The Great Pacific Northwest Ice Storm

Maelstrom surged—dozens of people milling about, all on cell phones. Of the 11 scheduled departures from Eugene Airport, all save the one to Dallas had been cancelled. Too icy for airplanes, taxis, Ubers or Lyfts. The 2022 Pacific Northwest ice storm was the culprit. I’d flown down from Seattle to visit my sailing buddy Mike Burke and wife Mary. Here I was stuck in Eugene, Oregon.

I sidled up to three people who had cars and were talking about taking on the ice and driving into Town. I suggested the Hyatt might be a good place. I’d heard they had vacancies. Sara, my new friend, was smart enough to have a snow brush/scraper in her car and we attacked the ice. I navigated with her iPhone while she white knuckled. After sliding past the first turn, she kept saying, “I couldn’t do this without you.”

In the hotel bar we met up with Janet and Gail. Excellent Martinis. Then we each ordered comforting grilled cheese and tomato soup. A nearby group of flight attendants and such sang along to country tunes—Janet jumped up and started dancing.

Next morning I started calling car rentals and at last one picked up, so I booked it for the following day. After two nights at the Hyatt, I’d finished my book, but the ice had melted, but the rain persisted. At the Budget counter I prudently upgraded to a Toyota Rav4 so I’d have all wheel drive. Then I drove in a deluge to Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula. Late on Christmas Eve I pulled up in front of our Airbnb, one day late for our family retreat. Turned out everyone else had been a day late—they’d just gotten there earlier. Thus began my 2022 lighthouse sketching in the PNW.

On Christmas Day my daughter Kathi and I drove to Port Townsend to see the lighthouse. Turns out there are two. The one I sketched on the bluff back in 2021 is a phony, history unknown. The other is at Fort Worden on the flats: Point Wilson Lighthouse.

Point Wilson Lighthouse was an important landmark for ships traveling from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Puget Sound. The 1879 lighthouse had been replaced in 1914. Because the point was often fogged in, a church bell had been used to warn vessels off the hazardous shoals. Eventually it was replaced with a steam foghorn.

The next day I drove with my son Mark to Fort Flagler State Park at the northeast point of Marrowstone Island. It had been a Coast Artillery Fort guarding the Admiralty Inlet as did Fort Worden and Fort Casey. Together their huge guns formed the ‘Triangle of Fire’ defense plan to thwart any invasion of Puget Sound. They were established in the late 1800s, closed in the 1950s, and then purchased by Washington for state parks. Marrowstone Lighthouse was at water’s edge.

Marrowstone Point Lighthouse sits on the level ground below the bluffs occupied by Fort Flagler. The 1896 two story building was lodging for the keepers and had a fog bell attached. In 1912 a replacement lighthouse was built.  It sat atop a small building on a railed pedestal—perhaps the smallest lighthouse ever and not even worth the word house. An acetylene fog gun, the first in the US, was added in 1914 following several fog groundings on the rocks off the point. Presently a field station for the US Coast and Geological Survey occupies the site. The gull I drew on the chimney is a bit oversized, sorry.

After a stupendous family get together, I volunteered to drive Kathi to Seattle Tacoma Airport for her return flight to Minneapolis, and I could also return my rental. On the way we drove to Hansville at the northeast corner of Kitsap Peninsula. I wanted to sketch the two lighthouses located there. But alas, the recent rainstorm had flooded the road to the 1880 Point No Point lighthouse. I splashed through a foot of water over the road while Kathi cowered in the passenger seat. From the balcony of a neighboring house a woman called out, “Stop. Don’t go any farther—two feet of water ahead.”

In addition to all the rain, there was another reason for the wetness. Turns out there was a ‘king’ tide that morning. This happens when the earth, moon and sun all align to produce the biggest tide of the year. And the extreme low pressure also contributed.

The first keeper of the 1880 Point No Point Lighthouse was reportedly a dentist who practiced in Seattle. When his pregnant wife and two small children arrived at the station, a cow was ordered for benefit of the baby. The cow arrived by schooner, was slung over the side, and swam to shore. After a run in with the keeper, the assistant grabbed a pistol and took control of the light, but the US Lighthouse Service Inspector soon arrived and sent the assistant and his family packing. A little short of brotherly love…

Point No Point is headquarters for the US Lighthouse Society, and I was hoping to visit the museum there. But no soap, just a line drawing from the internet. The lighthouse predates the almost invisible town of Hansville named after Hans Zachariasen—thank goodness they named the town after his first and not last name. Kathi and I turned around and drove in the other direction to Skunk Bay Lighthouse.

Using plans from the Mukilteo Lighthouse, Jim Gibbs constructed Skunk Bay Lighthouse in 1965. He got permission from the Coast Guard to relocate the lantern room from Smith Island Lighthouse and install a fixed red characteristic. In 1971 the Skunk Bay Lighthouse Association—a group of private citizens—purchased the unofficial lighthouse and grounds. In 1982 they expanded the facility and added a 1940 fog bell.

The following day, back in Seattle and staying with Mark, we drove up to Anacortes just north of Whidbey Island. There we coffeed at Pelican Bay Bookstore, and I bought a used copy of Lighthouses of the World—you just can’t have too many lighthouse books. On to Fort Casey and Admiralty Head Lighthouse. At Coupeville we visited Mark’s artist friend, a widow who works in acrylic. So good to talk with a real artist—not a mere sketcher. We both agreed that the best comes out when you’re in the right brain.

When it was built in 1861 the first Admiralty Head Lighthouse was known as Red Bluff Lighthouse. In 1897 when construction began on Fort Casey, it was relocated and used by the fort until it was torn down. Designed by Carl Leik, a noted residential architect, the new Admiralty Head Lighthouse was finished in 1903. Soon thereafter, however, steamships began to replace sailing ships. The new ships didn’t depend on fickle winds. They could steam by without the need of the lighthouse, and it was decommissioned in 1922.

After picking up lunch at Callens Mark and I trucked on down to Clinton and caught the ferry to Mukilteo arriving just at sundown. The Mukilteo Lighthouse was festooned with Christmas lights, and the optic flashed yellow every few seconds. There were lots of parents with young kids scurrying around as evening set in. I packed up my pencils as dusk gave way to dark. Mark and I enjoyed refreshments at ‘Cabernets and IPA’s.’ It had been a long day.

The 1906 Mukilteo Lighthouse guides ships into Possession Bay and the town of Everett. In 2000 the 2.6 acre lighthouse site was transferred to the City of Mukilteo for a park of the same name. The US Coast Guard maintains the light. In the Snohomish dialect of Lushootseed, Mukilteo means narrow passage.

The next day I borrowed Mark’s Subaru and drove down to Alki Point Lighthouse. ‘Alki’ is Washington State’s Motto, a Chinook word meaning by and by. It’s also the name of a neighborhood in West Seattle. The lighthouse site is surrounded by private property on the land side and piles of huge rip rap on the water side. The Coast Guard occupies the fenced in keepers’ cottages, and the lighthouse is available to tour—but not that day. I had to trespass and sit on driftwood to sketch. Good thing the tide was outgoing.

In 1851 24 people debarked the schooner Exact at Alki Point and formed a colony— Seattle’s precursor. The Alki Point lighthouse and attached fog signal building were added in 1913. The original lens had been stolen but later showed up at an antique shop in southern California. The person who sold the light to the antique shop was identified, arrested, and sentenced. Coast Guard Captain Gene Davis remarked, “He got two years [but not before the mast] and we got our lantern.”

I snuck in one last stop: Browns Point Lighthouse way down in Tacoma at the south end of Elliot Bay.

In 1792 when George Vancouver took the longboat from the Discovery and charted Puget Sound, it’s said he stopped for lunch with the Puyallup people near Browns Point. In 1903 the Browns Point Lighthouse and keeper’s house were built. The tender Heather delivered Oscar Brown, his wife Annie, their upright piano, a cow, and a horse. The Browns then tended the light for 36 years. In 1933 a painted concrete art deco lighthouse replaced the original wood structure. Today Metro Parks Tacoma and Points NE Historical Society maintain the buildings and Browns Point Lighthouse Park.

That night at his condo, Mark hosted dinner for mutual friends at his condo. Perfect ending to a perfect trip.


On my 2021 road trip down the Left Coast, I’d started sketching lighthouses. Mark had taken me out to West Point Lighthouse situated in Seattle’s Discovery Park. A fierce wind shortened my sketching. Back at Mark’s place, I used my Micron pen and Prismacolors to finish the pencil outline.

Marking the entrance to Elliot Bay and Seattle, the 1881 West Point Lighthouse still flashes, albeit not with the original fourth-order Fresnel lens. The lighthouse and property were deeded to the City of Seattle in 2006.

My drive down the coast began the following day. North to Edmonds and ferry to Kingston on the Olympic Peninsula. As I drove up the hill in Port Townsend a lighthouse was on my right. I parked and sketched it from across the street. Then rewarded myself with McDonald’s coffee. A year later I discovered it’s just a look alike lighthouse.

Port Townsend Pseudo Lighthouse the real Point Wilson Lighthouse is down by the water not on the ridge.

After circumnavigating the peninsula, I stopped in Westport at Grays Harbor Lighthouse. On a cold and rainy sunless day, I sketched quickly and ignored its octagonal shape. It was, after all, just my impression and only my third sketch along the coast.

At 107 feet, the 1898 Grays Harbor Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Washington.Architect Carl Leick claimed it was his masterpiece. Westport-South Beach Historical Society took ownership in 2004.

Washington Lighthouses

  1. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, Ilwaco, Washington
  2. North Head Lighthouse, Ilwaco, Washington
  3. Grays Harbor Lighthouse, Westport, Washington
  4. Cape Flattery Lighthouse, Tatoosh Island, Washington 
  5. New Dungeness Lighthouse, Sequim, Washington
  6. Point Wilson Lighthouse, Port Townsend, Washington
  7. Marrowstone Point Lighthouse, Marrowstone Island, Washington
  8. Skunk Bay Lighthouse, Hansville, Washington
  9. Point No Point Lighthouse, Hansville, Washington
  10. Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Coupeville, Washington
  11. Mukilteo Lighthouse, Mukilteo, Washington
  12. West Point Lighthouse, Seattle, Washington
  13. Alki Point Lighthouse, Seattle, Washington
  14. Browns Point Lighthouse, Tacoma, Washington

The Columbia River over its course of 1,200 miles achieves tremendous velocity and can carry large amounts of sediment. Carrying capacity is proportional to the cube of the speed. When the Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean its velocity drops and so does the sediment, creating a sand bar at its mouth. Robert Gray was the first European to successfully cross the bar, and the Columbia is named after his ship the Columbia Redivina. The 1856 Cape Disappointment Lighthouse got its name from Captain John Meares who was unable to take shelter in Cape San Rogue and renamed it Cape Disappointment. It marks the entrance to the Columbia River.

Because vessels sailing from the north couldn’t see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse until they were close upon the entrance to Columbia River, another lighthouse was needed. Designed by Carl Leick, in 1898 North Head Lighthouse displays a fixed white—in contrast to nearby Cape Disappointment which has alternating red and white flashes.

In 1778 Captain Cook visited the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, where an opening along the coast “flattered” him into thinking he’d found the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Thus he named the cape but didn’t find the strait. The Cape Flattery Lighthouse was built in 1857 on a small island named Tatoosh in respect the Makah chief. The tower was built within the keepers’ quarters to allow easy access in stormy weather or when the Makah people were protesting the occupation of their island.

In 2008 a 30 foot skeletal tower and solar powered LED light was put up. The island as well as the decommissioned Cape Flattery Lighthouse was turned back to the Makah Tribe—it was theirs in the first place.

New Dungeness Spit gets its name from Captain George Vancouver who, in 1792, was reminded of a point on England’s southeast coast. Ammi Young designed the New Dungeness Lighthouse 65 years later. Isaac Smith supervised construction while also supervising the similar Cape Flattery lighthouse. In 1994 the last keeper was dismissed, The New Dungeness Chapter of the US Lighthouse Society along with the Coast Guard Auxiliary now leases the lighthouse from the Coast Guard. You can stay there for a week while greeting visitors and maintaining the place—waiting list can be long and wait time up to a couple years.

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