I woke up this morning to discover that my roommate and fellow SCA intern had somehow broken her toe – unfortunately she was in charge of picking up some important visitors to the park, so my crew and I had to step in and leave behind our normal daily duties of implementing vegetation plots to drive down about 20 miles on the beach to the Fire Island lighthouse to pick up the guests.
This change of plans was more than okay with me, because a morning of beachside cruising in one of our off road vehicles on a day as beautiful as today could never be considered “work” – clear blue skies and even clearer turquoise surf are more in line with my definition of “vacation”. Also, I had wanted to see the historic lighthouse during my entire stay here, but somehow had never found the time, so all in all it was a win win situation.
Beachside view on the drive down to the lighthouse
Fire Island National Seashore is about 32 miles long, and I am currently housed on the eastern end in a small National Park Service community known as Watch Hill. The historic Fire Island lighthouse is on the western end and has been standing there for an impressive 150 years. Many of the ships carrying European immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1800’s rejoiced when seeing the huge structure because it was their first sighting of American soil.
As usual on Fire Island, no ride down the beach could ever be ordinary or uneventful – within about five minutes of driving we were flagged down by a man walking his dog who had found what he thought was an injured seagull. Upon closer examination we realized that the bird was actually a juvenile Northern Gannet, a migratory species who was likely exhausted from his trek down toward southern and warmer waters. After reassuring the man that the bird would eventually be fine with some rest, we continued to cruise with the warm sun heating up our skin but never to the point of discomfort thanks to the placid ocean breeze.
New York’s skyline seen from the top of the lighthouse
Eventually we arrived at our destination, after watching the tiny lighthouse slowly become larger and more life sized. Being park staff, we were allowed to climb the 168 feet to the top where the long haul up was made worthwhile with the amazing views in all the cardinal directions. An entire spectrum of shades of blue which were unnoticeable from the land was breathtaking and I was shocked to see a hazy outline of New York’s skyline – a distance of over 60 miles away! I can only imagine how impressive it must have been to climb up there when it was first built back in the 19th century, and the view consisted of pure wilderness and completely lacked any development.
All in all, island living and its dependence on the weather and the elements has gotten me used to game time schedule changes, but today’s change of plans was most auspicious!
Eastern view of Fire Island from the top of the lighthouse