Port Angeles, WA
Late last week Eric and Laurel moved from Salt River, about 10 miles west of us, to Dungeness County Park, about 20 miles east of us near the town of Sequim. Laurel contacted us and said that when you are in the Sequim area a hike out to the Dungeness Light House is something you have to do. They were going to do it the next day and invited us to join them. We couldn’t find the regulation to which she was referring but, since we didn’t want to break any local laws, we agreed to join them.
The lighthouse is located near the end of the Dungeness Spit. A spit (or sand spit) is beach landform off coasts or lake shores. It develops from the process of longshore drift by longshore currents. The drift occurs due to waves meeting the beach at an oblique angle, moving sediment down the beach in a zigzag pattern. Dungeness Spit is a 5.5 mile long sand spit jutting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is the longest natural sand spit in the United States,
The best time to hike out to the lighthouse is at low tide when the beach is most exposed. On the day of our hike low tide occurred at 11:30 AM, so we met Eric and Laurel at 9:30 to insure we would have good conditions for both the hike out and the return back.
The New Dungeness Light was first lit in 1857 and was the second lighthouse established in the Washington territory following the Cape Disappointment Light of 1856. Originally, the lighthouse was a 1½-story duplex with a 100-foot tower rising from the roof. The tower was painted black on the top half and white on the lower section. Over time, the tower developed structural cracks, most likely from a combination of earthquakes and weather erosion. In 1927 the cracks in the tower were so severe that they feared that the tower would topple. It was decided that the tower would be lowered to its current height of 63 feet. With the new tower dimensions, the original fresnel lens was too large for the tower. To save costs, the lantern room from the decommissioned Admiralty Head lighthouse on nearby Whidbey Island was removed and placed atop the shorter tower.
Dungeness Lighthouse had a full-time keeper until 1994. Since then the Coast Guard has maintained the light itself, but the rest of the facility is operated by members of the New Dungeness Light Station Association. Members “volunteer” to spend a week at the lighthouse giving tours and performing general maintenance tasks. Eight people at a time pay $375 for the honor of living with 7 other members in the caretaker house for a week. Our guide, Mitch, was taking a week’s vacation from a corporate position in Los Angeles. Although he had only been there two days, he told us he was really enjoying the experience.
The photo below shows land on the spit beyond the lighthouse. When the lighthouse was first constructed it was at the very end of the split. But the split grows a bit every year so the lighthouse is no longer at the end.
Eleven miles of hiking with ten on a long rocky beach is a bit much (A half mile hike through the Dungeness Wildlife Preserve begins this adventure which accounts for the extra mile). But a visit to the cool lighthouse at the end of the spit made it all worthwhile. Plus hiking with Eric and Laurel made the miles go by quickly.