We all love cheese, especially Kadia and me: cheddar, Parmesan, Emmental, Munster, Harvarti, Mozzarella, Ricotta, cream cheese, Swiss, you just name it and we like it. On the trip, we typically had some cheese for lunch and a little more at dinner as we made quesadillas sometimes. And it was only natural that we would go to cheese factory tours if we saw them. We struck out at Wisconsin, the cheese capitol of the nation, as we were only at the northern and southern end of the state where most of the cheese is made in the central part. But we took three cheese factory tours on the trip, Cabot Cheese of Vermont, a small cheese maker on Vancouver Island and Tillamook of Oregon.

When we were at Vermont, Susan saw on a brochure about the Cabot Cheese Tour. We just cannot pass up this opportunity. Kadia milking the CowWe left the Moose River Campground early in the morning and arrived at Cabot Visitor Center a little after 9am. The parking lot was vacant so we thought maybe it was a bad idea: maybe this was a terrible tour. Although I love cheese but I hardly ever paid attention to the brand name but I recognized the Cabot logo when I saw it. I have eaten Cabot cheese before. We went inside the Visitor Center which was like a little shop with many milk related products. Soon there were many more people came in and we joined the cheese factory tour.

The tour guide showed us 15 minutes video the complete cheese making process, Cabot Cheese Productsfrom selecting the best cow, testing the milk, curdling, molding, and aging. We also learned the many kinds of cheese and how they were made; even the shape of cheese can make a difference as disk shape cheese are more uniformally textured and flavored than the block kind. She also showed us many different products they made ranged from yogurt, butter, dip, seasoning and, of course, cheese. It was very educational. Then she took us into the factory to show what we just saw on video in action. Everyone had a plastic hair cover and some had a plastic beard cover. We saw all the machinery and processing of the cheese. It was 2 dollars but it was the best tour we joined on the trip, worthy of every penny.

Snacking at CabotAfter the tour, it came the best part, the tasting room. Although tasting room was open to everyone, not just people on the tour, we felt it was our rights to eat them as we took the tour. There were 20+ types of cheese to try and we, including Kadia tried them all. We loved many flavored cheddar cheese: horseradish, bacon, garlic, habanero, pepper jack, chipotle, tomato, and many others. I liked spicy and heavily flavored food so horseradish, pepper jack, habanero and garlic were all my favorites. I also kept sampling mild, sharp and very sharp kinds to determine which ones I liked the most. I think it was sharp but I liked them all. We ended up buying Vintage Choice cheddar cheese, a garlic flavored cheddar cheese, a couple of yogurts, butter that they only sold locally and some chips and dip. We were in cheese heaven, much like Wallace on a cheese planet.

The cheese tour we joined on Vancouver Island was at a local farm. cheese5.jpgIt was a small operation. It wasn’t much of a tour other than just a simple show and tell. The place was run by a young woman (see the picture on the right). I was surprised that small cheese maker could still survive in the age dominated by giant businesses and the young woman when most of young flock to big cities these days. We learned that the goat cheese is healthier than cow cheese. We were disappointed there were only two cheeses we could try but understood. We brought some goat cheese and curd there.

The Tillamook cheese is made by another big cheese maker. Tillamook CheeseThe factory tour reflected that: it felt like a multi-million dollar business factory tour center with a complete gift shop. The tour was free, I believe, and self-guided. It was on a second floor with many glass windows looking down at the factory. There were many video booths showing different stages of cheese processing. The information was well-presented and, although we had already learned about the cheese making process a few times, helpful as we could watch multiple times if we missed it the first time. They also made ice cream there. The cheese sampling was disappointing as well as they only had 3 or 4 choices but their shop had hundreds of cheese to sell. Again we bought some cheese for our snacks. It was hard to not buy more but we were constrained by lack of a real refrigerator.

The Cabot Cheese tour was the best; and we liked the tour guide–a personal touch. Of course, their selections of cheese for sampling were beyond words. Go there.


It is Australia Open this month. Federer is playing Djokovic right now in the 4th round. Last year, I missed the French Open, the Wimbledon, and all the US Open except the men’s Final. I remember when we camped at Memaloose State Park (on Colubmia River Gorge) in Oregon, I was able to listen to the KNBR radio station (AM 680, based at San Francisco) clearly that night to check the tennis scores from the US Open. But the next morning, I could no get much reception at all. I thought it was bizarre.

During Christmas break, I mentioned this phenomenon and a friend said it was because KNBR is a clear channel station: a clear channel station has the frequency all to itself at night. He said that when as a kid, he used to be able to listen to radio stations from Chicago from his Texas home at night. That was pretty cool and amazing.

Thanks to the KNBR station, I was able to race home in time to watch Federer played Roddick in the US Open Final, a good final. Only 6 more to go for Federer now.

Chinese Version

About 12 years ago, I went on a trip to Vancouver with another family and we drove by Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon. Susan, Kadia and Bryden with the famous Multnomah FallsI remember that it was beautiful and I made a mental note to come back to explore it more. While planning the trip, Susan wanted to visit Multnomah Falls (see right) in Oregon. I had never heard of Multnomah Falls so naturally I was interested. As a bonus, it is along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, thus, giving us an opportunity to see both the same time.

We drove down on highway 97 from Washington State and reached Columbia River Gorge near Maryhill State Park. We were taken back immediately by the stunning view, a wide open gorge with a river run through it (see below) The river had a feel of a big lake, not sure it was due to the Dalles Dam just down river or it was always like that. The road along the north side is high above the gorge where as the road along the south runs along next to the river down in the gorge. We drove along the road on the north side for 30 miles to take in the view of the gorge before heading down and crossing the river at The Dalles.
Columbia River Gorge from North Side

On the south side, we drove along the river and saw the gorge from a different perspective. We felt much closer to the nature, reminded us the time we hiked down to the Grand Canyon: the views along the way down were much more spectacular than only looking down from the top. We camped at Memaloose State Park that night along the river. It was a beautiful campground but it also confirmed our observation: wind and gorge go together. Luckily it wasn’t as windy as it was when we were at Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming where we had to take shelter in the van to eat our dinner.

The next morning, we set out to find the Multnomah Falls. Along Columbia River Gorge One thing we always did on the trip was to stop at the 1st welcome center after entering a new state to pick up guidebooks for that state. We found all state guidebooks informative and useful. A lot of states also provided free maps. We had discovered a lot of interesting and unheard of places in those guidebooks. We had picked up some Oregon information at The Dalles and discovered that we could take this historical trail where we can see lots of falls. Waterfalls for us are like candies for kids. We thought we hit a jackpot but we didn’t have to hike much as a lot of them were just off the road: this worried me a little bit.

I always thought of seeing a beautiful fall after a long hike would make it look better and be more fulfilling. I remember a grueling hike we did at Yosemite to see a series of falls, Tuolumne Falls, Glen Aulin Falls, California Falls, Le Conte Falls, and Waterwheel falls. It was a 16 miles round-trip hike. We started too late and had to turn back at California falls and luckily we did as we had to use flashlight for the last ½ miles on the way back. Horsetail Falls Along Columbia River GorgeWe have to go back one day to see them all. All the falls were beautiful but if we were to see them off the side of a road, we might not have felt the same way. Therefore, we kept our expectations low.

The first falls we saw was Horsetail Falls (see left). It was early September so the water was not plentiful but it was graceful nevertheless. There was a hiking trail where it led up to upper horsetail falls. We only planned a day to see all the falls so we decided to skip the hike and moved on to the next falls, Multnomah Falls.

The Multnomah Falls is the most famous falls in the Northwest, according to some publications. Kadia with Weisendanger Falls along Multnomah Creek It was definitely unique as it dropped down from over 600 feet in two tiers with a bridge across the middle, a view to remember. There was a gift shop down at the base of the falls with thousands of falls pictures. We felt like tourists instead of explorers. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful falls. We hiked up to the top of the Multnomah Falls and continued down the Multnomah creek to see two more falls, Dutchman Falls, and Weisendanger Falls (the picture with Kadia). I found the Weisendanger Falls extra charming, perhaps because we hiked 1 ½ miles to see it. The hike was quite nice, secluded and shady. I wish we had more time so we can go further beyond the Weisendanger Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls Along Columbia River GorgeHorsetail Falls Along Columbia River GorgeWe made another couple of stops to see Bridal Veils Falls (see left) and Latourell Falls (see right). Each one had its own charm but it was not as rewarding as they were easily reached. We also drove up to the Crown Point/Vista House to take in views from high up (see two pictures below). I wish we had a little more time so we can explore the area more. Although most of the falls we saw required little hiking and water volume was low, we still felt it was worth the trip. Also, we discovered there were a lot more to be explored via hiking. It is definitely a place we will go back again.

Along Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge near Crown Point, Oregon, looking upstream into the gorge, past the Vista House, from Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint (Chanticleer Point)

Along Columbia River Gorge
       Columbia River Gorge, looking upstream into the gorge, from the Vista House