Heceta Lighthouse

 

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.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Moving back to Southern California from the East Coast was not a hard decision for me. I admit, I miss the seasons and my friends but the allure of the West Coast is hard to deny. The perfect weather, enviable produce, flowers and beautiful beaches accessable to everyone. One of those amazing beaches calls to me, and always has; Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s timeless beauty masks a delicate foundation struggling to survive in the world around it.

This natural reserve is located between Del Mar and La Jolla, within the San Diego city limits, along a long lovely stretch of the Pacific and is home to the nations rarest pine tree, the Torrey Pine. Possibly the rarest pine in the world. It is indiginous only in two places in the nation, here and Santa Rosa island off the coast of Santa Barbara. These lovely trees have many enemies including the bark beetle which has done irreparable damage to this species and it’s still evident. This fragile area is wild and untamed with trails that meander in and around the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Most of the trails have overlooks and no matter where you are it seems you have a panoramic view of the sea. Along the miles of trails throughout this park you see cactus and brush reminding you that we are actually in a desert. Benches have been strategically placed along the paths to enjoy some quiet solitude looking at the water. The reward at the end of the hike is strolling along this welcoming beach soaking in the sunshine and listening to the waves crest and crash beside you.

The beach here is wide, the waves manageable and you can walk for miles. If you go into the sparkling salt water you can head out a good distance and still have the water be no higher than your knees. The waves crash into you and you teeter a little, but don’t get knocked down. It’s a friendier beach to me.

The facinating and colorful cliffsides tell a story a million years old in the lines running through them, similar to the way sheet music tells us how to play the symphony. The sandstone, wind tunnels, caverns and fossils of this area make this park a geologists playground. Pay attention when walking past these cliffs on the beach. Many of them are unstable and you can see evidence of the errosion of time, wind and water with every step you take.

With millions of visitors every year enjoying this preserve, keeping the park and beach pristine is a constant endeavor. There are signs everywhere reminding hikers to stay on the trails so the delicate landscape on the other side of the rope can renew itself and find it’s foothold into life. Signs are all over warning that some of the caves, and ravines are unstable and in need of rest from trampling feet. Resisting the urge to step off the beaten path and take a picture is almost painful. The world around is spectacular in every way and it’s beautifully displayed here at this park. However, keeping it that way is sometimes as difficult as preserving the rare trees that are the parks namesake.

Rewarding Hike

Went to Cowles Mountain again to hike up the 1000 feet. It was a much clearer day than the time before. We could see all the way to the ocean. I went, despite still suffering from back pain and spasms along with a little neck pain just for good measure. But I put all that aside because not only did I really want to go, but I needed to release some of the stress that’s been building up in me since losing my job.

I of course, took my camera and I’m so glad I did. I got some great images, (I think) however, it’s also a source of joy for me…which I need a bit of right now.

 

Travel Tip of the Day… Going to Europe? (Take me with you) Rail Europe is offering some deals and if you haven’t been on the train in Europe it’s a wonderful experience. Try it.

 

Finding Christmas Spirit (at the Hotel Del of all places)

Christmas time has come to Southern California and I seem to be finding it unsatisfying so far. There is no snow, no frost, no feeling in the air that the season has changed. I’ve recently moved back to San Diego from the Northeast and now I’m wondering if I’ve made the right decision. I’ve lived in Southern California before so I knew what to expect. I also knew what I was missing while in New England: the ocean. I missed the ocean so badly I could taste it. It was constantly on my mind. I know what you’re thinking- “There’s an ocean in New England”. Trust me, it’s not the same. The Pacific offers warm ocean breezes, the pounding surf, wide soft sandy beaches and spectacular sunsets with the possibility of a green flash. Beaches here are very different from those on the other coast. In New England most of the breezes are chilly for much of the year, the beaches are rocky and the sun sets in the wrong place, at least in my eyes.  On the other hand, this holiday, I am unable to take a long drive down a country road and see deer in the snow covered hills. I am not going to be bundled up in my heavy robe, hot chocolate in hand, watching the snow fall out my front window ( I also won‘t be shoveling it). Here, I have snowflakes hanging from my beautifully lit Christmas tree and from the ceiling of my apartment.  Here there is no chance of snow, but I feel like Christmas is still around if I look for it. During this time of year, no matter where I am, I reflect on the meaning of Christmas, what it means to me and decide how to make it special.

Sure, shoppers fill the malls, as they do on both coasts looking for the perfect gift to bestow on the person they love. Families go to the home of a relative and have dinner, watch the games and  let’s face it, some of the relatives fight amongst themselves, because that’s what some families do….right? But I think if you look you can find holiday spirit and perhaps, the meaning of Christmas wherever you are.

The other day, I attended the Hotel Del Coronado’s holiday festival. I wasn’t going there to find the meaning of Christmas. I just wanted to go see the spectacular tree they put in their lobby every year and the fireworks, but I got much more than I bargained for. During this festival there were games and prize booths for the kids, food stands with everything from BBQ to warm, sugar covered donuts and coffee.  There was the wonderful ice skating rink nestled next to the sea and those familiar ocean breezes I moved 3000 miles to feel again.  To kick the night off there were fireworks over the water. A lovely display that was brief, colorful and spectacular with a backdrop of the beautifully lit Hotel Del Coronado behind it. After getting quite wet to photograph them, (I waded into the surf to get the best vantage point) I walked into the hotel to view the decorated trees, which were beautiful, ornately decorated and lovely.  As I strolled past the booths of laughing children playing carnival style family-friendly games, I again contemplated the meaning of Christmas. I suppose it’s only natural at the beginning of the season to ask that question. People reflect on the year and things they’ve done and sometimes berate themselves for the things they didn’t.  I’m certain we’re all too hard on ourselves, and rarely give credit for what we did accomplish.

I walked around with my toes squishing around in my very wet tennis shoes and I realized that everywhere I looked I saw the meaning of Christmas. A father hoisted his child up onto his shoulders to give him a better look, teenage girls laughed together watching boys with all the possibilities of life ahead of them. A mother held her child’s hand pointing out a Santa Clause or snowman on the tree. A smile, holding hands, laughter, these are the true meaning of Christmas and that night they were happening all around me.

Although I miss New England, I realize that Christmas happens everywhere. Whatever form it comes in, bundled up with parkas and scarves or in shorts and flip flops with a sweatshirt, there is one universal way we all celebrate. It’s not about gifts. It’s about being with the people we love. Days and nights filled with laughter, a smile, a hug and just the very act of being together.

I walked home feeling very Christmassy (is that a word?) indeed, singing a Christmas carol to myself, happy that I’d moved back to a place I love, looking forward to Christmas morning with my husband, feeling the same joy as a child. Perhaps I will make cookies later.

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