Lighthouse – Point Reyes National Seashore, CA

Day 18 – June 26, 2016

Mileage – 77,506 (4,229 miles travel so far!)

Dillon Beach, CA


We wake thick, thick, grey fog. The world simply feels overcast; grey predominates and sucks the color out of everything.

Today we back track a little bit, along the coast. In land it clears into bluebird skies giving us a chance to see life in bay along the Pacific. It looks like the movie set for Goonies; a pirate ship could emerge from the socked in ocean at any moment; surreal.

The last original Fresnel lens stands protected as a historic landmark at Reyes Point. Jenney and Kevin have seen once before, happening upon it when they were performing maintenance and actually getting to wind it. Having visited several lighthouses whose lenses were removed along the east coast, today is a chance for the girls to see one intact. The challenge, the wind and fog are high, if they exceed 40 miles and hour the staircase to the Point Reyes closes.

Ranger books in hand, introductory video watched, life sized elephant seal model petted, we head to the lighthouse. The trip out to the point is wild. The sunny day disappears into the fog, the wind begins to howl as we inch closer to the point. Vestiges of the last 15 remaining dairy farms dot the landscape. It feels odd to see holsteins, such a familiar site at home, standing among the rolling hills that sweep down to the sea; cows with a view. Kevin ponders whether their milk is already salted ready to make salted butter.

To Jenney it’s an odd experience, reminiscent of the highlands and coast of British Isles, with the sheep replaced with cows; simply an odd configuration.

At the point the wind is wild and the fog comes whipping across the road as if you are standing on the wing of an airplane cresting a cloud. Sand swirls and though you know the water is somewhere below; there is no sign of the ocean below the ragged cliffs.

All along the way adaptation has been a theme and here is no different. In a dry climate save the saltwater, the trees overhanging the road capture the moisture from the fog, the same as the tall coastal redwoods. They bath hikers in drops as you walk under simulating a rainstorm on an otherwise dry day. Ravens hop to flight cruising almost motionless on the breeze, moving neither forward or backward in torrent of wind. Other smaller birds stay grounded for fear of being whipped away.

And it is all still grey, leaching the color out of life. You can imagine how countless assistant light keepers went mad or abandoned their posts in this isolation and monochrome world.

Spirits are high among our crew, especially when we hit the open gate to the lighthouse stairs and the open door to the lighthouse. We cram in the small building to see the 1032 prisms hung on 24 panels to form the Fresnel lens. Innovation in the late 1800’s, these prisms refract the light of an oil lamp so it can be seen 20 miles out to sea, twice that of the technology that preceded it. They are powerful enough on a sunny day to burn all of the vegetation surrounding the lighthouse, so curtains are kept drawn.

Now out at the end of the point, looking straight down you can see the ocean far below and the crooked and craggy coast line dotted with ship eating rocks. It’s no wonder that hundreds of ships have gone down on foggy days like this one, with little visibility past 20 feet.

Pictures of wrecked vessels hang throughout the lighthouse and accompanying visitors center. It’s hard to imagine the lighthouse keeper scrambling down the rock face the shore to haul up stranded fisherman about to be bashed to death with their boat; the heroism and sheer craziness of it all if obvious on this blustery day.

The girls complete their Junior Ranger books, get sworn in and we are off, bumping and weaving our way back inland. Our goal is to make some distance toward Redwood National Park. At Yvonne Jones, recommendation we plan out a course that will bring us along the coast leaving Route 101 for Route 1. It’s a long haul, for as many people as there are in California, it has a lot of rural country. We twist and wind through open hills and forest, stopping just as we get on Route 1 at Fort Bragg at a state park. The hope is that the promise of harbor seals and their pups will drag the girls out of their beds earl in the morning.