Some days I don’t know if we should head to the beach, or see the mountains. But if caught on a clear day, I can almost do both by hiking to the top of Marys Peak. At 4,097 feet, it is the highest point on the Oregon Coast Range, but we only had to hike about 400 feet of that to witness the spectacular view. A nature-made observation tower offers a panorama of the Cascades to the Pacific. To fuel up for this adventure, I wanted to find a unique place to eat along the way, and the nearest town happens to be Philomath, where Gathering Together Farm caught my eye. Once I saw the words “Potato Doughnut” I knew we had found today’s road trip.
Upon walking into Gathering Together Farm, I knew right away we had hit something born out of the love of sharing wholesome food. The porch-like seating area is welcoming with its mismatched chairs and beautiful handmade burl tables. My son and I tried to count the rings to see how old ours had been, but were side tracked when served our fresh-squeezed lemonade. Plants adorn the floor-to-ceiling windows, and old stove serves a new purpose as a wait staff station. A large fireplace sits in the corner, and I can only imagine how cozy it must feel to sit in here on a wintery day. More plants and artwork decorate the walls, and in the back is a market with a colorful bounty of fresh, organic produce. Breads and pastries are baked daily, but sadly on this busy Saturday we missed our opportunity to try this intriguing doughnut made of potato. (I made a mental note we would be returning, even before learning they sold out). The menu varies weekly based on seasonable ingredients, lunch is served almost daily and there are occasional dinners — so calling ahead is probably wise. There are also very kid-friendly options such as grilled cheese and fresh fruit. Between the atmosphere and the coloring sheets, I found this spot to be very family friendly, and seven year-old enjoyed peeking into the small koi pond out front.
With full bellies we loaded back into the car and made the drive that would take us almost to the top of Marys Peak. This is a curvy road with a lot of switchbacks. This road is also a fantastic place to observe all sorts of geological wonders. Basalt pillow lava, sedimentary layers and evidence of fault lines give a snapshot into the earth history of the Coastal Range. A great place for budding rock hounds and geologists, you can see first hand what happened millions of years ago.
There are several ways to hike this once you reach the large parking lot. I opt for the wide gravel service road simply because it was the most obvious for me to find. There are maps at the information sign that show five trails, all varying in length, offering better-shaded options. A few picnic tables and plenty of grass make this a perfect lunch stop, and there are also vault restrooms. The grade is steep along the gravel path, but we found plenty of distractions in various butterflies to discuss and a plethora of grasshoppers. It was fun to step in the grass and see them scatter. This is a prime spot for geocaches and letterboxing, always a great add-on to any hike especially now that a smart phone app is all that is needed. Our day was clear with a great view of the mountains to the east. The ocean was tucked under a draping fog lazily rolling over the lower hills, and we watched birds soar below our feet. This hike is a beautiful way to gain perspective on how large the valley floor truly is.