There is something to be said for walking the path of history. Walking on the same ground that others came before you. I always like to try to include some history on our vacations. Mainly because I am a big history nerd. This vacation we visited Old Cape Henry in Virginia Beach.
Cape Henry is just a few miles from our hotel in Virginia Beach. I don't know why but I have a thing for lighthouses, they fascinate me. I went for the lighthouse, but left with the history. Let me say that I am impressed. To get to Old Cape Henry you have to travel on to the Fort Story military base. We pulled up to the guard posts and had Christopher had to show his driver's license and proof of insurance (I get the driver's license but the proof of insurance baffles me). Stoney faced young men dressed in blue and grey camouflage signaled us through.
Cape Henry is the first light house built in the "United States of America". When I say that I mean that it was the first one built after the United States won their war of independence. It was authorized by George Washington himself and overseen by Alexander Hamilton. George Washington stood where we stood. He hand picked the first lighthouse keeper. For almost one hundred years it kept the boats on the Chesapeake Bay safe.
The admission to climb the lighthouse was $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for those 12 and under. I was not so certain that I would indeed climb said lighthouse stairs, but the money goes to the preservation of this beautiful heritage site. As we climbed what seemed like the thousand stairs to get to the lighthouse, my legs were burning. Half way up as I clung to the metal railing I decided that I would most likely not be climbing up to the top of that lighthouse. I am both afraid of heights and of small spaces, and I was pretty sure that Cape Henry had both.
Christopher took the kids up to the top. I stayed at the bottom. I was serenaded by a mockingbird. I have always wanted to see a mocking bird and this trip afforded me both hearing and seeing one. It's song was beautiful. I sat in the warmth of the sun looking down at the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. As I sat there occasionally I heard the rat a tat tat of machine guns, reminding me that I was on a military base. Surprisingly it did not detract from the beauty around me. I sat there, basking in the beauty and thinking about the sights that this lighthouse had seen. It saw a new country formed, and it saw brother fight with brother during the civil war. It bore witness to those freed slaves gain the same rights as those who were once their masters. There it stood it's vigil, lighting the way through the darkness.
In 1881 the "new Cape Henry" was built. The Old Cape Henry lighthouse was deemed unsafe, cracks were appearing in it's brick work. There it still stands atop it's hill of sand. The new lighthouse (although it seems funny saying that something that has been in operation since 1881 is "new") is still used by the military. It still lights the way for the ships on the Chesapeake Bay.