Tuesday, September 29, 2015

detour: the fog horn

Some people look at them and call them lighthouses. I look at them and only think of the foghorn, because of one short story.

Ever read a story that years and years later just stays with you? For me, that story was (and is) The Fog Horn. It is such a part of memory I cannot remember the first time I read it. It is the shortest of stories that resonates within me, the way a foghorn sounds off into the night. Ray Bradbury was the master of this, and if you want to read his much more eloquent words, look it up (here it is.)

down to the cliff edge

partway there

The Point Reyes Lighthouse sits below the cliff, so it can be below the fogline. You can see it long before you walk down the many steps, and on the clear, amazing day I was there it certainly didn't seem necessary. Now everything is GPS and an LED beacon, but the old lighthouse still stands, guarding the shore since 1870.

watching, waiting

clouded glass barely shows the amazing, old fresnel lens

I've been here plenty of times before, but it had been a few years, and it is always fun to revisit favorite places. Especially when the weather at the coast was as glorious as this! There is a small additional building that housed much of the other equipment, still in place though non-functioning. Giant air-pressure tanks to sound the fog horn, pressure gauges and more.

lighthouse floor

old foghorn

old gauges and dials

lighthouse stairs

not-as-old lock, but still cool

I looked out at the sea, and heard the desolate sound of the fog horn, and even in the blue sky and bright sunlight, I could picture that night from the story. Chilling.

tiny lichen mountain

But you don't stay chilled long when you have to hike back up those stairs! Luckily the view is rewarding, towards South and North beach, a vast expanse of sand and treacherous waves.

Luckily the protected beach at Drake's Bay was windless and uncrowded, a few seabirds below the light cliffs. History and lore says that Sir Francis Drake, sailing for England and going around the world, stopped here in 1579 to repair his ship, The Golden Hind. We just sat on nice beach towels and enjoyed the sun and waves (and a good book.)

white cliffs and empty beach

a found treasure, left for someone else to discover

A quick side-trip over to North Beach, where in the distance you can see the cliff that houses the lighthouse, but the beach is steep and the waves crash with enough power to suck you under. Most people watch from the shore, as a few surfers brave the water. A good place to just walk along, find a log to sit on, and watch the incessant waves.

distant outcropping hides the lighthouse

I would love to go out on that lonely point, on a foggy night, and read that story aloud. Until then, I'll visit in the daylight, and still get chills.

"One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said "We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one.  I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like the trees in autumn with no leaves.  A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore.  I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and to all who hear it in the distant towns.  I'll make me a sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.""

The Fog Horn blew."


  1. I absolutely loved this. As always, your photos are stunning, stunning, STUNNING!

    1. Aww, thanks! But the photos are easy with such glorious landscapes!