First Time at Heceta Head Lighthouse

A few weeks ago I realized that three of our RV-Dreamers friends were both volunteering at Heceta Head Lighthouse at the same time, and were both staying at the Carl G. Washburne State Park.   This was pretty amazing, since they had never met each other, and it was a sheer coincidence that they would be at the same place at the same time.  We immediately knew we wanted to spend the weekend with them but weren’t quite sure how to work that out, and after considering moving our rig, or staying with Rick in his Class A, or taking our tent, we decided to take the tent. Not only would be get to hang out with them, but we would have a place to take our trial run with the new tent, and if things went horribly wrong, at least we would be with friends. At the end of our work day Monday afternoon we headed for the coast.

It was a 3-1/2 hour drive to their location near Florence, Oregon, but since we packed up the night before, we made it in plenty of time before dark.  After seeing everyone and exchanging hugs we started to set up the tent. Our experience with tents is very limited so we bought an “easy up” version, but “easy” is a relative term, so it did take awhile.  They had a fire going and gave us plenty of time to figure it out so eventually we did. It certainly was much easier than the tent we used when the kids were small but it did require some reading of the directions.  The good news is the tent worked great with plenty of space for  us.  We had an absolutely fantastic weekend with our friends and since I took over 1,000 pictures, I am going to largely let some of them tell the story.

Beautiful sand dunes near where they were staying

Rick and Jim/Diana’s sites were right next to each other. We stayed on Rick’s site but walked next door to get coffee in the morning at Jim and Diana’s!

Beautiful State Park one of the cleanest and best maintained I have ever seen

Lee was trying to figure out the tent. There were lots of strings we never really figured out how to use.

I liked the sun room area

There was plenty of room inside, lots of head space,  and yes, we took everyone’s advice and bought an air mattress Good call!!

They made dinner for us, so after getting set up, we sat around the fire and exchanged stories.  We all write blogs, but not everything is covered in those, so we filled in the blanks on what had happened since we last saw each other, and Rick and Jim and Diana got to know each other better.  Jim and Diana had been carrying around a present that they bought me when we were doing the beet harvest, which was so incredibly funny and sweet and Rick brought out a hard copy version of my cookbook and asked me to sign it.  That was the first time as an author anyone had asked me to autograph my book and was so kind it really brought tears to me eyes.

Diana, me. and Jim

And the very cute (and practical) spatula they bought me.  How cute is that!!

Signing Rick’s cookbook.  I really had to think about what to say and where to sign it.

The fact that they cared enough about us to go to that much trouble meant the world to me, especially since it has been a rough couple of weeks, and I will say again how blessed we are to be part of the RV-Dreams family.  They didn’t stop there though.  They really rolled out the red carpet.  They fed us dinner every night and breakfast in the morning, plus Rick let me use his shower. We even had an electric cord we could use to plug in a space heater at night and the site was free with them picking up the $7 per night cost of our parking pass.  It was a great way in which to try out our tent, and their generosity was amazing.  Hopefully we can return the favor in the near future, although it will be pretty hard to top!

Tuesday morning, Lee, Rick and I headed out to explore because Jim and Diana were volunteering at the lighthouse that day.  We knew we wanted to see Jim’s tour later, but Rick (who was off) also wanted to show us  the area.  First stop was Strawberry Hill a beautiful little day use area with lots of tide pools and seals. This are of the coast of Oregon is chock full of Day Use areas and campgrounds and it is all designed to allow the public easy access.  Fantastic!!

Walking down from the parking lot.  Rick’s very cool walking stick is made from part of a Yucca cactus.  It is strong but incredibly lightweight.

Beautiful coast views

These rocks are treacherous and we had to watch our footing, but so worth it

Maxine, (Rick’s dog), loves the ocean and exploring the tide pools

So many mollusks

We were able to get very close to seals on the rocks

Maxine couldn’t help herself though she had to get in the water near them. See the guilty look on her face when Rick tried to get her to come back

The seals were having none of it though and they all went into the water

They kept a watchful eye until we backed off a bit

We moved down to a different section of the beach and let Maxine fetch a stick for a while to get rid of some of that energy. She loves the ocean and is a joy to watch

Breathtaking! I did my best to capture the coast. All I can say is it is wild and untamed

This view from the Cape Perpetua scenic lookout does a better job of capturing it

Strawberry Hill is around the corner but the rocks we were standing on earlier are like these


We wanted to get down to the lighthouse when they first opened so we headed over the Heceta Head.  Volunteering at a lighthouse is one of those work kamping jobs that almost everyone wants to try at least once and there is quite a bit to recommend it.  This volunteer job has them working 4 days with 4 hour shifts and they give lighthouse tours all day.  Our friend Jim is a major history buff and his great-grandfather helped build a lighthouse, so this job was perfect for him.  I won’t get into all of the history of the lighthouse, referring you instead to Jim’s excellent blog post on the topic, but I will share some pictures of our experience there.

The only downside is the volunteers have to walk 1/2 mile each way to get to their job. It’s a beautiful walk, good exercise, and dog friendly

These two rocks are bird sanctuaries and were covered with sea birds

The views along the way were very special


This lighthouse keepers house has been turned into a bed and breakfast. It’s pricey but they serve a gourmet breakfast and they have wonderful views of the ocean and lighthouse

You can tour the B&B, but we were eager to get to the top and turned the corner to see Jim and Diana.

Rick, Lee, and Diana

Picture I took later of the area.  There are volunteers at the lighthouse and they take turns doing tours so in between they can stand at the rail, talk to folks, and enjoy these amazing views.  Nice gig!!


The parking lot we started at is down by the bridge, but despite the elevation change the walk is not that steep

Me by the lighthouse for scale. Jim took this picture and he has gotten pretty good at it since that is something they do for visitors

Jim gathering everyone for the next tour group

Lee was fascinated by the tour and Jim did an excellent job

The only bummer was you can’t go up to the top of the stairs. Still well worth the visit even if we didn’t have friends there

Next we went into Florence and treated Rick to lunch at Chen’s Family Dish.  This was the best Chinese food we have had on the road in three years.  Seriously, I gave it 5 stars on Yelp.  The restaurant was simple but immaculate.  The service was great and the food was reasonably priced, extremely tasty, and best of all, piping hot.  Really, really good and if you are passing through the area I highly recommend it.  After food we headed to Sea Lion Caves.  This is a really interesting attraction that has been in existence for over 75 years and has an elevator leading down into a giant cavern with sea lions in it.  The price was a little too high at $14, but the views were great, and the cavern itself was really neat.  I have never been in a sea cave before and really enjoyed it, although I did hear some people complaining about the smell. 

Walking down to the elevator we could see the lighthouse in the distance

These painted sea lions are around the area. This one was really beautiful

The elevator replaced the stairs that formerly went to the bottom and this drawing shows how big the cave is


It was tough to take pictures in here and no flash was allowed, but Lee managed to get a couple of decent shots

There was a neat waterfall on one side of the caves and a view of Heceta Head lighthouse in the distance

After the cave we stopped at a large pullout and I took a picture of the lighthouse.  This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon and bonus we got to see sea lions and a huge flock of Brandt’s Coromants on the rocks below.


Next we went back to the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center and learned that there were blowholes nearby and it was still high tide.  We raced down to the blow holes and had a fantastic time taking pictures of the action.  Lee and I could have stayed there all day.  Rick headed back to get dinner ready and let Jim and Diana know we would be a little while and we spent a very enjoyable hour exploring the blowholes.

Visitors Center

This berry guide will come in handy later on

The skull of an Orca. Jim said he saw 4 of them off the coast the other day and although we didn’t see any of these or whales the bones were pretty interesting

View from the visitors center

As you can see these holes were huge, and there were several of them

There was a hand painted sign stating people had died getting too close to these, but these folks weren’t detered

I hung back a bit, but Lee got right up in the action

There were holes and deep canyons, and lots of rocks. So very beautiful

One of my favorite shots of the day

And the coast itself was absolutely stunning of course, plus the skies cleared up and we even had a little bit of sun while we were there

Rick made us all fish he had caught on a recent deep sea fishing cruise and we had delicious Linc Cod and Rock fish

The we all decided to walk down to the ocean and watch the sunset

There was some mist on the ocean which made for beautiful pictures


And Maxine loved running and playing on the beach

We went back and talked and enjoyed a campfire until we saw that it was fully dark and the stars were out.  The five of us drove back to the lighthouse and walked up the path (with flashlights) so we could see the lighthouse at night.  One of the volunteers had told Jim to sit right under the lighthouse and look up, which we did, and it was truly magical.  We couldn’t really capture it with a picture, but it was like being under a kids crib mobile as the spotlights rotated and the clouds appeared to move. We were expecting to see a single beam of light rotating like at an airport, or a flashing light, but the lens rotates around the light, so you get 8 beams of light that spin and spin and spin. Very cool.

We all sat on the ledge and looked up at the night sky. That was a moment I will always remember.

We walked up to the top of the path and Lee took this shot at eye level with the light

This was as close as Lee could get to what we saw. In order to get any picture at all he had to take a long exposure, so the beams are really wide, but this is showing how far each beam travels in about 4 seconds. In reality the beams were much thinner. The beams are pure bluish white light and they bounced off the mist. You could also see them in rainbow colors when they hit the trees and hill behind the lighthouse.

We have been blessed to have many magical moments on the road, and doubly blessed that so many of them were with good friends.  This moment is one I will always cherish and Lee, who has always loved lighthouses, said it was his new favorite “on the road” experience.  Plus, we are really grateful that Jim, Diana, and Rick went out of their way to see us and made us feel so very welcome.  Rick will be coming our way and staying in our park for two weeks, and we hope to see Jim and Diana once they move onto their next volunteer gig in Oregon.  These moments really remind me of why we became full time RVers in the first place, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! Thanks guys, and can’t wait to see you again. Below is a short video with highlights from the trip. As always, it’s better to watch it in 720 or 1080.




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