Adventure Seven: The New Jersey
Lighthouse Challenge

On October 16, 2005, I became the first cat ever to complete the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge! The trip took over 36 hours, we traveled more than 600 miles, and we saw 11 lighthouses! This was my biggest adventure ever! I'm so excited about it, that I'm not sure where to begin! Let me start by telling you what a Lighthouse Challenge is...

A Lighthouse Challenge is an event where you can visit a bunch of lighthouse sites in two days. At each site, you get a souvenir -- this year it was a wooden coin with the lighthouse on it.  If you go to all of them, you get a special souvenir showing your accomplishment. The event is set up so that you have enough time to visit all the sites, but you have to work a little (and drive a lot!) to do it. At some of the sites, you can climb the lighthouses — at others you may only be able to see them from the outside—but climbing the lighthouses takes more time, making it tougher to complete the Challenge.

This year, some of my human friends and I decided to try the 6th Annual New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge. It would be the first time any of us had attempted to do a lighthouse challenge, although my friends had all worked on organizing and running the Long Island Lighthouse Challenge earlier this year.

Day One - Saturday

We started out at 5AM Saturday morning. The weather was still a little wet—it had been raining in the Northeast for eight days, but was supposed to clear up that day. We had decided to start with the lighthouses in the southwest part of New Jersey and work our way back to Long Island. We took two cars: I rode with Bob and Diane (their car has a license plate frame that has my name and web site on it), and Jeff, Nancy, Chris, Jackie and Rachel went in their truck, which has a really neat license plate— everyone knows they are lighthouse people when they see the truck.

Lighthouse #1 - We got to the first lighthouse about 7:30, and it was still drizzling a little. It was the Tinicum lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1880 and was originally one of two lighthouses built as range lights—range lights were built in pairs to help mariners navigate by lining up the two lighthouses. Now, it is in the middle of some sports fields, and keeper's house and the other light are gone. I didn't mind it being by some sports fields, though, since I like to play in the grass. From the ground, you couldn't see the water—which was strange at a lighthouse—but my friends saw the Delaware River from the top of the tower, which is 112 feet tall.

Some of my friends climbed the tower, but I didn't. With all the people around, it could be dangerous for me, and I could get in the way. But I had fun down on the ground —I met some new friends and took a break to eat and drink a little.

Lighthouse #2 - Our next lighthouse was at Finn's Point. By the time we got there, the weather had cleared up and it was a beautiful day! The temperature got into the mid-70s later in the day. This lighthouse looked a lot like the Tinicum lighthouse because Finn's Point was also originally a range light. There is not light in the tower now. This metal lighthouse was built in 1876, and is 115 feet tall. It is part of a park now. I met more people, and there were a few dogs there, too. One of the dogs was pretty, fluffy, and white—and seemed nice—but I hissed, anyway, since I don't really like strange dogs.

Lighthouse #3 - Next we drove to the East Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1849. I was getting tired—not just because we left early, but because I usually nap during the day and play at night. My schedule was getting very disrupted already and I needed to nap every chance I got if I was going to stay up and play at night. The road down to the East Point Light looked like it had been recently flooded, but it was okay now. I saw more dogs at East Point, and met lots of nice people, including a former lighthouse keeper named Angelo. On the way to East Point, we had been following a car that was obviously also taking the Challenge. When we got to east Point, we talked to them and found out their names were Mickey and Patty, and they were from Colorado—that's a long way from New Jersey!

Lighthouse #4 - After East Point, we drove to the Cape May Lighthouse. It's a big lighthouse—over 157 feet tall! It was completed in 1859, and is a pretty cream color with a red lantern. Not only did we see a neat lighthouse at Cape May, but we also saw migrating Monarch butterflies and lots of birds (I kept a very close eye on the vultures and hawks overhead). Cape May is known as a good place to see butterflies and birds migrating each year, just like at Fire Island, near my house. We took a lunch break in the parking lot. And I played in the grass for a little while, of course. We had followed Mickey and Patty to Cape May, but they went ahead when we had lunch. We weren't sure if we'd see them again.

I got a nice treat at Cape May: Nancy brought tuna and let Bob feed me some.

Bob and Diane brought a travel litter pan for me and put me in it at Cape May (just in case), but I was too shy to use it in public.

Lighthouse #5 - After lunch at Cape May, we headed north to the lighthouse at Hereford Inlet.  This was a pretty little lighthouse, built in 1874, with very nice gardens. There was sign there that said no dogs could go in the garden, but it didn't say anything about cats, so we took a little walk through the gardens. There were some bugs there, which I found exciting—I love to chase bugs! I didn't catch any (I never do), but it was fun to try.

Lighthouse #6 - From the quiet little lighthouse at Hereford Inlet, we drove further north to the really tall lighthouse (171 feet!) at Absecon, in the middle of Atlantic City, which is a busy little city. Absecon was the second really big lighthouse of the day, and it had lots of lush green grass around it! There is also a reconstructed keepers' quarters with a museum in it. We wanted to get one more lighthouse in on Saturday, so none of my friends climbed this lighthouse (I think they might have been tired from climbing the other ones, too). Atlantic City is close enough to home to drive there on a weekend, so they can always return to climb it.

Lighthouse #7 - Our seventh and last lighthouse on Saturday was the Tucker's Island Light. This was a replica of the original 1848 lighthouse, which fell into the water in 1927. It was a pretty place, but there wasn't much grass for me to play on. I did meet some more nice people here, though, as I did at every site. We left Tucker's Island a little after 6PM—we had been on the road over 12 hours. It was time to out gas in the cars, get some food, and get some sleep. Of course, I had been napping all day, so I didn't need any sleep. So I decided to stay up and play most of the night, like I do at home. I made too much noise, so Bob and Diane didn't get much sleep. I didn't have my brother Pod to play with, so I kept calling them to play with me.

Day Two - Sunday

Lighthouse #8 - We all got up at 4:30AM on Sunday (I was already awake) to go see the sunrise at the Barnegat Light (This 163-foot-tall lighthouse was built in 1859, about the same time as the other two tall lighthouses on the Challenge). My friends like to do this, since sunrise is a special time at a lighthouse. When there were lighthouse keepers, the rising sun meant the light could be turned off and their work day was getting close to being over (after they cleaned the lamp and lens and got everything ready for the next night). It was a very clear morning, but much cooler than Saturday—it was about 50 degrees and very windy when we got to Barnegat around 6:45. Bob put my sweatshirt on to help keep me warm. The park wasn't open yet, so we parked outside the gate and walked in; I was in my carrier. The sun wasn't up yet, but it was beginning to get light out. We walked to the lighthouse to get my photos right away, so I wouldn't have to stay out in the cool weather too long. Bob took me out of my carrier and put me down in the sand near the base of the lighthouse, so I could look around and sniff the air, but it was too windy out so I climbed right back into my carrier. Everyone thought that was funny. When it got a little bit brighter out, we took the pictures to show that I had been at this lighthouse, then they took me back to the car to warm up.  After the sun came up and the New Jersey lighthouse people got to the lighthouse to hand out coins, we began our trip to the next lighthouse.

Lighthouse #9 - We drove north to get to our next lighthouse: Sea Girt. This is a neat little lighthouse that sits in a residential community by the beach. Except for the tower, it looks like a brick house—much different from the Barnegat Light, which we had just seen. This lighthouse was built in 1896, and restored in the 1980s. Bob and Diane met a young volunteer named Greg who here, who they had only spoken to online before. They like meeting nice people as much as I do, so they enjoyed this stop.

Lighthouse #10 - Our next lighthouse was actually two lighthouses in one: The Twin Lights at Navesink! This was a very unusual lighthouse. There are two towers made of stone at the top of a big hill overlooking Lower New York Harbor. The towers are connected by a building, and the towers are different shapes. The south tower has eight sides (it's octagonal), but the north tower only has four sides (it's square). No one seemed to know why they were built like that. When we came up the hill to the lighthouse, we were at the back of the lighthouse. At the far end of the lighthouse was another building, and in it is a really big lighthouse lens. It is a first order Fresnel lens that is shaped like a clam or scallop (that's why they call it a bivalve lens). We met some people in there, got our coin, then went around to see the front of the lighthouse. In the front, there was a great view of the harbor. There was also some grass for me to play in. We saw Mickey and Patty again, and some more people.

Lighthouse #11 - Not far from the Twin Lights is the lighthouse at Sandy Hook. This 100-foot tower was built in 1764 (before there was a United States of America!) and is the oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. It is set in a very historic park, where you can see sties and exhibits about Fort Hancock, a life-saving station, and more stuff! There was too much to see in the short time we were there, so everyone agreed we'll have to stop back and spend more time soon. We saw Mickey and Patty here, too, and Bob signed a copy of his book for them.

Since this was our last stop, we got our final coin here (and the ladies at the table gave us a cheer!). This made me the first kitty to ever complete the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge. Not only do I get to see and learn about history, I sometimes get to be a part of it. That's fun.

At every lighthouse, my friends took lots of pictures. Sometimes, I was in them, but most of the time they were taking pictures of the lighthouses. They like taking pictures and have had their photographs in books, magazines, newspapers, a calendar, posters, merchandise, and even in a movie, so I knew they'd be busy. I didn't mind—the more time they spent taking pictures, the more time I had to nap. But even with all the naps I took during the weekend, I was very tired when we got home. The excitement of traveling and meeting new people wore me out.

 


      
Here is me with my souvenir coins. I tried to explain
it to Allie, but I don't think she really understood.    

 

Click on thumbnails for full-size photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The New Jersey Lighthouse Society and all of the really
nice people I met over the weekend get two paws up
and a big PURRRRR from me! Thank you all for the
hard work you do!

I had had lots of fun and met many wonderful people
during my two days in New Jersey. I even made some
new friends. That's always the best part. Maybe next
year I can do the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge and
meet even more people!

 

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