Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Piedras Blancas Light Station




On the Central Coast of California we have what we call the "June Gloom" a.k.a. fog.  Hard to imagine on a sunny, beautiful day but there are times when it's difficult to see your hand in front of your face.  Enter the need for the Piedras Blancas Light Station, illuminated in 1875 to help seafarers avoid disaster.  At night its flash pattern helped mariners identify their location and warned them of the rocky coastline nearby.  A sound signal building and fog signal were added in 1906 providing additional protection.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the light station is now managed by the BLM with the assistance of the non-profit Piedras Blancas Light Station Association.   The association works on restoring the light station and surrounding property with its funding coming from donations and weekly docent led tours.

Taking the two hour light station tour we followed our docent guide around the property, imagining what life was like for the light keeper and his family living in isolation on this rugged outcropping of land far from any town, any neighbor, any anything.  On duty 24/7, no matter what the weather conditions, dedicated to the safety of ships and sea travelers they probably couldn't even see.

Piedras Blancas Light Station with group taking docent led tour
Our docent explains that a large earthquake damaged the light station in 1948 and the upper part of the light house had to be removed. The association hopes to restore the structure to its original state along with rebuilding the light keeper's house pictured above. Structural repairs to the light station and adjacent structures are ongoing and future plans include building replicas of historic buildings that have been lost to time and the elements.

Looking up the light house circular stairway

The fog signal building

Fog signal building interior

Our tour culminated with a walk along the 1/2 mile interpretive trail hugging the spectacular coastline.   A wildlife and marine sanctuary, we viewed Sea Otters floating near the shoreline, Elephant Seals napping on the warm sand and seals lounging about on the rocky ledges.  Further offshore the spouts of Gray Whales could be seen, their annual migration from Mexico to Alaska just beginning. Above it all, a Peregrine Falcon perched.  Umm, on second thought, maybe the light keeper and his family weren't so isolated after all...
  

Interested in taking your own tour of the Piedras Blancas Light Station?  Tour information is available at 805-927-7361 and at Piedrasblancas.org