It was a long day with an itinerary covering 190 miles of spectacular Oregon coastline. We managed to check out of our apartment in Gold Beach by 9:00, which for us is amazing. But then we got hung up by the stunning wildlife at Port Orford, the friendly volunteers at Cape Blanco, the intriguing walking paths at Coquille Point, the delicious Sea Star Bistro and the worthwhile Washed Ashore gallery in Old Town Bandon, and then the unbelievable dunes between Reedsport and Florence. Then the rain set in, and it was growing dark. We don’t like checking in to a new rental in the rain and the dark. All that unseen mud! We’d just have to chuck the rest of the itinerary and make a run for Newport.
I always plan more stops than we have time for, and my motto is “No regrets.” We do what we can. This is supposed to be slow travel, relaxed travel. Ix-nay on the ess-stray. As we headed to Newport, I was trying not to regret missing Cape Heceta lighthouse, reportedly one of the prettiest on the Oregon coast.
I looked up to see a sign for the Sea Lion Cave. As much as I like sea lions, I didn’t regret missing what sounded like a cheesy tourist spectacle—an elevator ride down the face of a cliff to gaze into a cavern full of Steller sea lions. I wonder what they make of that. Oh, look! Here comes another cage of tourists!
We drove on. And there it was—the coziest little lighthouse you could ever imagine nestled into the side of a rocky point, its beacon sweeping through the misty rain and out to sea. Cape Heceta! I didn’t realize it’s visible from the Oregon Coast Highway. We pulled off the road onto a conveniently situated overlook.
We rarely travel at dusk, so I’m not used to actually being able to see a lighthouse beacon. They tend to disappear in the light of day. But the rain and the hour were the ideal setting and that rocky backdrop the ideal canvas. Thomas Kinkade would have been euphoric. I stood at the overlook wall taking it all in. And then I heard the barking. Dogs? No, it was coming from the cove below us. Sea lions!
There was still enough light to peer into the waves 300 feet below us, and there they were. Dozens of sea lions diving into the surf in search of dinner. Dawn and dusk are optimal times to see animals in the wild foraging for food. Our timing couldn’t have been better. We stayed until the light grew too dim to see, then got back in the car and drove into the darkness. We arrived at our rental and unloaded our stuff in the pitch black (the porch light wasn’t working), but we didn’t care. Sometimes you see the most extraordinary things when you step outside your comfort zone.