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I spent last night dreaming about lighthouse keepers. Part of it’s being in this remote & crazy place, part of it’s the book on History of Female Lighthouse Keepers that I’m absorbing like a sponge. Many of these women followed their men to Lighthouse posts in god-forsaken spots and became widowed or alone when the men drowned or went to war. And yet…they persevered and faithfully kept the light in heavy woolen dresses through icy storms & treacherous times, all the while tending to house and kids. Some of these ladies did this tedious job for decades, retiring in their 70’s or 80’s (!) only when they could no longer physically handle the walk up the stairs. Would I have been able to do this? Could I have shown such strength and stamina?
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I tell the story at Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Although the Head Keepers here were all men, the women lived & worked beside them & one lady (Mabel Bretherton) was hired as Assistant Keeper in 1903 when her husband died up north on the job at Coquille River. The ladies are rarely discussed yet they often did all the same duties and, as a woman, I feel a deep connection to them. In this remote spot with no running water, no electricity, winds that howled hurricane-force in winter and a day’s difficult travel to town they survived and (even) thrived…and all for only $800/year. It’s so very hard to understand that life today, yet that’s the history that defines this spot.
Ahhhhh I digress, but the stories are just so interesting. Our lives as lighthouse hosts are, in reality, so much more boring but I know many of you are anxious to hear more about the job. This is actually our second year hosting at Cape Blanco, so for those of you new to the blog you can check out our experience & duties from last year in this post: Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse
This year is much the same. We each give ~17 hours to the lighthouse/week telling stories and in return we get a private and spacious full hook-up host site complete with our name engraved on a board. Our work area (if you can call it “work”) is gorgeous 143-year old Cape Blanco Lighthouse, still active with her fabulous Fresnel lens beaming bright day and night. We alternate shifts with 3 other couples (including the Technomadia team) giving tours at the Greeting Center, downstairs in the Lighthouse or at the Lens depending on the day. Unlike our last job at Coquille River the lighthouse here has a more formal tour process complete with script and our very own volunteer jackets (this is pro-stuff, baby). This time of year visitors are light and there’s plenty of time to hang and enjoy the view.
And what a view it is!
On foggy days you can barely see 10 feet in front of you and the lighthouse is enveloped in thick cloud, eerie and dense. These are the days you become mesmerized by the moving rainbows of the Fresnel prisms and contemplate the long hours spent on duty by the cold wall of red brick. On sunny days, the curtain lifts and the sweeping curves of the cape stretch dramatically for miles giving you the impression you can see forever. These are the days you breathe in the clear air and bask in the glory of nature. On windy days…well…that’s when the cape shows you it’s true colors gusting, pulling and howling with wild abandon across the exposed rock. These are the days you admire the resilience and sacrifice of the families who lived here. My volunteer hat off to you, my historic friends!
We see all of these moods on the “job” even in mild & sunny September which is without doubt the best month here. The rest of the time we’re hiking, playing and lounging in the deep nature of our campground. I’ve already got at least 20 more walks (and a few more sunsets) photographed and under my belt, but those will have to wait for the next post…’Til then I’ll be dreaming of sweeping lights and days long gone by.
Related Blog Posts -> On Lighthouse Hosting
- Volunteering as Lighthouse Hosts -> What Do You Actually DO?
- Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse
- Back on The Job – Lighthouse Hosting At Coquille River Lighthouse, OR
Related Blog Posts -> On Volunteering
- Volunteering On the Road Part I – Why Do It?
- Volunteering On The Road Part II – Where To Look For Openings
- Volunteering On The Road Part III – 4 Steps To Securing Your Dream Job
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