Touring Some of Washington’s Lighthouses

On Saturday after Crystal and I finished our tour of the state capital we still had time to do a little driving. So, we headed southwest towards the mouth of the Columbia River and Cape Disappointment. By no means was it a disappointment. We drove along the two-lane backroad’s zigzagging in and out along the coastline. We stopped in a small town at a food truck and got some fish and chips and delicious chowder.

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The chowder was some of the best I’ve had, creamy and thick. Love eating at most food trucks.

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One thing that seems to be is Washington’s coastlines are not as nearly as rugged and picturesque as Oregon’s Rocky and Sandy beaches.

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They are flatter and more surrounded by grassy marshes, which at low tide turned into mud flat areas but it still beautiful area to visit.

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There are sections where you get up on bluffs and can view and see the beautiful islands off in the distance. Which are in the north part of the state at the mouth of the Puget Sound. But our goal on this trip was to go see the two lighthouses which lie within 2 miles of each other along the coastline down where the Columbia River feeds out to the Pacific. This is the area where Lewis and Clark made it to and finally reached the Pacific Coast. Here is where they spent a long cold winter. The first lighthouse which is called North Head Lighthouse is just a short walk from the parking lot. But the first thing you come to is the keeper’s houses. There was a single resident for the head keeper and a duplex for the first and second assistant, just like at the Hecate. Here’s a picture of the duplex that can be rented out by the week or month as vacation rental. 

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And here’s one of the head keepers house. As you can tell they both been kept up quite well.

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A short walk from the keepers house maybe a quarter mile or so you get your first glimpse of this lighthouse. 

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The lighthouse is closed because they are doing renovation work on it this year. Which it is definitely in need of. 

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There was a fence surrounding the whole lighthouse, so you can’t get very close.  

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From there we drove just a few miles to get out to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse which sits at the mouth of the Columbia River. This lighthouse was quite a bit harder to get to as you had to walk through the woods on a muddy trail up and down hills. And then a final ascent on a paved road for a total of about three quarters of a mile. Here’s the first glimpse of this lighthouse with the sun setting behind it. 

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This lighthouse is still in operation and is controlled by the Coast Guard. You could walk right up to it, but you cannot go inside. It’s in need of a good paint job and some other restoration work but still worth checking out. 

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One of the cool things is up on the top they have these bird heads decorations, all around the tops of the windows. I’m not sure what type of birds they are I think they’re either hawks or crows. 

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The views from up by the lighthouse of the mouth of the river are spectacular. 

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There was also a cruise ship coming out of the river, headed off to who knows where, but I’m sure a fun vacation for all aboard. 

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And from the lighthouse you could look across the bay and see the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which unfortunately was closed by this time of day. It’s a museum of sorts with lots of information about Lewis and Clark Expedition and other things in the area. 

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And then we walked over to the center and got this beautiful view looking back at the lighthouse. 

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By this time, it was close to sunset, so we took the couple hour ride back home and made plans for Sunday hoping the weather would be halfway decent. The plan was to get up very early (by my standards) and get on the road by 6 o’clock so we could drive up the Olympic Peninsula. To the very furthest northernmost point of Highway 101 at Port Angeles. My son-in-law Josh offered to drive us, so he met us at the trailer at 5:30 and we headed off. It would take about 2 ½ hours to get to our first stop. This gave me a little more time to get some napping in. There were a couple reasons for heading up this way this early. First because they were having their annual Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival all weekend in Port Angeles and there was a lighthouse that just needed to be checked out along the way. They were predicting off-and-on showers which we did get but the day was not a total washout. The plan was to make a stop near the town of Dungeness (the settlement that the Dungeness Crabs were named after) and take a short 5.5-mile hike along the beach of the Dungeness Spit to get to this lighthouse. 

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The trick is to arrive here at or just before low tide, so you have plenty of beach area to walk on. It was foggy and raining off and on as we walked along the beach. Here’s a photo of our first glimpse of the Spit, it heads off to the east and then curve sharply to the south. Due to the fog and rain we could not even see the lighthouse when we first stand out. But on a clear day you could see it off on the tip of the Spit. 

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Here’s where we first got on the beach with lots of open sand area, it was fairly easy walking. 

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We followed some fresh four-wheeler tracks out that we found out later, they were made by the beach patrol group from the National Park Service. This whole Spit is a wildlife refuge and you’re only allowed to walk along the sandy beach. If you come at high tide you must climb over lots and lots of drift wood and rock piles. That you can see in this photo off to the right. Josh was leading the way following the fresh tracks in the sand. 

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We finally rounded the corner and got her first glimpse of the lighthouse station. 

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You can tell how far away it still was by Crystal holding it in her hand. 

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 At high tide the water comes all the way up to these logs. 

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After two hours we finally made it to the lighthouse in even though was rainy and gloomy it was well worth it. We were the first three to arrive getting there at 10:30. One other couple got there shortly after we did. 43390546_10160903835955335_369552214647111680_nIt is still an operational lighthouse that is taking care of by the “New Dungeness Light Station Association”. A private nonprofit organization that keeps it going. The interesting thing is the keepers house is rented by the week by members of the Association as a vacation spot. But part of the responsibility of staying here is you must give tours and do light maintenance work around the lighthouse. It is a very sought-after position; the whole year of 2019 is already booked up. But openings do occur because of last minute cancellations and they put it out to their members and on the website so on short notice you might get a room. The house can accommodate up to eight adults and/or children. But to be qualified to stay, you need to be an Association member. The house looks like it was in very good repair and from talking to the guides it’s well-maintained and comfortable. 

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Lighthouse itself was built first in 1857 and stood about 30 feet taller than it is now. But to do to weather and pounding of the sea and tremors in the area it had to be shortened up to its present height. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The keepers house that is rented out was built later than the original lighthouse. Originally the keepers house was part of the lighthouse itself. Only a couple rooms are open to the public as small museum area. You can climb to the top of the tower, where one of the tour guides is stationed at all times, when the lighthouse is open for tours. There no longer is an old-time lens, just a new modern LED type light. The downstairs they do have one on display I believe to be a third order lens which is the size that was originally in here. 

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After spending an hour at the station resting up and visiting with the guides and the other couple that joined us. It was time to start heading back. The tide had started coming in even though it was a good three hours before high tide. The beach was already getting smaller. Here Crystal and Josh are ahead of me you can see the beach is already smaller. 

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We did not run into any other people until were about halfway back and then we ran into the first six or so that were just making their way out as the tide was coming in. If they were going all the way to the lighthouse they would have a long-rugged walk back. The funny thing “to me” is I’m sure the hike back, which still only took about two hours ended up being about 8 ½ miles (I’m not sure how that happened because I know we walked the same beach). And to give you an idea of how much beach is lost this dead tree that Josh and I are walking by, had lots of beach between us and the water on the way out. 43514690_10160903812930335_6907283275782291456_nThis is a photo of the same tree as we made our way back, we had a walk on the opposite side of it. And we still had about a mile to walk till we got back to the start of the trail. As you can see at high tide it would be a very treacherous walk up in all the Driftwood and rocky areas along the beach. 43450107_10160903836635335_2747382376140111872_nFrom there we drove about 15 more miles to Port Angeles to check out the festival. By the time we got there was raining steady, so I didn’t take any photos. But they had lots of tents up, with live music and lots of food inside. Despite the weather they still had huge crowds. They had lots of different food vendors and we got some delicious fish and crab cakes. We wandered around for a bit checking it all out. But by then we were all pretty tired, so we got back in the car and headed back home. It was a fun day and I’m glad I got to spend it with Crystal and Josh. It was well worth all the hiking, even though I felt it quite a bit the next day. So, if you ever get out this way I think it’s well worth the long hike to check out this beautiful location. Till next time best wishes to all, Rick

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