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“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

East Point Light

Lighthouses, by definition, should be easy to find, no? That’s what I thought when my trusty sidekick, Katie, and I decided to chart a course to a few local beacons during the Lighthouse Challenge this past weekend. The annual event draws thousands of lighthouse lovers from all over to New Jersey’s coast to visit the State’s 11 accessible lighthouses–all in one weekend.

As it turns out, some of them are easier to find than others. In fact, unless you are navigating a boat in the dark, a few are nearly invisible.

But maybe that’s part of the challenge.

It may also be what made our visit to East Point Lighthouse on the Maurice River, in Cumberland County, New Jersey so special. It’s only about 30 minutes from our home in North Wildwood, but a world away.

Google maps couldn’t help us find it, except to point us vaguely toward tiny Heislerville, NJ.

A detour due to construction on a county bridge all but guaranteed we would get lost. But a wrong turn turned into a right turn, as we found our way to a sleepy cove along the bay that seemed lost in time. We shared the landscape with a couple of birders and fishermen, pulling crabbing baskets out of the water. Then we retraced our steps and found our way to East Point Light.

Established on 1849, the light has been a beacon to fishermen, oystermen and boaters, who travel along the maritime highway also known as the Delaware River and Bay. It was darkened during World War II for security, suffered a major fire, and was not lit again until 1980. Today, the dedicated members of the Maurice River Historical Society are working to restore it.

Frank told us how the light worked and pointed out landmarks on the horizon.

Volunteers told us about the lighthouse’s history and showed us around. From the top, we could see crabbers working their lines and the faint outline of distant shores and other lighthouses.

Next we headed south to Cape May Point, and we checked out the sights from that historic light, as well. We planned on paying a perfunctory visit to our own local lighthouse, Hereford Inlet, which is known for its amazing gardens, but we ran out of time.

Katie and I didn’t have to go very far to see what we saw on Sunday. In fact, I was able to fit in both visits between laundry and kid-shuttling. But the Lighthouse Challenge is a big draw for thousands of visitors from all over the country. We spoke with one woman from West Virginia, who has done it for five years, and another group from Easton, Pa., who participates every year, as well. They managed to visit everyone!

We were not so goal-oriented, but nonetheless it was a nice way to spend a beautiful afternoon and a reminder that adventures lie right beyond our door…and you probably don’t even need a map to find them.

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