Posts Tagged With: Whidbey Island

Lighting History – Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Whidbey Island, WA

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Admiralty Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse lovers must check out the simple little Admiralty Head Lighthouse. It’s located on Whidbey Island inside Fort Casey property. The original lighthouse was built in 1861, 36 years before construction began on Ft. Casey! When the land was needed for gun batteries, the wooden lighthouse was moved near where the current lighthouse is. Then a new stucco lighthouse was built in 1903 and has 18-inch-thick walls! The old wooden lighthouse was eventually torn down but the wood was reused in a home on the island.

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Fresnel Lens

These lighthouses helped guide numerous ships into Whidbey Island safely. Long-ago mariners used the winds blowing through the area to sail into the island. The light that was used until 1922 was called a “Fresnel Lens” which was lit with a whale oil lamp. According to a sign in the lighthouse:

“Fresnel Fourth Order Lens. The Fresnel Lens, developed in France by Augustine Fresnel in 1822 has been used worldwide to aid navigation. Handcrafted of brass and glass, these lenses are of such high quality that their light is just as effective as that produced by the most modern system. Many are still in use today.”

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Interpretive Signs

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Down the Spiral Staircase

On the bottom floor there are rooms that include interpretive signs detailing the story of the area, the fort, and the lighthouse, as well as historical items such as a replica light (the whereabouts of the original Fresnel lens is unknown.) Artifacts of life during the early years are also displayed, along with a scale model of the fort. A small gift-shop is also open on the bottom floor where you can purchase souvenirs and information. Climb the spiral staircase (who doesn’t love spiral staircases?!) and go up to the top where you can look out and see the Olympics, Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Careful, though, it is a small area and you may have to wait your turn going up or down.

The property is now owned by Washington State Parks and is operated in partnership with the Washington State University Extension, which provides the volunteers. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have.

It’s not a huge lighthouse, but it is well-kept and the location and scenery are spectacular. The fort and its structures are often a pleasant surprise to many visitors who thought they were just coming to see the lighthouse but find themselves running through the batteries with flashlights just like the kids. No food concessionaires are on site, so a picnic lunch would be thoroughly enjoyed along with the expansive views.

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Views!

Hours are 11am-5pm. Note that it is scheduled to be closed during January and February. Admission is free, donations are accepted.

Getting there: Whidbey Island can be accessed by land over the Deception Pass Bridge, or by ferry from Port Townsend or Mukilteo-Clinton. Take Highway 20 to Coupeville, then take Engle Road to Fort Casey.

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Views!

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Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bicycle Riding on the Pt. Townsend to Whidbey Island Ferry – Washington

Ferry

Ferry Kennewick

Having recently bought decent bicycles, one thing we have been talking about doing is taking our bikes on the ferry  system. So while vacationing in Port Townsend, Washington, we decided to start small and go on the Pt. Townsend to Whidbey Island ferry.

Nothing we do seems to be without adventure of some sort. We got up on an overcast Friday morning, checked the ferry website to make sure the ferry was operating on normal schedule. It was. Well, OK, the website just didn’t mention there was a problem. We took our car to the Safeway parking lot in town to park. We could have chosen to ride public transit down to the ferry dock but decided just to ride. When we got there we found out the ferry was broke down. They said it would be out the rest of the day and the next day was questionable.

Disappointed, we decided to ride around downtown Pt. Townsend. We had lunch at a little restaurant on the water and when we told the waitress about the ferry, she said, “Oh, yeah, that happens a lot.” Gulp – I’m not sure I want to go on a ferry that breaks down a lot! We continued riding, looking at the detailed architecture of the great old buildings, bought some delicious cupcakes at a little cupcake store, then rode up a hill to look out over the water. There we saw the ferry moving around so we went back down to check it out and it was fixed. David was excited to be able to go on it. I was still nervous that it would break down again. But of course, we bought our tickets.

Pt Townsend

Pt. Townsend

While waiting to get on, I went into the little building that amounts to a “terminal” and saw three young girls just staring at the vending machine. Turns out they had come over from Whidbey Island the day before, planning to spend just two hours there. Anyone remember Gilligan’s Island? Well, they decided to have dinner and by the time they were done, a storm had moved in, kicking up high winds, so the ferry was cancelled. Of course, they had to spend the night in Pt. Townsend. So the next morning they went to the terminal at 6:00am to catch the ferry back. Nope, by then it was broke down. This was now 3:00 in the afternoon. But the worst part? They had left their dogs in the car back on Whidbey. They ended up to be OK, but I’m sure there was a nice mess in the car and if it had been sunny and warm, that could have been disastrous for the poor dogs.

So now I’m really nervous, worried another storm will kick up and we’ll be stranded on Whidbey Island. David said, “Stop worrying, it’ll be fun!” I said, “If  we get stuck over there I am going to be sleeping in the softest motel bed you can afford.”

Sub

Submarine with escort ships

The time came to get on the ferry. We were able to just park our bikes at the front of the boat and head upstairs. It was a great, short 30-minute ride. It was a beautiful day, not too cold and we even got to see a nuclear submarine being escorted down to the Bremerton submarine base. It was interesting to watch several coast guard boats racing up to private boats and having them clear the way for the sub.

Getting off ferry

Ready to get off the ferry

We landed at Whidbey and took off on our bikes up the hill to Ft. Casey. We spent about two hours bicycling around the fort, checking out it and touring the lighthouse. Since it was getting to be late in the afternoon we decided that we better head on back just in case the weather picked up again.

Waiting in line for the ferry we started talking to another gentleman on a bike. It turns out he was from San Diego, had flown up to Bellingham and was riding all the way back to San Diego. He was riding alone and said this was the first time he had ever done anything like this. One of the most interesting things we do is just talk to people. I love learning their stories.

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Bicycle Ramp

Back on the ferry, this time the staff said we had to take our bikes upstairs where there are bicycle racks. You can see on the picture that there is a ramp, which works  fine for some people but I wasn’t strong enough to take my bike up myself, Josh had to help.

Ferry Bicycle Rack

Another smooth, short ride back and we were done. We rode back to our car, loaded the bikes on and headed back to our RV and slept in our own bed that night, much to my relief.

Us on Ferry

Nancy and David

Ultimately, the ride was fun, I loved taking the bikes and easily getting on and off the ferry. Eventually we would like to do more of it with the following cautions: NEVER leave animals behind and always be prepared to get stuck on the other side. Then just relax and enjoy!

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