Dungeness Lighthouse, Sequim, Wash. / April 2004
Here we prepare for a week as keepers at the Dungeness Lighthouse. You have to take everything with you, so there's a lot of packing.
There's a secret keepers' entrance to the beach; no one else is allowed to drive through here. In 1915 the Dungeness Spit (the world's longest natural sand spit) was declared a wildlife refuge. Public access is permitted, but remember that when you walk here, you are a guest of the wild creatures who live here.
I can tell you it's nice to drive the five miles to the lighthouse. I've walked out there, and it's a long, long journey on foot.
We arrived with everything still in place. It's a bumpy ride along the rocks and sand that shift with tides.
I was delighted to claim the "rose room" on the ground floor. (Two more bedrooms are upstairs.) As money permits, the keeper's house is being made over to look like it did in 1904 . . . with modern amenities, of course.
From my window I could see Mount Baker and a large expanse of grass where killdeer nest undisturbed.
The peace of our first night was broken only by the immense and mind-boggling noise of the croaking of a tiny Pacific Tree Frog. Bless his heart.
Some mornings we stumbled out in our pajamas, but the flag had to be raised by 8 a.m.
The official name is the New Dungeness Light Station. No, it's not a new building. In fact, it was built in 1857, and the scaffolding you see is a make-over in progress. "New Dungeness" is what an explorer called the area in 1790 when he named it after Dungeness, Scotland.
Our primary job as keepers was showing visitors the light tower. To save our legs on the 74 steep steps, one of us sat at the top for a few hours at a time. We could see folks walking toward us for miles, so we knew if anyone was coming.
Here we are, ready to guide you to the top! Marcia, Karen, and Mary (left to right).
View from the top: north toward Canada and the Olympic Mountains. You can see anyone walking along the five-mile spit.
View from the top: a helicopter landing pad where the Coast Guard still practices maneuvers. When it was my turn at the top, I used my binoculars to check on the goose nest on the beach. The biggest excitement came when father goose chased a group of noisy and meddlesome Boy Scouts back up the path away from the nest.
View from the top: the keeper's house, sitting there since 1904. Back then the south end of the spit was about a mile away, but erosion causes the water to creep closer.
The lighthouse association, which all keepers are members of, maintains the immaculate grounds. Here Marcia mows the lawn. It's a tough job, but what a view!
Karen prepares one of her gourmet meals. The kitchen has everything you could possibly wantyou supply the food.
Despite the hard work, there was plenty of time to relax. The three of us enjoyed reading most.
Beachcombing was another delightful activity. Here my growing collection of agates brightens my windowsill. You can't remove anything from the spit, but you can enjoy things while you are there.
Several bald eagles nested in the area. Although I couldn't get close enough for a good photo, it was a thrill to watch them. I also saw (among others) loons, cormorants, harlequin ducks, black-bellied plovers, dunlins, caspian terns, swallows, crows, savannah sparrows, and red-winged blackbirds. One afternoon I stood entranced while a flock of red-breasted mergansers performed a mating ritual, a water ballet of superb intricacy.
The beach: a quiet refuge for wildlife and keepers.
Sharing our beach space was a Canada goose who often appeared lonely but was actually guarding his mate's nest. Here he stands near two plastic duck decoys.
You can see the mother goose on her grass nest if you look carefully. This is an excellent example of the wonderful camouflage provided for birds.
By the end of the week, the lighthouse definitely felt like home. It was hard to think of leaving, but even good things must come to an end.
The truck that came to pick us up got stuck. There was a brief moment of hope that we might not be able to leave.
Despite wanting to stay, we were ready and packed, and eventually we found our way back to reality.
Another day ends on the Dungeness Spit.
Mary Rosewood ©2016