On any unseasonably warm weekend day in the Bay Area, many residents set out toward the ocean in an attempt to have themselves a Southern-California-style beach day. They sit in traffic on Highway 92, armed with surfboards, umbrellas and coolers. Though we were also headed to the coast, and I heavily applied sunscreen, surfing and swimming were not the plan. Our destination was Pigeon Point, home of the west coast’s tallest lighthouse.
We took a shortcut through Woodside to avoid the beachgoers. The intoxicating smell of pine trees and always-damp forest floor filled my helmet. I had flashbacks to growing up in Washington state; walking on winding neighborhood trails and summer camp in the Cascade Mountains. Though my main point-of-view as passenger is usually the shiny white back of Nick’s helmet, glancing up, I could see the tall trees rising around the tricky curves of the road.
Suddenly, the winding forest road spat us out into a valley of farms and we turned onto Highway 1. The sweeping views of the seemingly endless miles of coastline are always impressive. There was a slight misty haze that hovered over PCH, but after awhile we could see the lighthouse in the distance.
The Pigeon Point lighthouse is under repair, as the harsh coastal sea air has taken a toll on the brick, cast iron and glass. While still an active lighthouse, it no longer uses the original Fresnel lens, which was on display in the fog signal building. The lens was first lit in 1872 but eventually taken down in 2011, when the lighthouse started to show signs of wear and tear. They had to dismantle the 1008 separate pieces of glass that make up the one-ton lens in order to get it down safely from the lantern room at the top of the tower.
Though smaller than I expected, the lighthouse looked like it was dropped straight from Cape Cod onto the California coast. There were great vantage points both up close and far away from the lighthouse, including a log that made for a perfect bench.
Surrounding the lighthouse, the keepers’ housing now serves as a hostel. We decided to grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then rode home on Highway 1. Even though it was late afternoon, the backup in the opposite direction to the beach still stretched for miles on Highway 92 westbound. We zipped past the traffic and were glad that after a day on the coast, we were sunburn-free and without any sand in our boots.
Words by: Hayley Johnson
Photos by: Nick Johnson