New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge

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How did I not hear about the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge until late 2018?  This is the kind of challenge that I love. And I somehow missed this event for several years.  But once I discovered it – I was hooked.

The Lighthouse Challenge is an event held yearly on a designated weekend.  The challenge is to visit every lighthouse on the challenge list – and to acquire proof of your visit by getting a collectible at each location.  I have read that every year the collectible is different.

Schedule Conflict – Oh no!

When I learned of the challenge, it was too late to prevent a schedule conflict with another event.  I was already attending a Metro Gathering Geocaching event at the Waterloo Village.

I didn’t think we could do both events in the same weekend, so I planned to skip this year\’s challenge. But I was curious to see what this challenge was all about so we decided to visit Sandy Hook Lighthouse early Sunday morning.  And that was how my craziest Sunday started. So innocent and unprepared for the challenge ahead!

When we arrived, we found the lighthouse relatively busy with people visiting and buying their challenge souvenir.  Bells and whistles occasionally erupted – celebrating the completion of the challenge by guests who arrived to get their last and final lighthouse collectible.  

I already decided I would be doing this challenge in 2019, but I still wanted to do research and gather information now.  So we asked one of the volunteers about the challenge and to share details. She asked if we were playing this year, an I confirmed we were not since we didn’t get a full weekend to complete the list. I lamented we only had one free day. I still offered to buy the deck of cards to support the fundraising goals for the lighthouses.

Wait. In one day?

\"Atlantic

A very friendly volunteer (Sorry I didn’t note your name, friend!) told me that it was possible to do the challenge in one day.  Well! That changes thing, doesn’t it?  She sealed my fate.  She suggested we could finish the challenge in one day if we didn’t climb the lighthouses and focused only on getting the souvenir. 

As I purchased the deck of cards, she explained that the purchased deck was incomplete. In order to get all 52 cards, we had to visit every lighthouse listed on the challenge and collect the unique card associated for each lighthouse.  By doing this, we would proudly claim a complete set of game cards in our possession.

This is ridiculous. But so are we.

My sister and I exchanged glances.  Could we possibly make this happen in a single day?  It seemed impossible, especially considering two lighthouses were on the opposite coastline of NJ. But I had to head in that direction in order to go home – so maybe?  MAYBE?

With very mischievous grins my sister and I bolted to the car and started our ridiculous attempt to complete the challenge in a single day.  

It was madness! It was certain failure!  I was lamenting that we didn’t start earlier.  I mean – this was never going to work. But we were certainly going to try!  

My sister nodded and got busy, figuring out the best routes to the lighthouses using the Challenge map and her smartphone. While she researched, I started driving to the Twin Lights Lighthouse that was right over the bridge and visible from Gateway National Recreation Park. It was obviously the nearest lighthouse  We acquired our Twin Lights card, and then hopped in the car again, skipping the museum and lighthouse climb.

Co-Pilot planning

While I drove, my sister co-piloted for me.  I assure everyone that we drove safely and obeyed the speed limits – but I felt like we were running around New Jersey like wild women with our hair on fire trying to make every lighthouse on our list.  Thankfully many of the Challenge locations were near to one another and the traffic was light on a chilly October Sunday.

As newbies to this Challenge, we would arrive and park the car and try to get our bearings and figure out what to do next. Then we would find ourselves out flanked by experienced Challengers who knew exactly where to go and what to do.   They were an asset to our goals. If we arrived at a location in which we were not certain where to go – other groups would arrive and unknowingly lead us to the challenge locations. They saved us time at several sites in which the location for the challenge was not in the lighthouse, but an accompanying building. Follow those crowds!  

Military precision

\"Sea-Girt-Lighthouse\"

The experienced groups had a pattern:  A car would pull in and everyone would spill out of the vehicle.  There was no stragglers in these teams, they operated in unison.  They would gather behind the lighthouse sign and take their group photo. Once the photo was taken, they would stream single-file into the facility with their Challenge deck of cards  in hand.  As each got their card, each person then made their way to the lighthouse steps and queued up to climb the lighthouse tower. 

These groups didn’t stop to ask questions. They didn\’t discuss who would take the photo. There was no hesitation. It was like a military maneuver. Everyone knew their job and instantly went to do it.  It was amazing to watch.  

Step aside, noobs! The professional Lighthouse Challengers are here! And we amateurs took notes and lessons for the 2019 Challenge. 

So many museums!

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The only downside to this experience was curtailing my curiosity and desire to explore the museums and information found at every site.  We were so limited in time that I couldn’t soak up the details and history of the locations, some of which I had never visited before.  That was difficult for me.

Sometimes I was relieved to see a short line of individuals waiting to get their challenge souvenir, and I would quickly wander the location and snap a picture or two while my sister waited in line.  

Once we completed the Atlantic City region lighthouses, our challenge solution got a bit complicated. We had to focus on the lighthouses closing first.  We ended up visiting the lighthouses out-of-driving-order, but taking advantage of later-than-usual closing times and night climbs scheduled at different locations.

Phew!  It was hard work and I certainly added miles to Nimbus’ odometer, but we did it. We completed the lighthouse challenge in 2018!

2018 Lighthouse Challenge Complete!

I must say, I’m rather proud of our completed deck of cards. They will bring us memories when we think about the crazy Sunday we spent driving all over the state of New Jersey, beating the clock to a successful Lighthouse Challenge.  

Now that I know about this event, I can better plan my 2019 Lighthouse Challenge weekend. And get to the gym and work on the stair machine so I can run up those lighthouse towers!