Welp… Jen got me again! After a full weekend of cold weather, a karaoke takeover for Jen’s birthday, Jen’s friends visiting from Wisconsin, and music bingo, I was looking forward to a relaxing few hours of not having to be anywhere. Boy was I wrong! Jen’s friend Dawn decided to surprise us all with a private tour of the Oak Island Lighthouse on Monday morning. How kind….
While I’ve always wanted to check out the lighthouse, I wasn’t sure if I felt up to it but I didn’t want to miss out on an amazing Jen and Dave photo op (as seen above). Following a bit of internal debating, I figured “hey, why not? It won’t take long and it will be fun to do this with some new friends.”
The day was bright, sunny, which was a nice change from the ice storm we suffered over the previous few days, so the idea of climbing 153 ft on a clear day didn’t seem so terrible. The drive down Caswell beach was lovely with the Atlantic on one side and the lighthouse straight ahead. Upon arriving at the lighthouse I was happy to find plenty of parking and a group of cold but excited people ready to embark on the climb.
After we donned masks and paid the suggested $5 donation, we gathered around the entrance where we were greeted by Harry. Harry is one of the several knowledgeable Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse volunteers who perpetually help visitors safely schlep up and back from the top while pointing out sights on the island that can only be seen from the windows of the lighthouse. He gave us a quick history lesson about the landmark and explained that unlike most lighthouses, The Oak Island Lighthouse “stairs” are actually a series of ship ladders connected by small platforms. Oh dear….
As I scanned our group, looking at their eyes over their masks, I could tell the mood had changed from anxious excitement to nervous anticipation.
We entered the base of the lighthouse and climbed the first and only set of real stairs. Twelve cement stairs leading to the second level where you can look straight up through the building’s interior. Our guide had us all stop and showed us a few historical objects and explained how they get the different flashing patterns for each of the lighthouses that dot the coast. While Harry educated us, the nervous shifting from a few in the group became noticeable. Harry assured us all that it is safe to climb as long as we follow basic safety rules. He also made it clear that if at any time we didn’t want to continue, that one of the volunteers would assist us in getting back to ground level.
I could tell Jen was a little nervous as were two of her friends but I was anxious to start climbing. Once we were given the go-ahead, we began our ascent. At the first platform, it was clear that nerves were getting the best of some of our group and they had to sit down. The rest of us continued climbing knowing that our friends would be able to easily return to the bottom. Since the climbing ultimately continues in single file, it is difficult to know who is still in line.
After what seemed like an eternity and a boot camp for my butt, I reached what I thought was the top with two others from our group.
We were then given the opportunity to climb an additional ladder and head into the actual lightroom. As we headed up the last ladder I was wondering how Jen was lagging so far behind. I hadn’t heard her voice in a while but I just figured that she was focused on safely getting to the top. I would soon be corrected.
The view from the top of the lighthouse is incredible. We were able to see what looked the whole of Oak Island as well as miles out into the Atlantic. I took a few photos with my friends as I waited patiently for Jen to reach the top. I waited. And waited. And waited.
I thought something must be holding her up or that she just didn’t make it up the last ladder so we climbed down to the balcony level. We were allowed to step out onto the narrow bit of concrete that wraps the building and take in the sweeping view. That part was incredible.
What was not incredible was looking down. Oh not for a fear of falling or any kind of acrophobia, but because I see Jen on the ground looking back up at me and waving from across the street!
I knew that there had been a bit of trepidation at the beginning but I was certain that Jen would not have sent me on this adventure if she wasn’t planning on getting a Jen and Dave selfie from the top!
So here I am standing on the veranda enjoying the view all the while cursing Jen for stealing my few hours of rest because she promised that it would make for a great addition to the Jen and Dave Go To section. At least we were high enough that she couldn’t hear the many colorful names that I bestowed upon her. I ended up getting some great shots with the only other two people who made it all the way to the top and we bonded over how we had clearly been scammed.
The descent went relatively smoothly with one of the climbers REALLY taking her time. Luckily I was able to pass Dawn on the platform and fueled by irritation and deceit, I flew down the ladders.
When I reached the bottom Jen sheepishly greeted me with some nonsense of how she had to stay with a friend who was too scared to make the trip to the top. Sure….
Not wanting to make a scene in front of Jen’s friends, we proceeded to pose for photos and take our obligatory selfie from the ground.
Ultimately I am grateful to Dawn who surprised us with the opportunity to experience this piece of Brunswick County history. I also learned that in the future, if I sense any hesitation from Jen, that I need her to go first. Otherwise I may end up in a shark cage while Jen chums the waters and snaps pics from the safety of a boat.