SIGHTS TO BEHOLD: Miles of forest, historic lighthouse, Pony Village

LINDA SEXTON/PHOTOThe Umpqua Lighthouse is the only one in Oregon you can still climb, and get an up-close view of the lighting mechanism.


Dear readers:

Please join Linda and me on another road trip through the Coast Range Mountains to the central Oregon coast.

The property sat vacant for some 15 years, and deteriorated. The facility was purchased Oct. 3, 2018 by Veterans Legacy from the county to create a rehabilitation center for veterans.

I have spoken with former Deputy Dan Buckwald several times. He will be on Cindy Weeldreyer’s KNND 1400 Beeper show Thursday, Aug. 20, 9-10 a.m., and will explain the vision and future of the Alma park, and the need for rehabilitation centers for veterans.

Chambers Construction of Eugene is donating labor and equipment for the volunteer efforts. They can always use more volunteers and you need not be a veteran to help.

Linda and I visited on a Sunday, and got the grand tour. They have a garden stand with fresh vegetables and eggs for sale. The eggs come from a beautiful flock of red hens on site. Surplus from the veterans gardens was donated to the Eugene Food for Lane County.

After Alma, we continued through the Coast Range, down Smith River. It is a hard-surfaced windy road, and if caution is used, very safe. At times, there are bicycle tours planned on this scenic roadway. There are many campsites along the way and individual campers along the creeks. There are improved campsites and check with state, county and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sources. 

About a mile past the Veterans Rehabilitation Center is a major fork in the road. In the center is a sign that is badly faded. Take the left-hand fork. The right-hand fork goes to Crow.

The entire trip, from Lorane to Gardener, is a beautiful scenic drive. You pass through three different watersheds. The Siuslaw River runs to the north, Smith River runs to the west. And as you go down and over you come into the Umpqua drainage. Smith River runs into the Umpqua about 10 miles from Reedsport.

I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful the forest land is; mile after mile, no matter which way you look, beautiful forest. From the river bottom, you look up a thousand feet.

 We met 15 different vehicles during the 90-minute trip. Everyone was driving safely. And it was a leisurely trip.

When you come out on 101, you have a choice to make if you are on a one-day trip. You can turn right, go to Florence, and take 126 back through Veneta. Or you can turn left, as Linda and I did. We had lunch at Don’s Pie House in south Reedsport, which is famous for homemade pies and bread pudding. You may want to come back and take Highway 38 to the elk viewing station, then Scottsburg, Elkton, Drain, and home.

Linda and I continued south of Reedsport to Winchester Bay/Salmon Harbor, the mouth of the Umpqua River where it meets the sea. There is a camping/RV area surrounded by picturesque boat moorage and other scenery. It is worth the drive through the upscale RV park area.

Just beyond the Marina is Lighthouse Road that goes to the Umpqua Lighthouse. It takes off from the main road around Salmon Harbor. The light was lit in 1884 and stands 61 feet tall. It has a First Order Fresno Lens that will shine 28 miles out to sea. It flashes two white, a red, then two white, a red. It is the only light on the Oregon coast with that code.

If you tour the lighthouse, you climb a spiral staircase to the light itself. On this platform you stand between the outside glass windows and the light globe in the center. This is a spectacular view of the landscape, sand dunes, and the sea. The Umpqua Lighthouse is the only light in Oregon that allows a visitor to climb a short ladder to put you up inside the crystal lens, where you see the mechanism that turns the light, and the prisms are viewed from the inside out.

Fresno Lenses were manufactured in France, the largest one being the First Order. They were fueled by kerosene. This is for magnification of the light, to intensify the beam. A Number Two was for shorter distances, such as bays. Number Three and Number Four lights were normally installed in river lighthouses such as Coquille Lighthouse at Bandon. It only cast a beam about six miles. All these lights have been electrified.

Most lighthouses have been turned over to museums and counties to run as historical sites. The Coast Guard absorbed the lighthouse profession in the early 1900s.

There are many books available on the history of lighthouses around the world.

The first known lighthouses were in Egypt, and fired by bonfires on top of tall monuments. There were many shipwrecks on the Oregon and Washington coast, which is why we have so many lighthouses between California and Canada. 

From here, we go to the sand dunes on Salmon Harbor Road – it is about a 10-mile trip from the light to the end of the road where the dune buggies play. You will also often find kite flyers in this area. At the end of the road is a large parking area and restrooms. 

We returned to 101, and continued down the coast to North Bend, and turned west on Virginia Avenue to Charleston. For many years I stayed at the Quality Inn at Pony Village. One of my favorite seafood restaurants, Captains Choice, is across the street from the hotel. You name a fish, and they usually have it! It is moderately priced, and cooked any way you want it. It is rare you get a choice of fried, grilled, poached, steamed, battered, or no batter. Personally, I am an oyster lover. I have never had better broiled oysters than what I ate there. 

Pony Village had well-known stores, including Bon Marche, JCPenney, and a name familiar to many of the older generation – the Emporium.

Dallas Troutman opened his first Emporium at Pony Village. In following years he had stores up and down the coast, offering quality clothing and other merchandise.

We had one in Cottage Grove, two in Eugene, one in Springfield. They are all gone.

Pony Village shopping center has suffered the fate of many in the United States.

A few years ago the Bon was taken over by Macys, and they have now pulled out, along with Penney’s, and the Emporium. One of my favorite bookstores, B. Dalton, is also gone. What remains is Sears appliance store and Ross clothing, Big Five Sporting, and Dollar General, along with Subway sandwiches.

Next week, Part III: Don and Linda wrap up their trip in Charleston and Coos Bay.



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