Looming over tiny Yachats is the impressive bulk of 800-foot-high Cape Perpetua, the highest spot on the Oregon coast. Because of the cape's rugged beauty and diversity of natural habitats, it has been designated the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. The Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center, 2400 U.S. 101 (tel. 541/547-3289; www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw), is on a steep road off U.S. 101 and houses displays on the natural history of the cape and the Native Americans who for thousands of years harvested its bountiful seafood. June to September, the visitor center is open daily from 10am to 5:30pm, and October through May, it's open daily from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $5 per vehicle. Within the scenic area are 26 miles of hiking trails, tide pools, ancient forests, scenic overlooks, and a campground. Guided hikes are offered (weather permitting) when the visitor center is open. If you're here on a clear day, be sure to drive to the top of the cape for one of the finest vistas on the coast. Waves and tides are a year-round source of fascination along these rocky shores, and Cape Perpetua's tide pools are some of the best on the coast. There's good access to the tide pools at the pull-off at the north end of the scenic area. However, it is the more dramatic interactions of waves and rocks that attract most people to walk the short oceanside trail here: At the Devil's Churn, a spouting horn caused by waves crashing into a narrow fissure in the basalt shoreline sends geyserlike plumes of water skyward, and waves boil through a narrow opening in the rocks.
Right in Yachats, be sure to visit Yachats State Recreation Area, which is at the southern end of a .8-mile trail that leads north along a rocky stretch of coastline to Smelt Sands State Recreation Site. Along the route of the trail, there are little pocket beaches (where smelts spawn) and tide pools. At the north end of the trail, a wide, sandy beach stretches northward. Just across the bridge at the south end of town, you'll find the Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site, another good beach access.
Gray whales also come close to shore near Yachats. You can see them in the spring from Cape Perpetua, and throughout the summer several take up residence at the mouth of the Yachats River. South of Cape Perpetua, Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint, at the mouth of Cummins Creek, and Strawberry Hill Wayside are other good places to spot whales, as well as sea lions, which can be seen lounging on the rocks offshore at Strawberry Hill.
A couple of historic buildings in the area are also worth a visit. Built in 1927, the Little Log Church & Museum, 328 W. Third St. (tel. 541/547-3976), is now a museum housing displays on local history. The museum is open Friday through Wednesday from noon to 3pm.
The Yachats area has several crafts galleries, the most interesting of which is Earthworks Gallery, 2222 U.S. 101 N. (tel. 541/547-4300), located north of town and focusing on glass and ceramic art.
My Encounter with the ghost at Heceta Head Lightstation
I had heard it was haunted, of course, but just about every lighthouse or lighthouse-affiliated building on the coast makes that claim. But one clear, moonlit night I was awakened from my slumbers at this historic B&B by the strange sound of something dropping or rolling down the stairs. Chills ran down my spine—until the room became so warm that I had to remove the blankets. Thump, thump, thump. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and the next morning when I walked bleary-eyed into the breakfast room and asked who else had been awakened by all that thumping, everyone looked at me as if I were crazy. Whatever it was that had gone bump in the night apparently didn’t bump loud enough to rouse the other guests. But when I did some research on the topic, I discovered that the “manifestations” of the ghost were often the sound of a ball slowly rolling down the stairs and rooms that suddenly became suffocatingly warm. I suppose it could have been the furnace snapping on (the manager assured me it wasn’t), but I prefer to believe that it was the resident ghost, an older woman dressed all in black and sometimes seen, broom in hand, in the upstairs rooms. I was so taken with the stories I heard (the level-headed local contractor, who climbed a ladder to do some work on the upper floors, saw the lady in black gliding toward him and fled in terror, never to return) that I turned the lady in black into Rue, the ghost that forever sweeps and haunts the Heceta Head B&B in my play Oregon Ghosts.
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