A Warm Welcome

It really is a beautiful place, isn’t it? Can you imagine being a lighthouse keeper? Maintaining the lighthouse in tip-top shape, keeping things in order, and most importantly, saving the lives of seafarers and their ships in the distant waves? For a job like that, the scenery is simply priceless…

But where are my manners? Welcome back! It’s always nice to have good company! Coffee? Tea? Make yourself at home; mi casa es tu casa. In fact, I just made myself comfortable here, too. Newport, Oregon, is my home away from home, and with a new home comes a new way of life. Having visited Portland months ago I’ve become somewhat familiar with the state, but living in it has made me realize that some things are rather different. The speed limit around most towns and cities is significantly lower for a good reason. You no longer pump gas into your car yourself, but rather an assistant is required to do it for you. The best part, however, is that I don’t feel like an outsider. Everyone around has been really nice and generous to me, especially my coworkers who have made sure that I feel right at home.

That’s right! While I won’t be a lighthouse keeper, I’m absolutely happy to be given the privilege of working alongside the Bureau of Land Management at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (YHONA)…the best site to possibly intern for (don’t tell the other interns, ssssshhhh its our secret)! Yaquina Head is an area situated upon a coastal bluff that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean, harboring a variety of protected natural resources along with the wildlife that utilize them. The area itself is not large, but many treasures await for those who go explore…which is what I did!

Perhaps the main attraction of the the land is the tall and proud Yaquina Head Lighthouse, formerly known as the Cape Foulweather Lighthouse. With its foundation placed 108 feet above sea level and constructed to be 93 feet tall, Yaquina Head Light stands as the tallest lighthouse in Oregon since 1873! It is one of the few lighthouses that is still operational, even if it is automatic. Its unique light signal is 2 seconds on – 2 seconds off – 2 seconds on – 14 seconds off. Not only did this warn ships about their distance from the rocky coast, but it also notified them about their location.

This photograph I took was from Salal Hill, which is another hidden gem of the area. A trail from the lighthouse parking lot leads to the apex of the hill, which offers a wonderful vista. Facing west, one can admire the lighthouse from afar and gaze beyond the ocean horizon. To the north and south are the sandy shores that span alongside the 101 highway. To the east, tracts of hills are covered with green forests. From this view, Communications (or Coms) Hill is also visible. This area is accessed by foot hiking up a gravel road beyond a posted wooden gate. While not too many visitors trek to this part of the area, it lends peace and quiet to those who venture within. The rustling of the Douglas-firs from the cool ocean breeze, along with the chirps and songs of the birds, is a refreshing lapse from the day-to-day life.

The Interpretive center constructed in the shadow of Salal Hill offers a multitude of information regarding the history of the lighthouse, as well as the marine and avian life that can be found at YHONA. Much of that wildlife is down at the tide pools, accessible by a set of stairs next to the lighthouse parking lot. Families and school groups come down to learn the science of life up close and see all kinds of cool animals, from harbor seals to sea stars! As a child, having field trips to science centers and aquariums were the best days ever. Having a field trip to Yaquina Head? That’s really hard to top! Its really awesome to see children in wonder and awe of the critters in the tide pools. That’s one of the best gifts park rangers can have.

With all these treasures YHONA has to offer to the public, I’d have to say the best treasure of all is the people itself. The BLM crew is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, and I’m not just saying that because I got cookies and donuts on my first day! They truly have a heart for their line of work. They’re passionate about educating the public about the history and ecology of the Oregon coast. Most of all, they take care of each other. With this team, I know we’ll have a wonderful time working together for the World Migratory Bird Day event coming up in a couple weeks!

Christian Cortez
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