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.