During the mid 1800s, some mariners on the vessels entering the San Diego harbor claimed to have seen the light from 39 miles away (unconfirmed). These lamps that lit up the sky and coastal harbor played an integral role in the history of San Diego as well as the harbor defense during World Wars I and II.
Cabrillo National Monument is another beautiful and interesting park that surprised me. My sister, KL, feels the same way. She is visiting this week to share my birthday with me. As we begin our journey through the park, we talk about the years we lived together in San Diego about 20 years ago. Our chat leads us to asking each other why we never visited Cabrillo.
We discuss that KL, even having her commissioning ceremony at the cemetery nearby, we still did not visit the park. My sister obtained her college degree and is commissioned as an A.F. Officer through R.O.T.C. at this ceremony.
We decide to make up for lost time. We venture further into the park to learn more about this historic and beautiful place. This spectacular day was made for us, as we don our cameras and snap away at the stunning views. Views full of colorful sail boats, an old time ship, and the unique bay area landscape. This memorable time is incredible as we share laughs and a leisurely walk while we reminisce about our days as roommates while enjoying the park.
Meanwhile, as we explore further into the park, we learn that it is more than just about a coastal lighthouse. The vibrant beautiful marine plant life has come to life! This years’ rains have definitely help put a spark of color into the park. Some of the magnificent ground cover includes succulents such as prickly pear cactus and dudleya, toyton, lemonade berry, encelia, black sage, and chaparral broom. The buckwheat and Indian paintbrush really bring the cliffsides to life!
Cliffs and Tidepools:
Our journey continues down into the lower areas of the park, near the cliffs and tide pools. The tide came in so we primarily browsed around the cliff areas and enjoyed the stunning coastal views. The edges can give way and be dangerous so caution is recommended.
If you visit the park when the tide is out, you will have the opportunity to slither around the slippery tide pool rocks and shoreline beach area. This area of the rocks can be very slippery.
One marine plant-like animal I find quite interesting is sea anemones. They will curl up into a ball if disturbed.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse:
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a big part of Cabrillo National Monument along with a flourishing coastal Mediterranean ecosystem, a migration pathway for gray whales, and a small peek into the life of the lighthouse keepers who worked this demanding job.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set out from Mexico to explore north into unknown waters to chart the coast and search for gold.
He makes a note that the harbor (San Diego) “is closed and a very good port.” There are various accounts of his expedition north, for example, during a stop on Isla de la Posesion (one of the Channel Islands), he injures himself while aiding his men during a fight with the Chumash Indians. The other account was that he injured his arm and shoulder on a previous visit there.
The cause of Cabrillo’s death may have been infection, it is noted. Although Cabrillos exploration ended, he did make a lasting mark, as his expedition provided landmarks, winds and currents to help make future exploration safer.
The Lighthouse Operation
During the mid 1800s, this historic lighthouse is a 24-hour operation. The keeper on duty operates the coastal lights 24 hours, seven days a week, and with no vacations. The living quarters for the assistance keepers is a smaller structure located right next to the old lighthouse building.
As we walk through the interior of the lighthouse, we notice how small the spaces are. The kitchen and sitting room appear as small rooms, I feel like a giant browsing through these rooms. The stairs leading up to the main lamp is extremely narrow, curved, and has short headroom.
Whale and Ocean Overlook:
As you walk further past the lighthouse, there is a newer covered scenic overlook area along with observatory telescopes to look for whales. Here you can witness the whales on their journey as they migrate. The key thing to look for is whale spouts (when the whale is surfacing to breath, it releases a plume of air and water) and flukes (as the whale prepares to dive, it raises its tail fluke out of the water).
The Bayside Trail is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip and a path that takes you downward through numerous types of native coastal sage brush. On the path of this trail, the remnants of the defense system area used during the wars are located here.
Point Loma is a natural protective barrier to the entrance of San Diego Bay. This area provides lookout areas that offer strategic views that aid in military defense systems.
This played a fundamental role during the World Wars I and II, as the Army built searchlight bunkers, fire control stations, and gun batteries in particular areas along this coastal park.
The views of the entire harbor and bay area are spectacular that any photographer enthusiast can appreciate.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Cabrillo National Monument and made memories of experiencing something new together; a bit of San Diego history and quality sister time strolling through a beautiful park.
This park is accessible to visitors with wheelchairs, service animals are welcome, there is an entry fee into the park. If you bring your pets, they are only allowed in the tidepool areas and must be on a six-foot leash at all times.
Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106