|Lighthouse keeper's home from the beach|
The setting sun and cloudy weather didn't make for very good photo ops, so I returned the following day. What a difference! This time, I was greeted with blue, sunny skies. The magnificent scenery started right from the parking lot, with a nice panorama of the ocean and glimpse of the keeper's house.
|Lighthouse keeper's home (can you spot the lighthouse?)|
It was a pleasant half-mile climb through a lovely forest to reach the keeper's house. Rimmed by a sparkling white picket fence, the house had been restored to it's former glory. It's listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Now operated as a bed and breakfast (what a wonderful place to spend the night!) it wasn't open to the public.
|A very idyllic spot|
But that didn't stop me from wandering the perimeter and snagging some photos. Views from the house were amazing - one of the few perks to living here back in the day. Although a good-sized structure, this place once housed two assistant light keepers and their families.
|Dramatic lighthouse view|
After rounding the keeper's house, I continued uphill to the lighthouse itself. The panorama from here was nothing short of a treat. Situated on a wooded bluff 205 feet above the ocean, Heceta Head Lighthouse had a commanding view. In one direction, the Pacific Ocean stretched away for miles, an endless carpet of blue. To the south, an adjacent cove, wooded headland, and scenic highway bridge anchored the landscape.
|Heceta Head Lighthouse|
Then there was the lighthouse itself. Fully restored in 2013, it's new paint job gleamed brightly. And I loved the cheery red roof! Did you know that Heceta Head is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the coast? I could certainly see why.
|A glorious view from the lighthouse!|
The cape was discovered by Don Bruno de Heceta, a Portuguese sea captain, who in 1775 set sail along the West coast as part of a secret voyage for the Queen of Spain. His crew sidelined by illness, he was forced to turn back near the Columbia River. But Heceta was the first person to sight this rocky headland, which now bears his name.
|I liked it's red roof|
A century passed, and vessels sailing this coastline requested a lighthouse to guide them around the rocky, treacherous waters. In 1892, an order was placed for a First Order Fresnel lens with the Chance brothers in England.
|Inside the lighthouse|
In the meantime, construction of the lighthouse and two keeper's houses had begun. Shipping materials to this isolated location proved to be a challenge. Back then, only a single lane wagon road traversed the steep oceanside cliffs. Workers either used this road, or supplies were delivered via rafts floated into the cove with incoming tides. The Fresnel lens had to be very carefully off-loaded onto the cape via surf boat.
|Close-up look at the Fresnel lens|
The Heceta Head lighthouse began operation in March 1894. Due to its isolation, the first several years were tough on the keepers and their families. However, in the 1930's things began to look up, with the construction of US 101 that connected Heceta Head to the world. With a modern roadway also came electricity, partially automating the lighthouse, and lightening the keeper's duties.
|View out the window|
The lighthouse became fully automated in 1963, eliminating the need for keepers. Years later, the entire site was turned over to the Oregon State Parks Department, and has been under their control ever since.
The lighthouse offered daily tours, led by volunteers. Surprisingly, this sunny Monday in April had produced few visitors. A half dozen eager volunteers hung out beside the red-capped tower, offering to take guests inside. Not about to pass up a chance to see the interior, I happily accepted.
|Great vistas from the bluff|
My tour guide was a very enthusiastic retired woman. She was a wealth of information, starting in on the lighthouse's history. She described how the early keepers had to lug kerosene up the tower's 58 steps to keep it's 5-wick lamp lit. Also included in their duties was to wind up a heavy counterweight, that, as it slowly dropped, provided the lens' rotation. The day crew had the worst job of all - cleaning kerosene grime off the delicate Fresnel lens.
After a brief history lesson, our guide led us up the stairs to an area just under the lens. Peeking through a gap in the upper chamber, gave glimpses of the magnificent Fresnel lens. This two-ton masterpiece is comprised of 640 delicate, hand-ground prisms. The only active British-made lens of it's size in the country, our guide explained that only certain people are allowed inside it's chambers for cleaning. Maintenance must be done with extreme caution, as the glass in this lens is now irreplaceable.
|Another view of the Fresnel lens|
That Fresnel lens was quite an impressive sight. I tried to capture a few photos, but the narrow viewing gap made it difficult. I was, however, able to get some good shots out the lighthouse windows. The views from there were mighty fine.
As our guide led us back down the stairs, she described how, once the Coast Guard deeded this lighthouse to the State Parks Department, over the years, it had fallen into disrepair. Through private, state, and federal dollars, a renovation project began in 2011. The interior was totally gutted, revealing the original wood floor and brick walls, which were then restored. The original metalwork and masonry were replaced, and new windows installed. Then, the entire tower and outbuildings received a new coast of paint. Finally, in June 2013, a shiny, reconditioned Heceta Head lighthouse opened for visitors.
|Very friendly seagull|
After my tour, I climbed the wooded bluff behind the lighthouse, to get a look across the headland. The views from this lofty perch were outstanding. Another vantage point, and a different perspective to see Heceta Head. Some very cool views of the lighthouse! I could look right into the Fresnel lens as it slowly rotated. As I climbed down, lovely purple wild irises blooming in the forest provided perfect accents for this gorgeous area.
|Iconic view of Heceta Head|
I ended my tour at a large roadside pullout south of Heceta Head. This vantage provides a classic view of the lighthouse and it's buildings, perched atop the wooded headland. An often-photographed scene, I tried my hand capturing an image for myself.
Then - it was on to the splashing waves and spouting horns of Cape Perpetua. C'mon back for my next post and prepare to be wowed!
Sharing with: Scenic Weekends and Weekly Top Shot.