10 Ingredients for a Perfect Summer Day

At 8:30 yesterday evening, I got up from my spot on the sand, and made my way to the surf line. I was standing on the edge of the continent, camera at the ready, crashing waves from the Pacific Ocean lapping at my feet, as the westering sun dipped toward the horizon. I was there to capture the sunset, the culmination of an absolutely perfect summer day. I’d been worried about seeing the sun set all afternoon, as fog banks played a constant game of hide ‘n seek with the rugged Oregon coastline, but with minutes to spare it was obvious this one was going to be a beauty. A distant drift of fog offshore had blown to the south, and the wispy streams of clouds racing across the sky were not enough to obscure that magic moment. I glanced around me, and was amazed by the sight: hundreds of people lining the shore, all in roughly the same spot – just out of reach of the incoming tide – cameras in hand and tripods at the ready. I laughed out loud, the whole image was so surreal.

And then the sun touched the sea, and despite the massed throngs, I was completely alone for a minute.

Sunset over the Pacific - Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon.

It was the ideal way to spend a Friday in late July. I had a full day, leaving the house shortly before 10 AM, and not returning until after 11 PM. Rather than give a blow-by-blow description of the day’s activities, I’ll sum them up in a list, because I have to say – if you’re looking for the ingredients for a perfect summer day – this is it.

List of Ingredients for a Perfect Summer Day

  1. Coffee to get you started. I stopped at McDonald’s for a cup to fuel up for the drive. The drive-through lanes were packed, so I went inside, where I encountered a girl in front of me who could not figure out the difference between a #2 combo and a #5 combo (the answer: one has an egg, the other doesn’t). I think she was hungover. Or stupid. Maybe both.
  2. Cheese. Upon arriving at the coast, I stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a bite to eat. Made a quick beeline through the place (been there many times), focusing on the free cheese samples, before heading to the cafe for a grilled cheese sandwich with turkey. You can’t have a proper adventure on an empty stomach!
  3. Wine tasting. Next up was theΒ Β Blue Heron Cheese Company (hey, Tillamook has a lot of cows). I paid $5 for five samples of wine. My favorite? The pinot gris from Eola Hills…but I’m already familiar with that one. There’s something naughty-feeling about drinking wine in the early afternoon.
  4. A waterfall.Β In this case, Munson Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Coast Range. Conveniently located seven miles south of Tillamook, the waterfall was an easy 1/4-mile trek from the parking lot. It was big, I’ll give it that.
  5. A lighthouse. The Oregon coast is notoriously rocky and wild, and as a result, lighthouses are plentiful. I drove out to Cape Meares, west of Tillamook, to check out the lighthouse there. It’s on the small side, as far as lighthouses go, but has a beautiful red octagonal-shaped lens, one of only two in the U.S. And the view from the cliff top? Stunning.
  6. A weird natural wonder. Minutes from the Cape Meares lighthouse is the Octopus Tree, so named because of its unique multiple trunks that sort of resemble tentacles from an octopus. It was even featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
  7. A “secret” beach. Oregon has an abundance of beautiful beaches, most of them well-known. But Short Beach, a small crescent-shaped swath of sand nestled between Oceanside and Cape Meares, is completely unmarked. I found the entrance only because I knew where to look for it; you park on the side of the road and descend “The Stairway of 1,000 Steps” to reach the bottom. Once there, you’ll find a fairly secluded beach with a large rock formation and a waterfall spilling over the cliffs through a wooden flume. Very cool.
  8. A panoramic viewpoint. If you’re a shutterbug like me, you’ll need a great place to pull off the road and snap a few pics. There were plenty of these on the drive north. The views, when not fog-shrouded, were incredible.
  9. A nice dinner. After a day spent exploring, you’ll have worked up an appetite. In Cannon Beach, I stopped at my favorite little spot, Ecola Seafoods Restaurant and Market, for a crab cake and salad topped with fresh Oregon bay shrimp.
  10. A sunset. As mentioned before. A great way to end the day.

Here are some photos of my outing.

Cheesemakers are pretty punny.
Free samples at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Munson Falls: tallest waterfall in the Coast Range.
Cape Meares lighthouse. What it lacks in stature, it makes up for in charm.
Oregon's famous Octopus Tree, a Sitka Spruce with character.
The secret beach. I'd tell you where it is, but then I'd have to kill you. (Don't worry, there's always Google).
The waterfall at Short Beach.
These fishermen didn't care that the fog was rolling in.
These Oystercatchers, with their distinctive red beaks, are common along the northern Oregon coast.
Misty beach at Hug Point.
One of several caves at Hug Point.
Fog rolling in over the Oregon coastal headlands.
View of Cannon Beach - my favorite spot on the Oregon coast.
Kites are synonymous with the beach, especially along the windy Oregon coast.
Somebody got really creative with this sand sculpture.
Another day comes to an end along the Oregon coast.

Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

32 thoughts on “10 Ingredients for a Perfect Summer Day

  1. Those photos are AMAZING. I’ve only been to the Oregon coast once, it was the weirdest thing. We were there in the morning and it was cold and foggy – we came back 2 hours later – crystal clear and sunny. A west coast sunset is just awesome.

    BTW, I may be out your way in October over Columbus Day.


    1. I was driving north along the coast…one minute it would be completely socked in with fog, the next, clear as a bell. Pretty odd! And why I was worried over the sunset. Even ten minutes prior, I didn’t know for sure that it would be clear. Turns out I had nothing to worry about!

      Let me know when you’re coming…I’ll buy you a Voodoo doughnut! πŸ™‚


  2. Mark, Mark, Mark….I give you TEN stars and a standing ovation for these AMAZING photographs!

    OMG…they’re breathtaking!

    LOVE the ones of the sunset and the foggy/misty sky – Bellissima!

    The more you share of Oregon, the more I see just WHY you love there – it’s truly a gorgeous place.

    And I love your list of ingredients for a perfect summer!

    Ahhhhhhh…some wine and cheese. I’m mean does it get any better than that?

    Thanks for sharing your day, bud! Thoroughly enjoyed it. Have great rest of your weekend!


    1. The weird thing is, once you cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington, that rugged landscape just flattens out. Which is why the Oregon coast will always be my hands-down favorite.


  3. Beautiful pictures! Love the rolling fog shot. Definitely got the recipe down for a perfect summer day, and I’m thrilled it involves cheese. I’m glad you brought wine, but you forgot to put it in a canteen. πŸ˜‰


  4. I think Oregon is EASILY the most beautiful state. As someone who grew up in VT and now lives seaside in MA, I think it’s the perfect combination of the things I love most about each. Unspoiled, lush, green, pristine beaches….love.

    Have you been to Depoe Bay?

    Enjoyed your photos so much. Thanks for sharing.


    1. That’s high praise coming from somebody who has called Vermont and Massachusetts home – you’ve got some beautiful scenery yourself out there!

      I’ve driven through Depoe Bay, but never stopped. There are just so many great spots along the Oregon coast.


  5. Pure awesomeness Mark!!

    Washington beaches have nothing on Oregon beaches…and I don’t like living so far north that it takes that much longer to get to the beautiful beaches. Florida beaches come in a close 2nd so that should tell you how I feel about Washington beaches.

    I love anything Tillamook!!

    I tend to agree…probably both!

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures Mark!!!!


    1. I was surprised the first time I saw a Washington beach…I was just expecting more of the same, but Oregon’s amazing coastline ends where Oregon ends. Go figure. You’ve got the San Juan islands, though – they’re pretty amazing!


  6. At Short Beach (there’s nothing secret about it, though we don’t like advertising it), that’s not a waterfall, it’s the spillway from one of Oceanside’s reservoirs. The water comes from Short Creek, which is miles long, and since Short Beach is a thousand meters long, one can guess they weren’t named for their length.

    Local trivia: in the spillway picture, you can see a fence at the top of the bluff, over the spillway. I built that one week after I observed a kid, maybe 14, walk out the northern (left, in the pic) edge of the spillway and do the “crane” bit from Karate Kid. I made it a full wrap-around fence a few years later after a college guy climbed down into the spillway (I kid you not!) and made his way under the road to the reservoir for a swim (unaware he was violating quite a number of laws doing so).
    People used to fish in the reservoir. The only way to catch any now is to sit at the bottom of the spillway falls and hope.
    People have been known to use the falling water as a shower. One day it was a bunch of young teens after a sand fight, who stripped, rinsed themselves, rinsed their suits, dressed again, and then ran laughing down the beach.

    You can learn something about the place here: http://www.shortbeachtrail.org/


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