Thursday, March 21, 2013

Umpqua River Lighthouse to Heceta Head Lighthouse

Bridge near Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

I once drove from San Diego to Cooperstown to watch former Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Along the way, I passed Gwynn Canyon in New Mexico.

There is also a Gwynn Island in Virginia and a Gwynn Oak in Maryland. Gwynn Oak is a suburb of Baltimore, whose long-time shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted along with Tony Gwynn.

Here, we cross Gwynn Creek south of Yachats (home of the infamous Smelt baseball team) and arrive at Heceta Head Lighthouse just after 5 p.m. The lighthouse is under construction, so we admire it from afar and imagine what it might look like without scaffolding.

We kick at driftwood along the beach and watch the glint of sun off water. A family sits in the sand. Little fluffy clouds roll over two rocks that jut out from the mainland.

Coastline near Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

After 20 minutes, we head back to our car. A red convertible pulls into the parking lot. Two women emerge and look up to the lighthouse.

“Is it closed?” one of them asks, as if my having been here 20 minutes makes me an expert.

“I'm afraid so,” I reply, startled at my own expertise.

She stares at it in the distance, then turns to her friend, who says nothing.

“I used to love this lighthouse,” she says. “I haven't seen it in 30 years. We came down from Alaska.”

Sure enough, those are Alaska plates on the convertible. I don't have the heart to ask if they came to see things other than this lighthouse.

“Oh well,” she says.

It's a fatalistic admission that hints at defeat. But when one's fate rests with the highway that traces the Oregon coast, victory is almost always just a turn or two away.

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