Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NJ Lighthouse Crawl

Every year, I say I'm going to participate in the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge in October, and every year I don't. October is a very busy month for me, and I just can't seem to fit it in. This year, Fred, Gladys, and I decided to make our own challenge on Thanksgiving weekend. We thought we'd hit all the oceanside lighthouses from Sandy Hook in the north to Hereford Inlet (North Wildwood) in the south on Day One, hang out in Cape May for Day Two, and then travel north on starting at Cape May (at the confluence of the ocean and Delaware Bay), visiting the three bayside lighthouses. (That's the East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville, on the bay, at the top of this post.)

Unfortunately, Fred had to go to work on the morning of Day One, and I hadn't considered that the days are short and we'd lose daylight around 4:30. This was important because I had planned to photograph each lighthouse even if I didn't climb them. The Day One plan was spread over Day One and Day Two, and there was a lot of extra driving. On the positive side, we enjoyed traveling the Ocean Drive in the off-season through some of the shore towns we don't often visit. Gladys was thrilled that all of the lighthouses were dog-friendly this time of year except Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood. This is because they have a pretty awesome garden and prefer to regulate the fertilizer that goes in it.

So we visited the eleven lighthouses: Sandy Hook, Twin Lights (Navesink), Sea Girt, (Day One); Hereford Inlet, Absecon, Tucker's Island, Barnegat (Day Two); and Cape May, East Point, Finn's Point, and Tinicum (Day Three). I photographed all and climbed none. At the beginning, we borrowed the term 'challenge' for our adventure, but about halfway through changed that to 'crawl' (see the title of this post). Red and green words in this post are hyperlinks, by the way.

  • Sandy Hook is famous not merely for its nude beach, but also for its lighthouse, the oldest in the United States (1764) and occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War.
  • The Absecon and Barnegat (pictured below) lighthouses were designed by the same engineer, Brigadeer General George Meade who later distinguished himself at the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • The Absecon Lighthouse is only steps away from the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, and is New Jersey's tallest lighthouse with 228 steps.
  • The exoskeletal Finn's Point (pictured below) and and Tinicum lighthouses are rear range lighthouses, and each was used with another light. Ships' navigators would line up the two lights to make sure they were on course to enter a channel, river, or harbor.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Washington, Crossing the Delaware

We were a little late arriving in Titusville, NJ, this year for the annual reenactment of General George Washington's historical 1776 crossing of the Delaware River, but we got to see his boat land on the New Jersey side. By the way, Washington and his troops used Durham boats, manufactured in Pennsylvania since 1750 to cross the river. You can read more about them here:

You'll recall from eighth grade history that the Americans were not winning battles much at this point of the Revolutionary War. Washington, the great leader that he was, empowered the exhausted troops with his plan to cross the river from their camp in Bucks County, PA, to Titusville, NJ, and march south to Trenton. there they would surprise the Hessian soldiers who fighting for the British. The Hessians, thinking the war was won, were celebrating Christmas in Trenton. Other troops would join Washington's from Princeton, a few miles inland. Washington's plan, originally suggested by a man from Bordentown, NJ, (just south of Trenton), was successful and it turned the tide of the American Revolution.

The historic river crossing is reenacted every Christmas afternoon, and draws rather large crowds on both sides of the river. Uniformed reenactors mingle with the spectators, and some even pose for photos. (That's Gladys, held by her "cousin" Cecily, posing with some soldiers.) Gladys was not thrilled about this event because of the incessant cannon fire which sounded a lot like fireworks to her. She HATES fireworks. Gladys and I wonder: wouldn't cannon fire have alerted the partying Hessians that something was amiss upstream? We're supposing the cannon fire had more to do with showing off artillery than authentic reenactment, but that is just conjecture.

This year's crossing went smoothly from what we could tell, but it doesn't always. Back in 2007, Washington's boat was swept away by the swift current (towards Trenton), and we got a side view.
All was well as 21st-century rescuers were waiting on hand, and Washinton's troops finished their triumphant march through the park.