Lighthouse is lit one last time
On the wooded trail leading to the lighthouse – a healthy incline of switchbacks – there is a uni-wheel imprint, saddled on either side by footprints dug deep into the dirt from the weight of a heavy load.
“If I’d known it was going to take this long, I would’ve started yesterday,” joked Bill Lindemann, interpretive specialist with the Sierra District of California State Parks, as he struggled up the trail with a full wheelbarrow.
Weighted with a large battery, strobe and ladder, the wheelbarrow carried the gear necessary for the one-night fire-up of the old Rubicon Point Lighthouse at D.L. Bliss State Park.
“All right, the last stretch – here we come, Everest,” Lindemann says as he lunges up the final tract of trail before reaching the small, wood-slatted structure overlooking Lake Tahoe’s West Shore.
Built in 1919 under the direction of the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Lighthouse Service, the Rubicon Point Lighthouse ranked as the world’s highest elevation maritime navigation light. The acetylene-fueled glow emitted from the tiny shack helped warn boaters of the jagged outcroppings along the shoreline until lamp operations were relocated to Sugar Pine Point in 1921.
Since it was abandoned, the lighthouse has served as a stop along the trail for hikers and a lakefront canvas for knife-etched graffiti. The structure – it’s ramshakled body riddled with weathered age – reeks of history.
Last year, California State Parks began assessing the logistics of restoring the old lighthouse to its original state. The primary goal, Lindemann explained, was to keep it as original as possible.
When all was said and done, the foundation was better stabilized and a few boards, as well as the roof, were replaced.
“We just patched the cracks basically,” said Lindemann.
In celebration of the completed work, the lighthouse was relit for one night on July 7. As a small group of people gathered around the refurbished shack and several boats congregated offshore, Lindemann climbed the ladder to the roof and mounted a plastic strobe.
For the first time in 80 years the Rubicon Point Lighthouse yelped out its presence in abbreviated flashes of white.
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