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Point Bonita Lighthouse

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Today we did a photo shoot at the Point Bonita Light, a lighthouse located at Point Bonita on the north side of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, near Sausalito (kind of :-) ). The National Parks Service site describes the Point Bonita Lighthouse as a “secret jewel” of the Bay Area.

The original Point Bonita Lighthouse was a 56-foot brick tower and was located too HIGH, at 306 feet above sea level. Unlike the East Coast of the United States, the West Coast has dense, high fog which can leave lower elevations clear. In fact, we experienced this kind of fog today. As we ascended the Marin Headlands, we saw throngs of photographers (yes, we occasionally travel in throngs :-) ) taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge with fog swirling around the towers. As we crossed the high point of the narrow, one-lane road to Point Bonita :-) (enjoy!), we started our descent with heavy fog obscuring the winding narrow road that clings to the cliffs that drop hundreds of feet to the Golden Gate. We let out a collective moan, thinking that the lighthouse would be totally cloaked in fog, and then suddenly, we were BENEATH the fog in a bright sunny day! (Yes, fog is weird here.) The original lighthouse had the same problem, with its second-order Fresnel lens so high that it was cloaked in fog and could not be seen from the sea. In 1877, the lighthouse was moved to a lower location, at 124 feet above sea level. The move involved many construction challenges, including the hand-carving of a 118-foot tunnel through solid rock.

The path that descends to the Point Bonita Lighthouse skips merrily from rock to rock with the aid of wooden walkways and bridges (of COURSE it goes through the tunnel!) until it winds up at the only way to access the lighthouse – a suspension bridge that is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge! The bridge is suspended over a knife edge of rock that descends precipitously on either side to the sea. On either end of the suspension bridge stands a park docent, like twin “Guardians of the Bridge of Death,” who allow only two people on the bridge at the same time, to prevent strong harmonic oscillations.

We stood in line, waiting to meet the docent and cross the bridge. I desperately tried to remember my favorite color! :-) I watched and photographed the amazing view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and even Ocean Beach.

The trip across the bridge was uneventful. The view from the rock was phenomenal, especially looking north along the rocks and cliffs of the Marin Headland. I took a number of photos, replaced the card, and took some more. I took some snapshots of a couple with their Canon. (No, being shot with your own Canon is NOT like being “hoisted by your own petard!” :-) ) I photographed cormorants on their steep rocky perch. After returning across the bridge, the docent pointed out a gull with a nest halfway down the cliff, and I photographed the nest. One of the young had escaped the nest earlier in the day, and plunged to its death in the sea. The sea itself is home to harbor seals, one of which I saw playing in the waves.

The lighthouse is active and operated by the Coast Guard. Point Bonita Light Station had the first fog signal on the West Coast. The signal was a 24-pounder siege gun, according to the Wikipedia article. The National Park Service provides access to visitors. Visiting hours are on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, from 12:30 PM until 3:30 PM (at this time). After visiting hours, the tunnel that is halfway to the lighthouse is closed, and trust me, you don’t want to try to go around it!

I am downloading the last 1/3 of the roughly 3 GB of Camera RAW images on another machine. The day was an unusually beautiful summer day (Mark Twain supposedly once quipped that the coldest winter of his life was a summer in San Francisco, although this story is now discredited), and I cannot wait to edit the photos. I will add links to some of the photos, in this blog entry, when the photos have been processed. (Done.)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide!

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