Off The Beaten Path: The Jones Point Lighthouse

The historical Jones Point Lighthouse in Alexandria, VA sits regally along the shores of the Potomac River.
The historical Jones Point Lighthouse in Alexandria, VA sits regally along the shores of the Potomac River.

 

Hardly ever visited by tourists, the old lighthouse also marks one of the 1792 survey points for the boundaries of the nation's capital.
Hardly ever visited by tourists, the old lighthouse also marks one of the 1792 survey points for the boundaries of the nation’s capital.
One of the few riverine lighthouses along the Potomac River, the lighthouse was in operation for 70 years from 1856 to 1926.
One of the few riverine lighthouses along the Potomac River, the lighthouse was in operation for 70 years from 1856 to 1926.
Once used for target practice by the Army during WWII, the lighthouse and adjacent grounds were fully restored during the early 1960s.
Once used for target practice by the Army during WWII, the lighthouse and adjacent grounds were fully restored during the early 1960s.

Here’s one place that most likely very few of you (if any) has ever visited: the Jones Point Lighthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.  Don’t blame you, though, because admittedly, I recently discovered the place myself.  Well, discovered in the sense that someone else led me there during this year’s Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk (read rainy, cold day).  Not having had much time that day to photograph the place, I decided that I would come back to this somewhat isolated spot along the Potomac River when I didn’t have to fight a multitude of photographers for position, or the weather for that matter.  But once I set out to find the place, I began to realize why the lighthouse is somewhat of a desolate, albeit beautiful, place.  The lighthouse is just not easy to find, let alone bump into, even when millions of people drive by it everyday as they cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge linking Virginia to Maryland.  Getting there, though, is half the fun, specially during the fall season when the park seems to be celebrating a festival of colors, with reds, orange, and yellow leaves shinning bright against the deep blue sky of autumn.  Considering that downtown Washington, DC lies only a few miles away, you would think that the Jones Point park and lighthouse would be on people’s radars when visiting the area, but the opposite seems to be true.  Quiet, isolated, and only reachable by foot, it sits majestically and alone by the water’s edge, with its occasional visitors enjoying the zen-like experience the place seems to induce.

 

Summer Fun At The Potomac

Area youth enjoy their sailing outing along Daingerfield Island near Reagan National Airport.
Area youth enjoy their sailing outing along Daingerfield Island near Reagan National Airport.
It could not have been a more perfect day to go sailing along the Potomac River.
It could not have been a more perfect day to go sailing along the Potomac River.
Even if you have never done it before, the colorful sails splashed against a blue sky made you want to take up sailing as a sport.
Even if you have never done it before, the colorful sails splashed against a blue sky made you want to take up sailing as a sport.
The youth sailing camp was a clear reminder that summers are also meant for fun and not just for working behind a desk.
The youth sailing camp was a clear reminder that summers are also meant for fun and not just for working behind a desk.

Remember the fun days of summers from your youth?  Well, they’re still there, even if these days we are mainly occupied with work, achievement, and all sorts of other important things.  However, after watching this summer youth program along the Potomac River yesterday, I started to think about a conversation I once had with my college professor brother.  Having asked him why he had chosen to remain a college professor for life in the place he did instead of entering the corporate world to make the big bucks, his reply kind of took me by surprise.  He pointed out that while he recognized the earning potential of those who toil at their work all year round, he had made the conscious decision to choose a career where he “had not worked a single summer since his high school graduation.”  Summers were his to engage in all sorts of personal projects and activities, and that long-term freedom must certainly have a value that cannot be measured by dollars alone.  Fun?  Summers off?  Freedom?  You can only imagine what was going through the head of yours truly, a never-summer-off dedicated public servant who spent most of his professional life in the United States Marine Corps.  So here I was with my camera at the Washington Sailing Marina recording how much fun summers can be, thinking about how few of them we will have in our lifetimes, and realizing that my brother was a genius for the choices he made.  It took a bunch of laughing, giggling, sun-drenched youth fumbling over sails and choppy waters to remind me of that.