Last weekend, while roaming around the headlands, we stopped by the visitors’ center (which is the Instagram that looks like a church) to get a map of the enormous Golden Gate National Recreation Area park. Sarah was working at the help desk. She happens to be a park ranger who has as one of her many responsibilities recruiting volunteers. She was explaining the volunteer program to a couple. The park is specifically interested in recruiting volunteers for docents at the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Having time on my hands, when I had the chance to speak to her, I too requested a volunteer application. A training session was to be held today.
The historic Point Bonita Lighthouse is about to be reopened as the park is in the middle of a major renovation and construction project. The lighthouse is one of the key signal stations guiding shipping vessels and boats into the San Francisco bay via the golden gate. (In the map, San Francisco is in the bottom right. The Golden Gate Bridge spans the two land masses.) I thought being a docent for this specific location sounded like it would be rewarding. The lighthouse is less than 5 miles from the house.
So today, I attended the all day training session with about 20 other volunteers, most of whom have been working as Point Bonita Lighthouse docents for many years. The day was absolutely fascinating. Besides meetings some incredibly fascinating people, I got to hear from one of the last lighthouse keepers to work at the lighthouse before it was completely automated, hear from a group of men who work in this area at the US Coast Guard, learn about the history of lighthouses in the San Francisco bay area, hear a tremendous amount of news and information about the Marin Headlands Project from one of the park rangers, and see some amazing photographs taken by one of the docents of the lighthouse bridge replacement project. The sessions lasted the full day and provided glimpses into a world about which I know so very little!
For example, the large container-laden cargo ships that pass under the golden gate bridge, and look rather small in scale by comparison, are actually 12 stories tall. The whole system of maritime navigation aids used today, which include GPS and satellite, relies heavily on lighthouses and lights “on sticks,” fog horns, etc. Each has a distinctive pattern of flashes or sound bursts or both.
Well, I could write an incredibly long post about everything I learned today but won’t. Suffice it to say I had a marvelous time and look forward to volunteering. The existing crew of docents is so amazingly knowledgable about the lighthouse, the headlands, and the area in general. I have a steep learning curve ahead but will enjoy it!
I also want to comment on the extraordinary level of dedication, professionalism, and commitment our park rangers have. They get paid so very little but obviously love what they do. (I’ve blogged before that one, without doubt, saved my life in the Alaskan wilderness.)