Discovering Sequim Part I – Lighthouse Loving
She’d been calling to me for weeks, months even. A persistent draw at the back of my mind, serenading my thoughts to “come, come”. We’d chosen this RV park specifically to see her and despite this, I was hesitant.
There was a snag, you see…
New Dungeness Lighthouse is one of those rare lighthouses that takes an effort to see. First lit in 1857, she’s located at the end of a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) sand-spit which is a phenomenon in it’s own right. The spit is the longest natural sand-spit in the USA and it curves seductively (and dangerously) into the Straight of Juan de Fuca with the lighthouse perched at its very tip. The fact that this spit even exists (it’s still growing) and the fact that the lighthouse has survived this long on nothing but sand is amazing. The trail is even more intriguing. It starts in a coniferous forest and passes through no less than five distinct habitats supporting over 250 species of wildlife along its entire length. It’s an absolute wonder, a totally unique experience and the hike can only be done at low tide. But (and here’s the big snag) it doesn’t allow dogs.
If you read the blog regularly you know we rarely (if ever) hike without the dog and this was no small walk. We’re talking about an 11-mile round-trip which meant at least 5-6 hours if you include the inevitable gawking, drooling and picture-taking. We really, really don’t like to leave the dog for that long so that meant either rushing the hike (lighthouse forbid), or hiking separately (the more obvious choice). Did I really want to hike 11-miles on my own?
What to do, what to do…..
But then came the ray (beam?) of hope in the dark. If there’s one thing you can be sure about lighthouse nuts is that where there is one there are more. We are like mindless moths all drawn hopelessly to the light, if you get my drift. So it was only with moderate surprise that I received an e-mail from fellow nutter Suzanne (Take To The Highway) just days before we were about to arrive with a picture of the spit. “Look what I’ve found” she exclaimed “it’s been calling to me”
You don’t say…..
Like me she was hesitant to do the hike on her own, but put a pair of lighthouse nuts together and you’ve got a team ready to conquer all. We exchanged a few e-mails, met-up by pure chance that very next day (both peering into the distance and scouting out the hike) and studied the tide tables. There was no doubt about it. Thursday was going to be the perfect day so if we were going to do this it was going to be now. The date was set. I spent the night dreaming about lighthouses and imagining a foggy spit with the grey lifting just as we got to the end (for the drama of it, you know).
Clearly this was meant to be, was it not?
Suzanne and I met-up, springy and excited the very next morning about 2 hours before the scheduled low tide. Paul stayed home with pooch, planning to do the hike the next day on his own. As luck would have it the spit was completely fogged in, but nothing could dampen our spirits as we set-off into the eerie grey. We walked, chatted and enjoyed the crash of waves on the sand, breathing in the thick moist air and loosing ourselves in the stretch of land that seemed to disappear between the ends of the fog. As we passed the curve of the spit the mist lifted and the first peeks of light shone through (five stars for visualization, Nina)
There she was….O…M…G!
We both stopped and gasped. It’s hard to describe what an impact this view had on us. Moments ago we were totally lost in the fog, moments after we were greeted to the sight of this historic beauty beaming her light across the ocean. The clouds lifted like a theater curtain, the waves crashed like applause. If Beethoven’s 9th had started playing in the background I think I would have swooned. We were both gob-smacked and a tad emotional. This was absolutely one of the most impactful views I’d experienced in a long time.
Okay, okay…we are CLEARLY lighthouse nuts 🙂
We walked the last mile in awe, soaking in every minute of the gorgeous surroundings. At the lighthouse we took the tour, admired the grounds and knocked off our shoes to eat lunch on the grassy lawn. The 157-year old lighthouse shone bright white in the sun, a mere wisp of clouds behind her surrounded by impeccable grounds and endless ocean views. The spit stretched to the background and in the distance the Olympic Mountains dominated the horizon like blue ghosts. The day was so clear we even saw a peek of Mount Baker. The volunteers who host here actually pay to do so ($350/person/week), but they get to live at the historic structure and are all passionate about the lighthouse. I could aaalmost imagine doing this, just to experience sunset at this place.
We were happy, happy hikers….
After about an hour and a half lounging and photographing we made the long trek back. Surprisingly the hike seemed almost effortless distracted as we were by good company and views. That evening I relived the day’s pictures in my mind enjoying the dull ache in my legs as a sign of accomplished success. Doing the hike with Suzanne made the experience all the better (thank you girl!) and it was totally worth the day. I’m sure she’ll have an equally enthralling blog post of our hike, including many a butt-picture of me (gotta get that walking into the distance perspective). Overall one of the most epic hikes I’ve done in a long time and a memory to savor. Paul, who motored through the hike the next day wholeheartedly agreed. The call was met, the sirens silenced.
Now, where’s the next lighthouse?
NOTE/ The Dungeness Spit is a National Wildlife Refuge. It costs $3 to enter (or you can use a Federal Pass) and does NOT permit dogs. For the hike to the lighthouse plan to start ~2 hours before low tide. Total round-trip is 11 miles.
- New Dungeness Lighthouse – Info on lighthouse HERE and being a keeper HERE.
- New Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge – Info HERE.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Lynne (WinnieViews) says
Wow, what a hike (and what a light)! Great pics, as usual. Glad you 2 “nuts” were able to do the hike together (and Polly didn’t have to stay home alone!). Suzanne marched me on a few incredible hikes at Big Bend last Spring and the conversation, indeed, made the difficult sections much easier to accomplish!
It was really a fabulous day, and all the more so ‘coz I got to hike it with Suzanne. Small world!
Port Townsend? Just a guess… But IDK what could beat this one! I did not do this… I would never make it with my head bent to the beach ~ combing! Lovely description and photo’s!
You got it! Port Townsend is our next stop on Monday.
The lighthouse and other bldgs. appear to be in good shape. There are a few in California that are in dire need(sadly)of renovation. But they still bring a big smile to this old Coast Guardsman’s face!
The entire structure here was in superb shape and is maintained in part by the fees paid by volunteers. It’s a lot of money to volunteer, but I can’t deny the funds keep the place pristine. It’s great to see these old ladies so beautifully restored.
Metamorphosis Lisa says
Love those signs…who the heck wants to return to reality?!?!? What a wonderful experience, thanks for sharing.
Yeah, I thought the signs were super cute.
I haven’t seen many lighthouses – yet -but I can certainly see how one could quickly become a lighthouse nut. This one is yet another reason to put this part of Washington on the list of places I have to one day revisit.
This place was a rare treat wait until you hear about the lavender…yum, yum!
What a beautiful lighthouse! That last pic of the crashing waves and driftwood logs is “wild”. Not sure I could do an 11 mile hike anymore. Could you describe the trail or is it just walking on hard sand on the beach?
If you do it at low tide it’s all hard-packed sand. Very easy hiking. At high tide (the last pic of the blog) it’s all logs and pebbles -> not do-able without a lot of trouble. So, the timing is key. There is about 1/2 mile of fairly steep uphill/downhill at the beginning of the trail to get from the bluff down to the beach (and visa versa). Otherwise it’s all flat.
If you pay to volunteer the park service drives you out there with all your food for the week. So, the volunteers don’t do the hike.
Jodee Gravel says
Another wonderful, descriptive and enthusiastic post! I can see you and Suzanne starting the hike with “goody, goody, goody” while jumping up and down – hell, I was practically doing that here!! What a fun experience to a beautiful place. Weird that dogs aren’t allowed, as they seem to be in so many areas in WA….
We were both beyond excited that’s for sure!
I’ve actually found dogs to be fairly confined on the OP. The three spots we visited before this on the coast were the only three areas that allow dogs. Most of the other beaches are part of the OP National Park and prohibit dogs. All trails in the OP NP also prohibit dogs. Here in Sequim I gather the spit used to allow dogs, but don’t anymore. The official answer is to protect the wildlife on the spit.
Jodee Gravel says
Thanks! I’ll look back at those areas carefully as we hope to be up there next year at this time, and, like Polly, Tessa is a “go with us” doggie :-).
Beautifully written post! I was spell-bound. I visited the lighthouse in Pensacola when Wayne and I were there over a year ago -and I became hooked. I am anxiously awaiting my next opportunity. I also have a burning desire to host a lighthouse. We plan to be on the west coast on and off during the coming year. Could you give me your recommendations of the “not-to-be-missed” lighthouses in CA and OR. Also, which one(s) would be the best first time hosting opportunities? I will check out Suzanne’s blog too. Thanks for your inspiration! Rhonda
Oh my, oh my. Hard to give you a favorite since I truly love them all. Each lighthouse has a story to tell and a history all it’s own. I would recommend hitting as many as you can.
For volunteering I definitely recommend Oregon lighthouses. They are the best equipped to handle RV volunteers. My top pick is Cape Blanco just because it’s such a gorgeous place, has a great volunteer schedule and a wonderful coordinator. Cape Dissapointment (North Head) in WA would actually be my #2 volunteer spot. Again, just an amazing place to be with a great, easy volunteer schedule and a great coordinator.
Jim and Gayle says
The miles do seem to fly by while hiking and talking, don’t they? Looks like you had a wonderful day.
Indeed. Having Suzanne with me on the trail made it sooooo easy. We chatted the whole way.
Larry & Debbie Mink says
It was great meeting you guys on Saturday at the Dungeness Rec Area in Sequim, WA. We have been following you guys for about two years now and we love your campground reviews. We still need to get out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse, just moved to Sequim about three weeks ago and still getting settled in.
Cheers so much for coming by, and for your long-time support of the blog! It’s always fun to meet readers and fellow RVers. You guys live in a sweet town!
We are seeing many lighthouses here in Newfoundland…some you would really love…I am trying to include photos of the ones I see on fb…still am waiting for the historic one in bonnevista(sp) I think you will be pleasantly surprised….
glad you got to hike the one you did I am sure it was well worth it…
Oh, I can just imagine how beautiful they are. I’m totally enjoying your pics out here. So many gorgeous lighthouses on the east coast and we’ve only seen a handful of them.
I was about 11 or 12 when my Dad took us there and remember doing that hike (I remember whining about how long it was 🙂 ) with our dog so they did allow dogs out there back then. Good thing you picked Western Washington to camp in instead of Eastern Washington. I’d rather have fog then smoke and burning picnic tables. I love seeing all your pictures they are bringing back a lot of memories.
Yeah, I read online that they used to allow dogs. Don’t know when the switch happened, but wish we’d made it here beforehand. The dog would have loved this hike! At least we both made the effort and got to see the lighthouse. Very happy with that.
Even if dogs were allowed, could Polly really walk eleven miles?
Oh yeah. No problem. She’s a very active hiker. We easily hike 8-10 miles in the mountains (Sierra Nevada) in fall and hike at least several miles each day. A flat 11 miles would be no issue.
Awesome post, Nina. And in such a great unique place. This is one I still haven’t done in spite of all the years I’ve lived here. I’m gonna have to get on it. Thanks for sharing.
Hope you get to try it sometime. It’s a stunning hike.
I am still basking in the glow of this day, long after I am back in “the cubicle.” I’m not sure I could have gone the distance without your enthusiasm to inspire me. It was a treasured memory indeed! So glad Paul got to experience it too!
So glad you came, Suzanne. It’s a trek to remember!
John and Pam Wright says
Congratulations on the hike and blog! What a beautifully written post:) I do believe this is one of your best. The figurative language took me away with you. I am not a lighthouse nut but that hike sure sounded like an amazing adventure. Thanks!
So glad I managed to “sweep you away” a bit. I thought I might title this blog “a lighthouse tale” coz in the end it was more like a story than a post…and that really wasn’t my intention when I started to write. Sometimes my mind works in mysterious ways LOL.
Jennifer Nealy says
How awesome that you were able to find a fun hiking partner. Deas and I have the same dilemma with the dogs, of course. Glad it worked out – and beautiful pictures!
Suzanne made the entire trip so much better…and I could hike relaxed without worrying about the dog which was an extra bonus. A serendipitous meeting!
Beautiful, well-earned photos. That hike is a testament to your and Paul’s fitness.
One photo suggestion I would make is that the shot of you at the picnic tabla would have been better with fill-flash. The one up inside the light was perfect!
Yup, fill-flash is a good little secret for bright sunny photography.
Living in Sequim, I’ve walked to the lighthouse many times. I’ve never paid attention to the tides, was out there during low tide, high tide, whatever. Wouldn’t do it during a storm, but tides don’t keep people from hiking the spit.
Good to know Ilse. I was down there by high tide on our first evening (+8 ft tide) and the water was crashing up by the logs. I had to scramble over them to get my bottom pic. It would be hard hiking for 11 miles, but do-able I guess. The next day at low tide we had plenty of hard-packed sand which was much easier to walk on. I’m sure many of the in-between tide levels are ok too.
I am so glad that you were able to find someone to hike it with you. I would have also been contemplating doing the hike alone, but knowing how easily I can get lost, I would have been a bit nervous. Your words and your images are breathtaking Nina. We cannot wait to visit WA. I have friends who moved to Sequim a few years ago and have been looking forward to visiting them. You have given us many more reasons to make the trek.
Thankfully the spit is very, very hard to get lost on (impossible, even?), but I know what you mean. I’m the same way LOL.