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reward will be the satisfaction of completing
the challenge in the two-day window.
Time is of the essence. At 11: 30 ;; we are
ready for our first climb. Unfortunately, the
lighthouse can only accommodate a small
number of climbers at a time. As we wait in
line, a lighthouse keeper shares stories of
the tower’s long history. After an hour-long
wait, we begin our ascent. We climb 95 steps
before reaching a landing. A ladder with
nine rungs takes us to the lookout platform.
At the top, a park-service volunteer points
out the southern tip of Manhattan, about 16
miles north. We take in the dramatic view,
then begin our descent.
It is past 1 ;; when we make it back to the
car. We have completed only one ascent.
And we only have until the 5 ;; closing time
to cover substantial ground on day one. Or
so we think.
Leaving the park area, we cross the
Shrewsbury River back to the Jersey mainland. At the peak of the bridge, we spot the
Twin Lights nestled in the hill straight ahead.
This dual-light station sits atop the highest
spot of America’s coastline between Maine
and Texas. Although no longer a guiding
light, it maintains its claim to fame as the
first American lighthouse to use a Fresnel
lens, a distinctive, e;cient lens developed
by the French physicist and engineer Augus-tin-Jean Fresnel in the early 19th century.
The towers are not more than 50 feet high,
but they provide sweeping views across the
Quickly, we move on. The clock is ticking.
Next stop: Sea Girt Lighthouse. Despite the
need for speed, we take the scenic route,
following the shoreline rather than detouring
to the Parkway.
The 120-year-old Sea Girt Light rises from
a stout, red-brick keeper’s house, which
serves as a museum. After a brief wait in line,
we climb the metal stairs, then pass through
a trap door to reach the light perched atop
the house. In just 15 minutes, we’re o; to our
next destination nearly 60 miles south.
It’s 3: 30 by the time we cross Manahawkin
Bay to Long Beach Island. This is o;-season,
so not much is open. We grab some burgers
at Neptune Market, a year-round favorite,
then head to the northernmost point of LBI
for our visit to Barnegat Lighthouse State
Park and the stately red-and-white tower
a;ectionately known as Old Barney. By now
the crowds have thinned out. We zip up
and down Old Barney’s 217 steps, get our
passports stamped at the nearby museum
(the tour’s required museum stop), and hit
the road again. The challenge is taking on the
feel of a TV game show.
We’re hoping to make one more stop
before closing time. With just
20 minutes to spare, we reach
Tuckerton Seaport and Tucker’s
Island Lighthouse, a replica of an
earlier structure that toppled into the ocean
After climbing just 40 steps to the top, we
pause to enjoy the 360-degree view, take
a deep breath of sea air and reflect on our
day’s achievement. Just then, a couple from
Pennsylvania informs us that this tower, as
well as the lighthouses in Absecon and Cape
May, is open for night climbs.
The news is deflating until we realize we
now have a window for one more climb.
Back in the car, we make a beeline for the
228-step Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic
City—the tallest lighthouse in the state
and third tallest in the country. It’s nighttime now, and the lights of Atlantic City are
twinkling for miles around.
We spend the night in Wildwood Crest.
Like LBI, it’s eerily quiet in the o;-season.
We arise early, knowing we have seven
stops—including two lifesaving stations—on
our agenda for day two. We start the day
by doubling back to Ocean City and Stone
Harbor to get our passports stamped at the
lifesaving stations, then return to North
Wildwood for a stop at Hereford Inlet
Lighthouse, a Victorian-style, residential
lighthouse surrounded by an inviting garden.
Volunteers serve snacks and beverages in
Our next stop is Cape May Lighthouse,
about 30 minutes south. This is the state’s
southernmost point. We make the 199-step
climb to a bright red landing, where we are
rewarded with a broad view of the ocean and
Time check: We have a little more than
four hours left for three stops (a total of 552
steps) arrayed along the Delaware Bay and
up the mouth of the Delaware River.
From Cape May, we drive north on the
Parkway as far as Exit 10. Local roads take us
through Belleplain State Forest and into the
Heislerville Wildlife Management Area. The
tall, marshy brush all around us begins to
sway. Dark clouds roll in. A storm is coming.
We hadn’t planned for this.
Undaunted, we reach East Point Lighthouse, a weathered brick building on a sandy
promontory where the snakelike Maurice
River empties into the Delaware Bay. The
rain holds o;.
Originally known as the Maurice River
Light, the humble structure was built to
help guide oyster fishermen from the
bay to their home ports upstream.
The lighthouse was blacked out
during World War II and was not
relit until 1980.
The small building can accommodate only four visitors at a time.
Despite its remote location, we have
to wait. The view of the bay from atop
the tower is worth the wait—but it has put a
significant crimp in our schedule.
It’s an hour-long drive to Pennsville at the
mouth of the Delaware River. Here we find
our penultimate destination, Finns Point
Rear Range Lighthouse, an unremarkable,
115-foot-tall iron tower. It looks more oil rig
than lighthouse. We arrive at 4: 30 and jog to
the entrance, still outrunning the rain. We
enter the red door at the base of Finns Point
and climb 119 steps to the top. Soon there
will be a dramatic sunset, but we have to
Just one more stop—and one more stamp
in the passport—to go. We drive 30 minutes
along the Delaware River and arrive, with
half an hour to spare, at our final stop, the
Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse in Paulsboro, about 15 miles south of Camden. Still
no rain. A welcoming committee congratulates those who have finished the challenge,
but there’s no stopping us now. We’ve got to
make our final climb.
It’s 112 steps to the top of Tinicum, another oil-rig-like tower. A small door opens
to a landing with a railing not much higher
than my waist. The Philadelphia skyline
looms to the north.
We walk back down, stepping slowly now,
our knees aching. We have clambered up
and down a total of more than 2,600 steps.
We wait in line for the final stamp that will
make our passports complete. We’ve met
the challenge—and with minutes to spare.
This year’s Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey will be held
October 15 and 16. Challenge hours are 8 ;;- 5 ;; Saturday and
Sunday. Night climbs at Absecon, Cape May and Tuckerton take
place 6-8 ;; on Saturday. Several of the lighthouses charge a small
fee to climb; others suggest a donation. Visit lhchallengenj.org for
FALL DAY TRIPS
Continued from page 47
OLD FRIEND Barnegat Lighthouse (aka Old Barney) is the fourth stop on our Lighthouse Challenge trek.