Lighthouse and Sea Lions for Christmas

Sunrise and seagulls from Stonefield Beach
Sunrise and seagulls from Stonefield Beach

{Our trip begins with Day one.}

I had told Arno the night before that I wanted to be on the beach Christmas morning for sunrise photos. It helps to tell someone else when there’s a good chance I’ll blow off my own plans.

“Sunrise is at 7:52,” he announced as soon as I started moving. “We’ve got about 40 minutes. But first, I want you to open this.”

Arno handed me a Christmas gift and I sat perched on the high bed feeling excited about the gift and disappointed in myself. I had searched all over and found him just exactly what he wanted, wrapped it a week before, and left it at home. Darn it! (He has it now though: a GPS for his many many hikes into the mountains.) I opened a new lens! It takes my two old lenses (18-55mm and 70-300mm) and makes them one, 18-270mm. So convenient.

His organization was the opposite of mine: he brought multiple gifts, stocking stuffers (I forgot my stocking, too), and even a little decorated tree, which you saw in the previous post. I opened all my gifts and felt very spoiled. Glancing over the top of my pile of booty through the window, I could see the grey sky growing lighter over the ocean.

Coloured sky lights up the sand and water
Coloured sky lights up the sand and water
Seagulls stand in water from Tenmile Creek
Seagulls stand in water from Tenmile Creek

I couldn’t wait to try out my lens! We jumped out of bed and made coffee, washed our faces, pulled on coats and gloves and I added my new alpaca Christmas scarf.

The temperature was above freezing, but it was cold out there at the beach. Seagulls were in a group, standing in the mouth of Tenmile Creek as it spread out at the beach and then emptied into the ocean. We joked that it was probably warmer in the freshwater stream than in the salty ocean.

Our bellies reminded us that it was time to eat something amazing. We headed back up the hill to see what Sherwood and Stephanie had cooked up for us at the B&B.

After breakfast, our big plan for the day was to Take It Easy. I had checked the tide table and knew that low tide would be around noon, so after we stuffed ourselves on baked grapefruit and cheese croissants, we headed back to the beach to check out the tide pools. We played out there for a couple of hours. The sun prevailed, there was no wind, and for a little while I felt warm. Other people came out too. It felt silly and fun to call “Merry Christmas!” to folks on the beach in the sunshine.

Sea-green anemones
Sea-green anemones

After the beach, we wandered south again on Highway 101. The first thing that caught our attention was the Heceta Head Lighthouse run by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. We left the highway and drove out to it, to see if it was any prettier than the Umpqua Lighthouse from the day before. Oh my, yes it is.

Haceta Head lighthouse
Heceta Head lighthouse

There is a half-mile trail from the parking lot out to the lighthouse, but first we went out onto the beach to get photos of it from a distance.

A pretty romantic way to spend Christmas Day
A pretty romantic way to spend Christmas Day
Lighthouse on the bluff; Light Keeper's House to the right. The weather was perfect!
Lighthouse on the bluff; Light Keeper’s House to the right. The weather was perfect!

We were both grateful for the long trail to the light house. We needed the exercise to burn off some of the holiday food. Above the lighthouse are more trails that head up and along the ridge, which we also walked, just to keep moving. It paid off with new views.

Looking out to sea
A view of the beautiful first-order Fresnel lens
Heceta Head lighthouse is all by itself at the head, and so picturesque.
The 56-foot tall picturesque Heceta Head lighthouse
inside the tower
inside the tower
base of the light
base of the light
inside the lens
inside the lens

Back down at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, people were whale-watching. It’s a great spot for awesome views of the ocean. Nearby, we admired the Queen Anne style assistant light keeper’s house (the light keeper’s house was torn down for the lumber) is now used as a Bed & Breakfast.

View from the tower. That misty bluff you can see is the location of Sea Lion Caves.
View from the tower. That misty bluff you can see is the location of Sea Lion Caves.

At first we assumed the place would be closed because of the holiday, but it soon became apparent that the OPRD volunteer there was taking people on tours. It was my very first time inside a lighthouse. This one is newly restored and having a tour is a good way to have things explained that I wouldn’t have known to ask. For example, I learned that all the lighthouses along the coast have a signature, so mariners can identify them. Heceta head flashes every 10 seconds, the one at Yaquina every 20 seconds, and the Umpqua lighthouse has a red glass pane, so every third flash is red.

Next we continued south to Sea Lion Caves, and that was closed, as expected. However, we peered over the edge of the cliff and spotted the main attraction anyway. Sea Lions were lounging all over the rocks below us.

Sea lions crowd the rocks below Highway 101
Sea lions crowd the rocks below Highway 101
Sea lion stretches to soak up the last few rays of the sun.
Sea lion stretches to soak up the last few rays of the sun.

After that it was time to dress in Christmas clothes and head to our dinner in Yachats. (We had to ask our hosts how to pronounce it. We never would have guessed it’s Ya-Hots, emphasis on the second syllable.) Our holiday dinner was lovely. I even found a little phone reception and called my 93-year-old Grandma to wish her a Merry Christmas before I went to the table.

View of the lighthouse from Sea Lion Caves
View of the lighthouse from Sea Lion Caves

18 thoughts on “Lighthouse and Sea Lions for Christmas

  1. Beautiful pictures! Glad you had a wonderful Christmas Day.

    That bit about the lighthouse signatures is really neat, and I may be tucking away the info for use in a future story. So, thank you for teaching me something new today. 🙂

    1. There is something special about the coast out there, don’t you think? The cliffs with dark empty beaches tucked between them are impossibly inviting to me. The way the trees are bent permanently from the wind, yet remain growing, year after year. Highway 101 is packed full of beautiful places. I’m glad I wrote about a place you visited, because I had so much fun reading what you wrote about places I’ve been!

      Thank you for the compliments on the photos. I can come up with critiques, of course, but the sunrise photos did turn out nicely.

  2. Wonderful photography and YAY for the new lens! I would love to see this lighthouse! I visit as many as I can – for the history, the architecture, the stories.
    This is an awesome post, Crystal! Just one question: How could you forget the stockings???? 🙂

    1. Omigosh, I know! I told you my tradition story, and I was thinking about this blog post and forgetting my stocking. Too much going on at departure time, i think. Well, this year’s experience will probably ensure that I don’t forget again. I knew you would get excited about a new lens for a gift, too.

  3. I am a night person who only likes to see the sunrise when I am going to bed. But, I swear, I think I would have gotten up at dawn for this place. Lovely photos. Sounds you had the best of merry Christmases.

    1. I was very lucky to capture remarkable skies the night before and also this morning (see the previous post for sunset photos). My brand new lens was likely due much of the credit for the sunrise photos. Glad you stopped by, Don, and Happy New Year to you.

  4. Your words and photographs have the power to awake in me joy, delight, and thankfulness for beautiful nature. Above all I am alway moved by a person behind the camera whose warm kindled heart radiate to the people around her and those afar as the join and share her passion for beauty displayed nature. Thank you for who you are Crystal.

    1. Listen to you, poet Prayson. I’m blushing from the compliments. Yes this is one of my better posts, with great photos and a fun story to tell. I love sharing my world and I’m glad you like to come along on my journeys with me.

  5. Lovely post dear. The lighthouse picture was so good, recently I hike to an unused light house in southdowns, UK. It just reminded me of that. It must have been tranquil experience. Love the way you explain everything.
    I would like to follow you.

    1. Thanks for the follow, and I’m following yours too. I’m looking forward to seeing your adventures in a different part of the world. Thank you for the compliment on the lighthouse picture. I’d love to see a lighthouse in the UK. One of these days I’ll get over there…

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