"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our lighthouse adventure coming to a close

Umpqua River Lighthouse

I can’t believe that that month of March is almost over.  Today we start our last 3 days of hosting at Heceta Head Lighthouse. This has been a great experience and we hope to return one day when the tower is open and the light is on. There is a slide show on the renovation in our displays and I have watched it now several times. It is amazing that they were able to get it looking like this is just over a year. The amount of detailed hand work that it took to preserve this building is just amazing. We have had a chance to see several of the other lighthouses and I may be biased but I think this lighthouse is the crown jewel of the Oregon Coast. If you drive this coast line anytime after June it will be well worth your time to stop and visit.

We also have enjoyed the people here and the park. If we returned we would hope for a site that we could get our dish to work, but for a month at a time, I know I can handle being without it. Because we just have to go a short ways to the day use area for cell it doesn’t feel as isolated as we were in California. I am looking forward to being in places that we will have continuos cell and internet. I have fallen so behind on the blogs I read it will take me awhile to catch up. It seems like when we do go somewhere to get online it is never for long enough. I miss my mornings when I could relax with my coffee and spend time with friends via their blogs. 
Oregon Dunes

Shore Acres Botanical Garden
Last week on our days off we drove south along the coast to checkout the Umpqua Lighthouse and a couple other Oregon state parks. The Umpqua River Lighthouse is still manned by the Coast  Guard and is a working lighthouse and there are no tours. It was great to see the light on! Then we stopped at Sunset Beach and Shore Acres State Park. The sites at Sunset Beach campground seemed a lot shorter that the ones at Washburn. There isn’t a campground at Shore Acres but there is a beautiful Botanical garden. Its clear that spring is gradually making its appearance. Even with it just partially in bloom it is a beautiful place to visit. 
View from overlook at top of Cape Perpetua

Our other outing was just this week, on Monday we went to Cape Perpetua for a long hike. This area is just about 7-8 miles north of us and is a National Forest Service park. We took the Cook’s Ridge and Gwen Creek trail loop that is approximately 6.5 miles. It is a great hike. The first two miles gains almost 1000 feet in elevation but then levels out and has a nice 3-4 miles of downhill. It takes you through old growth forest with some very large trees. Not as big as the redwoods but big enough to make you feel very small. There are steams cascading down in small waterfalls and the beautiful Gwen creek. It ends with nice views of the Pacific ocean. As if all of that wasn’t enough we drove the winding road in the day use area up to the top of the park where the view is absolutely stunning. I don’t think the photos due it justice. The day was kind of gray so the photos come out a little flat but believe me the view is anything but flat even on a gray day. There were a group of about 5 college boys up there at the same time.  One fella, before he knew I was there, yells out “this is the most #$!!**X beautiful view I’ve ever seen”. I actually have to agree with him though I probably would have stated it differently.

The Oregon coast has quickly become one of our favorite places. It has mountains, forests, lakes, dunes, rivers, lighthouses and the ocean. Its hard to beat. We will be a little sad to say goodbye. The good news is, it is high on our list of places to return to.

I'll leave you with some more photos of the gardens. Spring is here. :)

Happy Trails.................

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Newport & Yahats OR

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Last week, on one of our days off, we headed north on Highway 101 to Newport. I’m not sure what the population of Newport is but it seems significantly larger than Florence. It is also home to the Rogue Brewery which makes some very good beer. My oldest son is a real fan of this beer. His favorite is Double Dead Guy Ale. Added to that is a Walmart and we were in need of a dehumidifier as well as a few other things we hadn’t been able to find in the smaller towns. As much as we like staying in areas that are more rural areas sometimes you just need a bigger town or city to find what you need.

Another draw to this area is Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and Yaquina Head Lighthouse. We started in town at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This is a unique little lighthouse that has its light right on top of the lightkeeper’s house. The light was only functional for a year and then it was decided since the light at Yaquina head was much stronger there just wasn’t a need for both. It has now been restored and is open to the public for tours. The light keeper here had 7 children and the house is very nice. On the top floor there is a small room for whoever was manning the light. The house is nicely done with period pieces.

It was time to get something to eat so on to the Rogue Public House. This is in the old town area, there also is the actual Rogue Brewery and online it appears they have food there but we like the atmosphere of a pub. The food was good and John enjoyed a nitro Stout and I enjoyed Dead Guy Ale; they didn’t have Double Dead Guy so I had to settle for just the one dead guy. :)

Next up was Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Natural Area. This fall we applied to work camp here but they didn’t call us until we had accepted the Heceta Head position. It’s nice to get to see these places for our next visit to the Northwest. This area is run by the Bureau of Land Management and luckily our national parks pass is good until the end of this month, otherwise it would have been a $7 day use fee. We drove out and parked at the lighthouse, but it was not open for tours at this time. This lighthouse is the same design as Heceta Head and was renovated a few years ago. For some reason the top and roofs were painted black where Heceta Head is red. I have to say I think the red is definitely more striking. The bit of land with the lighthouse sticks out into the bay and is nice with great views. There are harbor seals nearby, and some cobble beaches and tide pools as well. We arrived rather late so we didn’t have much time to hike the area but I think working here would also be a great gig.

On our way back to the campground we stopped at a town about 20 miles north of the park, called Yahats. This is suppose to be an artsy little town with some gallerys, shops and restaurants. The Ona restaurant, right on the bay, had been recommended to us so we stopped there for dinner. It was a little too chilly to eat on the porch but they have a wonderful outdoor dining area that has a nice view too. This place is a little more upscale and the food was great. We were too late to wonder through the shops but it is close enough we may make it up there again.
Harbor seals at Yaquina Head
We had 3 days at the lighthouse this week. We had one cold rainy day and then 2 very nice days. I’m glad we have the next few days off since there is a storm coming tonight with gale force winds. Climbing the hill to the lighthouse on a day like that would not be fun. We are lucky though; our supervisor is fine with closing on days when the weather is really nasty. Today we have been just kicking back a little and though there are places we still want to see and some hikes we’d like to do some of it will be weather dependent. We are thinking about driving down to the parking lot of the lighthouse tonight if the storm picks up; we hear watching the waves during a storm is spectacular.

Yaquina Head

Happy Trails...............

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Gray Lady of Heceta Head

Lightkeepers house from the lighthouse
One of the interesting things we have learned about our lighthouse is the story of the Gray Lady who is the resident ghost of the lightkeeper’s house that is now a bed and breakfast. The ranger in our orientation didn’t mention it and I think they would rather not bring it up but we began getting questions about it right away and of course we were clueless so we did some asking around and some research.

There is some conflicting information but it is thought that the ghost was the wife of one of the assistant lightkeepers here by the name of Rue. Rue was an older mother when one of her daughters died. Now this is where the conflicting information comes in. Some say it was an infant daughter who died and others a somewhat older daughter (yet still young). Some sources say she fell off the cliff, some say she fell into a cistern, some sources say she was ill. There is rumor that there is a grave on the property of an infant girl that was tended for many years but now no one seems to know its location. What is consistent is that this mother is still inhabiting the house looking for her daughter. Many tales of tools moved, cabinets and doors mysteriously shutting, noises of crying, screaming and even laughter. They do tend to think she is a benevolent ghost and is mischievous but never dangerous. 

One of the stories about her is from a worker on the property. He was working in the attic and she appeared across the room as a gray wispy figure (so the name Gray Lady). He was so frightened that he didn’t want to return to work. They did get him to return by promising he would not have to go into the attic again. One day an attic window broke so he decided to fix it from the outside since he was never going in the attic again. Once again as he looks in the attic there she is looking out at him. He left and never went back to the job. Since the window was repaired from the outside the worker just left the broken glass in the attic. That night others heard sounds coming from the attic and in the morning one of the other workers went up to clean up the glass and it had already been swept up into a nice little pile for them. Since then there have been many reports by those staying in the bed and breakfast of hearing her or seeing her and of things getting moved around. 

The Heceta Head lightkeeper’s house is listed as one of the ten most haunted places in America. I did a google search for the info, if you are interested in that sort of thing I encourage you to do that. There are other tales of hauntings in other lighthouses too. There is photo in our oil house displays of the lightkeepers and their families. One of the local volunteers showed us which lady they think is Rue. There are also several young girls in the photos. It sure makes us wonder.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heceta Head Lighthouse

I thought today I’d give you a little info on the lighthouse we are working at. We had fairly good weather this last week and so had a good flow of visitors. It is a 1/2 mile hike uphill from the parking lot, so we start our day with a little exercise. About 3/4 the way up the hill is the original
Assistant Lightkeeper's House now a bed and breakfast 
assistant light keepers House. It was originally a duplex that housed the families of the two assistant light keepers. There was another small house next to it for the head light keeper and his wife but in 1936 when the electricity came to the lighthouse only two light keepers were needed so the head keeper moved into the duplex and the small house was sold for $10 to a local who hauled off the lumber to reuse. This plot of land now belongs to the US Forest Service and the house is run by a concessionaire as a bed and breakfast. We have talked to several folks that have stayed there and they say it is a wonderful place and the food is incredible. They also say if you want to stay here you need to get reservations well in advance, for the summer maybe over a year in advance.
Looking down on the oil houses from the watch tower

A view of the lens on our tour
As you finish your climb to the lighthouse you come to the two oil houses. This is our domain. The first one is our break room and houses the supplies. These are heated but not very well so there is an added space heater in the break room. The second oil house is where the displays are housed. We have photos from the early days, photos of the lens and a section of broken glass that broke during cleaning. They found someone to make a replacement piece for $25,000 dollars. We also have a TV showing a slide show of the renovation. It is worth the watch and I think makes people understand what an undertaking this project has been and why it has taken more than a year to complete. 

Here is a look at our oil house displays.

The lighthouse was built from 1892 to 1894. The light was lit on March 30th, 1894. The lens is a unique one. It is a first order (largest of the fresnel lenses) fresnel lens made by the Chance Brothers in England. Most of these type lens were made in France. There are only three of this type of lens in the US left and when they relight this one it will be the only functional one. In 1939 the US Coastguard took over all the light houses on the coast. In World War II there were soldiers stationed here and some barracks and a mess hall were built, but they’re all gone now too. 1963 brought the complete automation of the lighthouse and the retirement of the last light keeper. The Coast guard bricked up all the windows to prevent vandalism and that eventually caused some of the deterioration that has now been repaired. Those windows were critical to keeping the air circulating and in this very humid environment that is very important. In the restoration those windows were returned and now will function as originally designed. The added plus is you get a great view out to the ocean during the tour.

We had the privilege of getting a tour of the inside from the the ranger here. When this opens again and it is close, hopefully June 1st, it will be worth the hike. They have done a beautiful job. The ranger explained that one of the most unusual facts of this restoration is they were able to secure the money to renovate both the inside and outside at the same time. He explained that usually you could get money for one or another but rarely all at the same time. 

This lighthouse is the second most photographed lighthouse in the US. It is visible as you come around the corner from the Sea Lion Caves headed north on Highway 101. It is a stunning site and gem of the Oregon Coast. We feel privileged to have a chance to volunteer here even though its not open. I have learned a lot and enjoyed sharing that with visitors.
Next post I want to tell you a ghost story about the area but I want to do a little more research first. We also took a trip to Newport and visited two more lighthouses to tell you about . Until then,

A view of the Lightkeepers house from the lighthouse
Happy Trails.................................

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What would Scooby do?

The beach from the trail.
While we were at Bullards Beach, the truck got a little boo-boo on its front bumper. Just a little scratch but John loves his truck so much that even a little scratch is traumatic. So how does John fix a boo-boo? Well, he puts a bandaid on it, a really big bandaid that says “what would Scooby do?” Some might call it a bumper sticker.  The best part is that saying is now becoming a mantra for him.
Heceta Head Lighthouse

We have moved into our new work camping gig at Heceta Head Lighthouse just north of Florence, Oregon. We are staying at Carl G. Wasbburne State park. The lighthouse is part of the park. So here we are again with no cell service (even though yesterday I had some fleeting moments of 1X service) and we can’t get the dish to lock on even though we’ve been told others have done it in this site, they even showed us where but so far no luck. Thats ok, its only a month and we can walk or drive down to the day use area and have a good signal and we can get cell service at the lighthouse.  We’ve ordered a new mifi system from Millenicom with 20gig of data that should arrive on Wednesday so if we are creative we will have internet some too. We have learned we can do without a lot of things for a short period of time. 

Lighthouse from the trail
Yesterday we took a hike on the trail that goes from the park to the lighthouse. It is 3 miles long and we were considering walking to work and back when we can but we had been told that parts of the trail are very muddy right now so we wanted to check it out. I mean really as John said “what would Scooby do?” The first half of the trail is in great shape but once it crosses the highway and gets closer to the ocean it starts getting much wetter. We got to one spot that was a fairly long stretch and the only choice is thru the mud, no dry border or places to land that weren’t mud, so do we turn around? Nope, John says “what would Scooby do?” In John’s opinion Scooby would slog thru the mud and so did we. I hope you are getting the picture here. Now when we come to a crossroads I guess we’ll do like Scooby. John thinks that means taking on the adventure but I think he forgets that Scooby was a big fraidy-cat too so I’ll have to remind him of that when the situation call for it. 
The oil house where the displays are

Today was our first day at work. We will be three days on and three days off. The lighthouse has been undergoing a massive renovation and the tower is still not open to the public. The outside is completely finished and is now visible with scaffolding gone and I think once the alarms are all set they will be taking the fencing down around it too. From what we understand the inside is basically finished as well except for a couple electrical things and a few mechanical issues with the lens. They haven’t set a date for reopening it for tours but I think it may be open before the summer season. We are hoping to get a look at the inside before we leave. Our job is pretty easy since there are no tours. They have one of the oil houses set up with several displays and a presentation on the renovation, we just fill in any of the information people are interested in. Hanging out at a lighthouse and answering questions and some littler patrol so really an easy assignment. The only issues we could have will be weather related. It rained hard the first 2 days we were here but yesterday the sun came out and it was beautiful again today. Tomorrow there is 100% chance of showers so we will get a chance to see what its like up there in less than perfect weather.
From the Lighthouse looking towards the sea lion caves

Today we also got to watch a group of sea lions playing by the rocks just off the shore. They were too far away for any good photos but with the binoculars that are at the oil house it was fun to watch. We were told that last night a group of whales were spotted out this way too. March is when the migrating whales begin to be seen again in the area so we will certainly be watching for them.  I’m not sure when I’ll get this posted so I may be adding to it... time will tell. 

Happy Trails........................