Lighthouses

Point San Luis Lighthouse, Conclusion

Basements are rare on the California Coast. But, here at Point San Luis Lighthouse, the keepers had a basement for food storage. It was built by a local Chinese labor contractor, who upon completion carved a symbol of blessing into its walls. The locals believe that is why no harm has ever come to this lighthouse.

Radio Towers where LED light is stored.

Radio tower where LED light is mounted. Next to it is a three-roomed building, which houses the Fresnel Lens and gift shop.

Outside this magnificent building were myriads of other out-buildings. Next to the radio listening station, where the new LED light is mounted, was one building with three rooms. The small one next to the radio tower protects the beautiful, gold-colored Fresnel Lens. During its time, this 4th Order lens would generate alternate red and white flashes of light every thirty seconds, which would be visible for seventeen nautical miles out to sea. The large middle section is used for tour groups to meet and listen to the history of the lighthouse. The very small room on the far side, is the gift shop.

Today, the Fresnel Lens is housed in a building attached to the gift shop.

Today, the Fresnel Lens is housed in a room in the same building as the gift shop.

Throughout Lucy’s time at Point San Luis Lighthouse, a two-story dwelling on the lighthouse grounds, was used to house the head light keeper’s two assistants. In 1961, the coast guard replaced it with a one-story, wood- frame duplex.

Pot used for making whale oil.

Pot used for making whale oil.

Outside this group of buildings is an old, rusted, metal pot. Before electricity came in 1934, the residents of the lighthouse would boil whale blubber in this pot in order to extract oil for their lamps.

Like long ago, migrating whales still swim by the Point San Luis Lighthouse on their way to warmer waters. While we were touring the inside of the lighthouse, several humpback whales decided to surface and put on a show. The docents, who had remained outside, relayed to us that there were two of them playing in and out of the waves. I was disappointed to miss their antics in the water!

Whaling Sign with Whaler's Island in the background.

Whaling Sign with Whaler’s Island in the background.

Sadly, our time at the Point San Luis Lighthouse had to come to an end. My eyes swept over the coastal landscape, landing one more time on the historical building. I paused; contemplating what thoughts Lucy might have had the last time she gazed upon this place, calling it her home. Perhaps, she thought the same as me, “Wish I could stay just a little longer.” I quickly brushed that idea out of my mind, as the tour group had already begun the trek back up the hill. I hurried to catch up with them and headed up the trail, which would return me to modern life.

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Point San Luis Lighthouse, Part 2

Front View of Lighthouse

Prairie Victorian Lighthouse

The Point San Luis Lighthouse was designed in the “Prairie Victorian” style and is the lone survivor of its kind on the western coast. The small, white, square building was topped with brick red roofs, covering both the house and porch. Steps led up to the porch. Attached to the house was the lighthouse itself, a tall, white, square tower rising only a few feet above the roof of the house. The apex was octagonal, completely closed in with glass and covered with a black, octagon-shaped roof, crowned with a black iron ball. A black fence surrounded the top.

Fresnel Lens

Fresnel Lens

This area housed the famous Fresnel Lens until 1969, when it was replaced by an automated electric light. The Fresnel Lens was lit by kerosene until 1935, before it was replaced with an electric light. During recent years, ships find their way through the harbor by the beam of an LED light, attached to the cyclone fence that encloses the radar dishes, located in the front of the property.

A knowledgeable docent gave us a tour of the lighthouse. She began by leading visitors up the steep, narrow stairs to the top of the lighthouse tower. From here we could see miles and miles of blue ocean. She then led the group through the rooms in the house: The kitchen, dining room and parlor were all downstairs; three bedrooms were located upstairs; and there was a basement.

The kitchen was cluttered with items that would have been used during the late 1800s. Here, the familiar story was told of the entire family taking a bath in the washtub in the middle of the kitchen floor. The Dad always started the bath and the baby ended it. Thus, the proverbial saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!”

Bottom right window leads to dining room. Simply open it from the bottom and walk through!

Bottom right window leads to dining room. Simply open it from the bottom and walk through!

The dining room contained a unique floor-length window that opened from the bottom, up. Our tour-guide opened this window and we all walked through it onto the porch.

In the parlor, she showed us a “parlor” game called a stereoscope. Before television, this mechanism was popular. It featured glasses and a 3-D picture card of separate images, depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene. Upon moving the card back and forth it appeared as if the images were moving.

Upstairs was Lucy’s bedroom. Cool, fresh, salty air rushed through the open window in this more modern room. It was decorated the way it would have been in 1934, when Lucy was twelve and electricity was first introduced to the lighthouse. Born in Colorado, she moved to the lighthouse as an infant when her mother married lighthouse keeper, Robert Moorefield. Robert and Lucy’s mother later had a child named Judy. The very night before we visited the lighthouse, Judy had sneaked into her sister’s bedroom and placed her childhood teddy bear on the desk. Our docent was so surprised to see the bear! Still living, Judy was five years old when her parents moved from the lighthouse.

Lucy and her brother probably rowed back Whaler's Island on their way to high school in San Luis Obispo each week.

Lucy and her brother probably rowed past Whaler’s Island on their way to high school in San Luis Obispo each week.

Robert Moorefield had a son of his own when he married Lucy’s mother. Lucy and her brother used to trek to elementary school every day, down the same trail we had followed earlier in the day. When they reached high school age, they would row a boat every Sunday night over to nearby Avila Beach and then take the train into San Luis Obispo. They would spend the week at their aunt’s house and return to the lighthouse every Friday evening.

…to be concluded next Wednesday

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Point San Luis Lighthouse, Part 1

It’s taken me awhile to gather my thoughts together to write about our hike to the Point San Luis Lighthouse last August. But, finally, it is done and here it is!

Lighthouse high above the Pacific Ocean

Lighthouse high above the Pacific Ocean

Foamy, white-capped waves gently crashed against the jagged cliffs where I stood in front of the old lighthouse, high above the turquoise sea.

Perhaps, years ago, one of the residents of the lighthouse, a young girl named Lucy, stood on these same cliffs, watching the migrating hump-backed whales frolicking among the waves and spouting water from the blow holes on their backs. Or, maybe she enjoyed viewing the ships as they chugged their way home through the ocean to their destination in the Port San Luis Harbor.

Front View of Lighthouse

Front view of lighthouse

During the 1930s, Lucy Brohard called the Point San Luis Lighthouse, “home”. This Victorian-style lighthouse, whose beam guided ships safely for decades to the Port San Luis Harbor, is located near Avila Beach on the central California coastline.

Side view of the lighthouse

Side view of the lighthouse

What a fascinating life Lucy must have had growing up in a lighthouse!

Completed in 1890, this beautiful, historic landmark was fully functional until the coast guard closed it 1974. Today, thanks to the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, a non-profit corporation, it has been restored to the way it looked in 1890 and is open to the public.

Since I had never been to a lighthouse before, I had to go and see this place for myself.

Hiking along the Pecho Coast Trail

Hiking along the Pecho Coast Trail

There are only two ways visitors can reach the lighthouse: by trolley or by foot. This aloofness with the rest of the world made the lighthouse even more fascinating to me.

Meeting place for hike

Meeting place for hike

Wanting the full experience, my husband, Dan, and I chose the guided hike along the Pecho Coast Trail. The trail itself is a 3.6 mile, round-trip adventure. It begins at the Fisherman’s Memorial on Avila Beach Drive, near the Harford Pier. Several knowledgeable docents led the walk as we climbed up the side of the coastal hill, above the harbor.

View of San Luis Harbor below where we saw dolphins playing

View of San Luis Harbor below where we saw dolphins playing

Below, we saw dolphins playing in the water.

Dusty-footed Wood Rat home

Dusty-footed wood rat home

The trail led up and then down into Diablo Canyon, which was filled with oak trees. Along the way were homes belonging to the dusky-footed wood rat, some as high as five feet tall. These industrious woodland creatures collect branches to build their homes, organizing the insides by rooms. We were warned not to drop anything shiny because the rats find them extremely irresistible for decorating their habitats.

Whaler's Island

Whaler’s Island

We climbed out of the canyon and overlooked the harbor once again. Below, Whaler’s Island jutted out into the Pacific Ocean.

 Girl swinging over the Pacific Ocean

Girl swinging over the Pacific Ocean

Just around the corner, in view of the lighthouse, a swing, hanging from a nearby eucalyptus tree, faced the sea. Some of the girls from our tour ran towards it and immediately started swinging high into the air. I imagine if this toy was around when Lucy resided here, she would have spent hours on it.

To be continued next Wednesday…

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Psalm 27:1

Point San Luis Lighthouse near Avila Beach, California. This restored lighthouse can be reached either by trolley or guided hike. My husband and I chose the guided hike, along the Pecho Coast Trail, where the ocean was on our side for most of this 4-mile, round trip excursion. The water was a mixture of blue and green and was simply stunning, as it sparkled in the late morning sun. We were blessed to watch two dolphins playing in this water just below the first cliff we climbed.  What an amazing way to spend our morning!

Point San Luis Lighthouse near Avila Beach, California

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