Back At “Work” – Lighthouse Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse, OR

Gorgeous Cape Blanco Lighthouse on a fine day
Gorgeous Cape Blanco Lighthouse on a fine day
"The Beast" is back on the job
“The Beast” is back on the job!

I spent last night dreaming about lighthouse keepers. Part of it’s being in this remote & crazy place, part of it’s the book on History of Female Lighthouse Keepers that I’m absorbing like a sponge. Many of these women followed their men to Lighthouse posts in god-forsaken spots and became widowed or alone when the men drowned or went to war. And yet…they persevered and faithfully kept the light in heavy woolen dresses through icy storms & treacherous times, all the while tending to house and kids. Some of these ladies did this tedious job for decades, retiring in their 70’s or 80’s (!) only when they could no longer physically handle the walk up the stairs. Would I have been able to do this? Could I have shown such strength and stamina?

Paul takes a quick "nap" before work at the Greeting Center
Paul takes a quick “nap” before duty
While your truly goes to work...
While your truly goes to “work”…

These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I tell the story at Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Although the Head Keepers here were all men, the women lived & worked beside them & one lady (Mabel Bretherton) was hired as Assistant Keeper in 1903 when her husband died up north on the job at Coquille River. The ladies are rarely discussed yet they often did all the same duties and, as a woman, I feel a deep connection to them. In this remote spot with no running water, no electricity, winds that howled hurricane-force in winter and a day’s difficult travel to town they survived and (even) thrived…and all for only $800/year. It’s so very hard to understand that life today, yet that’s the history that defines this spot.

Ahhhhh I digress, but the stories are just so interesting. Our lives as lighthouse hosts are, in reality, so much more boring but I know many of you are anxious to hear more about the job. This is actually our second year hosting at Cape Blanco, so for those of you new to the blog you can check out our experience & duties from last year in this post: Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Paul in the workroom (the lower portion of the lighthouse). We have props here!
Paul in the workroom (the lower portion of the lighthouse). We have props here!

This year is much the same. We each give ~17 hours to the lighthouse/week telling stories and in return we get a private and spacious full hook-up host site complete with our name engraved on a board. Our work area (if you can call it “work”) is gorgeous 143-year old Cape Blanco Lighthouse, still active with her fabulous Fresnel lens beaming bright day and night. We alternate shifts with 3 other couples (including the Technomadia team) giving tours at the Greeting Center, downstairs in the Lighthouse or at the Lens depending on the day. Unlike our last job at Coquille River the lighthouse here has a more formal tour process complete with script and our very own volunteer jackets (this is pro-stuff, baby). This time of year visitors are light and there’s plenty of time to hang and enjoy the view.

And what a view it is!

You can lose yourself in the Fresnel lens
On foggy days you can lose yourself in the Fresnel lens

On foggy days you can barely see 10 feet in front of you and the lighthouse is enveloped in thick cloud, eerie and dense. These are the days you become mesmerized by the moving rainbows of the Fresnel prisms and contemplate the long hours spent on duty by the cold wall of red brick. On sunny days, the curtain lifts and the sweeping curves of the cape stretch dramatically for miles giving you the impression you can see forever. These are the days you breathe in the clear air and bask in the glory of nature. On windy days…well…that’s when the cape shows you it’s true colors gusting, pulling and howling with wild abandon across the exposed rock. These are the days you admire the resilience and sacrifice of the families who lived here. My volunteer hat off to you, my historic friends!

We see all of these moods on the “job” even in mild & sunny September which is without doubt the best month here. The rest of the time we’re hiking, playing and lounging in the deep nature of our campground. I’ve already got at least 20 more walks (and a few more sunsets) photographed and under my belt, but those will have to wait for the next post…’Til then I’ll be dreaming of sweeping lights and days long gone by.

Now THAT's what I call a frikkin' awesome view
Now THAT’s what I call a frikkin’ awesome view! Panorama below the lighthouse.

Related Blog Posts -> On Lighthouse Hosting

Related Blog Posts -> On Volunteering

The last few steps to the tower
The last few steps to the tower
Cape Blanco on a perfect day
Cape Blanco on a perfect day

A foggy day gives an eerie glow
A foggy day gives an eerie glow
The ever-winding staircase
The ever-winding staircase
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  1. and drink plenty of it says

    Very nice feelings that need to be said. Have you included that in your info to visitors to the lighthouse. Our first year we didn’t stress the female side mostly the 42 years that James was there. But it occurred to us that the whole family or families were subject to this amazing place through out the year. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet you and Paul. Maybe next year if you are returning. We are, as this is the best place to be in summer even with the wind or fog that shows up when it wants! Thanks so much for the earlier tip in the year to get in touch with Greg Ryder!!

    • libertatemamo says

      For the tour I pretty much stick to the script of the story about the Langlois Family, but if someone is interested I’ll tell them more about the women. Sometimes if we have extra time (and not too many visitors) I’ll touch on the subject too.

  2. says

    Hi Nina
    Good to hear that your back on the job.
    We will be leaving MT on the 16 of Sept. and
    plan to stop at Cape Blanco on our way to Napa
    Valley. We would like to hook up with you two
    and get all the ins and outs. We will be hosting
    Blanco next Apr and May.

  3. says

    Hi guys
    say i was wondering when your on the road leaveing the park coming to 101 are there cranberry bogs on your right and left side
    if so do u know if thay wet or dry pic
    ( its bog picking time now in new england)
    joy your day

  4. says

    I’d be interested to hear how campers deal with Cape Blanco being a “first come-first served” campground. Is there a lot of turn-over, or do people tend to “max-out” their stays? What alternatives are there in the area if there is “no vacancy”?

    • libertatemamo says

      There tends to be a lot of turnover here, mostly because it’s pretty remote and windy. So most folks just come for a few days and leave. There is another State Park just 30 miles north (Bullards Beach) as well as several private campgrounds in Bandon that always have space.

    • says

      Most nights, the campground has a couple spots left open… and so far I’ve seen very few folks who say here more than a couple nights. But some nights it does fill up. We talked with the campground host, and he said that if the campground is full folks can dry camp in the group or horse camp area as well. There’s also a couple private campgrounds not too far from here on the way to Port Orford.

      • libertatemamo says

        Super tip on the overflow. This was a discovery Cherie made that I didn’t know about at all. The group camp area is very nice here, as are all the sites.

    • libertatemamo says

      Indeed. When the fog gets a grip here it is thicker than pea soup. I’ve had visitors come to the greeting center and ask me where the lighthouse is..and it’s only ~100 feet away!

      Lovely to see ya on the blog. Hope you’re getting some good weather up there in WA, Sue!


    • libertatemamo says

      Total bummer you missed seeing the lighthouse. It’s open on Monday, but last tours are at 3:15pm so if you came in the afternoon you probably missed them. Tuesday is always closed. Still, you got to see the view and that’s a special treat. When it’s not foggy the cape is spectacular!

  5. says

    Awesome photos again…..thank you! Sounds like you are really enjoying your time there, and great to hear the Tech Nomads are going to be there with you. Having followed both you and the Nomads for a while, can only imagine the lively campfires and interesting conversations….have fun!

  6. says

    Hi guys thanks for the info on cranberrys a copy of a fun email i sent out to the cranberry guy to see why the word BOG has him BODed down so if some night you hear cranberrys falling on your RV please don,t come BOGGING to me pickum up and cookumits fun time please BOG some more
    Hi it fun time
    well its like this i was asking a bogger about cranberrys west of the lighthouse and 101
    she was so kind to send me your blog site after reading it i think u need some help
    first off some background info
    now as u know Herny Hall1860 was the granddaddy to the cranberry start on the cultivation side
    of growing cranberrys
    now with that said
    Mr Hall lived on Corporation Rd Dennis Ma Mr Hall had 2 sons,, son no,1 took off somewere to parts unknow son no, 2 stayed in Dennis to run the small farm (sold off a lot of land and BOGS ) now in 1927 my dad bought 4 acres and 1/2 of a BOG
    and a camp next door to Mr Hall sr, and son,s home (we would throw rocks at his barn tin roof we were that close)_
    now as a small kid growing up next door mister Halls son (he was a scary old man) how ever when he was tending his berrys he was the teacher and i did learn a lot,, so now is the fill in
    so now you say cranberry bed your part right
    in NewEngland we use the word BOG to tell the story the vines grow on a bed of clay peat sand and are in a BOG ( non cult,cranberrys grow on the flat land wild and bitter) BOGS are about 2 or 3 feet lower then the flat land with a trench in side of a berm in spring water is let out to dry the BOG and beds ( to burn and kill the weeds on the berm )
    about late summer some water was let in to fill part of the trench in the fall sept, we would DRY pick 75% of his BOGS and sent to the freezer house,,the price was higher in winter .. the rest were WET picked and the price was lower (smart buyers would only buy dry berry) the same way you do to the market flotters are the lower price and or send it to the canners for cooking
    here on the east coast dry berrys last longer and the prices is higher,, here about 60% of the old farmers still dry pick ( and you bust your butt humping boxes out of a large BOG .03 to .04 cents a box)i did scoop picking once i lasted about 4 hours
    now wet picking was fun IF U stayed dry,, greenes ME got wet every day triping over vines ( think late sept cold ) and filling my boots
    so i dont understand why your not filling in the BOG part the BOG is key to the farning and its not like mud BOGGING,, or sand BOGGING,, or getting BOGED,, down,, now good BOGS keeps the water from falling out sides its a pain in the axx picking cranberrys out of the grass
    so you see the BOGS helps your bed your BOGS holds your water your BOGS holds your berrys from going on the grass and you can sit on your BOGS berm and marvel at the Cape Cod New England Enginuity that gave you ,,,the,,, BOG
    now i don,t know about you but here we could ice skate on our BOG and sand the BOG after

    now i hope i dident upset you and BOG you down to much ,,, and if i did.. BOG it..
    injoy playing in your Bed (s)
    Mister Ed

  7. says

    Having been to quite a few lighthouses in the northeast and the maritimes in Canada this summer, I’ve seen some that have had women lighthouse keepers and am very curious about it, so will look up the book. I have nothing but admiration for these women (and men).

  8. Shirlene says

    So just a general comment…Do you ever get so wrapped up in a book that when the book ends you miss the characters…Well, I feel that way about your blog, I love reading it and following along…and when sometimes following RV Sue’s blog I see you have left a comment, and I think “oh yeah I know her” and I feel like an old friend just visited…funny how attached us blog readers get to you guys… travels through 395. Big Pine, my favorite place to fish….I think of you when we pass the Alabama Hills. home.


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