Sorry, yesterday got a bit out of hand. I’ll do today later on today.
I woke up early this morning two weeks ago today. I always do that when I’m camping. In the summertime this far north the sun rises pretty darned early. The day didn’t start out all that excitingly. I needed to do laundry. So I got up and out and headed back to Florence to a laundromat I’d noticed the day before, which opened early, fortunately.
With clean clothes neatly packed back in my suitcase, I headed back to the public library, where I finished going through their local history section and attempted to look at some microfilm of the local newspaper for a couple of particular dates, but was utterly stymied, first, by the fact that the young woman who responded when I asked for help did not know, and made it clear she did not want to know, how to run the microfilm machine. The machine in question made me realize how long it had been since I last worked as a librarian, too, because it was a fancy, newfangled variety attached to a computer, and it took me some time to figure out how it worked. Once I did, however, I discovered that the roll I wanted to look at had been wound onto the spindle so that it viewed upside down and mirror-imaged. Totally useless. It could be fixed, but not on that machine, not by me. So I made note of the name of the paper, and resolved to interlibrary loan the microfilm when I got home, so I could use it at my local library, where the librarians are much more helpful.
By that time it was lunchtime, so I found some lunch, then headed north, where my day improved drastically.
I was headed for Heceta (he cee’ ta) Head Lighthouse, my favorite place on the Oregon coast, and the setting for the new book, which is going to be a complete rewrite of a story I wrote a number of years ago — it won’t be recognizeable as the same book by the time I’m done with it, I suspect.
Heceta Head is named after a Spanish explorer, Bruno de Heceta, whose real claim to fame was that he was looking for the great river of the West way back when, and totally missed the mouth of the Columbia. But he did leave his name behind on the headland, and when the lighthouse was built there it, too, took his name.
That lighthouse and I go way back. My association with it started when I lived in Eugene in the 1980s and went through my first divorce. The lighthouse was only a little over an hour from where I lived, and was my favorite escape hatch when things were getting too messy at home. The keepers’ quarters, which are in the Victorian cottage near the lighthouse, are supposed to be haunted, too. I didn’t know this when I saw something in one of the windows of the then-unoccupied house on one of my many trips there. As it turns out, what I saw might have been the result of a prank. But then again it might not have been. I’ll never know.
But that’s the basis for the story I’m going to write.
I spent most of the afternoon at Heceta Head, touring the keepers’ quarters, which are now a very expensive bed and breakfast, and visiting the lighthouse. I was too early for the re-opening of the lighthouse itself to tours, after a two-year renovation, by a week, alas, but I did get to see what I needed to see. And I also got to see lots of shorebirds on the seastack nearby, through a telescope set up by volunteers at the foot of the lighthouse.
And I spoke with the man who runs the bed and breakfast, who gave me some photocopies of some research he’d collected, and spent the better part of an hour with me, talking about his experiences there and the history he’d learned. Which was extremely helpful.
After taking far too many photos (research, I tell you!), I walked back down to the beach, where I noticed that there are caves at the base of the headland. Thinking they might end up in the book, I went and checked them out, too. You never know…
It was getting on late in the afternoon by the time I left Heceta Head, but I had one more place I wanted to visit before I stopped for the night, Cape Perpetua (pronounced like perpetual without the L). It’s one of the highest points on the Oregon coast, and there’s a winding, narrow road leading to a viewpoint at the top. The view is one of those curvature of the earth things, where you’d swear that you were seeing more than 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. I’d somehow managed never to go up there before, but I’m glad I did this time.
By the time I got back down to Highway 101 it was getting late, and while I was only going as far as the tiny town of Yachats (ya’ hots, not yach’ ets as my father teased when we were here when I was a kid), it was time I got there and settled in. To a nice little mom and pop motel, where I spent a very comfortable night.