I started last week off by saying this, but want to say it again. The perks of my workamping experience reflect only my experience. If you take a workamping job, you shouldn’t expect the same. Certainly, there might be different perks but best to walk into the job expecting none. That way anything you might get will be a lovely surprise that fills you with gratitude.
Workamping Perk from Oregon State Park
I explained the two day-use parking lots last week when I described the layout of the state park. What I didn’t say was one of those lots charges a fee. According to the Oregon State Parks website, there are hundreds of day-use areas though only a couple dozen charge the fee.
Heceta Head lot charges the fee. For the Oregon State Parks system, the fee is $5 per day or you can purchase a calendar-year pass for $30 or a two-calendar-years pass for $50. If you are interested, click to see the map of the Oregon day-use lots.
While workamping, volunteers receive a pass for our vehicles so we wouldn’t get a ticket while in the lot during our shift. That alone is not a perk. It is a necessity of the job.
The perk is this: we were given an Oregon State Park pass. So, on days off, it could be used to explore other fee-based day-use areas. Further, we were given an annual pass. Now, since it’s a calendar-year pass, I reaped less of a benefit than, say, someone who worked the lighthouse in January. The end of my workamping month coincided with the end of the calendar year. Obviously.
Never the less, I found it generous and unexpected.
Perk of Being a December Workamping Volunteer
So, if the downside of being a December volunteer is less time to take advantage of the Oregon State Park pass then the upside is reading a year’s worth of notes left by the other volunteers.
In the volunteer office at the lighthouse, there was a daily calendar. In it, we wrote the name of volunteers on duty each day and the hours worked. But we were encouraged to add to it. I like to write so I filled the page on my work days on behalf of myself and my work partner, Rhonda. Rhonda and I were assigned to work all the same days.
Many entries reported the weather and the wildlife spotted (whales, sea lions, birds). My favorite entries were about the people volunteers met. Twice during the year, great, great grandchildren of early Heceta Lighthouse Keepers visited.
I met people from many countries and parts of the US. I also met one woman who lives in Florence (12 miles away) but who hadn’t been to the lighthouse in 40 years. She’d only visited once on a school trip.
One visitor came, along with his wife and son, in honor of his 90th birthday. What a special way to commemorate 90 years on earth.
One of our last shifts, Rhonda and I met a man whose family served as caretaker for the Washburne family. Yep, the very same family for whom the state park is named. The same family who, in 1962, donated the land to the state so it could become the lovely state park it is today.
Perk from Carl G. Washburne State Park
In addition to 55 RV sites and seven tent sites, the campground offers two yurts for rent. One of the jobs of the camp host is to clean the yurts between guests. Additionally, the camp host cleans the bathhouses and the bathrooms.
Because of this, the park has a washer and dryer. However, it is not a public laundry room. It’s simply a single washer and dryer in the supply room.
As a perk of workamping at this location, we were allowed to use the washer and dryer. Considering the nearest town was 12 miles away, it was quite a convenient perk.
A Workamping Volunteer Adventure Perk
America’s largest sea lion caves are one mile south of the lighthouse. It’s a privately-owned wildlife and bird sanctuary and part of Oregon’s Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. As a preserve, they do not interfere with the sea lions. It’s not a zoo and the mammals are not captive. They come and go as they please.
The Sea Lion Caves were discovered in 1880 by a seaman William Cox. He ended up purchasing the land (though a road didn’t come through until the 1930s) and owned it until 1926. Since 1932, the caves have been opened to tourists.
Highway 101, at the point of the cave, is 1,000 feet above sea level. Initially, to see the sea lions, tourists took a treacherous walk down, via trail and stairs, to sea level. But in 1961 a 12-story elevator became operational (after two years of construction) to make it easier and it continues to take tourists down to the caves.
On non-windy, low-surf days, we could hear the sea lions barking from the lighthouse. Occasionally, we’d see a few in the water below us as well. We found ourselves talking about the Sea Lion Caves quite a bit to our visitors.
So, isn’t it smart marketing that the Sea Lion Caves allow workamping volunteers to visit at no charge? We simply wore our uniform as proof we were a volunteer for Oregon State Parks.
The Luxury and Decadence Perk
Despite no empirical evidence to back me up, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this final perk is extraordinary and very unusual for any workamping volunteer. I seriously doubt any perk other workampers receive rises to the level of awesomeness and generosity that this one did.
So what did we get?
A night in a fancy 5-star Bed and Breakfast. And, by the way, breakfast was a 7-course event. Oh yeah, plus, they served wine and cheese at 4 p.m. just after we checked in.
Brief Location Explanation
Let me explain a couple of things to orient you and make the B&B easier to picture.
To get to Heceta Head Lighthouse, you park in the day-use lot then follow a half-mile trail up to the lighthouse. You already know this from last week. But what I didn’t share was what you find halfway up (or down, depending on which way you are traveling) the trail. You find a big house surrounded by a white picket fence.
Actually, back in the day it was a duplex. One side housed the first assistant while the other side housed the second assistant. The divide between the sides was removed and today it is a B&B.
Rhonda and I had stopped in at the B&B after our shift one day and got the nickel tour. They offer regular tours during high season (summer). They have made great efforts to keep the integrity of the house as it was when it was built in 1894.
I believe this perk is offered to all of the lighthouse volunteers. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the high season volunteers have a tougher time taking advantage of the perk. It’s a business, after all. So volunteers are allowed a night provided there are not paying guests.
In December, we had a few days to choose from as well as a couple of the themed rooms to choose from. Rhonda and I touring the house helped me choose the room I wanted.
The day I chose (December 26) had two rooms available: Victoria’s Room or the Light Keeper’s Room. It was a tough choice.
On the one hand, Victoria’s Room has a ghost. Hard to beat a ghost. Especially since she’s a non-scary, electronics-obsessed ghost. On the other hand, the Light Keeper’s Room had a stunning view of the lighthouse.
In the end, how could I not choose the Light Keeper’s Room? After all, I came to the area for the lighthouse.
And, for those keeping score, I’ve now missed two ghost-encounter opportunities. First, in Portland and then at the B&B.
Pets Not Allowed
I planned to arrive at the 3 p.m. check-in time to take full advantage of my perk. I wanted time to look around, peruse the scrapbooks, snap photos and then enjoy the wine and cheese hour with my fellow guests.
The B&B doesn’t provide dinner so I planned to return to the rig. I’d have dinner, feed the pets and walk Solstice one last time before tucking her and the cat in bed for the night. I planned to return to the B&B around 9 p.m. and settle in for a night in a queen-sized bed. It’s been more than a year since I slept in anything but a bunk-sized bed.
Talk about luxury!
Rhonda and I made arrangements to watch each other’s dog(s) so we could both take advantage of the perk without worry.
Good plan, right?
Things didn’t work out per my plan. First, I arrived late because that day ended up being the first time I drove four hours to take Solstice to the vet hospital for an ultrasound and other tests. I was only an hour late (though a little stressed) which meant I put my things in my room and went straight to wine and cheese.
After that, my plans went off the rails. You might think me ridiculous and maybe another blogger wouldn’t admit this but the evening’s plans going off the rails were 100% my own doing.
I admit to not actually sleeping at the B&B. There, I said it.
Once I got back to my rig, I just couldn’t leave Solstice overnight though I knew she would be fine. But I couldn’t do it. I slept in my usual tiny bed, made tinier by the fact that the pup was so sick it made her clingy and she insisted on sharing it with me.
At 5 a.m. I woke so I could sneak back to the B&B, no one the wiser. Plan back on the rails.
So, I didn’t get my night in a giant bed. But, I did take a bath. The Light Keeper’s Room’s bathroom was across the hall from my room and included a claw bathtub put right in front of the window that looked out to the lighthouse.
I filled the tub with hot water and partook in the bath salts provided. And I watched the sky turn from black to dark blue to the blue of morning.
I got my luxury.
Then it was time for breakfast. The breakfast bell rang promptly at 8:30 and breakfast lasted 90 minutes with wonderful conversation among the guests as well as an explanation of each of our seven courses.
This was still a few days before the end of the year, my deadline for transitioning to being a vegan. You might remember, I never made it all the way. This experience is an example why I’m happy with my decision to allow occasional non-vegan food into my diet. I would’ve missed out on this amazing food experience because not a single course was without animal products.
- First Course: Moroccan fruit salad sprinkled with orange water and lemon poppy seed bread with the crust cut off.
- Fish Course: bagel with either cream cheese and lox or a chocolate hazelnut spread. I tried both. Did you know Oregon is the biggest US producer of hazelnuts? Also, hazelnuts are the official Oregon state nut.
- Palate Cleanser: strawberry white chocolate frappe.
- Egg Course: vol-au-vent (French for windblown), a creamy egg with Havarti cheese served in a puff pastry and the garnish was a sprig of thyme that we watched Gail (our server) clip from the garden minutes before it was served. I ate my garnish.
- Dessert Course: Elvis Presley pound cake with white chocolate and lemon curd though I’m not sure how Elvis Presley pound cake is different from regular pound cake.
- Fruit and Cheese Course: blue cheese stuffed dates, warmed.
Okay, so maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to understand how we had seven courses. I went through it in my mind, took notes and photos. Still, I count six. The only thing I can think is that the fruit salad and poppy seed bread, though served simultaneously, are considered two. Or, is the beverage a course?
Either that or I just made up the seven courses. And it’s actually a six-course breakfast. It isn’t on their website but I swear I heard it was seven courses.
After breakfast, we had about 30 minutes until checkout time. I took photos and bought a t-shirt. Then I drove back to the campground.
It was divine.
Monetary Value of Workamping
You know me. I like the numbers. Of course, I tracked the value of what I received in exchange for my work at Heceta Head Lighthouse. So, here you are:
- Stay at Carl G. Washburne State Park: $1,056 (33 days)
- No-Cost Laundry: $24 (using average of $3 per load)
- Annual Oregon State Day-Use Park Pass: $30
- Ticket to Sea Lion Caves: $14
- Volunteer Swag: $10 (Heceta Head Pin and Oregon State Parks leather notepad)
- Heceta Head Light Keeper’s B&B: $298
Total Value: $1,432
Near the end of my time I completed an exit evaluation with Ranger Ben. During our discussion, I learned about the final perk of my workamping experience.
If I want the same job in the same month next year, it’s automatically mine. I haven’t decided yet. But, it’s possible you’ll find me up at the Heceta Head Lighthouse sharing interesting facts and the history in December 2019.
Links to Referenced SSL Blog Posts Above:
- My First Workamping Experience
- Portland’s Gritty Beginning
- Making RV Park Reservations
- 98% Vegetarian, 89% Vegan
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