A group of 14 Santa Ynez Valley residents recently visited the historic Piedras Blancas Lighthouse near Cambria as part of a collaboration between the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art and Wildling Museum of Solvang, as well as the Buellton and Solvang parks and recreation departments.

Billed as an invitation to enjoy the beauty and convergence of art, culture and nature, the Sept. 28 trip attracted an equal number of participants affiliated with the museums and local parks and recreation departments, said Esther Jacobson Bates, executive director of the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art on Elverhoy Way in Solvang.

“Everybody had a very good experience there,” she said of the event, part of a series of planned excursions for the coming weeks.

“There were museum members and community members at large,” Bates continued. “The collaboration allows people to go to places and experience activities they otherwise would not be able to access or do. By collaborating, we’re able to offer more.”

The trip, which included transportation and entrance fees, began at Vet’s Hall in Solvang, where a van greeted attendees on a cool Thursday morning.

“We left at 7:30 and we got back a little after 5, so it was a big, full day,” Bates said. “It was capped at 14 [people] because that’s the capacity of the van we took — and there was even a wait list.”

Accessible only by special tour, Piedras Blancas light station is a historic landmark located on a rugged windswept point just north of Hearst Castle. Participants paid $60 each to attend. They were encouraged to bring binoculars to see wildlife, and were not disappointed.

Perfect lighthouse weather

“Everybody had a very good experience,” Bates reported. “We were fortunate to arrive on a day with beautiful weather. There was a fog bank that rolled in and we were completely socked in, and then the fog rolled out and we saw the sea lions there on the rocks. It was perfect to experience it in both the sunshine and fog.”

Bates explained the decision to visit the lighthouse was twofold. First, the shoreline around Cambria is fascinating and picturesque, which makes it an attractive excursion for museum members. Secondly, Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is a historic landmark, like the Elverhoj Museum.

“The fact that we are in a building that is designated a historical building and we were able to visit another historical site” made the lighthouse a natural choice, said Bates, who explained the collaboration with Wildling Museum and the Solvang and Buellton parks and recreation departments allowed the group to share the experience as “neighbors.”

Attendees ranged in age from 30s to 70s, Bates said, noting the museums and parks and recreation departments have been collaborating on similar excursions for many years. After touring the grounds, Bates said attendees climbed the stairs into the light station to learn about the mechanics of the light over time and the challenging life of keepers and their families.

“We team with the local communities,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for years. It seemed like the perfect collaboration of arts, nature and culture.”

The lighthouse brought a historical element to the mix, she said, noting group tours of the lighthouse are difficult to secure. The group was accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who lives and works at the lighthouse station and recently graduated from Humboldt State University with an environmental science degree.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous location,” Bates said of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. “It made for a fun excursion.”

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