Take the Lighthouse Challenge of NJ

It’s been more than six years since I tackled the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey. I drove over 500 miles in two days and stopped at 11 lighthouses, two lifesaving stations and two museums. It was amazing.


CAPE MAY — Lighthouses are permanent fixtures from a bygone era that help us remain anchored to our past while inspiring hope about our future. There is something beautiful about a lighthouse, especially if it still functions as a beacon for mariners, pointing the way to safety for those who find themselves desperately lost on a rough sea in dangerous weather. GPS, of course, now is the navigation tool that is most essential in guiding boaters to safety. But a light that leads us to the safety of shore will always be a friend to the mariner. It will also always be an inspiration to those on land in need of direction. 

I love climbing the Cape May Lighthouse. I feel extraordinarily fortunate, when I stop and take the time to consider it, that I can explore it whenever I feel the urge. Climbing each of the 199 steps to the top is both physically and spiritually exhilarating, especially if I remember that millions have felt the exact same steps beneath their own sneakers, or shoes, or 19th century boots, the exact same thigh burn, the exact same sweat on the back of the neck, while doing so. Of course, each climb is unique to the person experiencing it. What of the Lighthouse Keeper in 1865, say, whose climbs that required hauling fuel to the top were dutiful and necessary for those whose lives depended upon it? What of the father and daughter, in 1990, say, the father trying to mind his 4 year old daughter whose hand just barely reached the handrail, so excited and nervous, the father silently overcoming his own subtle fear of heights? What of the couple whose romance blossomed during a trip to the top a couple of years ago, who now find it the one place they wish to return as the setting for the nervous proposal to spend a lifetime together? So many stories. 

Wonderfully, there are plenty of lighthouses in New Jersey to explore in addition to the one in my own backyard. In 2013, I drove over 500 miles in two days and stopped at 11 lighthouses, two lifesaving stations and two museums, participating in the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey. It was amazing and I encourage you to do the same.

Each lighthouse has its own history, and stories to tell, and the Lighthouse Challenge permits you to experience all of New Jersey’s historic beacons and lifesaving stations, too.