Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 17, 2018

Too Little Have I Travell’d in the Realms of Gold, Evidently

If I’d had a proper education, I would’t have to be doing this now.

I’m applying to be officially certified as a “Well-Versed and Knowledgable Student of Western Literature.” After all, I’ve been at this literature game a long time, and I’m ready for some recognition. I started strong, from the first page of We Look and See and its thrilling, epic sequel, Fun with Dick and Jane. Granted, there have been peaks and valleys since first grade. I’ve had sustained periods of intense reading, followed by — shall we say — caesurae in pace and focus. I can’t apologize for not reading classic literature every single day of my life. I’ve had some distractions to deal with; making a living comes to mind, among other inconveniences.

I’ve also gone down some reading byways that haven’t bolstered my resume. For example, none of the legendary and now-classic Marvel Comics of the 1960s I absorbed will count with the committee, not to mention my fruitless attempt to make any sense whatsoever of E. R. Eddison’s The Worm Ourobouros and his succeeding Zimiamvian Trilogy.

I’m relatively certain that few — if any — of the 25-cent paperbacks I ordered through Scholastic Book Service in my pre-teen years will count for much, either. Old Yeller, Jim Kjelgaard’s Fire Hunter, the Danny Dunn stories. Nor, likely, even those Hardy Boys mysteries, starting with the very first in the series, The Secret of the Old Mill. In the eyes of the committee, those will have been wasted hours, however enjoyable they were.

The Process Begins: One List to Rule Them All

Prior to being subjected to a thoroughgoing evaluation involving interviews and written essays, one must qualify for consideration. Qualification is straightforward: You check items off a list. The list is twenty-four printed pages long (not yet digital — the Committee are rather traditional).

The items on the list are (in the Committee’s view) the landmark works of western literature, in chronological order. There are required works, in boldface type, and an even larger number of works which aren’t strictly obligatory. The implication is that one had better be able to claim — and substantiate during the interviews and in essays — to have read and absorbed not only all of the required works but some substantial number of the others.

Yes, I checked. Old Yeller, Fire-Hunter, The Hardy Boys? No sign of ’em on the list.

The List Begins

My problem starts with the very first item of The List, at the dawn of western literature. Here are the first few works.

Western Literature reading list

Naturally, the Iliad and the Odyssey kick things off. That’s my problem. I haven’t read them.

I Blame the System

Is it my fault that not one teacher or professor ever put the Iliad on a syllabus, required- or suggested reading list? A certain university gave me a degree in English language and literature, but at no time did anyone require me to read Homer. My accomplishments were good enough for them, why not this committee?

I know they simply assumed I’d done it on my own, maybe during the summer between 8th grade and high school. I never actually claimed to have read it, nor did I fake my way through anything. No instructor ever turned to me, asking something like, “Mr. Nixon, certainly this passage in (work of literature here) recalls Homer’s famous simile for ‘wine-dark sea,’ wouldn’t you agree?” Nope. Never happened.

Can I Dodge It?

I’ve considered submitting my qualification survey with those first two items left blank. I’ve read a lot of books, poems and plays, after all. Maybe I could shine so incandescently during the examination that they’ll let it slide.

But, playing it out in my mind, I pictured the situation. There’d be some uncompromisingly demanding scholar of impeccable reputation …

Perry crop

I imagine the interview going something like this:

Eminent Scholar: So, Mr. Nixon, am I correct in understanding that you had several years of college education?

Me: That’s right. Yep.

ES: And is it true that part of your field of concentration involved the study of epic Medieval poetry?

Me: Yes, in part.

ES: That must mean you’ve studied Beowulf, of course, and the Nibelungenlied, the Norse and Icelandic sagas, the Song of Roland, El Cid?

Me: Yes. I’ve read those, as my qualification survey indicates.

ES: So, according to your application, despite this purportedly impressive education, at no time during your course of study — in class discussions, during a lecture or in any assignments — was there an expectation — not even a reference implying you should read it — to the foundational epic poem of western literature, the Iliad … nor the Odyssey, either?

Me: Um, I know it might seem strange, but I ….

ES: And if, as you claim, some of those professors were world-renowned scholars in their own right, doesn’t it stand to reason that they’d have gone to some lengths to draw relationships regarding theme or style or form between the epics of the Middle Ages and Classical Greece?

Me: I know it seems like it, but really ….

ES: And do you truly expect this Committee to believe that you spent years studying literature in a serious academic setting, unaware that you absolutely should have read those poems —that any reasonable professor would rely on a student of even moderate ambition to have made certain to know the original works on which much scholarly criticism of the genre is based?

Me: Okay! Yes! Stop! I admit it! I knew I should read it — both of the Homer poems. I just didn’t do it. I meant to, seriously. I even owned a copy of it. I just … I didn’t read the Iliad! Give me another chance. I’ll read it!


So, I’m reading the Iliad. It’s good. Great battle scenes. Wonderful descriptions — those similes! The gods are a pain, but, well, you already knew that.

© Brad Nixon 2018

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 15, 2018

Let’s Count in Old English to Eleven and Twelve

In the beginning — and for a long time afterwards — counting was simple, according to what anthropologists can tell us. Early human cultures seem to have had words representing concepts for “one,” “more than one” (meaning something like the English word “few”) and something like “a whole lot.”

Then things got complicated. Humans organized themselves not just into families, clans and tribes, but villages, towns and cities. They started growing food instead of hunting it and making things instead of using found objects like sticks and rocks. Once they’d grown enough food, acquired a certain number of tools or pots, or needed to keep track of whose was what, they needed to count them.

Along the way, we progressed from counting on our fingers to keeping “tallies:” notches or marks that tracked things like cattle or the number of days in the lunar cycle. Somewhere between 3400 and 3100 B.C., humans invented accountancy; some clever Mesopotamian came up with the idea of symbolic numerals, then there was arithmetic and … well, here we are.

This gets complicated. Perhaps there will come a day when I actually study the history of numbering systems, but this is not that day.

Numbers and Language

Instead, I want to talk about the fact that numerals don’t just signify values, they also have names. One of the primary lessons in any language study is learning to count. Here in English and other languages with common Indo-European roots, we get a bit of a break, because we have related names for numbers. In English, Spanish, Italian, French and German we get One, unouno, une, ein; two, dosdue, deux, zwei; all directly descended from Latin unus and duo or related back in earlier Indo-European. Easy.

Things are good until we exceed the number of things we can count on our fingers. Then comes “ten and one more.” Messy. The Romans were tidy people. They literally said, essentially, “one-and-ten:” undecim, then kept going with duodecim, tredecim, etc.

Once the Romans left the scene, though, the rest of us have become untidy. Italian eleven is close: undici. French strays: onze. The Spanish are about to throw a number of one-offs at us, but hang more or less with the French: once. German? Elf. If that’s not confusing enough, consider English: “eleven.” What?

It doesn’t get any simpler as we work through the teens. The Romans themselves continued systematically with quattuordecim, etc., until they hit eighteen. Unaccountably (pun!) they decided to count backwards from twenty with 18=duodeviginti, 19=undeviginti: “two before 20,” “one before 20.” Who wants to do that? No one. Only the Romans did that. Thanks be to Jove.

Somewhere in the sequence from 11 to 19, every western European language except Italian introduces some messy, unique words, at least for 11 and 12. The Italians improve on their Latin forebears, consistently counting “something-plus-ten” from undici all the way to diciannove — 19.  Spanish doesn’t start counting in teens until 16. The French don’t start until 17. The Germans, our English progenitors, start with us back at 13.

But what about “eleven” and elf? Is there any reason for those oddities?

Old English, Frisian, Old Norse and the Rest

To state the obvious, present-day English is a mish-mash of vocabulary from a number of Germanic languages, — several of them archaic — French and Latin, as well as loan words from innumerable other sources. Our numbers, though, show their Germanic heritage. Here’s a chart showing numbers one through three and ten through thirteen (the point at which the Germanic languages systematically start saying “something-and-ten”) as well as twenty, in several modern Germanic languages, along with Old English.

German language number chart 2

The similarities are obvious. Look at those columns for eleven and twelve. They resemble each other to some recognizable degree. If you think about it, the elevens all have a similar “E” sound and an element with a “V” or “F” (the “F” in Old English endleofon was pronounced “V,” making it sound more similar to modern “eleven.” Twegen was pronounced very like the word “twain,” still in use.).

Linguists don’t unanimously agree, but the most plausible theory is that the “eleven” and “twelve” words represent “one left (after ten)” and “two left (after ten).” Common words in Old Norse, Old Germanic and the other archaic languages was something like laf or lif, which means, consistently, in all of them, “left” or “left over.”

The modern language versions of those words have been changed by centuries of use — collapsed, shortened — but the proto-German would have been, in full, eins-lif, zwei-lif; Old English an-lafan, twegen-lafan, etc. Elf, zwölf, “eleven” and “twelve” are the result after a millennium or so of linguistic wear and tear.

In a later post, we’ll find out why we don’t count, “eighty, ninety, tenty, eleventy” (or maybe we used to!). Stay tuned. News at endleofon.

I’ve omitted diacritical marks and unique antique characters from the Old English words. My web composing tool doesn’t support them.

© Brad Nixon 2018. I found helpful if convoluted comments on this subject at this link for

The architecture of Los Angeles is as varied and eclectic as the town’s reputation. We’ve had wacky restaurants like Tail o’ the Pup, shaped like a giant hot dog. There are commercial and public structures spanning every architectural mode from 250 year-old colonial Spanish buildings to avant-garde contemporary architecture.

As for houses, we have every possible style and some that are indescribable: witches’ houses, elf cottages, the groundbreaking 1945 – 1966 Case Study Houses, and — of course — over-the-top gargantuan palaces of Croesian wealth and excess scattered through Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Malibu and the Hollywood Hills. The city is constantly reinventing itself and the buildings that comprise it.

Los Angeles, 1919 – The Heiress and the Architect

In 1919, a genuinely eccentric heiress with avant-garde ideas of her own engaged an equally eccentric, egotistical and opinionated architect to design and build a hilltop complex to realize her vision for an artistic enclave. It would include a theater, art gallery and living spaces for artists, as well as public park space. One other thing: a private residence for her. It was built, and it’s still there.

Barnsdall House Brad Nixon 0578 640

If you’re any sort of fan of architecture, you know that building: Barnsdall House. The heiress’ name was Aline Barnsdall.

Hollyhock House Brad Nixon 0605 640

The architect developed a visual motif based on Ms. Barnsdall’s favorite flower, the hollyhock. He dubbed the structure with the name that’s still commonly used, Hollyhock House. The stylized hollyhock motif repeats both inside and out.

That architect was Frank Lloyd Wright. Hollyhock House, built from 1919-1921, was the first of five landmark residences he designed in Los Angeles. All are still standing, although Hollyhock House is by far the easiest one to visit and the only one you can tour without a personal connection to the owners.

Hollyhock southwest Brad Nixon 0609 640

Critics have exhausted the lexicon to describe the place: monumental, primitive-modern, Mayan temple, pre-Columbian sanctuary. Choose whichever you favor. The west facade, looking into the living room, reinforces that Mayan temple notion.

Hollyhock House Brad Nixon 0608 640

Several of the photos above, as well as this one of the pool with a bronze statue of Pan copied from a villa in Pompeii might require an entirely different vocabulary.

Hollyhock House Brad Nixon 0581 640

Until just recently, I’ve been unable to photograph the Hollyhock House exterior to any extent. That’s why I’ve never written about one of my favorite Los Angeles structures in nearly nine years of blogging. Barnsdall/Hollyhock House is now open to the public following years of earthquake repair and a startlingly brilliant restoration, inside and out.

Hollyhock North Brad Nixon 0596 640

I have not entirely good news: I can’t show you photos of the interior, although I toured it. Photography’s not permitted. I assure you, it’s a joy to see. Every square inch of the place feels designed — intended — and draws the eye, leads you to the next discoveryThere are intricately carved walls of wood paneling echoing the hollyhock theme, interspersed with bare, rough stucco in a dark gray that accentuates the other details. From Wright’s trademark low-ceilinged entry, a few steps up is the compact, comfortable dining room under a vaulted ceiling, still equipped with the table and chairs Wright designed.

An outer foyer looks out on the courtyard garden through a row of French doors that’ve been reproduced from original photographs, visible on the left in this exterior photo.

Barnsdall House Brad Nixon 0587 640

On the other side of the foyer is the expansive, high living room with reproductions of the furniture Wright designed for it, ranged around the central fireplace. Carpets, 130 stained glass windows, cabinetry and other furnishings, all designed by Wright or his assistants (including young R. M. Schindler, his construction supervisor), are everywhere.

The best I can do to give you some sense of the interior is to point you to a video on the home page of the Hollyhock House organization. I encourage you to watch it, because I can’t describe the interior in the space of a blog post.

Click here and then play the video.

Deterioration, Restoration

Mr. Wright wasn’t always the most careful engineer when it came to accommodating things like gravity or choosing materials well suited to the use he made of them. By the 1990s, some damage from water and weathering were attributable to Wright’s choices. The Master never seemed to accept the fact that water runs downhill or collects in low spaces.

Hollyhock planters Brad Nixon 0615 640

Ms. Barnsdall never lived in the house, and it had a checkered career. It was the home of an arts organization, Wright himself did some remodeling to have it serve as a gallery, his son, Lloyd, supervised a 1970s restoration, but there were also periods in which Hollyhock House was more or less vacant, unused.

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 was the final blow. Among other things, it plopped the flat roof down on top of the massive concrete double entrance doors, wedging them shut. On my first visit, not long after the quake, no one was certain it would be possible to lift the roof enough to remedy that situation. Now, two decades later, it’s been done. You can enter through the main doorway, instead of a back way through the kitchen, which was formerly the case.

Hollyhock doorway Brad Nixon 0565 640

Once you’re inside, Hollyhock House will reward any amount of time you spend studying it. Aficionados of architecture may be excused if they’re not unalloyed Wright fans. You don’t have to admire either the man or his work. Neither were perfect. A visit to Hollyhock House is still in order, and I recommend it with utmost enthusiasm.

Visiting Hollyhock House

Hollyhock House sits on top of Olive Hill in Barnsdall Art Park, a city park (gift of Ms. Barnsdall), upper left on the map. There’s no admission or parking fee to enter the park. The address is 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California, not far from downtown Los Angeles (map, below). There are impressive views of Los Angeles in several directions from the park. If you know where to look, you can see Wright’s immense Ennis House on the opposite hillside, below Griffith Observatory (map, top left). Bring your binoculars.

Barnsdall House map Google

Consult the website for hours and tour information and prices. Self-guided interior tours are available Thursday through Sunday. There are options for docent tours of the interior and exterior.

You will not see the entire interior, at least not yet. Nor will you be able to walk everywhere. Access is strictly controlled, but you can currently enter, walk through the foyer to admire the courtyard view and look into all the first level rooms: music room, dining room, living room, library, conservatory and gallery. As restoration proceeds, visitors will be able to tour at least some of the bedrooms.

You can walk most of the way around the exterior, separated by sometimes inconvenient chain link fencing. There are adjacent structures including a pergola and wading pool designed by one of Wright’s assistants, Richard Neutra. A visitor center occupies the newly restored garage.

Hollyhock garage Brad Nixon 0560 640

Additional reconstruction of deteriorated or nearly-lost portions of the complex, including “Residence A,” designed by R. M. Schindler, is in progress or planned.

When I visited, there were several helpful docents on hand. Before you go, download the self guided tour .pdf from the website so you can read ahead and be able to keep your eyes off the page. There’s an indescribable amount of detail to give attention to once you’re inside.


Okay, who’s seen Wright’s Fallingwater? A place I’ve yet to visit. Another Wright structure you love or hate? Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Map © Google.

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 10, 2018

Intruder Amidst the Jewels: The Mystery of Vincent Street

As migrants moved west across the unsettled land of the U.S., they laid out new cities and towns on the prairies, plains and in forest clearings, often in rectangular grids. It was common for the founders to use numerical or alphabetical naming schemes for those still-empty streets. That’s true in Redondo Beach, the first place I lived when I moved to California.I discovered that rather than numbering the streets, naming them A, B, C; or with the names of trees or presidents, the city planners gave north-south avenues the names of Spanish women, all trisyllabic, from Benita near the beach and including Helberta, Irena, Juanita and so on, up to Susana.

There’s a Maria Avenue, but you could substitute any of them into the well-known song from “West Side Story:”

Gertruda, I just met a girl named Gertruda! 

The north-south streets crossing them also progress alphabetically, but with the names of jewels, from Agate to Topaz (they didn’t make it to Zirconium). After Agate comes Beryl, then Carnelian, Diamond, Vincent … wait. What?

Just this month, after 25 years of living in the area, I found out why there’s a Vincent Street wedged between Diamond and Emerald. My first clue came when I visited the campus of Redondo Union High School (RUHS) between Diamond and Vincent Streets. The clue’s related to the RUHS auditorium at the corner of Diamond and Pacific Coast Highway.

RUHS auditorium Brad Nixon 0685 640

I was there to photograph the oldest buildings at the school, which will be another blog post. The school has a small museum. One of the photographs on display showed this building:

2015_10_02_15_05_180001-1024x751 Daily Breeze file 1890-2

The museum director told me that building stood on the present site of RUHS’s auditorium. Dedicated in 1890, it was the Chautauqua Assembly Building, an 11-sided concrete structure. If you’re curious, that’s called a hendecagon. It became the high school’s first permanent building in 1907. Here’s a photo made that year.

2015_10_02_15_05_580001-1024x615 Daily Breeze photo 1907

What’s “Chautauqua?”

The “Chautauqua movement” (shuh TAH kwa) began in Chautauqua, New York in 1874. “Chautauquas” consisted of programs focused on what today we’d call adult education. There were edifying speeches, activities, classes, performances and demonstrations on matters cultural, musical, scientific, political and religious. From New York, the idea caught on and spread with enormous success, spawning Chautauquas in temporary or permanent locations across the country, often in dedicated buildings and even entire communities. The Chautauqua institution was extremely popular and influential well into the 1920s and ’30s.

One of them, unincorporated Chautauqua, Ohio, isn’t far from where I grew up. I’d been unaware until now that they were even popular on the west coast. Sure enough, it was big here, too. That Redondo Assembly building accommodated 4,000 people, with a stage that could hold 300.

What About Vincent Street?

We’re on the trail of Vincent Street, I promise. Let’s look at an 1887 map of that area of Redondo Beach. The Chautauqua Assembly is at the lower center, at the corner of Chautauqua and Diamond. The top of the map is east, not north. I’ve added some street names in blue for reference.

2015_10_02_15 S Bay Map Daily Breeze 1887

Chautauqua Avenue is today’s north-south Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1. What you really notice, though, is that distinctive shape formed by curving Fleming St. on the left and Spencer St. on the right. At the base of that hourglass figure is an oblate shape formed by circular El Redondo Avenue. Taken all together, they look like an old-fashioned oil lamp. Intentional. It represents a “lamp of learning,” to signify an entire portion of the town that was to be dedicated to followers of the Chautauqua Movement.

I’m not certain I’ve ever seen civic planning carried out with a visual theme in quite that way. Any other examples out there? Comments, please.

Vincent Street passes through the center of the lamp. Why? The founder of the Chautauqua movement was John Heyl Vincent, and Redondo’s Vincent St. is named for him.


Rev. S. J. Fleming was the leader of the Redondo Chautauqua Assembly. No, I haven’t identified “Spencer.”

What Happened to the Building?

That 1890 structure only served as the local Chautauqua Assembly for two years, until the group relocated south to Long Beach. It stood empty, eventually derelict, until it was resurrected to serve as the high school. It served until 1915, when it was replaced with a much grander school building that was eventually leveled for the current auditorium in 1972.

Some of that street plan persists today. Here’s Google Map’s current representation, correctly oriented with north at the top.

Redondo map Google 2018-08-08 640

Vincent Park still occupies the center of the base of the “lamp,” defined by El Redondo Ave.

Vincent Park Brad Nixon 0670 640

However, as the map shows, RUHS (within blue line) has taken over a large chunk of the neighborhood, completely erasing Fleming Street. The high school campus covers more than 50 acres, and is reported to be the third largest in area in the U.S.

I’ll come back to RUHS in a later post for a look at the building I actually went to investigate. Meanwhile, I’ll simply say that I was stunned to find this bit of Chautauqua history in southern California, and I hope you enjoyed discovering it with me. And to think that I saw it on Vincent Street.

Every town has some grand monument of the past that’s now lost. What’s your town’s? Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2018. I consulted several articles for information and photos from the Daily Breeze, published in the South Bay since 1894, principally “Redondo Beach’s Chautauqua Assembly Hosted Ambitious Short-Lived Educational Movement,”Oct. 3, 2015, retrieved August 8, 2018. Street names background in part from “Redondo Street Names,” Redondo Beach Historical Society, retrieved August 8, 2018.

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 8, 2018

Municipal Mid Century Cool in Redondo Beach

It’s 1961, and the city of Redondo Beach needs a new civic center to replace its 1907 City Hall, already inadequate in size and condemned for its inability to withstand earthquakes. Here it is in a postcard, circa 1908.

redondocityhallpostcard 1908

The town is booming, the wartime and post-war aerospace research and manufacturing boom swelling the population to 50,000 residents, from a prewar 13,000. It’s not yet the beach of the Beach Boys, and Frankie and Annette won’t star in their first oceanside romp, “Beach Party,” ’til ’63, but there’s a vibe to the beach, all the same. It’s more the era of Beat than Beatles, and the scene at the Los Angeles beaches is more about Mickey “Da Cat” Dora, Dewey Weber, Hobie Alter and the other counterculture surfer dudes than anything mainstream.

Clearly, even though it’ll be home to the Mayor and City Council and even the police department and jail, Redondo needs something groovy. Like this.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0660 640

Like a pin placed on a cultural map indicating “This is the spot,” THAT is as good an expression of International Style modernism as you’ll find in the workaday world. The Los Angeles firm Victor Gruen and Associates did the design, and the place still looks the part under the southern California sun.

Redondo Beach City Hall Brad Nixon 0656 640

International Style had been around since the late 1920s, and its notable advocate was Le Corbusier. His Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, 1931, is widely acknowledged as the avatar of Internationalism, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Obviously, the California architects are taking liberties with the style, but look at the Villa’s line of windows, extended by open cutouts to accentuate the horizontality. Now let’s walk around the far side of the Civic Center and compare.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0121 640

Nearly the same approach, although a little worse for 50 years of sun and salt air.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0122 640

A look around on the north side, opposite from the tall portico in the first photo, shows yet another iteration of the rectangular forms and horizontal lines, with another band of windows.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0124 640

Since it is the center of municipal respectability, there are the usual monuments and plaques honoring various Redondo Beach public servants. I like this one.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0134 640

The plaque reads, “In memory of the Redondo Beach Police Service Dogs – Courageous and Loyal Partners.” Their years of service span 1976 – 2015.

Bring on the Beach Boys, Annette and a few more generations of beachgoers. It’s always groovy at the beach, under a western sky.

Redondo Beach Civic Center Brad Nixon 0661 640

How’s the city hall in your town? Equally groovy, or imposingly formal? Leave a comment.

Note: This post has been revised from its original version to reflect more accurate historical information about the transition from the 1907 building to the new one.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Villa Savoye photo by Valueyou, used under rights granted by Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Some historical notes and the 1907 postcard image from The Daily Breeze, April 9, 2016; retrieved August 9, 2018.

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 6, 2018

A Carnegie Library in Los Angeles: Cahuenga Branch Library

As 1911 began, the city of Los Angeles was growing. Swelled by a stream of migrants looking for jobs in oil drilling, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and the not-likely-to-amount-to-anything fad of making moving pictures, the population reported in the census of 1910 was 319,000 city residents — more than triple the population ten years prior.

Those people didn’t occupy a dense central downtown. The Los Angeles basin had a vast amount of open land — seemingly inexhaustible! Suburbs were springing up amid the farms, connected by the Pacific Electric system — commonly referred to as the Red Car Line, which included streetcars, interurban lines and buses. The system — privately owned, not municipal — began service at exactly this time: 1901. Los Angeles was becoming the city of sprawl.

To be clear, I’m speaking of the City of Los Angeles, not the surrounding county, although there, too, little farm towns and nodes of the oil drilling business were growing into cities.

To the credit of the Los Angeles Public Library, founded in 1872, it was determined to keep pace in serving its new citizens. In January 1911, it received a $210,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build six branch libraries. A few months ago, I wrote about one of them, still operating, Lincoln Heights, east of downtown (red “X” on map below).

Lincoln Heights Library Brad Nixon P (640x317)

All six branches were built. Only three remain standing, all still part of the Los Angeles library system. This week I visited another of them, northwest of downtown on Santa Monica Boulevard: the Cahuenga Branch library. It opened in December 1916, and is now the third oldest library building in the city.

Cahuenga Carnegie Brad Nixon 0644 640

About a sixth (about $34,000) of the total grant was designated to build the Cahuenga branch. The architect Clarence R. Russell was engaged to design it. He chose Italian Renaissance Revival style.

Cahuenga Carnegie Brad Nixon 0641 640

That decision is no surprise. Russell was one of the designers of the development of Venice, California, to the west, with its artificial canals and Italianate theme. The library got a lot of detail for its investment. Click on any photo to enlarge.

“Cahuenga” wasn’t so much a neighborhood name as a recognition that its location — which had been citrus groves just six years before the library went up — was part of the original Spanish Rancho Cahuenga land grant. L.A. has more than its share of Spanish and Mission Revival architecture, but not in this instance.

The elevation of the main floor above street level is a common feature of public buildings of the era, and Cahuenga’s grand staircase is a rather extreme example.

Cahuenga Carnegie Brad Nixon 0639 640

The library collection and reading room are on the upper level. Below are offices and administrative space, and there were community meeting rooms and a small auditorium, although a librarian told me the stage no longer exists.

The reason the front entrance lacks the ramps many older buildings require to be ADA compliant is an accident of timing. Damage from a 1987 earthquake forced the closure of the library, followed by seismic retrofitting and renovation. The library added space and a new entrance in the rear parking area, at ground level, simplifying access.

Inside, the original reading room is one large open space, spanning the width of the building.

Cahuenga Carnegie Brad Nixon 0636 640

I visited on a busy Saturday, and the presence of a large number of library patrons limited my ability to take photographs without imposing on them. There’s more space than I picture here. In that view above you can see the original coved plaster ceilings, columns and pilasters with Corinthian capitals and mouldings. I failed to ask if the lighting fixtures are originals. They may be. If not, they’re certainly consonant with the era.

I suspect that the wood-encased horizontal beam between the pillars is a disguised steel beam for seismic reinforcement, not original. It doesn’t belong with the grand hall aesthetic of the space, but was probably a pragmatic requirement.

The cost of replacing a structure of that size? Far more than the $2 million required for the retrofit and renovation. A couple of additional architectural details are a small price to pay to keep a building that cost $34,000 working into its second century.

The central desk originally occupied the center of that space, facing the doors to the street on the right. It’s been moved out of sight toward the left, the rear of the building.

It’s a Library, Not Just a Building

Although I’m describing a building, my real message, as always, is about how important libraries are to communities. Cahuenga branch has had a fascinating evolution in serving a changing population, responding to world wars, the depression, new waves of immigration and now the advent of electronic media. The very way people interact has altered. Good public libraries have a long history of responding to shifts in population, culture, language, technology and community dynamics. Cahuenga and the L.A. system are exemplars, but so are thousands of other public libraries.

Not every old building is worth saving, but the ones full of books and people who know how to find information that serves the community often are. To read more about the library’s history, I encourage you to click on their website at The history was written prior to the remodeling, but provides a worthwhile look at how Cahuenga Branch has kept pace with the times.

MV 3555-Cahuenga Carnegie Lib front door 640

Visiting Cahuenga Branch

The library’s at 4591 W. Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, California.

Cahuenga Branch Map Google 640

My best advice is to use the Hollywood Freeway, U.S. 101. Exit onto northbound Vermont, turn right onto Santa Monica, then one block later, left at the light at Madison — there’s no turn signal, so you may have to be patient, depending on time of day and traffic. The library’s at the intersection of Santa Monica and Madison. There’s free library parking behind the library off Madison. If it’s full and you have to park in the neighborhood, be cognizant of driveways, fire hydrants, etc. Don’t get towed.

Library hours and details are available at this link, the library website.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. One photograph © M. Vincent 2018, used by kind permission.

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 3, 2018

The Road or the Wilderness? Olympic National Park

I’ve been writing about a recent trip to Port Angeles, Washington. There’s a drive we should make from there. From downtown on U.S. Route 101, we turn south on Race Street. We soon leave the city’s commercial area, pass through a modest residential zone into a more rural setting, the road lined with mixed deciduous/evergreen woods. We’re climbing, and five miles beyond the edge of town, we reach the entrance station of Olympic National Park.

The road’s now named Hurricane Ridge Road, and that’s where we’re headed: Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet elevation. As we ascend, the scenery looks promising.

Olympic view Brad Nixon 0292 640

19 miles from Route 101, about a 45-minute drive, we reach Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Hurricane Ridge Brad Nixon 0362 640

Let’s walk over to the railing and look south at the view:

Olympic range Brad Nixon 0293 640

That’s the Olympic Range. Those aren’t the tallest mountains many of you have seen. The tallest, Mt. Olympus, is 7,965 feet elevation. Partially covered year-’round in snow and glaciers, they have one distinguishing characteristic: They’re in a wilderness. There are no lodges, campgrounds or access roads. Beyond the viewpoint railing is, essentially, nothing but 20 miles of wilderness (straight line) between you and those distant peaks.

Olympic National Park is a marvelously diverse environment, and one of the most difficult to explore. From Hurricane Ridge, we see a rugged alpine world that gets some of the largest quantities of snow anywhere in the U.S., hence those large glaciers.

Just 15 miles of straight line distance west of Hurricane Ridge is the Sol Duc area of Olympic, a thick alpine forest with a different character.

Olympic NP Brad Nixon 7819 (640x480)

Then, if you drive two hours west and then south to Queets, where the park comes down to the Pacific coast, it’s not just a different area, but an entirely new climate: temperate rainforest. There, annual precipitation is about 150 inches per year, making it the wettest place in the continental U.S., covered with dense coniferous forest.

Olympic NP Brad Nixon 7701 (640x480)

At the coast itself, there are stretches of difficult-to-traverse wilderness beach, often strewn with driftwood and boulders. I haven’t been on those portions, but one can picture a wilder version of Ruby Beach, a little south of the park:

Ruby Beach Brad Nixon 7717 (640x476)

In the eastern portions of Olympic is yet another climate, determined by the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Range: still wilderness, but much drier, with harsh, craggy mountains bare of snow or glaciers.

Are We There, or Just Looking at It?

Olympic’s unlike many of America’s marquee national park destinations: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and the Utah canyons. There are no opportunities to drive through even a portion of it in the same way they offer, parking at convenient viewing spots enhanced with restrooms and interpretative signs.

Yes, those other parks have large wilderness areas beyond the roads, some of them far more extensive than most visitors ever realize. I’ve had the driving experiences through some of them. Glacier, in Montana, comes to mind. One drives across a southern portion of that park on the spectacular Going to the Sun Road, that affords views like this:

Glacier NP Bird Woman Falls Brad Nixon 2757 (640x480)

Even Alaska’s vast Denali offers one single route visitors can ride (unpaved, in National Park Service buses) 90 miles in to view at least some fraction of that immense landscape.

Denali NP Brad Nixon 009_13A (640x419)

Beyond that single road, the six million acres of Denali require wilderness hiking, period.

Denali NP Brad Nixon 1969 (640x405)

At just under a million acres (slightly smaller than Glacier), Olympic is no Denali, but it’s big, and the only way to see most of it is on foot: some of it requiring strenuous, multi-day trekking.

Pressure at the Contact Points

All you readers are travelers, most of you aficionados of the outdoors to some degree. You’re familiar with the burden we visitors, our vehicles, trash and sometimes heedless feet make on the wild lands the national parks are intended to protect. I’m confident you’ve all asked yourselves similar questions about the worth of going places to look at them without taking a step beyond the viewing area. Is “nature” becoming a spectator sport for 21st century people? Building roads, campgrounds, lodges and other facilities places enormous strain on wild environments and their flora and fauna.

The obvious response is to hit the trail. Nearly all the parks have numerous trails, and it would take a lifetime to explore even one of those parks thoroughly. Although there is no driving route far into — let alone through — Olympic, I’ve been a bit hyperbolic in suggesting it’s impenetrable wilderness. There are numerous trails throughout the park. One, Hurricane Hill Trail, isn’t far from the Visitor Center. It’s a moderate, excellent hike of a couple of hours, and the scenery rewards you at every step.

Olympic range Brad Nixon 0348 640

Within minutes, you’re there, in a way you can’t experience standing at the viewpoint with a hundred other visitors. On popular, close-in trails like Hurricane Hill, you’ll see other people, but suddenly they’re your fellow adventurers.

Hiking Olympic 0331 640

That experience is similar, and available nearly everywhere. I promise you, descend just a hundred feet below the rim of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail, and you will be IN the Grand Canyon, not just looking at it. The bustle of the parking lots, roads and lodges disappears. The jostling for selfies at the railing is forgotten. No restrooms, no trash cans, just the dust of the trail and the canyon all around. Carry your trash back with you. You may not make the trek to the river, a mile below, but you are there.

Olympic range pano Brad Nixon 350-351 640

I remember the experience of driving through the epic scenery of Glacier, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Chaco Culture and — just minutes outside Tucson — Saguaro. But in each one, it’s what I found off the road, on the trail, that stays with me. It’s not only vision: the smell of sagebrush or pine, or simply the sound: especially when the sound is silence. Even in daunting Denali, where I was unprepared to hike in a wilderness occupied by more grizzly bears than people, I at least walked part of a riverbed to put some distance between the road and me. There, it was the sound of cold water tumbling over rocks in a river as wild as the land.

Denali NP braided river Brad Nixon 1958 (640x458)

Spread the word. Park the car.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018

Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 1, 2018

Take Me to the Pilot … Boat

In a recent post about my visit to Port Angeles, Washington, I included a photograph of a Pilot boat.

Port Angeles Pilot Brad Nixon 0402 640

An attractive, official-looking craft. Just what does a pilot boat do? I’m glad you asked.

To answer, first, we need a harbor with some significant commercial activity. For this example, I’ll use a harbor for which I have more photos than Port Angeles: Los Angeles, California.

LA harbor Brad Nixon 0486 640

Moving in and out of busy harbors is marine traffic of many varieties. Our focus will be on large, oceangoing ships, on the scale of the ones in the photo above.

Piloting a vessel of that size is a specialized discipline requiring a great deal of training and expertise. Most of the ship’s time is spent getting from harbor A to harbor B across open ocean, safely, on time, with ship, crew and cargo intact. Perhaps there are moments when commanding a vessel weighing more than 70,000 tons is relatively straightforward, but there are a thousand adjunct matters relating to everything from basic navigation to managing crew schedules or dealing with maintenance issues, not to mention weather or contrary traffic.

Then, the ship reaches port, or more confined waters in a bay or inlet or even a river that lead to a port.

There, local navigation, currents, channels, signals and even language for communicating with other watercraft and facilities become an issue. How does the captain of ship from another country deal with the myriad unique complexities of each port the ship visits? Every port has specific rules, and arrivals and departures of marine traffic are tightly controlled, similar to air traffic control around airports.

Consider this photo of the petroleum tanker Mississippi Voyager in the main channel of the Port of Los Angeles.

Tanker tug Brad Nixon 2874 640

L.A.’s main channel is a quarter mile wide, but the 283 meter-long Voyager itself is 32 meters (100 feet) across, not to mention the tugboat beside it. There’s no room in the channel for it to pass a ship coming in the opposite direction. Nothing moves in the port until it’s cleared by the port’s traffic manager. There are exacting protocols for arrival, docking and how the ship’s passage from ocean to port to channel to pier progresses.

The Voyager is accompanied by at least two tugboats (one out of sight, aft). Are the tugs guiding the ship and following directions from the port manager? Nope. There’s an official L.A. port pilot up on that control deck. He or she is temporarily in charge of the Voyager. It’s that pilot’s responsibility to manage the transit of huge craft like Voyager through the port. That practice is common in ports worldwide.

For inbound ships, the pilot is carried out to the ship before it starts into the port, and remains in command until the boat’s moored at its berth. That’s the reason we saw that pilot boat in Port Angeles harbor: to get pilots to incoming or off outgoing commercial craft passing through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to and from the Puget Sound region.

Port Angeles Pilot Brad Nixon 0406 640

Puget Sound Pilots are responsible for guiding ships to and from ports across an enormous area, and they’re coordinated from an office in Seattle, near Pike’s Place Market. But they may be called to pilot ships bound for or leaving not only Seattle, but Tacoma, Everett or any number of other Puget Sound ports. That Pilot station at Port Angeles is the point at which pilots join incoming ships or disembark from departing ones.

Here’s the Strait seen from the station’s position, looking across the 20 miles of water to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Strait Juan de Fuca Brad Nixon 0382 640

Incoming ships from the Pacific Ocean slow to between 8 and 10 knots near Port Angeles out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The pilot boat carries the pilot out to meet the vessel. Once alongside, the pilot boards the ship by climbing a rope ladder — known as a Jacob’s Ladder — up the side of the ship. That’s right. Take a look at the Voyager or the container ships in the previous photo. Yep, part of the job is climbing up to the deck while the ship is moving.

For ships leaving Puget Sound for the ocean, the pilot disembarks the same way, off Port Angeles, and the pilot boat ferries him or her back to the station.

Onboard Operations

As you can imagine, pilots don’t physically grab the tiller and operate the vessels. The ship’s own captain and crew keep doing their jobs. The pilot serves as an expert navigation and communications guide and has ultimate authority. Here is how the Puget Sound Pilots website describes the work:

The process begins when the pilot gets a call to report to a vessel, usually within a few hours of the ship’s departure or arrival. The pilot gathers pertinent information about the ship and its destination from the Puget Sound Pilots’ computer database, checks tides and currents, and plans all aspects of the trip.

The pilot is in charge of the navigation of the ship and directs the actions of the crew and support vessels [i.e. tugboats, etc.] until the ship safely reaches its destination.

During transit, the pilot conducts the ship’s progress, directs the vessel’s route around any impediments, communicates with other marine traffic and the Coast Guard and monitors the vessel’s navigation and communication equipment. 

Note that practices can vary in different ports. But if you’re visiting a harbor and see a big commercial vessel making way, there’s probably a harbor pilot aboard. And they climbed that Jacob’s Ladder!

For a brief description of a day in the life of a Puget Sound Pilot, I encourage you to click on the link for the Peninsula Daily News, below. The work requires not only skill and training, but extremely sharp judgment and decision-making ability and an acumen for command.

Photographed this very evening, there goes the Kota Cantik, 300 meters long, 76,000 tons, loaded with containers, leaving the Port of L.A. en route to Oakland, California.

Kota Cantik Brad Nixon 0508 640

Pilot’s aboard until she clears Angel’s Gate, the mouth of the harbor.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Quotation and other facts collected from the Puget Sound Pilots website,, July 31, 2018. Additional information courtesy Peninsula Daily News (Port Angeles, Washington) article dated April 1, 2018 at this link, retrieved July 31, 2018.

Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 30, 2018

Ferry ‘Cross the …Fuca?

From time to time, I write about the Port of Los Angeles, which is near my house. It’s an endlessly fascinating place.

Tug Veteran Brad Nixon 1816 sm

Recently I had an opportunity to see a much different port with a similar name: Port Angeles, Washington.

PA view Brad Nixon 0375 640

Just to clarify the nomenclature, early Spanish settlers named our California city El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula in 1781. That settlement was inland, site of today’s downtown Los Angeles. Ten years later, another Spaniard, Francisco de Eliza, showed more restraint in naming the harbor he encountered Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, leaving out the royal title, and a port from the outset. Both places refer to the same woman, but it’s relatively easy to keep them sorted out.

With a natural deep water harbor (superior in that regard to L.A.’s), and situated along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles is the first deep water port ships encounter as they move from the Pacific Ocean into the immense Puget Sound area. That includes numerous other harbors: Seattle, Bremerton, Port Townsend and Tacoma, Washington; and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, to name only a few.

While immense container ships and, to a lesser degree, petroleum tankers constitute the largest amount of freight moving in and out of L.A., Port Angeles is the shipping point for timber and wood products, some petroleum and fishing, but also repair and outfitting services, as I described recently. I saw the 286 meter-long Alaskan Navigator out of Portland, Oregon moored there, for exactly that purpose.

Alaskan Navigator Brad Nixon 0252 640

The size of Port Angeles harbor is impressive, although the scale of the commercial operations is dwarfed by that of L.A. Still, there are plenty of commonalities. There’s a private boat marina, occasionally boasting a mega-yacht, tugboats, cruise ships and a large U.S. Coast Guard station at both places. Here’s the Washington installation.

Port Angeles CG Brad Nixon 0258 640

Both points are also termini for travel to and from destinations that lie about 20 miles across the water. In California, the port of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island is a popular tourist spot, although the Catalina boats also serve the approximately 4,000 people who live on the island. There are no cars or trucks on Catalina, so those are strictly passenger craft.

About the same distance from Port Angeles is a much larger port town: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Victoria is on Vancouver Island, and must be reached by water or air; there are no bridges. As a result, a large ferry carries passengers and vehicles — including full sized semi-tractor trailers on a 90-minute trip between the cities several times a day.

MV Coho Brad Nixon 0264 640

That’s M.V. Coho (M.V. stands for “marine vessel”).

Ferries are a significantly important form of transportation everywhere in the world, on every continent, crossing rivers, lakes and an untold variety of bays, inlets and other bodies of water. For many people — probably tens or hundreds of thousands — they’re a part of everyday existence. They can be intimately small …

Venice traghetto Brad Nixon 6341 (640x480)

… or ships of daunting scale. The world’s largest ferry in terms of gross tonnage, Color Magic, is 224 meters long and can carry 2,700 passengers and 75,000 tons. It crosses the Baltic Sea from Oslo, Norway to Kiel, Germany.

M.V. Coho falls in between at 341 feet long, 72 feet wide, with capacity for 1,000 passengers and 110 vehicles.

MV Coho Brad Nixon 0261 640

If you’ve never driven your vehicle onto a ferry, the procedure looks something like this:

MV Coho Brad Nixon 0256 640

While many vehicle ferries are built to allow loading from both ends, meaning you drive straight on, then straight off, M.V. Coho loads and unloads only from the stern. That requires turning the ship to dock, as well as reversing vehicles to disembark. M.V. Coho‘s been in service since 1959.

Sailing on MV Coho

To plan your trip between Port Angeles and Victoria, consult the ferry’s website for sailing times, ticket prices, reservations and directions. It’s my understanding that one can typically show up without a reservation if you’re a foot passenger. If you’re driving, cost will vary by vehicle size and number of passengers. It’s usually advisable to have a reservation. If you have a ticket but no reservation and no unreserved spots are available, you’ll be on a standby list, and may have to wait for the next sailing, which could be four hours, or even the next day.

Vehicles should plan to arrive no later than 30 minutes ahead of sailing time in order to exercise their reservations, and one hour in advance is recommended. Once parked on board, you’re expected to leave your vehicle and occupy the passenger decks, which is better, in any case. There’s a view, food and beverages are available. There’s even a duty-free store that’ open for the quarter-hour or so the ship’s in international waters.

Note that whether on foot or driving, you’ll be crossing an international border, and should be prepared with the appropriate documentation and expect to pass through customs and immigration protocols.

Or Swim?

Looking across the Strait at Victoria, the city barely visible at the waterline, I had to wonder if anyone has swum between the two ports. Yes. A relatively small number of ultra-distance swimmers have managed it, taking between 10-12 hours, depending on conditions. In fact, as I write, a Canadian woman is preparing to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles … and then turn immediately around and swim back! It’s never been attempted. She intends to start on August 1. Here’s the story.

Have a favorite ferry crossing? I HOPE someone’s taken that ferry ‘cross the Mersey.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018

Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 28, 2018

Two Spits in the Ocean: Ediz and Dungeness, Washington

If one ever gets enough of rugged, storm-tossed seashores, I’ve never heard of it happening.

Ediz Hook Brad Nixon 0383 640

That particular example is on Ediz Hook, a three-mile arm of land that separates the deep water harbor of Port Angeles, Washington from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

While many such sand spits around the world have been formed by the action of currents and variations in the depth of the sea bottom, Ediz Hook got its start as a glacial moraine, and some of those rocks were deposited not by wave action but glacial ice. On top of it, the eastward flow of water through the Strait deposited sediment from the Elwha River, establishing Ediz Hook.

Seen from Port Angeles across almost two miles of harbor, it looks like this.

Port Angeles CG Brad Nixon 0258 640

That’s a U.S. Coast Guard Station, which occupies the eastern end of Ediz Hook, closest to the opening into the Strait. Port Angeles has the nearest deep water port to the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the port is a major employer in the city. The marine terminals handle a variety of forest and petroleum products, but another important role is repair and outfitting services, which is what brought the 289-meter long Alaskan Navigator there.

Alaskan Navigator Brad Nixon 0252 640

Port Angeles is also the terminal for the M.V. Coho ferry, which sails several times a day to Victoria, British Columbia, a 90-minute trip.

MV Coho Brad Nixon 0264 640

From out on Ediz Hook, though, even significantly large man-made things shrink to insignificance when seen at the foot of the Olympic mountain range, towering to the south.

PA view Brad Nixon 0375 640

M.V. Coho is moored at lower right.

On a clear day, which we were fortunate to have, the buildings of Victoria are visible across approximately 20 miles of water. Look to the northeast, even farther, and you may get a glimpse of 10,781-foot Mt. Baker, about 112 miles away.

Mt Baker Brad Nixon 0262 640

The Spit to the East

Only a dozen miles to the east is another, larger spit, the largest natural sand spit in the United States: Dungeness Spit.

Dungeness Spit 0423 640

The 6.8 mile spit encloses Dungeness Harbor. It’s not a major port, but you may know the name Dungeness after the (delicious) species of crab that takes its name from the place.

Dungeness Spit is narrow and low in the water. Unlike Ediz Hook, it isn’t aggressively maintained or protected, nor does it have a roadway, as Ediz does. Hikers who set out to walk its length can find themselves in precarious circumstances if they haven’t paid attention to the tide schedule.

Dungeness spit 0431 640

Here’s the view to the west, back toward Port Angeles, the Olympic range looming above.

Dungeness west 0427 640

Our knowledgeable local friend and guide made certain we checked the tide tables before we set out, advising us against the circumstance of having to make our way back by hopping from one large driftwood log to the next, surrounded by extremely cold water.

Depending on the tide, you may have a relatively easy or a rugged, rocky walk. If you reach the end (which we didn’t attempt), you’re at New Dungeness Lighthouse. Beyond it in the photo, another hazy glimpse of Mount Baker.

Dungeness Light 0425 640

That arm of land in front of the lighthouse is a secondary spit that branches off.

Dungeness Spit is enclosed within Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

Need a Ride to the Lighthouse?

If you’re extra-keen on lighthouses, you can arrange to spend a week as a lighthouse keeper at Dungeness. The lighthouse accommodates up to eight people. You pay for the privilege and have duties that include raising and lowering the flag, watering the grass, and — of course! — polishing the brass. Click here to visit the Lighthouse Keeper Program information. Oh yes, they transport you to the lighthouse in a four wheel drive vehicle.

Visiting Ediz Hook and Dungeness Spit

You can drive along most of Ediz Hook as far as the gates of the Coast Guard station. To reach it, drive west along any of the streets near the harbor in Port Angeles and continue on Marine Drive. Marine Drive gets narrow and bumpy, passing a large paper mill. Mind the speed limit. Marine becomes Ediz Hook Rd. There is no admission, and there is free parking at a number of spots, as well as a boat ramp out near the Coast Guard station. That’s also where you’ll see the operations of the Port Angeles and Puget Sound Pilot Boats.

Pilot boat Brad Nixon 0404 640

The most direct route to Dungeness Spit is to leave U.S. Route 101 at Kitchen-Dick Road a few miles west of Sequim (pronounced skwim). Drive north about three miles, and Kitchen-Dick bends right to become Lotzgesell Rd. Almost immediately you’ll see a sign to turn left to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge on Voice of America Road. Continue into the refuge past several camping areas and park (free). There’s a $3 fee that covers groups of up to 4 people. It’s an easy half-mile walk along a paved path through dense forest, then a walk down to sea level, past a couple of stunning views at lookout points. Once you’re on the spit, you’re on your own. There are restrooms and interpretive information at the trailhead.

Ediz Dungeness map Google 640

Have a favorite spit of your own? No one ever gets enough dramatic ocean views. Leave a comment.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018

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