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A Whitewashed Wonder

A Whitewashed Wonder

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

kgw.com

Posted on December 11, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 15 at 12:16 PM

In winter, except for surf and wind – the coast slows down – few distractions, fewer folks around and many people like it that way.

At the rocky headland called “Heceta,” – named for 18th century Spanish explorer Bruno Heceta, the landscape is marked a gleaming sentinel – a whitewashed wonder with a powerful light atop that can be seen for miles.

If you stop in at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, be sure to spend some time with the state park volunteers – people like Ruth Philippson – who can tell you much about the area:

“Oh, it’s a jewel to work here as a volunteer because there are so many people here from just down the way: Reedsport, Florence, Newport – people come here to visit their lighthouse. They have such a sense of pride and want to share their own stories about the light, the headland and the park. They play right in their own backyard and that’s very cool.”

After you enjoyed the stunning views, be sure to join one of the volunteers or perhaps park ranger like Clay Courtright who can guide you deep inside Heceta Head Lighthouse.

“All of the brick came from San Francisco – the whole tower – and what is so interesting is that there are actually two walls with an air gap between them. That was to allow the structure to breath and add strength to the design as well.”

The construction of Heceta Head Lighthouse began in 1892 and it was officially lit two years later.

But there were few roads and horse and wagons transported all of the supplies, equipment and bricks – that was a two day journey from Florence; the nearest port that’s but 5 miles away.

Three men crews were stationed at the remote site – but they were not alone, noted Courtright – fo the families accompanied the crews. It was a life of hard work and serious responsibility.

“Between the isolation and - especially prior to electricity – the hard labor, it was a tough life. In those days, only steady and serious people applied for a life of dedication to the service of the Oregon lighthouses .

The fresnel (fre-nel) glass lens used in the Heceta Lighthouse was shipped from England around the Horn and it needed constant care and cleaning – but it was the brightest, most powerful beam in its day and could be seen 21 miles out to sea.

“I have a lot of respect for the transition the men made here,” noted Courtright. “You see, in 1932 a bridge across Cape Creek was completed and suddenly provided automobile traffic a way to reach the light. Then, basic electricity service followed. With the autos, you had people taking picnics up here on Sunday drives – a pulse of activity interacting with folks that the lighthouse keepers never had in the early days. I can only imagine what life was like and the struggles that occurred for the keepers.”

Nearby, Carl Washburne State Park offers visitors plenty of elbowroom to stretch out and play in a quiet and out of the way parkland. It offers 58 sites for RV’s or trailers, plus two yurts for folks who like to camp, but don’t own the gear.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of nine lighthouses managed by Oregon Department of State Parks, but it is the only site where a keeper’s cottage is still standing. The keeper’s cottage is a private bed and breakfast where you can enjoy a longer stay.

“Oh, it is very isolated, but people like it that way,” said Michelle Bursey.

Michelle is the co-owner of the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast and it offers 6 rooms – each one of the rooms offers wonderful views to the ocean, the forest or the nearby lighthouse.

“There aren’t any other residences around and yet, it’s on one of the most popular highways in the United States, so it’s nice that it’s preserved this way.”

The Queen Anne styled cottage offers a wonderful escape and an amazing seven-course breakfast – in fact, they even share their remarkable recipes in a new book about the place.

There are no phones or TV, but an inviting front porch with a spectacular ocean view that will keep you coming back for more visits.

“We have many guests who come to get away from it all – people who want to leave the hustle and bustle and enjoy the view – enjoy each other. It’s quite special that way”

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