San Diego: Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Beautiful View of San Diego from  Cabrillo National Monument

Beautiful View of San Diego from
Cabrillo National Monument

Statue of Cabrillo

Statue of Cabrillo

Point Loma Lighthouse

Point Loma Lighthouse

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Overlook of Gray Whale "Highway"

Overlook of Gray Whale “Highway”

A popular place to visit near San Diego is Cabrillo National Monument.   At the park’s southern end are some of the most accessible tidepools in southern California.  The rocky trails there overlooking the Pacific Ocean are very scenic.  Nearby stands a statue of Juan Cabrillo overlooking beautiful San Diego Bay.  It commemorates his landing there in 1542.  At the top of Point Loma Peninsula stands the old Point Loma Lighthouse.  It was in active service from 1855-1891, but was retired because the light was often above the fog line and was thus invisible.  A short stroll from the lighthouse leads to the Gray Whale Overlook.  It is an excellent place to watch for whale spouts in winter. 

Emma Minter, who lived at the lighthouse as a child in 1878, said:  “What had I for playthings?  The nicest in the world!  Pretty shells, colored stones, kelp babies.  It seems to me that I can remember every day of my young life there.”  

Information on visiting Cabrillo National Monument is at:  https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Long Beach, California, Scenery: Real and Fake

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Fake Oil Island

Fake Oil Island

Oil Island "Condo" Tower to Conceal Rigging

Oil Island “Condo” Tower to Conceal Rigging

We enjoyed our visit to Long Beach, California, in August.  Some of the scenery was real, and some of it wasn’t what it appeared to be.  All of it was fun to see!

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is located 9 miles north of Long Beach.  This Victorian home is one of the oldest lighthouses on the West coast.  It was restored in 2002, and the house and colorful garden are open for tours.  Eight miles north, the Point Vicente Lighthouse sits on a cliff edge on the Pacific Ocean.  This now-automated and functioning light station was built in 1926.

At Long Beach Harbor are two unofficial lighthouses.  The scenic tower of the Lions Lighthouse for Sight is a symbol for fundraising activities for the blind.  It is lit up with colorful floodlights at night.  Another unofficial light sits in a tower at the top of Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant.   Both functioning lights act as private aids to navigation.

Not to be missed nearby is the whale mural (Wyland Whaling Wall) on the Long Beach Arena.  It stands 10 stories tall, and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest mural when it was painted in 1992.  The whales on it are life-size.

Long Beach is famously known as one of the top five oil fields in the nation.  Fake “islands” were created there in 1965 to conceal offshore oil drilling rigs and to enhance the natural beauty of the area.  The closest THUMS island (Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil, and Shell) is located ½ mile offshore.  These unique islands were designed by Disneyland architect Joseph Linesch.  Each one contains fake buildings to conceal oil rigging machinery and real flowing waterfalls to obscure sound.  Each island contains about 300 palm trees and 300 oil wells, and a wealth of marine life surrounds it underwater.  The overall effect is so convincing that visitors regularly ask how they can stay there. The islands were named after the four astronauts who died in a capsule fire on a NASA launch pad in 1968 (Grissom, White, Freeman, and Chaffee).  The islands celebrated their 50th anniversary of operation in October 2015.  You can watch an interesting television show about the islands by Huell Howser of California’s Gold at: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/10/oil-islands-californias-gold-10002/

California: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was built in 1875. The top of the tower was sheared off during a fierce storm in 1949. Afterward an automated beacon was placed on top of the shortened tower and it was returned to service. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing restoration. Visitors can only access the lighthouse grounds by guided tour. Especially popular is the “Sunset and Whale Watching Tour” every March.

California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point's Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point’s Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Back of Lighthouse with Flowers by Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point's Ocean View

Pigeon Point’s Ocean View

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Fogbow Nearby

Fogbow Nearby

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco.  The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead.  Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level).  Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds.  The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons! 

Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast.  Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”.  The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s.  Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period. 

The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration.  The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building.  The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower.  The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured.  Progress updates are available at:  http://www.calparks.org/whatwedo/improving/pigeon-point/

Santa Cruz Lighthouse and World’s First Surfing Museum

Santa Cruz Lighthouse is Home to the World’s First Surfing Museum

Surfing Museum Entrance

Surfboard Display at Surfing Museum

1960’s Photograph at Surfing Museum

The Santa Cruz Lighthouse is located at the north end of Monterey Bay.  It was in service from 1870-1948, and had a steady red light to warn mariners of danger.  The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1967, and it is now home to the world’s first Surfing Museum.  The Surfing Museum contains surfboards, photographs, and other memorabilia.  It overlooks “Steamer Lane”, a world class surfing hot spot that was dedicated as a World Surfing Reserve in April 2012.   The earliest surfboards were made of redwood.  The wooden boards could be up to 12 feet long, and weigh over 100 pounds!

Point Montara Lighthouse

Point Montara Lighthouse and Red Hot Pokers

Point Montara Lighthouse and Ice Plants

Point Montara Infrared

Point Montara Fishing Floats

Point Montara Shark Sign

The Point Montara Lighthouse sits on a rocky cliff south of San Francisco. At first only a fog signal was installed on the bluff.  The signal alone was not enough to stop shipwrecks, so a 30 foot cast-iron lighthouse tower was erected in 1928.  In 1970 the light was automated, and in 1980 the buildings were leased to a youth hostel. 

California: Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Tower

308 Stairs to the Lighthouse

Point Reyes National Seashore

The Point Reyes Lighthouse sits on a tip of land in northern California that juts 10 miles out to sea.  This location is the windiest place on the Pacific coast, and the second foggiest in North America!   The highest wind speed ever recorded was 133 mph, and 60 mph winds are common. Lighthouse keepers sometimes climbed on their hands and knees up the stairs to keep from being blown away.  Weeks of fog are common in summer, as reported in a journal in 1885:   “Fog, fog, and nothing but fog.”  In 1887, the local newspaper reported that “the fog sirens have been in operation for 176 consecutive hours now, and the attendants look as if they have been on a protracted spree.”  During winter storms, ocean spray shoots 200 feet into the air. 

 The lighthouse itself is a 16-sided 37-foot iron tower that is anchored to the cliff with large bolts.  The tower houses a 3-ton Fresnel lens composed of 1,000 hand cut prisms and bull’s eye glass. The light was first lit on December 1, 1870.  Its beam is a white flash every 5 seconds.   In 1975 the Coast Guard installed an automated signal at the point, and the lighthouse was turned over to the National Park Service.  Getting to and from the lighthouse is quite an effort.  There are 308 stairs between the observation platform at the top of the hill and the lighthouse below.  Walking back up is equivalent to walking up the stairs of a 30-story building!

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