Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: keep shining

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail tour of lighthouses continues. I never get tired of observing these guiding lights and I hope my readers agree because I think they offer us a compelling insight.

During our search for Lake Ontario’s beacons during our early summer journey along that national scenic byway, often it took some perseverance to find a perfect location to spot some of the lighthouses we sought.

Oswego West Pierhead is a good example and I’m happy to report our persistence paid off. Since this particular lighthouse is located off the coast of Oswego, New York, and is not open to the public, it’s not easy to access.

Owned by the city of Oswego but operated by the U.S. Coast Guard since it is an active navigation aid, it’s located a half-mile out into the lake on a breakwater. We finally found a spot to park where we could view the lighthouse in the distance, and I managed to get some decent photos using a telephoto lens.

The current tower was erected in 1934 to replace an earlier one constructed in 1889 and has an attached one-story keeper’s quarters, which is not used because the station became automated in 1968. Oswego West Pierhead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been the site of tragedy. Six members of the Coast Guard died when a boat transferring lighthouse keepers capsized in the lake in December 1942.  

On to Port Ontario, we again drummed up some patience to locate our next stop at Selkirk Lighthouse, situated on land at the mouth of the Salmon River. Situated on a sharp turn along a narrow road beside the river, with a small marina and few public parking areas, we were able to find a spot to pull over so I could capture a few shots of Selkirk.

An interesting aspect of this beacon is that it is one of only four United States lighthouses that still has an original bird-cage lantern. Constructed in the 1830’s with stone from a nearby quarry, eventually a need for Selkirk Lighthouse was no longer justified, and it was deactivated by 1858.

A private citizen purchased the building in 1895 with intentions to turn it into part of a hotel development. A few years later, the owner suffered a massive heart attack and died but his family continued to operate the property, which changed hands a couple more times, and eventually the hotel and property became popular with vacationers.

The hotel didn’t survive though and was razed, but current owners restored the lighthouse and offer nightly and weekly accommodations there and in cottages nearby. By special request, overnight guests can climb the light tower.  

The next three lighthouses listed on the driving tour of the national scenic byway proved even more difficult to observe, trying our patience and causing us to spend quite a bit of time attempting to view them.  Stony Point Lighthouse in Henderson Harbor was more easily seen but is privately owned, so while viewing it from the road, I chose not to share a photo here to respect the owner’s privacy.

We never did find spots to catch sight of the other two lighthouses located respectively on Galoo Island and Horse Island a few miles offshore in Lake Ontario. The only way to access these two beacons is by boat and much of the property on the islands is private.

But we didn’t give up! And next week on my Tuesday Tour, I’ll showcase the last few lighthouses we encountered on our June journey and one of my favorites among the many we observed on this scenic tour.

Lighthouses remind me that even when life gets kind of wonky and it doesn’t work out the way we plan, we must not surrender to defeat. And hasn’t life indeed been strange and thrown us all for a loop since 2020 and the onset of the you know what?

But we cannot give up. We can’t succumb to adverse conditions in life, no matter what it throws at us.

Instead, we need to stand firm and be shining lights to those around us who struggle and falter. Maybe we all can be lighthouses. We just have to keep shining.

“Lighthouses don’t get all wobbly when the weather gets rough; they just stand there shining.” ~ Unknown

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: mark my shoe

“No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving something behind.”

That quote is attributed to George Washington Carver, an early 20th century agricultural scientist, inventor, and professor, who is well-known for discovering an amazing amount of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. I distinctly remember learning and writing a report about him in elementary school detailing some of the research he conducted on peanuts.

This man who came from a very humble background, was the first black student admitted to Simpson College in Iowa and became the first black faculty member of Iowa College. Because of his industrious career and the many achievements and awards he received, Carver definitely left something behind – his mark – on our world in a most positive way.

But somehow, I don’t believe when he spoke of leaving something behind or making your mark in the world the following is what he had in mind.

While on our early summer journey through western New York state in search of the many lighthouses along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Papa and I encountered a sight that really made us scratch our heads in bewilderment, turn the car around, and head back to ascertain that we saw what we really saw.

Somewhere between two lighthouses – Thirty Mile Point and Oak Orchard – on our way to Rochester, NY, this is what we stumbled upon.

Shoes. Hundreds of shoes hanging from trees. A whole new meaning to the word shoe tree. A shoe tree, in case you’re not familiar with that item, is a form you insert into your shoes to help keep them in their original shape.

So, we astonishingly saw shoe trees. Not shoe forms. Shoe trees. Literally four trees, upon which hung shoes of all kinds, colors, shapes, and sizes, situated in a triangle-shaped grassy area at an intersection near the town of Lyndonville.

Shoe trees. According to a little blurb I discovered on the website Atlas Obscura, “Shoe trees are a phenomenon that pop up all over the place, all of them loaded with legend, but rarely explained as much more than a tradition of the area.”

You got to believe the purpose of this sight perplexed us, and of course, I HAD to photograph this because who would believe me? After doing a tad of research on why in the world so many shoes dangle from trees, I discovered the reasons varied.

Supposedly, the most popular explanation is if you are successful at hurling your shoes upwards and they catch on a tree branch, you will be granted a wish or at the very least, good luck. Ah-huh.

But some of the shoes and boots on these four trees in the Lyndonville area were actually nailed or somehow affixed to the trees, not just tossed up and luckily catching on a branch.

Apparently, this is a decades old thing that I never was aware of until I saw it myself with my very own eyes. And being the practical-minded person that I am, I don’t quite understand why people – men, women, and children – are willing to leave their perfectly fine footwear (for the most part these weren’t old, worn out, dilapidated, or broken) behind on a tree.

Maybe people just want to leave their mark somehow that they were there? So, leave your shoes? Your perfectly good shoes?? Or instead of “if the shoe fits, wear it,” if the shoe doesn’t fit, toss it into a tree?

Naturally, this practice is discouraged and deemed environmentally irresponsible by some, yet it continues.  Shoes and boots flung skyward continue to hang suspended causing visiting passers-by to take a second look and for this tourist, an amusing photo opportunity and blog post fodder.

Even though I tend to kick off my shoes when Papa and I road trip, I won’t be flinging them into a tree anytime soon. No thank you, I believe I’ll hang onto my shoes.

I think I’ll need them when I depart our vehicle on an escapade to capture entertaining photographs to share with my readers right here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This blog may be the legacy I leave the world, instead of my shoes.

“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” ~ Maya Angelou

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: letting my light shine

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

I don’t truly understand why I’m so fascinated by lighthouses. Is it because I grew up so far from the massive sea or a great lake or a mighty river and so lighthouses were unfamiliar to me?  Perhaps.

Maybe it’s because lighthouses represent a beacon of safety, a way of reaching out to offer a harbor from the storms of life? Perhaps.

Or is it because lighthouses symbolize a guiding source, and my faith embraces that concept (my faith in God is that guiding Source)? Perhaps.

Or possibly it’s a combination of all three of those explanations. Somehow my fascination for these structures has rubbed off on Papa too. He’s always been mesmerized by things of the sea – sailing ships and all things naval, including historical battles – so lighthouse visits are also interesting to him.  

That’s why we both thoroughly relished our early summer journey along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail stopping and observing almost all the lighthouses along the way and I appreciated the opportunity to photograph them.

And so, I continue to let my little light shine by showcasing these beaming beacons once again on this Tuesday Tour.

After driving a stretch of rural scenery along the national scenic byway, we entered the city of Rochester, New York, where we had a better opportunity to visit the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse there than the lighthouse in Buffalo (which was closed for repairs).

A friendly volunteer watering flowers and her dog greeted us as when we stepped onto this Rochester lighthouse’s grounds. Even though the 40-foot tower itself and the museum inside the keeper’s dwelling were closed to visitors at the time, she invited us to stay as long as we liked. 

Located on Lake Ontario right at the mouth of the Genesee River, this octagonal shaped stone beacon was erected in 1822 and is the oldest active surviving lighthouse situated on this Great Lake. Abandoned by the federal government in the 1980’s, thankfully the local community saved it from destruction.  

Now considered a City of Rochester landmark, this tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, owned by Monroe County, and managed by the non-profit Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society.

While we were in Rochester, we also took time to view the port where ordinarily ships and boats traverse from Canada to the United States and vice versa. Not happening during the you know what though because Canada’s border remained closed, thus the port was fairly idle. I could certainly add thoughts about closed and open borders, but I’ll refrain because the intent of my blog is not to stir up controversy and arguments.

From Rochester, we traveled northward along Lake Ontario until we reached the lovely town of Sodus Point where Old Sodus Lighthouse is situated. A popular attraction, the original beacon here was erected on Great Sodus Bay in 1825 but, after deteriorating, was replaced by a square stone tower with an attached keeper’s house, both completed in 1871. 

Even though the lighthouse was decommissioned by 1901, when a pierhead light (pictured below) was utilized more, the community and the Sodus Bay Historical Society has maintained the property very well and it truly is a lovely spot to visit.

The grounds are quite attractive and picturesque, and we relaxed as we strolled around, viewed the vibrantly blooming flower garden, and enjoyed a restful perch on a park bench overlooking the lake.

Old Sodus also includes a maritime museum open to the public for a fee and a gift shop. We learned Sodus Point would be a charming place to stay as bed and breakfast inns within walking distance of the lighthouse are available as well as a lakefront park and beach.

On such a pleasant day with abundant sunshine and cooling breezes in a tranquil spot along magnificent Lake Ontario, it proved difficult to imagine a dark, stormy night when water vessels would need a beaming light to help them navigate to safety. But that is why lighthouses exist, to be a guide.

And the following quote nicely sums up why I continue our search for lighthouses – to be reminded that we all need a Guide to see us through life’s storms.

“God built lighthouses to see people through storms. Then he built storms to remind people to find lighthouses.” ~ Shannon Alder

© 2021

Posted in joy, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: joy makers

Joy. What gives you joy?

I’ve been thinking about that lately as it seems there is so little of it in the world today anymore.

You sure don’t find joy from watching, listening, or reading the news. Or even walking down a street where you hear folks gripe and grumble about this or that.

But exuding joy does our hearts and minds a world of good. God’s Word tells me that in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

I once read an article that described joy as an attitude instead of an emotion and I think I readily agree with that definition. Happiness is an emotion, but it can be fleeting and often times depends on our circumstances.

Joy is deeper and a more constant outlook. For me, joy comes from another source other than my circumstances, my surroundings, or even my relationships with others. Joy comes from God, from knowing His presence is constantly with me.

It sounds like a contradictory statement, but I can experience joy even when I’m not necessarily happy.

And as I mature, not just physically by age but also spiritually, I find the smallest aspects of life fill me with joy.

A simple act such as catching the aroma of lavender wafting by on a sunshine-filled day.

Or being a passenger in our vehicle traveling down a blue highway, propping up my foot and extending it out the window wide open, fresh air blowing my hair all willy-nilly, and sunshine warming my face.

Or noticing miniature artwork some unknown person painted on the sidewalk under my feet.

Or beholding a peaceful, idyllic countryside scene from a quiet hillside spot.

Or noticing a beautiful multi-hued sunset sky right off my backyard deck like the one pictured at the beginning of this post.

Sometimes we find joy by just slowing down, taking our time, not rushing into the next thing on our to-do list, but noticing a little treasure of blessedness right where we are.

I don’t think we come across those snippets of joy by accident like the little town so named in Maryland Papa and I happened upon on a day trip.

I believe those smatterings of joy are laid before us, just waiting to be discovered.

And that’s when I give thanks to my Joy-Giver who provides them.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” ~ Bill Watterson

© 2021

Posted in photography, road trips, travel

Tuesday Tour: Lead me to the lake

Soothing sights. Balmy breezes. Historic highways. Lighthouses on a lake.

All of those added up to a refreshing road trip for Papa and me in early June when we traveled the Great Lakes Seaway Trail along the coasts of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in western New York state.

To report the trip was pleasant doesn’t do it justice as we meandered our way along this National Scenic Byway in search of a long list of lighthouses.

Winding up the first day of our trip, we visited Olcott Light, a replica of the former lighthouse which stood on a pier at Eighteen Mile Creek (so named because it was 18 miles from the Niagara River at Lake Ontario) in Olcott, New York.

The original 27-foot-tall square pyramidal tower was erected in the 1870’s but became unessential by the 1930’s.  Moved to a local yacht club, the structure was in disrepair by the 1960’s and then destroyed. However, a group of citizens formed the Olcott Lighthouse Society, raised funds and in 2003, built a replica lighthouse, using photographs of the original as a guide.

The next stop on our tour took us to Golden Hill State Park where the 70-foot-tall Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse stands on the shore of Lake Ontario, 30 miles from the mouth of the Niagara River. Because ships had sunk near this point, including a ship belonging to French explorer LaSalle in 1878, a lighthouse was recommended to be erected there and construction was completed in January 1876.

Visitors can tour the historic structures, observe displays, and browse in the gift shop there. Another interesting fact about Thirty Mile Point Light is that the second story of the keeper’s dwelling, a three-bedroom suite, can be rented for summer week-long stays. The state park offers plenty of recreation and I imagine how relaxing it might be to stay there when cooling breezes from Lake Ontario envelope you. At other times of the year, shorter stays can be arranged. 

From there we traveled to Oak Orchard Lighthouse at Point Breeze, where, according to the website, travelers “from all around the world, including New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, Alaska, Ireland, Canada, and all states in the union” have signed Oak Harbor’s guest book. The lighthouse that stands at this place today is a 2010 reconstruction of the original.

Back in the 1800’s along this isolated portion of Lake Ontario, a navigational aid was much needed and the original Oak Orchard Light, a simple wooden frame 32-foot-tall beacon, visible for nine miles, was erected here in 1871.

By 1914, the light was rendered not essential and a couple of years later, it was destroyed by a fierce storm. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that a committee formed to rebuild the lighthouse basing it on a turn of the century survey of the original one. Plans for a museum to be constructed there and fund-raising for that cause are ongoing.

Even though this structure is a replica, it is picturesque. We departed from Oak Harbor Light at the end of our sightseeing day, but not before we noticed the Little Free Library and took a short walk on the adjacent, narrow breakwater.  

You can watch a scenic video taken at sunset at Oak Harbor below.

The next morning, we continued along the scenic byway. Behind a wrought-iron gate, we caught glimpses of the 16th lighthouse on the list of 30 historical beacons along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Braddock Point Light was established in 1896 in Hilton, New York with an octagonal, ninety-seven-foot tower.

This lighthouse was deactivated in 1954 and because of structural damage, a significant part of the tower was removed. After years of further disrepair, private owners renovated the property, which consists of a 30-foot tower, the keeper’s dwelling, and 1200 feet of lakefront.

Eventually it became a bed and breakfast inn but closed in 2020. Currently Braddock Point is a private residence so in order to respect the owner’s privacy, I chose not to photograph it. It was lovely though and definitely worth observing.

Our trip along this beautiful Great Lake continued as we were only about half-way through the lighthouse tour and it was a path we were so delighted that we chose to take. More to come in next week’s Tuesday Tour.

“Of all the paths you take in life make some lead to the lake.” ~ Unknown

© 2021

Posted in 911 Memorial, photography, September 11

Lest We Forget – 20 years later

Twenty years. Twenty years and I have never forgotten that day. The following is a post I wrote in this blog 10 years ago on this date – September 11 – and I wanted to share it again with my readers, old and new, with a few updates added.

September 11, 2001 is a day Americans will never forget. It’s a date ingrained in our minds like December 7, 1941, that peaceful Sunday when the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.     

People ask one another, “Where were you when the planes hit the twin towers?” just like they ask (if you’re old enough), “What were you doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?”

Thinking back to any of those shocking days evokes deep-rooted but raw emotions.  As we remember the 10th anniversary (now 20th) of one of the most frightening days we’ve experienced as a nation, I believe words cannot adequately express the feelings and emotions many of us vividly recall.

My family did not experience personal loss that day, but the magnitude of the loss of others affected us in such a profound way.  A family friend from our military days worked at the Pentagon,  but blessedly escaped harm.  A couple of my family have visited Ground Zero in New York since that fateful day, and were sobered and saddened at that site, but I have not. (Later, in 2014, Papa and I did visit Ground Zero and the 911 memorial, photos below.)

Reflection pool at 911 Memorial
Raindrops reminded me of all the tears shed

Traveling through Pennsylvania on vacation two years after the attack, our family found our way to the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville. We parked our car in a gravel lot and quietly stepped out of the vehicle.  As soon as my feet touched the soil there, I felt an indescribable wave of sorrow wash over me, and I fought to restrain sobs of grief that battled my attempt to restrict them and seemed desperate to escape from my throat.

As we walked toward the many makeshift memorials left there by thousands of visitors, there wasn’t a sound.  No one spoke.  Every person there just silently viewed the surroundings or quietly asked a question from the volunteer who manned the site.

Nature had healed the field where the crash took place and it was recovered with grass.   You wouldn’t have realized a jet liner’s fiery impact once had scarred the landscape if you hadn’t known what took place there.

But a huge wall attached to chain link fencing told the story.  Even now, I struggle with words to adequately describe it and what my family felt that summer day in 2003 when we visited.  So I offer as a means of remembrance this picture I took back then of the ‘memorial wall’ erected in a field near the small town of Shanksville.

Image ©

(We once again visited the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania in 2012. Amidst the tributes and dedicated memorials there, the atmosphere of those visiting the site remained the same. Quiet reverence. Somber viewing. Emotional feelings. Photos from that trip below.)

For the families of those lost in the catastrophe 10 years ago, the survivors, and the valiant and heroic responders, I remember you this day on Page 11, Chapter 9, of my book called Opportunity and I keep you in my prayers.  May God give you comfort and peace this day and may God bless America. ©

Another 10 years have passed since I last wrote those words, but my thoughts remain the same. September 11 is a date I will never forget nor will I remember the fear I felt that day and the pride I felt in the days after as we Americans came together – united – to triumph over that tragedy.

Twenty years later, it’s seems we have forgotten how to be united as the United States of America. We are divided. We are angry. We are hateful towards our fellow Americans simply because they don’t agree with us.

It seems we have learned nothing from that historical day 20 years ago. And it is history that teaches us important lessons- to know and remember our past so we don’t continue making the same mistakes.

May we pause, remember, and strive to move forward united as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I can think of no better way to honor those who perished and those who served others with heroic bravery that one solitary day. May it be so, dear Lord.

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” ~ Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

© 2021

Posted in Humor, Life

Words for Wednesday: sign of the times

Photo by Maria Gulyaeva on

Signs. If you live in any community, no matter where on this planet, you more than likely will see a sign or two or twenty.

Signs on street corners, signs on billboards along the highway, signs in cities, small towns, and even in rural areas. Signs in people’s front yards.

Signs that advertise. Signs that inform. Signs that endorse political candidates. Signs that provide direction. Signs that label this street, road, or lane or this or that building.

Signs are everywhere. Even when Papa and I drove along a long stretch of the famous Route 66 in Arizona on one of our jaunts out west, we saw signs. Not many cars or trucks. Very few houses. But every so often, we read the iconic Burma Shave signs of old. And we got a big kick (get your kicks on Route Six-Six) out of reading those signs.

Likewise, on our summer trip through western New York along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, we noticed some signs that gave us some good belly laughs. Alas, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture those signs, but I did remember them.

Like the one I spied as we drove through Batavia, New York, a quaint mid-sized town, one evening after checking into our hotel. We were on the lookout for ice cream and we found it at a delightful candy shop called Oliver’s, where we also sampled our first ever taste of chocolate sponge candy. Delicious, by the way.

Cruising around town before we found the goodies, I noticed a variety of garage/yard sale signs, but a particular one caught my eye. It was a large, hand-painted sign that read “Mammoth Sale Today!” And I wondered out loud how the sellers managed to find a mammoth for sale? I thought those were extinct.

Not long afterwards, I spied a second sign at a nursery/garden center that made me chuckle. “Help Wanted for Mums.” Well, what about Dads? Don’t they need help also? Or is it just Mums who can’t cope and need assistance?

But the one that totally cracked my husband up had been noticed earlier in the day, somewhere along the highway, and I honestly don’t remember exactly where we were in New York but I do recall it was in a rural area.

That one had a rather large photo of that state’s governor with this editorial comment painted under his smiling face: “My Governor is an idiot.”

Okay, it certainly is not right to call anyone names, but my guess is that there are a lot of folks all over the place (and not just in my country) who probably think the same thing about their leaders.

I’m reminded of a catchphrase that comedian Bill Engvall used a lot in his comedic monologues: “Here’s your sign.” I imagine that he could make some pretty funny jokes about all of these signs.

A spot of humor. A dash of lightheartedness. A moment that brings a smile to our faces and causes us to laugh out loud. Isn’t that what we all need a bit of in light of all the bleak, dark realities of our world?

A sense of humor… is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.~ Hugh Sidey

© 2021

Posted in photography, road trips, travel

Tuesday Tour: along the Seaway Trail

A couple of years ago, a seed was planted.

I must warn you if you’re looking for some gardening tips, this post may disappoint you. That seed wasn’t intended to produce any kind of flower or vegetation, but instead to supply a travel idea for future use.

See, back in 2019, Papa and I journeyed on a sightseeing day trip to Erie, Pennsylvania where we visited two lighthouses and the Erie Maritime Museum. That’s where we picked up a free tourism magazine, featuring the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, and a seed embedded in our minds.

Smack dab in the middle of that travel brochure sat a map of northwestern Pennsylvania, western New York state, and a portion of Canada that immediately piqued our interest. Along this “trail,” which borders two of the Great Lakes – Erie and Ontario – and also the Saint Lawrence River, travelers can view 30 lighthouses. Thirty!!

We filed the info away and told one another “Someday we’re going to take that trip.”

Well, someday finally came during a week this past June. Because we felt freer to travel since the you know what restrictions lifted and a week without watching our grandchild was available, we decided to take a much-needed vacation.

After some deliberation, we felt safer staying a bit closer to home which is why a road trip along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail seemed perfect. And neither of us had traveled along the shores of Lake Ontario, except for a couple of trips to Niagara Falls, Canada years ago.

This National Scenic Byway, beginning in Erie, PA and winding from Lake Erie northward into New York state along the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River is 518 miles long and ends at the Seaway International Bridge.

On the way, road trippers venture through farmland as well as cities (Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Oswego, and Ogdensburg), towns and small villages with plenty of views of the waterways. We enjoyed every minute and mile of the trip, but the opportunity to visit and photograph more lighthouses was a big draw for us.

Since we had already visited the lighthouses in Erie, our first stop was at the Barcelona Lighthouse (also called Portland Harbor Lighthouse) in Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York.

Noted for being the first natural gas lighthouse in the United States, the 40-foot tall Barcelona Light was constructed in 1829 on a hillside overlooking Portland Harbor and was part of the Federal Lighthouse Service for 30 years, then became owned privately until New York State acquired it in 2008.

Barcelona, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places, is no longer utilized as a navigational aid, but thanks to the town of Westfield, the lighthouse stays lit and the keeper’s cottage is open to the public.

However, on the day we visited, it was closed.  We still enjoyed the lighthouse, view of the harbor, and a small park-like setting where we ate our picnic lunch.

An interesting note about this particular lighthouse is that even though it is relatively short in size, Barcelona Light can be seen more than 25 miles across Lake Erie in Canada.

Our next stop along Lake Erie was located at Point Gratiot, the Historic Dunkirk Lighthouse. A still operating automated light, its unique 61-foot tower is square-shaped; its foundation is stone; the lighthouse is constructed of stone encased in brick; and the upper part of the tower is white with the lantern housing on top in red.

The bluff on which the original lighthouse was established in 1826 eventually succumbed to erosion causing the tower to deteriorate. A new lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling were completed in 1876.

The tower was lit with a Fresnel lens in 1857 and that lens is still used today, which is a rarity. The Dunkirk Light, which includes a restored keeper’s home, was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

For a fee, visitors can take a guided tour, including the keeper’s residence, climbing the lighthouse’s spiral stairs to the top observation level, and entrance to the museum with Lake Erie nautical exhibits as well as historical veteran displays. Speculation is that this lighthouse is haunted.

We walked around the grounds first, enjoying the breeze and views of the lake, the outdoor displays, and in particular, the lovely veteran’s park there, honoring all branches of the United States military. We didn’t encounter any ghosts along the way. 😉

After a pleasant drive to the above lighthouses with cooling breezes coming from Lake Erie, we neared the city of Buffalo, where the temperature and humidity soared along with the traffic as we searched for Buffalo Main Light.

After finding a parking spot, we walked to the area and were disappointed to find the lighthouse and surrounding historical area closed for repairs. The only glimpse we managed was this one below.

We decided to escape the city and skip locating the five other smaller harbor lights in Buffalo and instead continue driving the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to locate Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse on the grounds of New York state’s Fort Niagara State Park in Lewistown.

We by-passed Niagara Falls since we visited both the American and Canadian side before. The Canadian border was closed anyway.

Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse is the fourth structure to be built in this area where the Niagara River and Lake Ontario meet. The first one was established in 1781, but the current 50-foot octagonal stone tower, south of Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario’s shore, began service in 1872 and was active until 1993.

The US Coast Guard discontinued the light and in 1998, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation acquired the property.

A visitor’s center is located across the parking lot from Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse, but by the time we arrived, it was closed for the day. We still admired this unique lighthouse and I especially was drawn to its door.

The door to adventure remained open as more miles and more lighthouses awaited us on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and we’ll continue the journey next week on my Tuesday Tour.

“My favorite thing to do is to go where I’ve never been.” ~ Diane Arbus

© 2021

Posted in family, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: into the woods

School is now in session. But you don’t always have to be in school just to learn something new.

It’s that time of year when the big yellow buses travel down our road stopping every few houses to pick up school students. New backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, clothes, and other school necessities have been purchased.

The school bell is ringing, and our oldest grandchild is growing up before our eyes as she is launched into a new year of learning.

The end of a lazy, hazy summer arrived before we could believe it, and we wanted to enjoy one last hurrah before her first day of school.

So, one day while her mama worked, Nana and Papa took Little One on a day trip that promised not only to be full of outdoor fun but also would allow some exploring and learning to boot.

Little One helped Nana pack a picnic basket with our lunch, sunscreen, tick repellant, and a thermos of ice water and off we set on an adventure into the woods. Our destination was a spot for which I have fond memories from my own childhood.

We traveled to Cook Forest State Park, an 8,500-acre area along the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania. Sometimes thought to be a gateway to the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest is well known for its thickets of old growth white pine and hemlock trees.

It’s a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the river as well as offering cabins for vacation stays, camping areas, picnic spots, and many wooded hiking trails.

We first stopped at an old, historic fire tower that I remember climbing as a teenager. Papa and Little One braved the 80-foot climb to the top while Nana snapped photos of their ascent. From its pinnacle, the scenic view from the tower is panoramic.

After being cooped up in the car, Little One thoroughly enjoyed the short hike through the woods to and from the fire tower and climbing over gigantic rocks. Being active was a plus, but what she didn’t realize was that she was also learning something new.

We stopped along the way to inspect fungi growing on trees, toadstools, moss, and giant gnarly tree roots. Papa helped her count the rings on a tree stump to determine how old the tree must have been.

At lunchtime, we found a quiet picnic spot beside a creek which provided even more adventure and education. While eating, Little One noticed two kinds of butterflies on a nearby tree and enjoyed watching them.

After eating, we explored a short trail that took us over the creek via two wooden bridges. But the best part was when she examined critters and rocks in the creek.

Tadpoles were a delight to watch. Wading up and down the cold-water creek was even more so and giggles of glee abounded.

From there, we drove along the river where we watched a few folks paddling kayaks and those tubing along on floats.  We even found a spot to wade in the shallow water and toss stones to determine the largest splashes and kerplops made.

A quick shower of rain didn’t dampen our fun either. As the day wound down and it was time to head back home, how did we end our excursion? By eating delicious scoops of ice cream, of course, from the Cooksburg Café.

Little One devoured her strawberry ice cream cone happily discovering chunks of real strawberries in it. Papa indulged in white chocolate raspberry trifle and Nana satisfied her cravings with a chocolate peanut butter cone that included the largest pieces of frozen peanut butter I’ve ever eaten in my life.

It was a great way to end a summer’s day, to enjoy an outing before school resumed, and learn a few of nature’s lessons.

Our Little One may be growing up with no way to stop time but we hope she never halts her desire to learn new things in this life. And her Nana and Papa will provide those opportunities as long as we are able.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

© 2021

Posted in empty nest, Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: roadies

Just call us roadies. No, we don’t travel with bands from coast to coast setting up their gear.

But we do travel…mostly via our automobile. So maybe you should just call us road trippers instead. For some reason, Papa and I love road trips, and if you’ve been a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you will have already realized that.

Papa enjoys driving which might be a side effect from all those days he spent “on the road” as a sales representative for a national company. I grew up with a father who also relished being behind a car’s steering wheel and traveling near and far, so road trips were a normal part of life for me.

Sure, Papa and I have traveled by airline but honestly, we would rather drive. Excursions on boats and trains – we do take those as well, but they are relegated to just a few hours or a day trip.

Driving our own vehicle gives us a sense of freedom. We are on our own timetable, not tied to frustrations like cancelled flights, delays, or layovers.

We can leave when we want, travel as many or as few hours as we decide and stop whenever and wherever we notice a noteworthy spot to check out.  Maybe it’s a bit of a control thing, but traveling this way delights us.  

So, gas up the car, set up some destinations, and we are happy and excited to be jaunting off on a road trip. Cue the Willie Nelson song, “On the road again goin’ places that I’ve never been; seein’ things that I may never see again, and I can’t wait to get on the road again.” (Lyrics written by Willie Nelson)

When we venture out on our journeys, we don’t stay in one place for very long. Our idea of a fun vacation, unless we’re spending a week at the beach with family, is to travel each day by vehicle on those blue highways to see as many sights as we possibly can.

Being able to stop randomly at whatever piques our curiosity, floats our boat, or presents itself as a great photo opportunity makes our trips fun and remarkable.

Because of the you know what, we were itching to get back on the road again. Blessed that we live in a rural area, we could travel easily around our neck of the woods on day trips during that time.  But this past June, we were more than ready to take a vacation ‘somewhere else.’

As states nearby started relaxing restrictions, Papa and I began seeking in earnest a journey we could take away from this ol’ empty nest of ours. When a week free from childcare for one of our grandchildren presented itself, you know what that meant! Freedom to travel somewhere for more than a day!

The open road beckoned to us. We flipped open our Rand McNally atlas of the United States (yes, we still use such a thing!), initiated several internet searches, and pondered over what direction to take. And then it dawned on us – a trip close enough that wouldn’t take us days of travel to arrive but someplace we’ve haven’t visited yet.

Next week on my Tuesday Tour post, I’ll divulge where we traveled, but here’s a little hint: it involved some of these two empty nester’s favorite sightseeing spots.

“Making memories one road trip at a time.” ~ Unknown