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we took a chance and turned off at the sign for the Heceta Head Lighthouse. If you don’t turn off the highway here, it continues over a bridge and through a short tunnel, and you might have no idea what you just missed. The bridge itself is worth stopping to admire. It’s a vintage assembly of concrete arches from the art-deco period that stands about one hundred feet above a narrow valley and short stretch of beach. On the north end of the beach is a half-mile trail that winds its way up the headland, a cliff that juts out into the ocean. The lighthouse itself

Photo by Gary Windust

e’d had good weather the previous two days, high clouds with frequent blue sky and sun peaking through, but then we drove south on Highway 101 from Newport, Oregon, that afternoon of the third day. Our luck ran out and we got the normal spring conditions, low clouds blocking our view of everything except rain on the windshield. We were due back in Eugene, fifty miles inland, that evening. It looked like this last part of our trip might be a bit of a bust. Still, our older son told us that he wanted to see at least one lighthouse as long as we were out here by the ocean, so

Left: The Heceta Head Lighthouse was restored by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Above: The vintage Cape Creek Bridge is just one of the beautiful sights on the way to Heceta Head Lighthouse.

is only 56 feet tall here, shorter than many, but it sits about halfway up Heceta Head, allowing the light to be seen for about 24 miles offshore. Just from the parking lot east of the beach, the view of the lighthouse is striking as it sits on the hillside. Fog and rain add just the right mood for the scene. Tired of sitting in the car, we were happy to grab our umbrellas and hike up the trail. It was almost 4:00 pm when we reached the lighthouse, but the park volunteer waiting there was happy to give us the last tour of the day. As tour guides do, he reviewed the history of the place. The lighthouse was finished in 1894, specifically to warn passing ships of the unusually shallow water along this part of the Oregon coastline. The lighthouse was constructed before the road or the bridge. Building materials were brought by wagon, at low tide, along the string of beaches stretching from here to Florence. Electricity didn’t reach Heceta Head until 1940. Before that, a team of lighthouse keepers lived in two nearby houses. A living sermon on dedication, the keepers kept the light constantly burning with kerosene. Every morning, the keepers would wipe black soot off the lighthouse’s focusing lens and the tower windows. Every few hours they would wind the clockwork mechanism that turned the light, like a giant cuckoo clock, or oldstyle grandfather clock. They would hoist a two hundred-pound weight up the center of the lighthouse on a large chain. The weight would ◀ 21

Stowaway Winter 2016  

Winter is here, but adventure awaits! Strike up a conversation, spark a new interest, or slip into something familiar in this issue of Stowa...