Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rubicon Point

It takes some thought to plan a journey or adventure and to find a path that will guide you on this trek. The lighthouse is a great catalyst for such a journey. There is a final destination. Above all there is an adventure from the moment you set out until you arrive back at your starting point. For me it’s the anticipation of who I will meet, what sights I am going to see and the little innuendos that happen along the way.

It was a Friday afternoon and I owed a visit to my Niece Ann in Truckee. It’s been sometime since I last saw her. I thought this would be a good time to pay a visit to see Ann, her daughter Nicole and her husband Scott. I was finishing up the day at my work place in Livermore, the time was 3:30pm, I was hoping to beat the weekend traffic. The weather was hot; it was the beginning of a weekend heat wave. By leaving early I also thought I would acclimatize the high elevations of the mountains. A pleasant surprise was I took the Altamont pass rd, and it came out alongside the windmills, it was quite impressive sight, I got to go back and spend some time with my camera in this area.

I made good time on highway 5, until I got outside Sacramento city, it took more than an hour crawling along at a snail’s pace before the traffic freed. I listened to some Gospel music and took a few pictures of the stalled freeway traffic. I love taking pictures from my car. This was the beginning of the Rubicon point lighthouse adventure. I knew of two lighthouses in the Tahoe region and I thought I might get one or two of them in. Which reminds me, check if the park is open, it can make a major difference to the hike? I stopped on the hill just before I came into Truckee to take a few pictures of the snow capped mountains. The scenery was breath taking, as there was still a noticeable amount of snow on the mountains. I arrived at the Ann’s house around 7:40 pm; Scott greeted me in the driveway, he informed me that Ann was out with Nicole at a school dance. When Ann arrived home from the school dance, we all went out to dinner. Truckee is a quaint town. We retired to bed early as Nicole was playing a soccer game in South Lake Tahoe. This fitted into my plan to visit Rubicon Point in DL Bliss and to have two different adventurers join me on this trip.

Saturday, the early morning journey from Truckee to south lake Tahoe was a journey of beauty and tranquility. We took the Nevada route to South Lake Tahoe, Looking at the emerald lake to my right with the surrounding snow capped mountains, and the majestic wood to my left, displayed to me in grandeur why this part of the world is considered to be one of the most scenic places on earth. My senses were literally intoxicated with the raw beauty of the snow capped mountains, juxtaposition with the blue and emerald waters of the Lake; it was like drinking the nectarine of nature.
The plan was first watch Nicole play her soccer match, then leisurely have lunch in South Lake Tahoe and for the highlight, visit the outhouse lighthouse at Rubicon Point in DL Bliss.

Nicole won her game 2-1, Lunch was fun we ate at Chevy’s, and had a Starbucks coffee. We headed around the precipitous mountain to the state park DL Bliss. At this time of the year entrance to the park is closed. So we had to trek in to the beginning of the trail. It was quite long, and arduous. If you are not in good health I would advise caution. Make sure you have sunscreen, water and hiking gear. Carrying heavy camera equipment also had its toll. The sun was high in the sky and beating down upon us with strong UV rays. It took us one hour to hike in, 20 minutes at the site and another hour out. Not what I expected. I was hobbled with a gammy knee. It’s amazing how much pain you can ignore when on a mission.

Like any good adventure, its attitude and the people you meet along the way. Often times the environment can be overwhelming from dangerous trails, to strenuous steep climbs,, but on a “Journey to the Light” a term from my Grand Niece Nicole it’s the
reward of encountering people on the journey. On this trek I had two new adventurers and they were about to meet several people, strangers from around the world on our way. It was fun watching their inter action with these people. The first group we spoke to was an Asian family, a family of four, mom, dad, brother and sister who had just given up on their quest for the lighthouse. They said it was too difficult and confusing to find. I gave them a little history on the light and the kids where enjoying the story. The dad and mom looked a bit exhausted, I think they were glad that they where on their way back to the main trail. They came from the Bay Area. The next was an Asian Lady from Half Moon bay; she shared a story about her son visiting the lighthouses along the coast. She was enthralled with my Irish accent. And the last was an elderly Italian Gentleman from Hayward struggling hard to make his way back out of the park and to his vehicle, apparently his family had deceived him as to how far this trek was. His daughter and wife came back for him and literally pushed him up the hill. These where the main people we met on the way in and out, we saluted other hikers but did not have much interaction with them.
As there is not a lot to this lighthouse, it’s really an outhouse on the edge of the wilderness. I peppered my shots with some views of the trek and the lake. This technique is something my lighthouse treks are evolving into, shots on the lighthouse environment and the journey. Just to remind the reader, the lighthouse keeper did not have an easy job, Read a bit of the history on how the light was maintained. The history gives a more contextual relationship of the light and the
environment. But the keepers trek has not changed much in all the years. At times the Rubicon trail disappears from view, some parts of the trail feel treacherous and I don’t think I would try it in bad weather as you could easily lose your footing. When I finally arrived at the point, panting and a little short of breath. I saw the knobbly knees of a hiker pointing towards the blue skies as he was resting on a rock, above the lighthouse. I made my way around the final bend and there was my prize. The Lighthouse was not much to look at but it was worth the journey, from this point you had a dramatic view of Lake. I made my way down the steps to a plateau where I could spend some time composing and framing my shots. I had no interference from people as no one, but Ann, Nicole and I where the only ones at the lighthouse location. We made our final descent down the steps to a small area where I could photograph to my hearts content. My final shots I used a Sigma 12-24mm lens and set myself up for some very wide angle shots. Then it was our journey back. Ann volunteered to carry my camera. Slowly we made our way back. The sun had burned me very badly and I was dehydrated as we did not bring any water with us. Eventually we got back to the van. Ann had some warm water, which I gladly drank. We drove towards Truckee and stopped at a market where we got some cold water and ice cream. Talk about heaven, that was the best Ice cream and water I had. I suppose being so dehydrated that I could really appreciate it. Happily we finished our journey, tired and burned.


The Lake Tahoe lighthouses feature lighthouses that border both California and Nevada. This group includes Crystal Bay, Tahoma, Rubicon Point, South Lake Tahoe, Stateline and Zephyr Cove.

Probably the most unusual of this group of lighthouses is Rubicon Point. Non-operational since the late 1990s, it was first lit in 1919. Known as a "flashing light on a small wooden lamp house at an elevation of about 200 feet above the surface of Lake Tahoe," it was initially requested along with buoys for the lake and funded by the Lake Tahoe Protective Association. The State of California actually acquired the odd-looking building and the surrounding land known as D.L. Bliss State Park in 1929, where the lighthouse stands to this day.It was built under the direction of J. J. Bodilsen in 1916;

In 1913, the Lake Tahoe Protective Association wrote to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce requesting "in the neighborhood of twenty-five buoys" as navigational aids for Lake Tahoe. In 1916, $15,000 was appropriated for the construction of "lights and day beacons" for marking the lake. (Amendment S.21, July 17, 1916)

The initial plan called for navigational buoys to be placed at Zephyr Cove, Emerald Bay, and Logan House Shoal. In addition, a lighthouse was built at Rubicon Point - "A flashing light on a small wooden lamp house at an elevation of about 200 feet above the surface of Lake Tahoe." the work was done by the United States Coast Guard.

(Recommendation as Aids to Navigation, Oct. 17, 1918). The keeper was paid $180 annually, and was "required to furnish his own launch for visiting and recharging the light and in addition to shipping and receiving supplies for the light will be required to make a short trip each night to a point from which the light can be observed, there being no year around resident on the lake who can properly inspect the light from his residence." Official sources state that the light was only lit for three years, until 1919; some locals, however, report that the tower was lit until sometime in the 1920s or '30s. Still others report that it was discontinued in 1921. It was replaced by a light at Sugar Pine Point.(Department of Commerce, August 18, 1919). In 1919, Rubicon Point was lit at as cost of $800.

The light at Rubicon Point was acetylene-powered; two 300-gallon tanks of the fuel would be brought to Emerald Point every day and then taken up to the light by mule or wagon. Maintaining the lighthouse was expensive, and this appears to be the reason why it was abandoned fairly quickly. Over the years it has deteriorated to the point that many people mistake it for an outhouse; today, however, efforts are being made to restore the tower.

The lighthouse at Rubicon Point has the highest elevation of any American lighthouse; it stands 6300 feet above sea level, at a point where it could be seen from most places around the lake. It is currently located in D. L. Bliss State Park.

The Rubicon Point Light was added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List in 1997.


Lighthouse or Outhouse, Hanley (source of government documents)
Endangered Lighthouses, Roberts and Jones
Lighthouse Digest (doomsday list)

Directions:Rubicon is in D.L. Bliss State Park of Lake Tahoe. Take 89 (south from Interstate 80, north from US Highway 50). The park is Located north of Emerald Bay. inquire at visitor's center for tail map. their is a parking area at the beginning of Lighthouse Trail. The trail is a long 3/4 mile, mainly uphill.

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