A Lighthouse Adventure
The recently renovated Heceta Head Lighthouse is about twelve miles from the charming small town of Florence, Oregon. It has a 56 foot tower and sits 205 feet above the ocean. First lit in 1894 it is one of the strongest lights on the Oregon coast. Now modernized, it is still functioning today, keeping Mariners from running aground on the coastline rocks below.
An Arduous Walk…Ok..not really.
The sign said the lighthouse was just a short walk from the parking area, so we started upward along the lush green path. After a few minutes we realized the sign lied. Not that we minded the walk, but the elderly or people with disabilities might have trouble. Truth be told, I might have minded a little. After all, I’m not in the best shape, but it was such a pretty walk I couldn’t resist. Besides, I always need the exercise.
The walk consisted of two halves. The first ended on a plateau where the lighthouse keepers homes were built. There were originally two houses, side by side, but only one remains. The home that is still here is now a bed and breakfast, and although we couldn’t go inside, it was easy to see this would be a wonderful, romantic and serene place to spend a night, or two. I can see the allure of staying overnight here, listening to the waves, and seeing the lighthouse up close at night.
Continuing up the path, we eventually reached our ultimate goal, the Heceta Head lighthouse.
From The Top
The free tour of the historic structure was not scheduled to begin for a few minutes. We spent the time looking out over the bluff at the spectacular view below. We enjoyed the show of waves crashing on the huge rocks at the base of the cliffs. Seabirds flew back and forth below us, their wings glistening in the sunshine. It always looks to me like the surface of the ocean is covered in diamonds when it shimmers in the sunlight. Now those are my kind of diamonds. Several whales frolicked below. To our delight, one jumped out of the water as we looked on. It was truly an awesome sight.
The Work Of A Lighthouse
Emerging from one of the adjacent outbuildings, a volunteer announced the next tour was about to begin. We huddled around her and waited for a few others that wished to join in, then headed inside a door at the back of the lighthouse. As we entered a small room the guide began to tell us about the history and accomplishments of the lighthouse. She talked about the technology, how things worked and the incredible people that made this lighthouse what it was. The work was difficult, the hours were long and great strength was necessary for most tasks. We learned about the people that worked the lighthouse, but also a little about their families. They kept a garden and the children were schooled on the property. Provisions were brought in by horse and wagon. Running a lighthouse was a hard and lonely life, but rewarding.
We started to ascend the rounding staircase getting closer to the top. She explained how the building was built, different levels for different things. One was an office level, the other held the oil waiting for the hike up to the top. The windows inside were very small and let in very little light or air. Many years ago the walls were stuccoed, unfortunately they learned over time that stucco, sea air and small windows don’t mix. Eventually the stucco molded and destroyed parts of the lighthouse. After the renovation they removed all of it and now only the original brick remains, which is a much nicer choice if you ask me.
Reaching the top we got to see close up the Fresnel glass that creates the light for all those on the ocean to see by. A spectacular invention that shines the light out to sea for an astonishing 20 miles!
The current lighthouse no longer requires oil to keep the light moving, but it still shines that beacon of light out to sea to light the way of the seamen of today and tomorrow.
Spending Time On The Beach
Once the tour was complete and we walked back down the path we decided to spend some time on the beach. It’s a large, wide beach with lots of seabirds that bathe themselves in the nearby stream that flows into the ocean here. The rocks in the water provide safe nesting and a convenient perch, not to mention beauty for us to enjoy. I must have taken 500 images of those rocks trying to get just the right one.
We liked it here so much we ended up staying the entire day. We pulled out some snacks we had in a cooler in the car and picnicked at one of the tables next to the beach. Then we decided to hike back up to the top and do the tour again. Why not right?
Above The Lighthouse
Afterward we noticed an easily missed trail going up above the lighthouse so we climbed that too and I’m glad we did. We got some amazing pictures of the lighthouse from above that you can’t get unless you go up this trail.
It was a really beautiful day spent on the beach with this lovely historic light looking over us. We toured a piece of history, learned about those that came before us and appreciated the restoration for those that would come after us. We hiked, ate and breathed in the salty sea air spending our whole day in this spectacular spot on the wondrous Oregon coast.