It’s been a while since I’ve updated our travels, but we’ve been busy at our summer volunteer positions here at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. These three month, like all of our volunteer adventures, has been personally rewarding for the both of us. We learned new things, made new friends, and visited new restaurants – what could be better than that?
We’ve never been to such a busy place; this year the visitor count will likely exceed 400,000. We met people from across the country and from all around the world who came to experience the historic lighthouse, tide pools, hiking trails, and Interpretive Center.
The Interpretive Center, where Brenda worked at the information counter, was where most visitors started their tour. Here she helped people sign up for the lighthouse tours, advised visitors of tide pool conditions and whale sightings, and provided general information about the area. There were days when she logged over 500 visitors in her four-hour shift, but Brenda kept smiling! Especially on the days she worked with Ranger Beatrice, her best bud!
On a quiet morning before opening, I spent time trying to capture some of the exhibits. On entering the main room, there’s a wall with current and projected tide and weather information, a well-stocked gift shop managed by the Friend’s Group, the children’s area, and the information desk. To the left, you pass the main theater and enter the area where marine mammals and seabirds are displayed. The Gray Whale on the wall is life-sized to give visitors an idea just how large they are. Continuing on, you come to the lighthouse area, with exhibits on construction, daily life, and the incredible Fresnel Lens.
One of the areas that the staff emphasizes is involving children, and the center has an area devoted to children’s games of the lighthouse period along interactive environmental education displays. There’s also a “Junior Ranger” program complete with official badge!
For me, being a “tide pool guide” was an experience I’ll always remember. Learning about the tide pool inhabitants and passing on that knowledge was both enjoyable and rewarding. It was difficult work, slogging up and down the cobble stone beach and slippery tide pool rocks, but with the waves crashing, gulls screeching, and Harbor Seals on the rocks it was magical. And high above was always a view of the lighthouse.
When the tides was in, I’d rove around the lighthouse area and provide information to visitors. The two biggest questions…”have you seen any Tufted Puffins?”, answer – nope, none here. And, “have you seen any whales?” – oh yeah, we see whales almost every day. Each year when Gray Whales migrate from the warm Mexican waters to the Arctic, about 200 stop and spend the summer off the Oregon coast. Since they’re bottom feeders, they tend to stay relatively close to shore where they’re visible. At 40 to 50 feet long and weighing 30 to 40 tons, they’re quite a sight when they surface.
One thing we won’t miss is the weather. Daily highs in the low 60s, cold north winds often exceeding 30mph, and unpredictable fog were the norm. Each day I noticed people arriving in sandals, shorts, and short sleeved shirts, obviously from the other side of the coastal range. It wasn’t long before they’d be draped in blankets, towels, and my favorite for the year, a woman wrapped in her car’s floor mats. From our RV site we could often look down at the fog as it moved in.
We’re traveling again and will be taking our time getting back to Southern Arizona for the winter. We have some interesting places to visit, so be sure and check back!