Sunday, August 10, 2008

Point Reyes Lighthouse, Marin

This started out early in the day. I drove to Eddies house in San Bruno. Around 10:00 am on Saturday we set out. First stop at Quiznos for sandwiches and soft drinks. A refill of coffee at Starbucks. Our directions was simple across Golden Gate bridge, off at Sir Francis Drake blvd and drive for about 30 miles. Well, no so simple, we saw that the exit was the second exit off 101. Then we came upon a confusing sign which said the next exit was the one. So we assumed the next exit, and immediately knew we where going the wrong direction. We sat in a parking lot, let Catherine program the Nav. Eddie had a smoke and we went to find a Starbucks. We entered a cafe which was full of Mexicans, This was an area where Mexicans hung out in order to get work.


Well we headed back to the SUV, and prepared to get on our way. The Nav unit guided us back to 101. and on our way to Point Reyes. Drive through Marin is real beautiful a lot different than our excursion down the Santa Cruz coast. We had a range of sights, from cattle grazing, rolling hills, rivers and quaint towns. We stopped in one town on the way there and another on the way back. As I said before the adventure is in the journey. We spent a hour in a little town called Inverness. Their was an abandoned boat called Point Reyes. I just wandered around taking some shots. The boat, the town, the bay (Tomales) and the woods all had a picturesque view. Eddie went off with the kids to ramble in a few stores. I also managed to pick up a few shells for Jamie.
I met another photographer and chatted for awhile. She told me her family had come from Cork. I also met a few other girls who where shooting and gave them a few tips on the boat. I am never happy with the way I shoot. Wide angle, telescopic, whatever I have on my my camera at the time, is never enough. So the weather was beautiful as we continued on our Journey. Cyclists, campers, kayaks, fishermen, all where enjoying themselves. A real good place to bring the family.

We where a short distance out of Inverness we noticed a dramatic change in the weather. Visibility was reduced and the temperature dropped. We continued to drive through rugged ranch land. You need to be prepared for the stench from cows dung. Finally we arrived at our destination, we all put on warm clothes and got ready for the 1/2 mile hike in. We dropped into the visitor center and bought a few trinkets. We looked at the steep climb down, the sign said it was equivalent to 30 stories, and our visibility was real bad. At the top of 308 steps we could not see the lighthouse, nor could we see the all the steps. I spoke to my brother Eddie and thought that he should not make this trip, as the climb back up would be so strenuous on his back. So loaded with a canon 5D and 40D, lens 100-400 and 24-105 I started to make my way down the steep descent. Eddies kids where in front and they seemed to be having a great time. Its a pleasure to have children who enjoy these outings. This is our sixth lighthouse and their enthusiasm is still very high.


Point Reyes lighthouse is located in a harsh place. Winds howl past the point sometimes 133 mph, cold temperatures enough to freeze your bones are the norm and a dense fog encapsulates the lighthouse for most hours in a year. It is noted that this area is the foggiest and windiest in all of California. Then you have a steep steep climb of 320 steps to get back up the top of the cliff from the lighthouse, the climb is not for the feeble or the weak. Keeper E. G. Chamberlain once said it best "Better dwell in the midst of alarms than reign in this horrible place". This is truly a rugged terrain and you wonder what kind of men worked out here. Not only to man the lighthouse but to build it. Surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs and harsh weather conditions. A person would have to be dedicated or have the mind of a hermit to live here. It is noted that many of the keepers struggled with alcholism and mental stability. At times they where found dead drunk at the top of the hill. I had no sooner reached the last of the steps when the lighthouse enclosed in the fog came into view. It was worth the climb down to see it. It was perched at an extreme westerly point on the cliff, on a very narrow peninsula, I would say the tower was about 125 ft above sea level. The environment of the building did not look that enticing or friendly. It had a charm that came hauntingly from yesterday. Tough and proud and one that took on the toughest that nature had to throw at it, and still it stood.

I looked behind and here was my brother Eddy. He had hobbled his way down the steep descent. Maybe he would made a good keeper of the light. Who would believe that this man has a broken back. I dreaded the climb back up to where the original living quarters for the keeper was, for his sake. Luckily every 100 steps there is a place to rest and I knew I was going to use them. We done our usual thing, group pictures and looking at the feat of men and the accomplishments of what these lighthouses had done. I guess you could say we have the lighthouse bug. I am sure that this will be the beginning of a tough and arduous journey, who knows who we will meet and what we may discover and what has started as a summer adventure may well turn into a lifelong quest.

A Lighthouse's prime function is to provide mariners safety by warning them of impending danger from the rocks and reefs, and by indicating their location sailors can navigate their way safely along the coastline. For such a purpose was Point Reyes lighthouse built. It coast was treacherous and dangerous many a ship had met its tragic end on Point Reyes rocks. Point Reyes had its funds allocated in 1854 for the building of the lighthouse, but it faced many obstacles in its construction. The civil war, ranchers and their unfair demand for the price of the land and construction difficulties. 1869 a deal was struck with the ranchers for the purchase of 83 acres of land for the lighthouse. The original intention for the building was a traditional Cape Cod style lighthouse.



It was Dec 1 1870 before Point Reyes first shone its light on San Francisco Bay. The light shone through 24 prisms unto the ocean floor. The First Order Fresnel lens and its mechanism was constructed in France in 1867. The Fresnel lens was the largest of its size, it bent the light through 24 prisms panel,. which where operated by a 6000 lb clockwork mechanism.The mechanism rotates a full cycle every 2 minutes. and the light shines out every 5 seconds, its a Point Reyes signature. Also the Foghorns have been known to operate for more than 2000 hours in a year. They are important when the fog is so thick that the light cannot be seen, they provide the audible sound for the ships entering and leaving San Francisco Bay.

Today the brass clockwork mechanism is kept in pristine condition, it looks absolutely beautiful and well maintained since it made its way around the tip of South America to Drakes Bay. Along with the glass prisms and the Iron Tower it was hauled 3 miles to the point, 600ft above where it now stands. To be effective the lighthouse had to be lower than the consistently high fog. The Tower stands erect about 35ft, and occasionally the wicks of the lanterns are lit the first Saturday of every month. Its light shines out to sea about 24 miles and it can be seen every 5 secs. Below the tower about 100 ft sits the fog horn building, it is operated by steam and large cisterns are built to supply it with water. The site for the lighthouse had to be cleared with dynamite. Several times the fog horn building had been burned, it was also a major task in getting coal and water to it. 1915 It was replaced by a diaphoe fog signal and in 1935 both Lamp and Fog horn where replaced by electricity



Today the original lighthouse is well maintained for the visitor. The craftsmanship and the ambiance of the day of the day it was created and operated is well kept. The brass workmanship is quiet impressive and you can appreciate the danger of this Job. also you can see the automated system just outside the lighthouse and on top of the building's roof just below the tower.

For a short period of time the fog lifted, allowing me to capture some nice shots, most all will not appear. The coastline, the dear, the people going up and coming down the path, the pictures coming and the pictures going, but still part of the journey. Most of this stuff comes form reading a few books and a few other sites. My way of giving them credit is to post a link to them, the link is sometimes in the heading.

So don't forget comeback and read these, as I find out more information I will add it, someday I may want to make a book and then I will have cite my references. So no plagiarism is intended. Here is a book to read "California Lighthouse Life" great photos. All the photos here are mine, and can be purchased.

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