Category Archives: Military

Diary of a Lighthouse Keeper

New Dungeness LighthouseDiary of a Lighthouse Keeper #1

A week in January at the New Dungeness Lighthouse - An adventure and an honor

Six of us keepers left the lighthouse transfer station in Carlsborg, WA, about 6:45pm on a Friday night. Two 4-wheel-drive vehicles were stuffed with all our provisions and personal gear for the week. This was my first time as a keeper and not altogether sure what I had gotten myself into. Luckily, three in our group had been keepers before and I knew two of our crew. We were assured that although the drive to the lighthouse was going to be rough, bumpy, dark, and a little scarey, the drivers were experienced and would keep us safe.

I knew I was in good hands, but wondered if this was such a good idea - a week with three women I'd never met and probably a minimum of a six-hour walk for me to get "off the island". At this point, I was committed and it was one of the best decisions for a "vacation" I've ever had.

load and unload gear at the lighthouseWhen we arrived at the lighthouse the returning keepers had all their gear ready to be loaded into the trucks for their trip back to civilization. All of us scrambled to unload/load as rapidly as possible to ensure the trucks could get back on the beach during the low tide change. So, there were were, watching the red tail lights disappear down the beach. STRANDED! Or so it crossed my mind! Another slight moment of "what have I done?"

We had organized ourselves as three groups for planning purposes during the weeks before we left and for duty shifts at the lighthouse. My work rotation for the week was: cook, day off, lighthouse duty - Repeat! I at least knew what was expected from me.

Lighthouse RoomGiven all the boxes of food and luggage we had to carry in, and the good humor among all six of us, I knew: a. we would not starve and, b. we all seemed to be kindred spirits.

First order of business was to unpack the groceries and settle into our rooms. I had a charming room with a quilt on the bed and a desk upstairs facing the lighthouse. I didn't close the blinds the first night, nor any other night there. I wanted to see the light flash in my room on its rotation. Later that first night, we all sat around the living room, most of us knitting, and introduced ourselves with a little of who, what, when and how we all ended up on this adventure together. One person who knew us all and had made all our arrangements and facilitated communication among us prior to the trip.

I studied a bit about the lighthouse that first night. The property had been continuously occupied since 1857. It was the first lighthouse built on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. What an honor to be part of that tradition. Our Keeper's Quarters were built in 1904. The Coast Guard had lighthouse duty for a period of time until 1934. In 1934, electricity was brought to the property through a cable underwater across Dungeness Bay. In April 1980, New Dungeness Lighthouse welcomed Seaman First Class Jeni Burr, New Dungeness’ first woman Head Keeper.  So many dates and interesting changes to the property and much more to learn - tomorrow!

I slept like a baby in the new surroundings! More Day #2 at the Lighthouse in the next blog.

Olympic Peninsula Park Passes Made Simple

Some parks and trailheads around the peninsula require a pass. Generally, you can purchase passes at each entrance to each kind of park. ONP annual passEach national park has its own pass. For example, you could buy an annual pass to Mt. Rainer OR Olympic National Park. This year these cost $50 each. Weekly admissions to the parks are sold at the entrances or Visitor Centers for $20 (going up to $25 on June 1, 2016). Only four entrances require a pass: Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc, Staircase and Hoh Rain Forest. You can either pay as you enter these entrances or stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles to purchase the pass. America the Beautiful Pass is an interagency pass good for all Federal lands - National Parks, National Forest, monuments, etc. This costs $80 for an annual pass. If you plan on bicycling or walking in, it's only $7/person. Learn more here, or check with the park 360-565-3130. Some of the info on their site is outdated. But you will be able to see the different types of passes:
  • Private vehicle
  • Motorcycle
  • Per person
  • Wilderness camping fees
  • Campground fees
  • Commercial tours
  • Non-commercial groups
  • Dump station fees
There is the equivalent to the interagency pass for active military - one year is free with documentation. These are only dispensed by rangers. There is the equivalent of the interagency pass for seniors (62+) or disabled people. This is a lifetime pass that costs $10 and is sold only by rangers to people with proof of eligibility. discover pass logoWashington State Parks, like Fort Worden require a Discover Pass which you can learn about here. If you click here you can see the State Parks By Region which will tell you which parks require which pass. Last time I went to Fort Worden, I just paid at the entrance kiosk by the parking lot. But if you wish to purchase the Discover pass ahead of time you can do there online hereDiscover annual passes ($35 from vendors/$30 if you purchase them at the same time you pay your car license renewals or from a ranger at the park) are for the Washington State parks.  Discover day passes cost $10 ($12 from vendors) and are good for State parks for one day only.  These can be purchased in advance or at the park. Similarly, there is Olympic National Forest (ONF) that offers miles of hiking trails in the woods has a different set of passesForest Service pass. Here is a list of trails that are on ONF land that require an Olympic National Forest pass (different from an Olympic National Park pass). A lot of these spectacular trails are on the east side of the peninsula with access from Hwy 101 along Hood Canal, except for the  Quinault Rain Forest trails, which are in the southwest area of the peninsula. Some, by by no means all of the National Forest trails, require either an annual pass or a day pass for parking. Day passes cost $5. Passes are not sold a the trail heads, so they must be purchased in advance. An annual pass for the National Forests in Washington and Oregon only (no parks and no other state's national forests) costs $30. Print a pass for the ONF on your computer before you come! $5.00
horizontal Hobuck Beach

Hobuck Beach, Neah Bay

If you are headed to Shi Shi Beach, Cape Flattery or other spots in Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation, the Makah Tribe requires visitors to have a $10 Recreation Pass. The Recreational Use Permit (RUP) is available for sale at the Makah Museum, Washburn’s Store and at the Makah Tribal Center at a cost of $10.00 per car and is good for the calendar year in which it is purchased. The permit is required if you are going to engage in recreational activities on the Reservation – hiking, camping, kayaking, sports-fishing, etc.
Dungeness Lighthouse

Dungeness Lighthouse

Also, there is a small fee at the trailhead of $3 per family or per group (up to four adults) at the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge. Children under 16 enter free. Refuge Annual Pass, Federal Recreational Lands Pass, Senior or Golden Age Pass, Access or Golden Access Pass, Military Pass, Volunteer Pass, and a Federal Duck Stamp also admit family or group (up to 4 adults). One of the special things to do in this area is hiking on the Dungeness Spit to the lighthouse at the end of the sandy spit.

Two Military Airplane Mysteries

Tubal Cain Mine

Tubal Cain Mine

Downed Plane Story One.  The Tubal Cain Mine trail in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula follows a pack trail dating from the 1890s. It’s a dog-friendly trail to the remains of the old mine site and the site of a 1952 airplane crash close to the mine. This trail is often hiked in early summer through fall and is known, not only for its history, but also for its abundant wildflower blooms. Washington Trail Association has a good explanation of the trail. And the Tubal Cain Mine History website has details, a great old photo and a map, if you are interested The story of the World War II military airplane crash is pretty well-known around the peninsula. In winter, a B-17 with eight crew members aboard was flying in a blizzard with a radio that didn’t work. The airplane hit a ridge and slid down the mountain leaving a trail of debris. Three of the eight crew members died in the crash. The remaining five survivors were rescued the next day by helicopter from a shelter they had constructed out of parachutes and the lifeboat that had been on board the plane. Locals and visitors have been intrigued with this story and have explored the area for many years.  According to Waymarking.com, the intriguing part of the lore around this crash is that the airplane might have been “returning from a mission to spy on Russians”, which might explain why the “US Government was quickly on the scene to salvage key parts of the wreckage!” The official story is “that it was returning from a search mission to locate survivors from a Korean airlift airplane that had gone down near Sandspit, BC, Canada.” Read Waymarking.com’s description of the event here. If you hike to the wreckage, please remember that the nearby mine is too dangerous to enter. Do not go in it. Plus, it is owned privately. Please read and follow any posted signs.
Convair F-106A Delta Dart before the crash. (Courtesy Ernie White/McChord Air Museum

A Convair F-106A Delta Dart before the crash. (Courtesy Ernie White/McChord Air Museum

Airplane wreckage

Part of an F-106 that crashed in 1964. The wereckage is in a stand of trees that hasn't been harvested - or visited in 50 years. (Courtest of Austin Lunn-Rhue)

Downed Plane Story Two.  On the west side of the Olympic Peninsula there is another mysterious downed airplane story. This one is on private land so there is no access to the site, but the story is interesting. An Air Force F-106, “the last breed of interceptors conceived and designed to interdict Soviet ‘heavy’ nuclear bombers, crashed in 1964. This aircraft was “considered the most powerful air-to-air weapon ever developed in the United States”. To follow this story in length, Air & Space Smithsonian has an article by Ed Darack from November 16, 2015. The wreckage was re-discovered June 2014 by Austin Lunn-Rhue, a newly employed forester at a timber company on the Olympic Peninsula, and his forestry partner.  They could tell it was part of an aircraft and one of the pieces had a paint brush X on it, which was unusual because the logging industry uses a form of spray paint.  In addition to that, the wreckage was on private land where no one is allowed. “…The mission of the plane that morning in 1964 remains a mystery.” It might have been scrambled toward a formation of Soviet bombers that had gotten too close to the USA. It’s also listed as a routine training flight. We do know that the pilot, Captain Webb H. Huss, Jr., parachuted to safety, was picked up by a boater on Lake Ozette and flown in a helicopter from Paine Air Force Base to a hospital. Which hospital? You can read more at 318 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Green Dragons, with photos of the plane, the wreckage and Captain Huss. Thank you very much to Air & Space and to Mr. Darack and McChord Air Museum for giving us permission to quote some from his article and for letting us share the photographs and links to the longer story. Lets hope this part of our history does get transferred to the museum! The Olympic Peninsula has a long military history. More blogs to come about Fort Flagler, Fort Worden and other military history.