The Five Senses of Autumn
Autumn brings to mind heaps of vibrantly colored leaves, trick or treaters, laughter ringing through the crisp air, the smell of bonfires and the taste of hot apple cider. Although the Oregon Coast may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about a fall destination, a cornucopia of sensory delights await you, along with a spooky tale to give you a chill and a tasty treat to give you a thrill.
The Haunting of Heceta Head
Perched atop a craggy headland, high above the churning, misty waters of the Pacific Ocean, sits a house enshrouded in the haunting lore of the grieving “Gray Lady.”
Heceta Head Lighthouse, built over a century ago, sends out its beacon of light, warning sailors to be wary when navigating near the wild, rugged coastline of Heceta Head. Once operated by keepers around the clock, the 5-wick coal oil lamp and 8 panel lens was replaced in the 1930’s, becoming partially automated. World War II brought the U.S. Coast Guard to this wild shore, becoming a guard post for 75 men. Known as the Coast Guard Beach Patrol, these men, along with their attack dogs, would patrol the beaches between Yachats and Florence. 1963 brought an end to an era, when the lighthouse became fully automated and turned over to the U.S. Forest Service.
The history of the lighthouse itself, while fascinating, is not what fuels our imagination and haunts our conversations today. It is the story of the Lightkeeper’s house which sends a chill down visitors’ spines. According to lore, the caretaker’s home is inhabited by the spirit of a woman who lived there in the early 1900’s. The most commonly held story is that, one day, her toddler wandered outdoors and fell off the cliffs into the sea. The grief-stricken mother, dubiously named Rue, is said to have haunted the house since her own death, many years later.
Stories of strange occurrences pre-date the restoration and 1996 opening of the B&B, going back as far as the 1950’s. It is said that all of the previous residents of the Keeper’s House, along with construction workers, college students and guests, have experienced unexplainable events and encounters with the silver-haired woman in the long, dark dress. Reportedly, a worker in the 1970’s, cleaning in the attic, saw a reflection in the window and turned to see the visage of the Gray Lady. Terrified, he ran out of the building, refusing to return. He later recalled having the ghostly woman visit him in dreams for four nights, asking him to return to finish his work. Relenting, he returned to the house to finish his job, but only doing so by climbing a ladder to the second story and working from the exterior of the house. While working, he accidentally broke a window with a hammer. Still refusing to enter the house, he repaired the window from the outside, leaving the broken glass where it fell on the attic floor. Sometime later, the caretakers were awakened at night to hear the sounds of a sweeping broom coming from the attic. Investigating, they found the broken glass swept into a neat pile on the floor.
From letting the cat in and out of the house, to putting out fires, stories abound of this ghostly woman, but not one of them portray her as menacing. She simply seems to care deeply about her home and shows her disapproval of changes in helpful, benign ways. Some report seeing her in the dark of night, staring out to sea, maybe longing for her long lost child. If you catch the scent of fresh lavender wafting through the air, you just might be in the presence of the Gray Lady of Heceta Head.
Heceta Head Lighthouse tours are given daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the summer and from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the winter. The Interpretive Center gives guided tours of the Keeper’s House daily in the summer and by appointment the remainder of the year. Visit Heceta Head Lighthouse for further information.
Yachats Covered Bridge
A meandering drive through the bucolic Yachats River valley will lead you to the old-time charm of the historic Yachats North Fork Covered Bridge. Built in 1938, it is the last bridge constructed by veteran bridge builder Otis Hamer. At 42 feet, it is one of the shortest covered bridges in Oregon. The 9 mile drive from Hwy 101 has some additional appeal for those who seek the unusual or off the beaten path. A beautiful drive in itself, this back-country road is lined with native Big Leaf Maple and Vine Maple trees, which in the autumn, may dazzle you with glorious shades of orange, red and yellow. Along the way, you may want to stop at the Tami Wagner Wildlife Area. This 141 acre property situated along both sides of the Yachats River, provides forage for elk, along with public access to the Siuslaw National Forest. You may also be surprised to see Scottish Belted Galloway, also known as “Oreo Cows,” grazing alongside Roosevelt Elk.
Apple Cider Floats
Fall makes us think of big pots of hearty soup, colorful pumpkins and gourds, and sweet fruit cobblers. Often times, October is still quite warm and those wonderful harvest foods don’t quite fit the times. We think this fun recipe hits the mark for the quintessential taste of autumn and strikes the perfect balance between the quintessential taste of autumn and the chilly treat of warm weather.
Recipe by Pretty Plain Janes
- 1 pint caramel swirl or vanilla bean ice cream
- apple cider
- ground cinnamon
- freshly ground nutmeg
- honeycrisp apples for garnish
- Begin by placing 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream into your glass (a mason jar would be a cute touch).
- Pour apple cider over the ice cream.
- Top with apple slices, ground cinnamon and a few grates of fresh nutmeg.
- Insert straw, swirl, sip, enjoy!