This has been a yo-yo summer here in western Washington state. In the last two weeks we’ve had highs in the lower sixties and in the upper nineties, within days of each other. Since Friday we’ve been topping out in the upper nineties. This may not seem like a big deal to folks in most of the U.S., but in this part of the world, it’s highly unusual. As a matter of fact, this is only the twelfth time since they started keeping records here over a hundred years ago that we’ve had three consecutive days of 90+ degree temperatures. And it’s the first time ever that we’ve had two of these stretches in a single summer.
Enough was enough, so far as I was concerned. So I headed to the beach. Another odd thing about the Pacific Northwest coast in the summertime is that when it’s hot like this inland, it’s usually cool and foggy on the coast. Yesterday was no exception. The air was moist and sticky, the temperature cool, the wind just enough to make the mist swirl and dance. Perfect beach-walking weather, in my humble opinion.
So I did. But first, I was happy to discover that the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse, in Westport, Washington, was open for visitors.
The tallest lighthouse on the Washington coast
You’ll note that the sky is cloudless in this photo. The lighthouse is a few hundred feet inland, just enough to escape the fog.
Most of the 130-odd steps leading to the top, looking down from one flight below the lantern room.
And now I am going to show you one of the world’s most beautiful pieces of technology. It’s called a Fresnel lens
, invented by Augustine Fresnel in 1822. It takes a small light, and, using hundreds of prisms, concentrates that light into a beam that can be seen many miles away (this particular light can be seen 18 miles out to sea). This lens is unique in that it is half clamshell, half cylindrical. But it is all gorgeous.
The cylindrical side of the lens
The clamshell side of the lens
I wish it was possible to get a better picture, but it’s hard to photograph something when you can’t step more than about four feet away from it.
After my lighthouse excursion, and a picnic lunch, I walked down the mile and a half promenade on the dunes above the beach.
The mist was rolling in.
And in with a vengeance once I went down onto the beach. If you squint, you can barely see the surfers in their wetsuits beyond the waves.
The Pacific was about as pacific as it gets in this part of the world on this misty moisty day.
From the cut in the bluffs where I left the beach to walk back to my car.
The coast this far north is a world away from the beaches near where I grew up in Southern California. The water is cold, the currents are strong, and the weather is not conducive to sunning oneself (although I did see a few brave folks in swimsuits laid out on their towels). I can’t say I regret that. I prefer the chilly wild beaches of the Pacific Northwest over a tropical paradise any day.
Are you a beach person or a mountain person? Or are you like me and refuse to make the choice?