Every year during late September, the Chesapeake Chapter of the US Lighthouse Society conducts it’s annual Lighthouse Challenge weekend. In the span of two days, you are challenged to visit a dozen locations. During this challenge weekend, you are invited to partake in special boat tours, visitation hours, and encouraged to participate in exploring Maryland’s stunning scenery and amazing heritage and history.
The 2019 challenge included 11 lighthouses and 1 lightship, with some bonus locations available for the extra adventurous. The 2019 challenge was my first attempt at the Maryland Lighthouse challenge. What an amazing opportunity to spend a weekend with fellow adventurers exploring Maryland, her lighthouses, parks, and lovely waterfront townships.
The mission, if you chose to accept Maryland’s Lighthouse Challenge, is to visit a predetermined list of lighthouses located across the state of Maryland – in the span of two days. A weekend warrior challenge, if you will! You should have a sense of adventure, be a natural explorer, and enjoy amazing scenery, local beauty, discovering new places, and getting outdoors. If you chose to accept this Maryland Lighthouse Challenge mission – you are in for an amazing weekend! Can you successfully complete the Lighthouse Challenge?
Schedule Conflict – Naturally
Of course I managed to have a schedule conflict this weekend. I couldn’t pass on an opportunity to attend a Photography event at Lukens Steel Mill factory. Because I had never participated in the MD Lighthouse Challenge before I was genuinely unsure if delaying the start of my challenge would prevent me from completing the entire list. But I was willing to risk it. So after spending several hours at the factory and capturing a few amazing images, I hopped in my mighty Nimbus (my trusty, old car), and headed out to Havre de Grace, Maryland for the first lighthouse: Concord Point.
Concord (Starting) Point
I arrived at Concord Point in the early afternoon hours. The location was calm, and I think that is due that most northern challengers had already visited this spot and moved further south hours ago. There were several families out strolling the grounds, waiting in line to climb the lighthouse, and generally enjoying an amazing weekend. It was unnervingly quiet – I knew I was very late starting this weekend challenge. But I was thrilled to begin!
Each year the Challenge provides a token of some kind for each of the challenge locations. The 2019 Challenge tokens were small cardboard “coins” that you collected at every lighthouse visited during the challenge. When you visited all of the lighthouses on the list, you complete the challenge at your last lighthouse and claim the 2019 Challenge prize. This year’s token was a round or square (your choice!) card – similar to a baseball card concept – for a lighthouse. The two-sided coin had a beautiful artist-drawing of the lighthouse, with details about the lighthouse on the back of the coin.
I entered the visitor’s center and found the Challenge volunteers manning their tables. This event is a great way to raise awareness of the historical significance and importance of these lighthouses, and to help raise funds for repairs and maintenance of the lighthouses. I made sure to buy my challenge t-shirt and purchased some small items that were on sale. I made a monetary donation at every lighthouse I visited this weekend, in a small effort to help cover the funds of the event and contribute to the lighthouses as well.
Any donation amount will go a long way to keeping these beautiful places open for future generations to enjoy and explore. If you wish to help preserve these places, please consider contributing to Chesapeake Chapter H.E.L.P. Fund.
With my Lighthouse Challenge T-shirt in hand, and my first token coin collected, the challenge had begun. And the clock was ticking. I was trying to complete the northern lighthouses and the eastern lighthouses in one day. The western-sided lighthouse locations were spanning a greater distance, and I saved that region for Sunday’s driving.
There are two challenge locations in the heart of Baltimore harbor. This proved a bit challenging, as I had to find and pay for parking. But once I parked, I walked over to the lighthouse and then the lightship with relative ease. If I wasn’t in such a rush due to starting late, I would have spent more time in Baltimore. Instead, I got right back in the car and headed to the eastern side of Maryland. I wanted to finish one complete side of the challenge list before the 6pm deadline.
The final lighthouse of the day was Choptank River Lighthouse. It is a stunningly beautiful structure. I then relaxed and found a cozy restaurant nearby and settled in for a well deserved hot meal. I found a hotel on the western side of the bay, so that I could cut back on the driving on Sunday.
Discovering New Places
Sunday I awoke pre-dawn and started my driving early. I decided to tackle the lighthouse nearest Washington, DC, and then work my way backwards swooping along the southern region and then heading north for the final challenge locations.
I wasn’t planning on waking up so early, but I was very grateful I did. Sunday’s sunrise was so stunning that I had to pull off the road and get out to enjoy it. The colors and brilliance of this dawn is hard to convey in words. I stumbled upon a body of water and I pulled over to try and capture the scenery. Sadly the trees blocked the best of the sunrise, but the colors and glowing skies were like an artists painting.
Fort Washington National Park
As I drove to the western-most lighthouse, I was excited to see a large swath of green on my GPS map. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I thought I might enjoy an early morning photograph opportunity at a lovely park. It was still quite early, so I could relax and enjoy my day.
I accidentally stumbled upon a large National Park with a massive fort built on a hill. I blinked. There’s a National Park here? And there’s a MASSIVE fort also here? I. Had. No. Idea.
I was so thrilled to find this fort! I’m not sure how this little gem slipped through my National Park visitation list. I simply didn’t know about it, which I happened to comment to the park ranger on site. She agreed that somehow this site doesn’t seem to be as well known as other locations. Perhaps it is simply drowned out by the abundant and heavily promoted national sites located just across the river?
I happily added the national park stamp to my travel journal book. This trip was definitely a two-fer for me. 🙂
President of ChesLights.org
I arrived before the Challenge was technically open. So I strolled the grounds, soaked up the scenery, and snapped a few photos. It is a beautiful place and worth a visit at any time.
While I was meandering around, I met a women who was setting up her tables in preparation for the crazy challenge participants who would be arriving soon. Or, like me, who where already there staring at her waiting for the lighthouse stamps and challenge coins to become available before I could dash off to the next location. 🤓
However, I noticed her pants were custom made with lighthouses all over the material. I loved it! There’s someone who is getting into the spirit of the event. So we started to talk, and I discovered this kind woman was named Cory and she was the current President of the ChesLights organization. Did I just meet a lighthouse celebrity? Haha
She shared that her very talented daughter had created her a full-fledged lighthouse suit. So she tossed on her full suit (and hat!) and posed for a photograph in front of the lighthouse. Cory and her friendly dog were so lovely and charming! She shared details about the organizations efforts to restore the lighthouses. She had a large banner printed showing the work that they themselves did to restore a lighthouses’ hardwood floors. The volunteers at the table shared so much history with me (I wish I remembered more of the details), about the lighthouse, about the fort, about what was here before and when it was replaced with the present structure. It is easy to recognize the passion are care that these volunteers have towards Maryland’s history. My proverbial hat is off to you ladies!
I had visited several sites in Maryland over the years, but I had not visited the deep southern regions of Maryland. I will definitely have to return. There are locations here that are worth visiting again, Civil War and the War of 1812. Adorable small-town USA towns crowded with tourists, shops, and restaurants. There were parks and historical placed that I want to explore on non-challenge weekends.
We all know there will be future trips to southern Maryland, right?
Maryland’s Plymouth Rock
Blackistone Island and Lighthouse
I think my favorite Lighthouse adventure was visiting Blackistone Lighthouse. St. Clements Island is the first landing of Maryland colonist. It seems this is where Maryland began.
To visit St. Clements island you take a small boat from the mainland to the small jetty attached to St. Clements. As you ride over, there is a moment when you have a perfect view of the lighthouse (and the surrounding house), and the large cross that marks that appears on the island. A wiki lookup states that the cross indicates the freedom of religion on the United States. It seems and odd symbol for religious freedom – or religious tolerance. It seems to be a mixed message: celebrating religious tolerance by displaying one religion’s symbolism. This cross was erected in 1934 to commemorate Maryland’s 300th anniversary, and marking the location as one of the foundation locations of religious toleration.
If you look closely, the lighthouse is inside of the house. There is a lighthouse jutting up in the middle of that beautiful home. And when you enter the front door of the house, you are facing the doorway leading to the tower. If you take the spiral staircase up one level, you’ll be on the second floor of the house and will still have a lighthouse tower in the middle of the room! It is SO WEIRD. I LOVE IT!
Although this is a replica, I’m deeply grateful that this lighthouse-inside-a-house was here for me to visit and appreciate.
I was very pleased to complete my challenge on Sunday and proudly claimed the final challenge coin – and my prize! A lovely 2020 lighthouse calendar. Which I genuinely will use with a sense of pride. Yep, I earned that calendar!
And I have so many mental lists of places that I would like to return. Maryland has so much beauty to explore further.
Thank you ChesLights! It was a great event, and I look forward to doing it again.
Hi, I’m Patti. I work in the IT field and my favorite thing to do is reboot stuff. (Muahahaha!)
I love exploring the United States and luckily I enjoy driving. Which is a good thing since it would be hard to explore if I had to walk everywhere. I am usually exploring the states on a tight budget with limited vacation time. I try to make the most of my free time, and I may have a trick or two up my sleeve.
I’m a weird mix of over-planner and free-spirit wanderer. There’s no in between. I see weekends as play-time. Laundry is for Wednesday nights and dusting is never on my to-do list.
I love museums, learning new things, and just letting my curiosity take me to my next discovery.
To discover more about me, check out my About Me page.