Tag Archives: light

12 Steps

13 Jul

Oak Island Lighthouse from across the street

Oak Island Lighthouse in NC

Now that I’ve been labeled a “pharologist” (see the post from July 1, 2013), I thought I would share my most recent lighthouse “adventure” on my blog. Okay, so this probably doesn’t qualify as an adventure for MOST people, but hey, sometimes getting out of bed in the morning and making it to the kitchen for coffee is an adventure for me!

This week, with my dedicated travelling partner Professorgrrl, I got to see and “climb” the Oak Island Lighthouse in Caswell Beach, NC. When it comes to lighthouses, this one is a baby. Its construction was completed in 1958. I thought it might not have the charm of other really old lighthouses, since there’s no lighthouse keeper’s cottage, no stories of nautical adventures on the high seas, and no ghost stories. I was wrong!

The docent said that, as far as he knew, it is the only lighthouse in the WORLD that has, instead of a spiral staircase, a series of ship’s ladders to ascend to the top for maintenance of the lighthouse. When the design was being considered, the Coast Guard specifically requested this style of steps, so that they could quickly get to the top. Otherwise, there would be a LOT of steps spiraling to the top. As it is, there are 131 steps. Here’s a photo of the first 12 steps, the only ones I climbed.

Looking down the 12 steps of the Oak Island Lighthouse

Looking down 12 steps.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays of each week in the summer they give free tours to the lower level of the lighthouse. This means climbing 12 ship’s ladder steps up. The full tour, all the way up to the top on 131 ship’s ladder steps, has to be booked a minimum of 2 weeks in advance, and those tours are on the other days of the week. I found this out too late to book a climb to the top, but didn’t mind, because those ship’s ladder steps looked a little daunting anyway, given my below-average height. I thought that climbing the first 12 steps would be a good primer and determine if I’d be able to climb all 131 at a later date. When I got to the top of the landing after climbing the 12 steps, and looked down, I felt something in the pit of my stomach that I will interpret as “Banjogrrl, if you make it back down these 12 steps without falling, you will promise yourself not to ever climb the entire 131 steps to the top.” Gulp. A lighthouse volunteer told me later that occasionally they have folks who climb to the top, but then have to be “talked back down” due to panic attacks. I believed her.

The view from this lower level was nice, though. Here’s a look out the window of the lower level. I am impressed with the spectacular shadow this lighthouse creates. This lighthouse is 153 feet tall, and the tip of it is 169 feet above the water, since it sits up a small hill.

View from lower window of the Oak Island Lighthouse

The town of Caswell Beach, as viewed from the lower window of Oak Island Lighthouse

In the shadow of the lighthouse, is Professorgrrl with her camera taking a photo of me staring out the window. She has an incredible zoom lens. I told her to take the picture of me as “proof” that I went up. Sure wish I had known that I needed to smile for the camera. I don’t think Photoshop can fix that, either.

View from lower window of the Oak Island Lighthouse


This clearly illustrates how each of us has a different perspective in life!

Do I have any great insights to share about this most recent lighthouse adventure? Nope, sure don’t. Well, except for those of you who also have bad knees, or even mediocre knees, (which certainly includes a much large group than the XLH-ers) expect to feel some pain for a day or so afterwards, even with just 12 (rather steep) steps. But I do have some more photos to share, so here they are. I’d like to make a special dedication to my fellow pharologists, too, since you will enjoy them more than the average person.

Inside looking up the Oak Island Lighthouse

Looking up at the remaining ship’s ladder steps to the top. I will NOT be climbing those steps, but they sure do make a pretty photograph.

Oak Island Lighthouse with sunburst

Lighthouse with sunburst. This lighthouse is tri-colored. The pigment was mixed into the cement when it was built, so that it would never have to be painted! 

Old Baldy

Across the street from the Oak Island Lighthouse, you can look over the water and see “Old Baldy,” which is the oldest standing lighthouse in NC.  Two lighthouses in one day! That really was icing on the cake!

Airplane flies by the lighthouse

Woodpecker flying out

These two lucky shots together make me smile! The first one is an airplane flying by the Oak Island Lighthouse. The second photo is a red-headed woodpecker flying by a dead tree, near where I stayed this week. Humans vs. Nature.

I did realize one thing, when I looked at my photographs later. What made the scenes beautiful, to me, was not the lighthouse, really. Photos of that admirable cement structure standing tall on a low-light, overcast day probably wouldn’t have gotten as many “oohs” and “aahs” from me as these photos with their gorgeous backdrop of sky and clouds. Wow, what a beautiful day for photo-taking! No human can take credit for that! In photography, it’s really all about the light. And the light was spectacular. Even the photos of the inside of the lighthouse are nice because of the play of light inside a rather dark structure. Since this particular lighthouse is still in use, it made me want to go back and see it at night, too. Because, really, in photography, in lighthouses and in life too, it’s all about the light.

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2013-2018