) and then lose many of their colorful features the rest of the year.

The volunteer suggested I go to the Ocean Aquarium up the road in Newport to see the birds I haven’t seen so far but somehow I feel like that’s cheating.  Not as much fun taking pictures of animals at the zoo as it is seeing them in the wild.

Here are some other birds I saw while at Seal Rock Sunday morning:

Some Pelagic Cormorants clinging to the side of a rock (where then nest in the crevices)




Some Pigeon Guillemots, showing off their red feet:



Another young Western Seagull:


Some of the younger ones I’ve seen looked more like tiny emus with a short neck but this one actually looks like a seagull.  They are mostly brown as youngsters, and some seagulls stay brown, but this is a young Western Seagull which will become mainly white and with some gray and a yellow beak with a red spot on the bottom.

And a Black Oystercatcher, first in the water then after it had flown up onto a rock:




Whales at Depoe Bay

Sunday I returned to the town of Depoe Bay, Oregon.  I was there briefly on Saturday but wanted to return and spend some time watching for whales.  There are pods of gray whales which live in this area year-round and this is a popular spot to see them close to shore.  Don’t get too excited – you really don’t get to see much.  These aren’t whales jumping way out of the water (called breaching) like they do in the Pacific Life commercials.  You wait for the spray of air (spout) being ejected from their blowhole then watch as they arch their back while diving back underwater.

There are several companies which offer “whale watching” trips out onto the water.  Here are a few boatloads of paying customers:




As it turned out, they got a pretty good show.  We took my mother whale watching up in New England many years ago and didn’t see a thing…

Sequence 1 ( 5 shots):






And to give you an idea how close to shore this is happening, here are the three boats sitting just offshore.  I was standing on the sidewalk next to Highway 101 and you can see a little of the rocky shoreline which wasn’t too far out in front of me:


Some of the whales surfaced between where those boats are and where I was.  Unlike the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific gets very deep, very fast once you get offshore.  When we went whale watching in the Atlantic we had to go way offshore to find water deep enough for big whales.  The three boats in the photo above later went out to sea to try their luck out there.

Sequence 2 (9 shots):










Whales near Yaquina Head Lighthouse

In addition to the various seabirds I saw while visiting Yaquina Head Lighthouse on Saturday I also saw a few whales, but wanted to wait until I had the photos from Sunday at Depoe Bay ready to post.  As I mentioned in that post, don’t get too excited – you really don’t get to see much.  These aren’t whales jumping way out of the water (called breaching) like they do in the Pacific Life commercials.  You wait for the spray of air (spout) being ejected from their blowhole then watch as they arch their back while diving back underwater.  These are gray whales which live in this area year-round.

Sequence 1 (4 shots):





Sequence 2 (8 shots):





I didn’t notice it at the time but this whale appears to have a big chuck taken out of it’s back.  I’m guessing maybe it got snagged by the propeller of a large boat.