Monika’s Birthday – October 15, 2016
You may recall that Monika loves birthdays and wants to remember every one of them. She does some strange things like climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome, jumping out of an airplane at 18,000 feet, spending two weeks exploring Cuba or riding a camel in the Altai Gobi Desert in Mongolia. This year she took another adventure off her birthday–bucket list; to stay in a lighthouse. Well in this case not actually in the lighthouse but in the lighthouse keeper’s apartment. With a full kitchen and a cozy fireplace we thought we’d have some great dinners, climb the lighthouse by moonlight and go for a walk. Then the weather changed.
The rain came sideways off the ocean, stinging our faces like little pieces of ice. Our North Face Gore-Tex jackets flapped frantically as another 60-mile-an-hour gust nearly pushed us off the trail we were walking alongside the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Twenty-foot monster waves rolled in and built over the submerged rocks, crested in plumes of spray, built again and crashed violently into the helpless escarpments just below us. The water rushed back out to sea, forcing itself into the next set of breakers. What were we doing here in this gale was a question that came to mind, but of course, it was Monika’s birthday.
The horizon of the angry Pacific was shrouded in dense fog. There is actually a huge reef just offshore only 6 feet under the water. Literally hundreds of ships had been trapped and demolished on these rocks. Any survivors, if they could even swim, had little chance of reaching the shore and scaling the vertical cliffs.
The Point Arena Lighthouse, originally built in 1870 out of necessity and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, happens to be the tallest on the West Coast of California that is still open to the public (115 ft/41 m). The view from the top was inspiring, even as we watched the storm moving in. The excellent museum next to the lighthouse documents some of the amazing history.
Our picturesque hike along the coast through the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument was only 4.5 miles from the lighthouse to the town of Point Arena where we could take refuge out of the wind and rain for a cup of coffee. We could see that the torment was not letting up and the rain was increasing. Our Extreme Gore-Tex North Face jackets and pants were no match, but fortunately, even with the wind, it was a warm Pacific rain. Little creeks we had hopped across on our away to Point Arena were now flooded and muddy trails descending into the ravines were treacherous. By the time we got back to our warm cabin we were completely wet. A note stuck on the door explained that due to the power outage, the moonlight tour of the lighthouse had been canceled.
The sky opened just in time for a beautiful sunset. We stood outside with the other guests and found out two of them were also celebrating their birthday! Must be a Libra thing. Still without power, we dined in romantic candlelight on fresh oysters for appetizers, followed by a delicious French cut rack of lamb, a baked potato and vegetables, accompanied with a good bottle of Zinfandel, and a sumptuous chocolate birthday cake, all the while sitting in front of a cozy warm fireplace. It was the perfect meal to end another memorable birthday!