Turning south from Newport I took the coast road, US Route 101. I was amazed at how wet everything was. I had been in an arid environment since I left Illinois, so rain was a new experience. (Little did I realize I would be wholly sick of it within a matter of days.) I stopped off a Waldport, the next largish town down from Newport. I noticed on the corner there was a candy store, The Chocolate Frog. I like candy, and I had been a good girl for the most part on the road. Plus, they seemed to specialize in salt water taffy, which always reminds me of the shore.
Inside, I got to talk to the store’s owners, Amy and Nick. They were a hoot. A young couple, they had the business for a few years and were making a real go of it. Amy was originally from the Monterey, California area, but had moved north because (I am assuming) the cost of living was a lot cheaper in Oregon. They were also really dog friendly, Mavis was not only welcome (in a candy store!) but she was spoiled with hugs and snacks. I was a bit afraid she’d take out some of the low-hanging candy from the lower shelves, but she behaved herself.
I asked Amy about the library which was across the street (and closed, naturally). She said she knew the librarian and that she would kick herself to know I had came and went. I asked if she knew if the wifi was working, she said no, evidently the town didn’t like people hovering outside after hours, so it is now not available when the library is closed. She didn’t think it was that big a deal, people just need to get online. Amy and Nick should be the official ambassadors for the town or at the very least members of the chamber of commerce or some such, as they had a lot of stories to tell about town and the surrounding community. Amy said that she took a tour of some of the lighthouses up and down the coast and said that in the early days before automation, lighthouses served as de facto libraries for the area as they received regular monthly cases of books delivered to the lighthouse keepers to keep them and their families from going batty. I thought that was pretty cool. She also told me some juicy tidbits of local lore: evidently the lighthouse at Newport is haunted, the beachfront north of Florence north to Yachats is a hotspot for UFO activity, (although from my own research it looks like the entire state is a magnet), and in the 1960’s about sixty people disappeared from a local beach, leaving only their clothes behind (I couldn’t find anything from a Google search on this topic. I’ll dig into it when I have greater access to a library database.) I love this kind of stuff. True or not, it’s a load of fun. I bought a bag of yummy taffy plus a dark chocolate treat to die for and wisely moved on, lest I bought more.
Further down the coast I visited one of those lighthouses that Amy was alluding to. I stopped at the Heceta Head lighthouse near Florence, and what a beautiful place it was! I hiked up the winding path to the lighthouse and checked out the view. Ahhhh. I started talking to Velva, the volunteer tour guide who gives tours of the lighthouse. She confirmed that yes, the lighthouse keepers did get regular shipments of books, but she couldn’t confirm that they were in general use to people outside of the keepers’ families. She went on to give her tour. Did you know that the Fresnel lenses in lighthouses in this country were manufactured in either England, as the one at Heceta Head is, or in France, as most other are? You can tell that by the color of the lense. The English ones are a bit more yellow whereas the French ones are a bit green, due to the elements used in the manufacturing process. If you want to get into the really nitty gritty world of Fresnel Lenses, I suggest you peruse this site and geek out….
I also got chatting with Velva as to what brought her to do what she does. She said she had been widowed twice and decided upon retirement to pack herself up into an RV and drive around the country, stopping where she liked and taking on volunteer jobs which in most cases provided her with a free or discounted hookup space for her ride. She said it was a change from her more staid life before, but she loves the fact that once she gets tired of her gig and/or her neighbors she can just “turn the key”.
Gallery below (click on images for larger views): A.) Heceta Head lighthouse with one of its kerosene storage outbuildings, now unused as the lighthouse is electrically automated (photo by Restore Oregon.org); B.) A photo of the remaining house for the lighthouse keeper and family, now a bed and breakfast; C.) An artsy-fartsy photo I took looking up from within the lighthouse tower-to mixed results; D.) A view of the coast looking out from the trail to the lighthouse summit. Velva says seals congregate on those rocks sometime. E.) Another view from the trail. F.) View of the coast from a bit south of the lighthouse (larger view above) where G.) seals are indeed congregating! H.) Tillicum Beach hazard sign, among some hazards are logs and "sneaker waves". I.) Mavis sniffs next to our oceanside campsite.