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Picture Perfect Moments

Cabrillo National Monument is at the edge of San Diego. It sits in the Point Loma ecological reserve and offers picture perfect moments everywhere you look.

We visit the monument often to take in the panoramic vista of the bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, to see the mighty expanses of kelp floating right under the surface of the water, to hike while soaking in the sun and to experience a brief moment of what life was like for the keeper of the lighthouse on the site.

As we have come to expect, the history of this region is broken into two eras: before and after European contact.

The prehistoric Shell Midden people lived here from 8000BCE to 1000CE. The Kumeyaay people migrated from the east into this area around 1000CE. They spoke two languages and spread across what is now known as Pacific Beach, Sorrento Valley, Mission Valley, San Clemente Valley and Tijuana River Valley.

Kumeyaay life was uninterrupted until 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived from Navidad, Mexico to the San Diego bay. Cabrillo was the first European to arrive on the west coast of North America. Although Cabrillo did not establish a Spanish colony, his journey provided rich information for future explorers. Cabrillo’s records showed how to navigate the wide and slow currents from north to south along the Pacific coast of North America. He also left accounts of the difficulties of sailing south to north.

In 1602 Sebastián Vizcqaino sailed here to foster trade. It took another 167 years for Gasper de Portolá to establish a colony in San Diego - starting with the the Presidio. Along with Junipero Serra, the famous Franciscan friar, Portolá established the first Catholic mission and by 1774 a thriving Spanish colony was in motion. Subsequently California split into the Alta and Baja parts of the peninsula. Fast forward through the spread of Christianity, the Mexican-American war, westward expansion and before we know it, the Native Americans are relegated to reservations and the rest of the world has moved in. Being here is a lesson in humility for the good and madness humans are capable of.

The views from the monument side of the park are stunning. Up the hill towards the Pacific side is the lighthouse keeper's cottage, the assistant keeper's one-room abode, an amazing kitchen garden and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The original lighthouse is on top of a hill. It's a two-story house with the light tower rising above. The house contains a parlor which served as the lightkeeper's office, a kitchen, a bedroom for the adults and one for the kids. In front is a catchment area for storing rainwater. To the left is the assistant keeper's house.

Behind the assistant keeper’s home is a spectacular kitchen garden with the largest Swiss chard plants I have ever seen and spring onions taller than a toddler. There are plenty of pea, broccoli, rosemary and flowering plants too, all maintained by the park staff. Here’s a model for the garden I am not capable of ever imagining or nurturing!

As we walk behind the kitchen garden, the Pacific Ocean opens up and boggles my mind. Green waters close in, blue water far away, no land mass in site, cliffs and tide pools on the shoreline. Dotted with sail boats and aircraft carriers, the ocean reaffirms our insignificance in the grand scheme of Mother Nature.

Due to the elevation and location, Point Loma is prone to fog which isn’t particularly useful for a lighthouse. For this reason, the light house keeper moved to a new building at the base of the cliff in 1891.

I would happily live in isolation every single day for this view. Wouldn’t you?


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