Monday, July 24, 2017

Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge - Illusive St. George Reef Lighthouse - Battery Point Lighthouse

Castle Rock, Castle Rock National Refuge

After attending church at the Calvary Chapel of the Redwoods, just north of Crescent City, we to the coastline around Crescent City.  We tried the  Tolowa Dunes State Park, but when you park a large sand dune blocks your view of the ocean.  So I headed south into Crescent City, headed for Point St. George.  But first, we found a nice parking area along the way right in front of the Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge.  Pictured above is Castle Rock.  It looks lonely in the picture…but pictures can be deceiving. This island, and the surrounding rocks, are full of life.

Castle Rock, Castle Rock National Refuge

The islands features allow it to host more than 100,000 breeding seabirds of 11 species, as well as provide haul out grounds for harbor seals, northern elephant seals, California sea lions, and Steller's sea lions. . Castle Rock, Castle Rock National RefugeWe can hear the seals and sea lions, even though they are a half mile off shore along the 14 acres of the National Refuge.  If you click on the picture to the right, you can see more seals on the rock in the foreground, but look at the rock in the back…all those black dots are birds!  One of the birds I have never seen up close in the wild are the Puffins…and this island is full of them…but it is too far off shore to get a good picture with our camera…one would need a super duper zoom lens for that.  Frankly, Puffins might be in the picture…but again, might not.  The Refuge is home to many birds.

Point St. George Crew Quarters
A mile north of the Refuge is Point St. George.  To the left is the living quarters of the men who manned the lighthouse, and if they had families, they lived there too.  St. George Reef Lighthouse was one of the least sought-after assignments in the service. Five keepers were typically attached to the station, and they worked in shifts of three months at the lighthouse followed by two months here with their families.  Point St. George LighthouseThe lighthouse itself if six miles off shore…on a tiny rock island.  The lighthouse was built between 1887 and 1891, with the station’s twelve-inch steam whistle activated on December 1, 1891 and the lighthouse was finally lit for the first time on October 20, 1892.  Being six miles off shore, I could not get a clear picture of it…in fact, the mist was so thick I could hardly see it out there.  So in the picture to the right I have drawn a red arrow pointing to the lighthouse…that is the best I could do…a shadowy figure out there in the dense mist.  Oh, how would you have liked serving out there?  Or being one of the family members who stand up on the overlook of a large sand dune, covered in weeds, looking out trying to see where your loved one was working.

Point St. George Lighthouse with CGC Blackhaw by MKC Roger S. Wright

The above picture, taken by MKC Roger S. Wright and found at the Lighthousefriends.com website, shows the Coast Guard Cutter Blackhaw going out to service the lighthouse, probably between 1971-1990 when it was stationed in San Francisco.  (As a side note:  This ship was used in the movie The Hunt for Red October, depicting a Soviet icebreaker and its crew.)  This picture shows the large elliptical pier, which holds the engine room, coal room, 77,000-gallon cistern and the base of the lighthouse.  In large storms, waves would crash OVER this base, which is 70 feet above the ocean, and spray would hit the top of the lighthouse, “causing the tower to tremble and the men to fear for their lives.”  Who would ‘want’ to serve on this rock island?  No wonder it was “one of the least sought-after assignments. “  By the way, this lighthouse is the most expensive lighthouse ever built by the USA.  Costing $752,000…equivalent to $20 million today, and cost twice as much as its first estimates (seems they had construction overruns even back then!)

Point St. George Crew Quarters and parking lot (Boondockers)

As I was atop a grassy sand dune, Marcia was below in the parking lot with a wild bunch of boondockers and other visitors.  Yes, it is a place one could overnight…would we?  Uh….no…not here.  So we drove back south to the Refuge area, and eventually further along Pebble Beach Drive, headed towards Battery Point.

Pebble Beach Drive with Battery Point Lighthouse in distance

I knew the moment Marcia took this picture that it was a great shot.  In the middle distance you can see a building…that is the Battery Point Lighthouse.  In the distance, the mist covered hills south of Crescent City.  To the right, the scenic coastline, and in the foreground, the limb of a tree and vegetation infested coastal land.  It really shows the majestic coast here at Crescent City.

Pebble Beach Drive with Battery Point Lighthouse in distance

A bit further down the road there was a turnout where I was able to position our motorhome for a shot with the lighthouse, which is to the left.  Pebble Beach Drive Brother Johnathan Memorial CemeteryAcross the street from the turnout is the Brother Jonathan Cemetery, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the wreck of the Pacific Mail Steamer Brother Johnathan at Point St. George's Reef, July 30, 1865.  The ship was carrying 244 passengers and crew, together with a large shipment of gold. Only 19 survived, making it the deadliest shipwreck up to that time on the Pacific Coast of the United States. The boat had faced bad weather from San Francisco all the way to Crescent City where it anchored on that fateful Sunday morning.  It continued on to Portland that afternoon, but the fierce weather and seas forced it back as it neared the Oregon border just 20 miles to the north.  As it neared Crescent City, it struck a rock in the reef of St. George.  Although there were enough lifeboats for everyone, only a single surfboat, holding eleven crew members, five women, and three children managed to escape the wreck and make it safely to Crescent City.  The loss of life in this wreck was a major factor in the building of the Lighthouse along the reef off of Point St. George.

Battery Point Lighthouse

There is a parking lot near Battery Point Lighthouse, one that would fit a 30’ RV or smaller…if it wasn’t already full of cars and RVs.  But we were able to get a good shot of the lighthouse as we drove through.  Congress authorized the building of the lighthouse in 1855, and in 1856 the lighthouse was lit and was active all the way through till 1965, then reactivated in 1982 as a navigational aid.  It survived the Tsunami of 1964 which was caused by the Great Alaska Earthquake. 

Hot Rod in Crescent City    5b
Hot Rod in Crescent City

As we left the Battery Point area this hot rod pulled out right in front of us.  With my brother-in-law Arny being such a Hot Rod Junky, we just ‘had’ to follow it.  Hope you enjoy the pics there Arny…I haven’t a clue what it is other than it looks good.  For us, it was another night at the Florence Keller County Park & Campground, even got that great pull through that we had on Friday night.  New batteries worked GREAT, we were able to have the floor’s isle lights on all night and still had a 12.5 charge on the batteries.  But off to Oregon to turn in the old batteries, and find us another park to stay in.

8 comments:

  1. I love northern California and Oregon coast. It's usually foggy in morning and burns off during the day. However, it can roll back in quickly anytime of day. I have to be very careful not to walk on beach during fog or possibility of loosing your way back to car is high...especially if you miss a trail not well marked.

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    1. Yes, the fog can get very thick, very fast. Back when I was a kid the fog in Sacramento was very bad at times...but so many homes have replaced soaked fields that the fog is not nearly as thick there any more.

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  2. If you're going to be there for another day or two in Crescent city you get a chance look on your map for Howland Hills Road follow that all the way to route 199 it'll bring you back into Crescent city
    It's one of the prettiest Redwood drives which is car drivable with only one lane with plenty of pull-offs ,, you also have trails that you can hike on as well but the ride is on believable
    If you do the drive and you come back on 199 don't forget to stop at Hiouchi Cafe On the south side of the road cute little restaurant the food was good

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    1. We did that drive back in 2013...did not want to do it in the motorhome though, but hope to do that drive again some day. Never ate at the Cafe however, will keep that in mind next time.

      Another Redwood park we did back in 2013 was one in Oregon. Not an easy drive to get to, but once there you have these huge Redwoods almost to yourself.

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  3. I used to spend a lot of time in Crescent City with the in-laws. Now I just drive through real fast!! LOL It's beautiful, to say the least!!

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    1. Crescent City is one of the few cities in California that is along the Pacific Ocean which has a cheaper cost of living than the national average. And with it being so close to Oregon, one can drive up to Brookings and fill up with gas and groceries and save 75 cents per gallon, countless $$$$ savings on groceries, no Sales Tax at all, and be back home in 90 minutes!

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  4. Hello Dave and Marcia:

    I love your blog but I have one beef with many travel bloggers including you.

    I read your latest post and somewhere in the middle you mention California Sea Lions which was my first clue you were on the west coast. Maybe everyone doesn't know that Crescent City is in California. I just did a post on New Orleans which is also known as the Crescent City.

    Travel blogs are about places. In my blog, I make sure that the reader knows exactly where I am right at the beginning -- no guessing, no detective work.

    I would appreciate it if all bloggers provided the same courtesy.

    I still love your blog.

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    1. Very good point Bob, and I will try and do better with that. In my next post "Oregon" is in the title...and a few posts earlier I had California in the title, but you are very correct in that not everyone who reads any given post knows right where we are. I will try and do better in the future.

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