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Whale Watching (or not), Point Reyes Lighthouse, California

Posted by Jody on January 9, 2012

WooooooHoooooo! It’s whale watching season on the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Greg and I were fortunate to spend a few days at Point Reyes National Seashore this past weekend. Point Reyes is just an hour’s scenic drive north of the Bay Area. Unfortunately, on this visit we did not spot any Pacific gray whales. Friday’s seas around the Point Reyes Peninsula were quite choppy and on Saturday, there were only sixteen whale sightings logged by the Park Service. Oh well, better luck next time!

Point Reyes Lighthouse, California (© Jody Diehl)

The Point Reyes Lighthouse, located on the western-most point of the Point Reyes Headlands, is an excellent vantage point from which to catch glimpses of the Pacific gray whales during Northern California’s whale migration season, which runs from mid to late December into early May.  According to the National Park Service: “Jutting 16 kilometers (10 miles) into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the finest spots to view the gray whale. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary provides a 32-kilometer (20-mile) wide ‘highway’ along which the whales cruise; sometimes they travel in the close lane (nearer to shore), and sometimes they travel in the far lane (farther out to sea). The areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots in the park.” (more…)

First Order Fresnel Lens / Point Reyes Lighthouse, California (© Jody Diehl)

The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, is a wonderful destination, whale sighting or no.  We were lucky enough to be on site for a ranger-led tour of the lantern room where we were treated to look at the original “first order” Fresnel lens.  The National Park Service states, “Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.

“The windiest place on the Pacific Coast”, indeed!  Be sure to dress for the cold and wind, even if you expect beautiful sunny blue skies! It’s quite a trek to the lighthouse, but it’s well worth the effort.

Year after year I stand here
Holding my steady light,
Sending its ray of comfort
Into the darkest night.
    ~from the poem “The Light” by Hattie Vose Hall

*To learn more about the history of the Point Reyes Lighthouse check out the Point Reyes National Seashore site.*
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