Hey Heceta, You've Never Looked Better!
Everyone has a favorite spot on the Oregon Coast. I have friends that kayak who find their peaceful bliss on the Siltcoos trail. Another who loves the quirky Hobbit Trail. Mine isn’t unique, but it IS spectacular. It’s Heceta Head Lighthouse.
There’s a sense of surprise and discovery about it that has always appealed to me.
Because it’s one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, I get that surprise often!
I still remember the first time I was in the Sea Lion Caves and walked to the back of the cave. I could see natural light so I knew there was an opening. My surprise was the discovery that this is one of the best view points for the lighthouse!
It’s been nearly two years that this view has been obstructed for a major restoration, so I was thrilled to get back there when they turned the light back on and opened the lighthouse for tours, June 8, 2013.
I drove to Florence with anticipation – turned that corner just past Sea Lion Caves and there it was – beautiful even from a distance. I couldn’t wait to get to the parking lot at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.
I happened to start up the ½ mile trail with a couple who was wearing blue Volunteer vests, so of course I had to ask them about their “job.” They are Department of Fish & Wildlife volunteers spending the nesting season here with telescopes and binoculars helping visitors gain a greater appreciation for the need to protect the birding habitat.
We parted ways at the top of the trail so that I could get to “my” lighthouse. It was glorious. The window panes that have been boarded up as long as I can remember are now windows; the red roof is freshly painted; and there’s not a speck of rust on the white stucco exterior. I couldn’t wait to get inside.
Of course, this is a popular tour, so I had to wait a bit. But that wasn’t a problem because this very entertaining gentleman, dressed in a replica of the lighthouse keepers uniform, shared stories of how the lighthouse was built. Anyone who gets even a little winded walking the ½ mile trail to the lighthouse will appreciate those who had to arrive by ship or walk from Florence on the beach at low tide.
When it was my turn to get inside, I was in heaven. With the new windows, it’s light and bright, the brick is beautiful and the volunteers are full of more stories than they could possibly tell.
We waited in the workroom where we heard more about the early workers; how they kept the light lit and also about the great work of those who just finished nearly two years of restoration work. And then it was finally our turn to walk up the spiral stairs to see the original first-order Fresnel lens. I stayed as long as I could because in addition to the view of the lens, you also get to peak out another window to the ocean and the lighthouse visitors milling around below.
After the tour, I walked up the path that leads to Washburne State Park. From the path, you get an eye-level view of the 1,000-watt quartz bulb! Every lighthouse has a signature flash. Heceta Head flashes every 10 seconds, so I waited several rotations trying to get just the perfect shot of the light before heading back down the trail.
Heading home, I stopped at the turnout just before Sea Lion Caves for one last glimpse and photo. By now, the sky wasn’t quite perfect, so I’m saving that shot for my next trip. I think I’ve now had a personal view of the lighthouse from every angle…except from the air…so if you happen to know my husband, feel free to give him the hint that a great surprise would be a view of Heceta Head from the window of Apex Heli!
About the author: Natalie Inouye is the Vice President of Tourism Marketing at Travel Lane County. The married mom of two recently rode the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway and is anxiously planning her next Eugene, Cascades & Coast adventure.