Tuesday Tour: Lake Erie lights 2

It’s an old adage but it’s true – what a difference a year makes. Pandemic restrictions curtailed our empty nest travels this year.

But one year ago this month (October 2019), Papa and I embarked on a road trip driving through the state next door to our final destination – Michigan, a state we’d only visited by changing flights in the Detroit airport.

Along the way, we opted for a blue highway route along the southern edge of Lake Erie in Ohio. And with our trusty lighthouse treasure map, we found three such structures to visit.

We first stopped at lovely park to eat a picnic lunch and catch a scenic view of the Lorain Harbor Lighthouse, also known as Lorain West Breakwater,  located in Lake Erie, a half mile off the town Lorain’s shore. 

Dubbed “The Jewel of the Port,” this lighthouse is open for public tours and also for private events, but can only be accessed by boat. When we stopped to catch sight of it, I used a telephoto lens to capture pictures.

Some interesting tidbits about this beacon is that it originated in the early 1800s from a simple lantern hanging on a pole at the mouth of the Black River. By 1836, a brick tower including a lantern room was erected on a pier to provide a fixed light for navigational purposes. Even though it wasn’t that impressive, the famous author Charles Dickens noticed the beacon while sailing from Sandusky to Cleveland in 1841.

Later a brick tower was constructed but as sand deposits built up along the pier, that effect moved the light closer to the shore. By 1875, that tower was replaced by a wooden one 46-feet tall. Damaged by ships, it eventually fell down and was replaced by yet another structure.

But it wasn’t until 1916 that construction began on the historic three-story lighthouse that still exists today. The U.S. Coast Guard manned Lorain Harbor Lighthouse from 1939 until it was automated in 1965. At that time, the light was deemed unnecessary and scheduled for demolition until the city’s community leaders and the Lorain Historical Society stepped in to save it.

The lighthouse became the property of the historical society in 1977 and the next year was named on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then this lighthouse has been refurbished, restored, and its foundation stabilized. Because of its location, it is open only during summer months. Another white tower named Lorain East Breakwater sits near this lighthouse, so you can view “two for the price of one.”

After we left Lorain, we traveled to Vermilion, Ohio where we saw the Vermillion Lighthouse located near the mouth of the river with the same name, which empties into Lake Erie.  

However, this particular structure is only a replica of a former lighthouse removed in 1929. Prior to that one, the first Vermilion Lighthouse, a wooden structure built in 1847, and renovated in 1859, eventually was replaced by a permanent iron lighthouse. A fascinating fact about the iron is that it was actually recycled from cannons that had been declared obsolete after the Battle of Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

Apparently, the citizens of Vermilion felt the lighthouse was a very romantic spot, even more so than Niagara Falls. Proof of that was written in a 1920 newspaper: “If all the residents of Vermilion were questioned and truthfully answered to the query, ‘Where did he pop the question?’ a large percentage of them would answer, ‘Down at the lighthouse.’ “

But the romantic aspect of the lighthouse wasn’t enough to save it because after an icy winter storm in 1929, the structure listed towards the river. So it was dismantled and replaced with a smaller steel tower. The old iron lighthouse then was transported to Buffalo, New York and renovated in 1935 to become the East Charity Shoal Light on the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Many years later, however, to ensure the original Vermilion Lighthouse would not be forgotten, one man named Theodore Wakefield attempted to sustain its memory. Known for favoring historic preservation in his hometown, Wakefield’s childhood home was donated to Bowling Green State University which then sold it to the Great Lakes Historical Society.

The home eventually opened as the Inland Seas Maritime Museum and Wakefield headed a fundraising campaign to construct a replica of the 1877 Vermilion Lighthouse on the museum grounds.

The 16-foot replica, erected in late 1991 and dedicated in June 1992 as a Coast-Guard-sanctioned private navigational aid emitting a steady red light, resulted. However, the museum closed in 2011, reopened in Toledo as the National Museum of the Great Lakes, and then deeded the replica lighthouse over to the city of Vermilion.

A pleasant drive continued along Lake Erie to our next viewing stop, Marblehead Lighthouse, which has been featured on a postage stamp, showcased on Ohio license plates, and is currently part of the Ohio State Parks system.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves disappointed because the tower, a popular landmark and tourist attraction, was under renovation and wrapped in covered scaffolding. Since I couldn’t get a nice photo of it, click on this You Tube video of lovely Marblehead.  

The oldest continuously operating beacon on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, this lighthouse is located along the rocky edges of Marblehead Peninsula in the nine-acre Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.  We did enjoy strolling the grounds which provides views of not only Lake Erie, but also Sandusky Bay, Kelleys Island, and South Bass Island. 

Still an active navigational aid today, Marblehead was constructed in 1821 with native limestone. This lighthouse existed as the only such aid in the Sandusky Bay area for many years. In 1897 when repairs were necessary, instead of building a new tower, the top eight feet of limestone were removed and a cylindrical, brick extension added making the lighthouse 65 feet tall.

A noteworthy item is that before it became automated, 15 lighthouse keepers tended the beacon and two of them were women. The intensity of the signal dramatically increased in 1923 when the light’s kerosene lantern was replaced by electric light but it was not automated until 1958.

Marblehead served as a strategic national defense point during World War 2 and following the war, the U.S. Coast Guard became responsible for it when the last civilian lighthouse keeper resigned. The Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the beacon which flashes a green signal every six seconds which can be seen for 11 nautical miles.

The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society operates a museum in the park inside the old keeper’s home, built in 1880. The grounds in this state park are open year round but the lighthouse and keeper’s house is only open in summer and fall.

However, it has been closed due to covid-19 restrictions. Since we visited in the fall of 2019 and when renovations were taking place, we were not able to tour either the museum or the lighthouse itself. 

Hopefully, we can take another road trip in the near future to see this iconic lighthouse uncovered.  The pandemic has just caused us to change course for the time being. We will resume our empty nest travels yet again. And I’m fairly certain visiting more lighthouses will be part of our itinerary.

“Knowing when and how to change course is important to success. Self-doubt is a lighthouse that will keep you from running aground. Don’t become shipwrecked on the rocks of time. Be willing to rethink your decisions and change course.” ~ Harley King

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Lake Erie Lights

One of the perks of empty nest retirement is that, for the most part, you can take off on an impromptu day trip whenever you feel like it.

On a whim one summer day last year, Papa and I decided to do just that and traveled northward in our home state. Although we’ve often been to and through the city of Erie and specifically to Lake Erie, we decided to spend a day exploring the area to see sites we hadn’t toured before.

Our excursion eventually took us to Presque Isle State Park where we visited two of the three Pennsylvania lighthouses situated on Lake Erie. Presque Isle is a peninsula that’s basically a sand bar located on the Lake Erie shoreline. Its name is derived from the French and means “almost an island.”

A fascinating folklore legend exists about Presque Isle. The Erie Indian tribe once inhabited the area because they believed the Great Spirit guided them to the shores of Lake Erie. In order to discover where the sun set in the evening, some of them entered into the lake paddling their canoes in that direction. But according to the legend, this made the spirits of the lake angry and a violent storm occurred.

They believed the Great Spirit heard their desperate cries during the storm and stretched his arm out into the water to protect them from the tempestuous lake, allowing them to safely navigate their canoes back to shore.  A sand bar formed where the Great Spirit extended his arm and blocked the turbulent water from harming his favorite people. After that, the sand bar, named Presque Isle, provided protection and a safe harbor for the Erie people.

The legend about Presque Isle is interesting enough but we found the lighthouses we viewed just as intriguing. Located on the northern shore of the state park, Presque Isle Light was constructed in 1872 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This picturesque lighthouse is 68 feet high and the original design called for cut stone blocks to construct it. However, that proved too expensive, so bricks were used instead. 

A barge anchored off shore from the building site held 6000 bricks for that purpose. One of those Great Lakes storms that occurs so often on Lake Erie caused the barge to break free and all of the bricks ended up in the lake.  To this day, intact bricks and bits and pieces, which many people believe were originally meant for the lighthouse, have been found on lake beaches.

Presque Isle Light was known as the Flash Light in its early days and was probably lit by oil because of its nearby vicinity to Pennsylvania’s oil country. Using an oil lamp burning inside the Fresnel lens caused the light to expand and produced a stronger beam.  Keepers and their families lived in the attached home, which was of considerable size since it consisted of nine rooms, until 1944.

Still an active navigational aid today for boaters on Lake Erie, this lighthouse is a popular spot for visitors during the summer season. When we visited last year, it was open to the public and while browsing in a nice gift shop located on the site, we found a treasure map – an illustrated 39 X 27 inch map and guide to every standing lighthouse in all 50 of the United States of America. The acquisition of that guide has fueled our desire to visit more lighthouses than ever.

The second Lake Erie lighthouse we visited on the Pennsylvania side was the Erie Harbor North Pier Light, also known as the Presque Isle North Pier Light, located at the far eastern end of Presque Isle State Park.

We parked our vehicle and then strolled out onto the pier, which is accessible to the public all year long even though the tower itself is not, to get an up close and personal view of the 34-foot high tower.  It’s also a popular spot for fishermen.

The original wooden tower was built in 1830 but in 1857 a schooner rammed it sweeping the tower away. Interestingly, the present black and white metal structure was forged in France and then assembled on site in Erie, but later moved east 450 feet in 1891 and then again moved in 1940 to its present location.  

By 1995, North Pier’s beacon changed from a fixed red beam to an automated red flashing light and is operated by the United States Coast Guard.  The old Fresnel lens that was removed is now exhibited in the Erie Maritime Museum, another fascinating and worthwhile place we visited in Erie.

This summer during the pandemic, Papa and I again ventured on a day trip to check out other Lake Erie lighthouses – only this time, we drove to the Ohio side of the lake.  Capturing photos of the two lighthouses we viewed proved more difficult though. 

First we located the Ashtabula Harbor Light, over a century old, situated in the rocky Ashtabula Harbor on a pier head.  The only spot we could find to access a view of it was from the beautiful Lakeshore Park. Becoming operational in 1876, the current square, pyramidal 30-foot Ashtabula Light replaced the first hexagonal tower built in 1836.

The present lighthouse endured some skirmishes when it was damaged by Lake Erie schooners and steamships which necessitated repairs and moving the lighthouse as well.

Another noteworthy fact involved a winter storm in 1928 when the lighthouse was covered in several feet of ice trapping two keepers inside for two days.  Eventually the keepers thawed the door open but had to dig a 40-foot long way through five feet of ice to escape. Can you imagine the claustrophobia that might cause?

Automated in 1973, this lighthouse was the last remaining manned beacon out of 68 Lake Erie lights. Currently, it is owned by the Ashtabula Lighthouse Restoration and Preservation Society and plans include restoring the structure and opening it for public tours.

From Ashtabula, we drove east to Conneaut (pronounced con-ee-aught and derived from Konyiat, the name Seneca Indians gave the creek emptying into Lake Erie here and meaning “place of many fish”).  Also located in Ashtabula County, we easily found the present Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse, which is only accessible by boat.

Not the first one to exist, several beacons serviced the Conneaut port from 1835 until 1934 when construction began on a new square, steel 60-foot tower. After its completion, the tower’s beam was visible 17 miles out into the lake and its fog horn could be heard from about 15 miles.

Originally, this tower was painted white, but later a black horizontal band was added to it.  By 1972, the lighthouse was automated and it currently emits alternating red and white flashes. In the early 1990’s the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office nominated Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Light to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard regarded Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse as unnecessary and offered it at no cost to any federal, state, and local agency, and non-profit and educational organizations which met certain eligibility.  However, a qualified owner was not attained and subsequently, an online auction for the lighthouse was held.

A winning bid ensued but due to leasing issues, another online auction took place in 2011 when an Ohio businessman was awarded the lighthouse. By 2018 though, the lighthouse was listed for sale by the owner. Asking price – $72,000. I was not able to find any information on whether the lighthouse has actually sold since then or not.

Apparently, there are a number of lighthouses currently on the market all around the world. Living in a lighthouse in these modern times is an interesting concept and must appeal to some people.

I do appreciate and enjoy visiting lighthouses, and I love photographing them, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to live in one. Would you?

“We have a light upon our house, and it gives hope to all who sail upon the stormy seas. Do ya know what it means to have a light burning atop your home? It is safety, a place of refuge, seen by all as a signal that ye stand for something greater than this world, greater than us all.” ~James Michael Pratt, The Lighthouse Keeper, 2000 

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Assateague Light

We came in search of wild horses, instead we found a lighthouse.

On our jaunt to the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay a couple of years ago, after touring various sites in Maryland, we decided to head south to Assateague and cross over into Virginia for the afternoon. On a whim, we thought we’d particularly visit Chincoteague Island where we hoped to catch sight of a wild horse or two.

No such luck for us that day. All we spotted within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was some…ahem…evidence, shall we say, that horses had recently been where we were.

But we did spy a red and white striped 142-foot tall lighthouse in the distance when we stopped at a visitor’s center and were bird watching on the building’s deck looking over marshland.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Assateague Light is an active navigational aid located on the southern end of Assateague Island, maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, and currently owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

We easily found our way by car to an area to park and walked the short hike along a trail to the lighthouse itself. We found that we were the only visitors there that afternoon.

Open to the public on weekends from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. from April through November with free admission, although donations are accepted to help maintain the lighthouse, unfortunately we visited on a weekday and it was closed.

However, visitors may take tours of Assateague Light to learn its history and about life as a light keeper. In addition, they can climb 175 steps to the top of the tower and view the surrounding areas of the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland as well as Chincoteague, Assateague, and Wallops Island where NASA has a flight facility.

The current brick lighthouse is the second to stand at this location. After the original one, only lit by candle lantern and erected in 1833 was determined to be too short, construction of a new taller and more effectively illuminated lighthouse began in 1860.

The Civil War interrupted and the newer Assateague Light wasn’t completed until 1867. Converted to electricity in the early 1930’s, Assateague’s current beacon consists of two rotating lights flashing one after another 154 feet above sea level and can be spotted 19 miles out to sea.

As one of less than 20 lighthouses of its type still operational on the eastern coast of the United States, we were pleased we noticed it and took the time to visit historic Assateague Light.

I believe while gazing at that old lighthouse still shining without ceasing to guide sea vessels through shallow shoals of Chesapeake Bay, a glimmer of light flickered in my mind — a light bulb moment so to speak – as I photographed that beacon.

The allure of capturing photos of lighthouses began developing that afternoon at Assateague Light and inspired other empty nest travels for Papa and I to view these magnificent structures.

Something about the goodness of a lighthouse, the purpose it serves to keep mankind safe in perilous conditions appealed to me. Shouldn’t we all emulate a lighthouse for our fellow human beings?

“Man must behave like a lighthouse; he must shine day and night for the goodness of every man.” ~Mehmet Murat Ildan

©2020 mamasmeptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: lighthouse stories

The word lighthouse brings a certain image to mind – at least to my mind.  I picture a tall cylindrical tower perched on a rocky cliff far above a stormy sea. From its very top, a beacon flashes forth guiding, ever guiding seagoing vessels to safety.

However, my mental picture is altered since, by now, Papa and I have observed more than 30 lighthouses in our empty nest travels.  Some of those structures were located ocean-side, but others have stood watch on rivers, lakes, and bays. And some of those lighthouses certainly didn’t fit the description I pictured.

When we traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, and the eastern side of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay a couple of years ago, we noticed three lighthouses, two of which didn’t match that distinct lighthouse representation stowed away in my mind.

After touring nearby Fort McHenry in the morning, our next stop was the Inner Harbor on a hot, steamy, and thunderstorm-filled summer afternoon. Nevertheless, we managed to sightsee in the harbor and decided to end the day by taking a harbor cruise.

We didn’t purposefully intend to visit lighthouses during our trip because the idea of photographing them hadn’t yet appealed to me and we had other sightseeing plans already made. But during the cruise, I spotted what my mind determined was a lighthouse and took a photo of it (pictured above).

Actually, that structure proved to be a replica of the original 30-foot whitewashed brick Lazaretto Point Light, which had been erected in 1831 at the entrance of the Baltimore harbor and demolished in 1926.  The current replica, built using original blueprints of the old lighthouse to maintain accuracy, was constructed in 1985 by a shipping company close to where the original tower existed.  

The fact that the current Lazaretto Point’s a replica may not be that interesting, but some noteworthy anecdotes exist about the old, original lighthouse that once guided ships in and out of the Baltimore harbor. 

Located across from Fort McHenry, the parcel of land where the lighthouse stood was once the site of a quarantine hospital housing immigrants who arrived in the country with contagious diseases.

The word lazaretto, derived from the Italian language, meant such a hospital and so that area became known as Lazaretto Point.  Eventually, the hospital closed its doors, but since the government still owned the land, Lazaretto Point became an ideal place to construct a lighthouse.

Other fascinating facts connect famous writer Edgar Allen Poe to this particular lighthouse. Poe wrote a short story simply titled “The Lighthouse,” which he never finished, and supposedly the story was inspired by the Lazaretto tower.

Also, Poe apparently placed an ad in a local newspaper not long after the lighthouse was completed that claimed someone would fly from the tallest building at the time in the U.S. to Lazaretto Lighthouse on April 1. What actually ensued while a throng of people waited for such an event? It appeared that they had fallen for an April Fool’s Day joke by Baltimore’s native son.

The original lighthouse became the first one situated on the Chesapeake to receive electricity in 1914 but that did not prevent the tower from succumbing to demise. Today the Lazaretto Point Light replica merely represents a part of Baltimore history. While it does contain a light, the structure is not an active navigation aid.

Also while cruising around Baltimore’s harbor, we had a nice view of another structure that didn’t fit the image of lighthouse but actually was such a structure – the Seven Foot Knoll Light.

This squat and unusual looking structure is called a screw-pile lighthouse because it was built on special iron pilings with screws that could be twisted diagonally into the bottom of the bay at a depth of 10 feet or more, which gave the lighthouse stability, especially needed in icy winters.

Seven Foot Knoll was actually the second such lighthouse built on the Chesapeake Bay and the first of its kind erected in Maryland. Constructed in 1855, it carries the distinction of being the oldest surviving screw-pile in that state.

Originally constructed at the mouth of the Patapsco River atop a knoll in the bay called Seven Foot Knoll, this historical, circular structure is made entirely of iron and is noted for its red color.

There’s also a tale associated with this lighthouse. In 1933, one of the lighthouse keepers received a Congressional medal for heroism for single-handedly rescuing a foundering tugboat crew during a raging storm.

However, with no keepers assigned there after becoming automated in 1948, the structure became damaged due to corrosion and vandalism. By 1987, a new navigational aid replaced the lighthouse.

Ownership of the original Seven Foot Knoll then was transferred to the city of Baltimore and the screw-pile relocated by barge the next year to Pier 5 at the city’s Inner Harbor. There it now stands on its own legs as a museum, maintained by the Living Classrooms Foundations.  For an admission fee, visitors may tour it daily from spring until fall and on weekends only in winter.

After leaving Baltimore, Papa and I toured Annapolis and then headed to the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. One of our destinations was St. Michaels, Maryland where we planned to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  Little did we know that another screw-pile lighthouse, Hooper Strait Lighthouse, was an exhibit of the museum, and had been relocated from its original location to St. Michaels.

Known as one of only four Chesapeake Bay screw-pile lighthouses still surviving out of 40 that were built in Maryland, Hooper Strait Lighthouse is the second structure that once was situated in Hooper Strait.

The first one, constructed in 1867 to guide boats passing through shallow and dangerous shoals in the mile-wide strait connecting the Chesapeake Bay with Tangier Sound, was destroyed 10 years later by ice. In 1879, the second one, a hexagonal dwelling, designed in a cottage-style and painted white with a black lantern on top, was constructed elsewhere and transported by boat to the site.

Some sad events occurred in this particular lighthouse. As one can imagine, being a lighthouse keeper could be a dangerous job and several of Hooper’s Strait keepers suffered tragedy.

When the original structure was destroyed by ice, the then keeper, frostbitten, had to be rescued. Later, another keeper fell off the lighthouse, drowned, and his body was found drifting in the strait. Still another keeper was found dead in the keeper’s quarters under some mysterious circumstances.

By 1954, however, Hooper Strait Lighthouse was fully automated and no longer required a keeper and as happened so often afterwards, it fell victim to decay and vandalism.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s plans to demolish this screw-pile structure halted when the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum came to its rescue. Eventually, the 42-ton lighthouse was relocated in 1966 from its pilings onto a barge and transported 40 miles to its current location at Navy Point in St. Michaels.

Today the lighthouse is a popular permanent exhibit at the museum, which is now re-opened to the public after being closed due to the pandemic. Only the first floor of the lighthouse is accessible at this time however.

Hopefully in the near future, anther experience once offered will be resumed. That experience included dinner, a lighthouse tour, opportunities to stand watch and fulfil daily chores as a keeper that were typical of a light station during the 19th century, and ended with an overnight stay inside the lighthouse.

The various lighthouses Papa and I have visited each tell us a story. Maybe that’s why I have found viewing, photographing, and learning their history to be so enjoyable.  

However they are designed, whatever materials they’re constructed from, and wherever they stand, whether it’s beside ocean, lake, river, or bay, they serve as a guiding light and offer a look back at some interesting historical stories.

I do hope my readers are finding my Tuesday Tour of lighthouses interesting. I have more pictures stored in my photo cache to share with you in the next few weeks.

I’ll tempt you with this enticement to keep following these posts – the best is yet to come, I’m saving the best for last!

You’ll just have to come back again for…the rest of the story.

“Lighthouses are not just stone, brick, metal, and glass. There’s a human story at every lighthouse; that’s the story I want to tell.” ~Elinor DeWire

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: light in the desert

Do you ever feel like you are just stuck out in a desert with no way of escape?

Imagine you are a person lost in a foreign environment where as far as the eye can see, there’s only sand. The only color that meets the eye is the drab one of endless sand dunes. The sun beats down on you and you feel like you’re literally baking to death.

As you sweat profusely and your mouth feels full of cotton absorbing any moisture left, you reach for your canteen, which was filled with cool, clear water, and find it completely empty.

There’s no source of water in sight.  Not a refreshing drop to drink. No shade either to provide a bit of comfort from the sweltering sun. No way out of this desperate situation you are in, which leads you to despair so great, you fall to the burning sand in surrender.

You look upwards to the sky in anguish and you cry out for help. And suddenly, sunlight reflects from something and it almost blinds you. You squint and gaze into the horizon and you see it – there’s a light and it beckons you to find your way to it. It promises to guide you to a safe destination, one where you can be refreshed, renewed, rescued.

Often times in life we encounter a difficulty so overwhelming, it seems like we’re stuck in an arid, lifeless desert. We’re dry as a bone as we try to struggle our way through it. Everything seems to go awry and we become so engulfed in our circumstances, we just can’t see any form of relief available.

But then the incredible happens. Someone offers us a hand of assistance. Someone comes alongside us and encourages us on our journey. Someone shares his own experience that provides the impetus we needed to carry on.

Recently, I read a profound thought. although I can’t find the original source, that inspired me to write this post. “Remember when you’re in a position to help someone, be glad to do it. That’s God answering someone else’s prayer through you.”

I believe wholeheartedly that statement is true. Sometimes we are the light for others in peril, just like a lighthouse shining its beacon outward to a stormy sea.  And as much as a lighthouse is needed during storms, sometimes we need a lighthouse in the desert as well. 

The desert. It’s certainly not a spot where you would expect to find a lighthouse, let alone 27 of them. But replicas of lighthouses from America’s east and west coast as well as the Great Lakes actually exist in the desert around a man-made reservoir, Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River which borders California and Arizona.

When Papa I journeyed to this area of Arizona one winter, we never imagined we’d see one lighthouse, let alone several.  So we were surprised to learn in that land-locked state, specifically Lake Havasu City, a town surrounded by desert, more lighthouses exist, thanks to a replica lighthouse program, than in any other city in the U.S.

That sounds crazy, but it’s a fact. In 2000, some local boaters and artisans formed the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club in order to improve safety for night fishing and boating by providing navigational lighting on the lake. After fund-raising for the project, the group began building and installing scaled-down replicas of famous U.S. lighthouses.   

Most of the lighthouses, which are actual functioning navigational aids, can be seen on the lake’s shores and can be hiked to but some can only be accessed by boat. West Coast lighthouses are represented by the replicas on the west side of Lake Havasu, East Coast replica lighthouses are located east of the lake, and those built on the island represent Great Lakes lighthouses.  

Maintained by the non-profit Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club, these replicas follow U.S. Coast Guard regulations. The western lights shine green beacons; eastern lights use red ones. Flashing amber lights designate safe harbor lights for emergency use.

We visited Point Gratiot, a replica of the original lighthouse situated on Lake Erie in New York state, by crossing the London Bridge (another interesting site in Lake Havasu City) via car.

While driving around the lake island, we viewed two other lighthouses there – Split Rock, replica of a Lake Superior light in Two Harbors, Minnesota (photo at beginning of this post), and Wind Point, replica of the lighthouse located in Wind Point, Wisconsin.

On a boat cruise up the Colorado River, we saw East Quoddy, which is a replica of a Canadian lighthouse in New Brunswick.

A fun way for visitors to view the replica lighthouses is to take a lighthouse boat tour offered around the lake on both the Arizona and California side.  Click here if you’d like to view some of the other replicas around Lake Havasu.

Viewing these replica lighthouses in this arid region of Arizona is a good reminder that we can be a source of light for others in the darkness, maybe on a stormy sea but even if it’s in the desert of life.

“I feel that we’re all lighthouses, and my job is to shine my light as brightly as I can to the darkness.” ~ Jim Carrey

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: mystic & mystery

I just recently finished reading a library book – a real, honest to goodness hardback book with paper pages that I could hold in my hands while curling up in my comfy family room armchair and reading. Our favorite library once again opened its doors for visitors and we gladly walked inside to borrow a stack of books yea-high.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with my usual Tuesday Tour post about lighthouses Papa and I have visited over the years? One of the mysterious elements in the plot of the novel I just completed was the image of a lighthouse, connected to a violent crime.

Are lighthouses mysterious? I suppose they certainly could be considered that. They are usually stationed in isolated places. The solitude of living in a lighthouse definitely connotes an air of mystery, I think.

While considering lighthouses as a source of mystery, my mind wandered to one of the places Papa and I have visited – Mystic, Connecticut. The word ‘mystic’ conjures up a person or place that exudes mystery, something difficult to explain or secretive in my mind.

For some reason, Mystic Seaport has always been on my list of places to visit, so Papa and I included the spot on our way south from our Boston tour one summer. While this place didn’t exactly provide a great mystery, we did find it fun. And while there and on a side trip to Newport, Rhode Island, we spied three lighthouses, although one was just a replica.

We enjoyed touring the Mystic Seaport Museum, which includes historical sea-going vessels, tall, wooden sailing and whaling ships, and a walk-through village to transport you  back in time to a 19th century seaport with authentic New England buildings from the 1800’s. 

As we strolled through the village learning about maritime history, we noticed the Mystic Seaport Light, or as it’s also known, a replica of the Brant Point Light, which was a lighthouse built in 1901 on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.  

This recreated lighthouse is a small, two-story white wooden structure with a glass-enclosed lantern on top and is located at the south end of Mystic Seaport. Constructed in the late 1960’s, it wasn’t lit because of navigational regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard. However, it now is an active light, although it does not serve as an official aid for navigation. 

Constructed as a lighthouse example for museum visitors, the structure was closed to the public, but became an actual exhibit called Sentinels of the Sea in 2008 when the tower was opened for visitors, who can view two educational videos about the history and architecture of American lighthouses inside.  

After our visit in Mystic, we decided to drive an hour or so east to Newport, Rhode Island, where we thoroughly enjoyed scenic, relaxing views of the Atlantic Ocean along Ocean Drive, a 10-mile trip along the southern coastline of Newport.

We stopped several times just to sit on a park bench and relish the gorgeous scenery and cooler temperatures. Our day concluded with a stop at Fort Adams State Park, where we were treated to a panoramic view of the Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.

We watched sail boats drifting by and of course, I pulled out my camera when I realized two such vessels traveling in different directions would pass by each other making a neat photo opportunity.

I hauled out my telephoto lens to capture those shots and when I did, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. A mystery to me. A little lighthouse situated very near the long Newport Bridge as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post.

The Rose Island Light was built on Fort Hamilton, located on Rose Island in the Narragansett Bay, as it was needed to guide steamships back and forth between Newport, New York, and Boston. Its fixed red light was first illuminated in 1870, a fog bell was added in 1885, and finally a fog horn in 1912.

The U.S. Coast Guard managed Rose Island Light from 1941 until 1970 when the lighthouse became obsolete because navigation aids were placed on the newly constructed Newport Pell Bridge. Vandals ruined the lighthouse but it was later restored by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation and on National Lighthouse Day (August 7) in 1993, the lighthouse once more shined its beacon.

Today, the Rose Island Light is a private aid to navigation, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Coast Guard, is maintained by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 35-foot tall wooden lighthouse sits upon a two-story keeper’s house and can only be reached by boat.  Visitors can tour the museum in the keeper’s house and can pay to spend a night as a guest in one of the two rooms in the upper story or even a week as a “lighthouse keeper.” Staying overnight in an empty lighthouse on an island sounds mysterious to me.

Again, the photo I captured is not of the best quality since I shot it from quite a distance away, but I was happy to later research and solve the mystery of this lighthouse’s name and history.

Later on our jaunt back from Rhode Island to Connecticut, we once again crossed the Jamestown Bridge across the Narragansett Bay. While peering out our vehicle window, I spied a squat little lighthouse sitting atop what looked like a tiny island of rocks in the bay just after we left the island where the town of Jamestown is located.

Another mystery!

In my hurry to grab my camera and try to snap a photo through the bridge railings while Papa kept up with traffic, I didn’t manage the best photo.

Later I identified it as Plum Beach Light, a sparkplug lighthouse which was constructed from 1896 to its completion in 1899. The interesting fact about this structure is its foundation was built onshore and then towed out into the bay where it sank to the bottom. Using something called pneumatic caisson engineering, eventually Plum Beach Light was completed.

By 1941, the lighthouse became deactivated due to construction of the Jamestown Bridge and it fell into disrepair, became dilapidated, and eventually abandoned. Decades later, the lighthouse was rescued, restored, and its beacon reactivated by the non-profit Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a private aid to navigation.   

It didn’t take a ‘mystic’ to figure out the mystery behind these three simple, small lighthouses. They just were there. Waiting to be noticed. Not creating much fanfare, just being a source of light.

Kind of like the person I hope I am – not a mystic, not a mystery, just a person who attempts to shine some light in this dark world.

“Like a simple little lighthouse, my true ideal is to just be…having no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace.” ~ Bodhi Smith

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Cape Cod lighthouse

The older more mature I become, the more I realize that I’m just not a city lover. Oh, cities are exciting with all of the hustle and bustle of busyness, and there’s a surge of energy felt when you’re in the midst of it. But the noise, the traffic, and the sheer amount of people crammed on sidewalks, buses, subways, etc. just make me pine for some space and peace and quiet.

Country girl grown up enjoys a short time in a city atmosphere, but when it comes right down to it, I like the spaciousness and quieter lifestyle of country living.

I realized that all too well when Papa and I journeyed to Boston on a summer vacation a few years ago. Boston provides so much to see and do and since neither of us had ever been there before, we anticipated we would enjoy the history and interesting sights the city has to offer. And we did… for a couple of days.

By then, heat and humidity boiling over us combined with so much traffic and crowds of people had taken its toll. I was ready to head for a quieter atmosphere. It really wasn’t on our travel agenda, but since we had time, we decided to drive through the Cape Cod National Seashore before heading to our next destination. And I’m so glad we did.

Our nice, leisurely drive along Cape Cod was so very pleasant and one of the highlights (although there were many) was stopping to visit The Highland Light Station, an active lighthouse, in North Truro, Massachusetts.  

Also called Cape Cod Light, this lighthouse is known as the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod. The first wooden tower was erected in 1797 when it became the 20th light station in the U.S., and its illuminating beacon was first fueled by whale oil. This structure, along with the keeper’s house, was situated more than 500 feet from the edge of a 125-foot tall cliff.   

Later in 1831, that tower was replaced with a brick one, which was replaced again in 1857 with the current 66-foot tall brick lighthouse and the L-shaped keeper’s house. After illuminating the light with lard and kerosene, it eventually became electrified in 1932, making it the most powerful light on the East Coast at the time.

Since the lighthouse was established back in the late 1700’s, the cliff in front of it had been increasingly eroding away. I found it interesting that in the 1850’s, Henry David Thoreau visited Highlight Light and wrote about this massive erosion taking place. Time eventually wore the area down and by the 1990’s, only 128 feet of the original 500 to the edge of the cliff remained.

Fund-raising ensued and Highland Light Station, which had been automated in 1986, was moved back 450 feet in 1996 and a couple of years later, the light station opened to visitors. Currently owned by the the National Park Service as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and managed by the Truro Historical Society, Highland Light is maintained by the United States Coast Guard, and continues to serve as a navigation aid.

The lighthouse grounds, keeper’s house, where a gift shop and historical exhibits are located, were all open when we visited back in 2017. Since then, the lighthouse itself has been undergoing repairs and volunteer-led tours were discontinued until 2021 when repairs are completed. Currently, both the keeper’s house gift shop and museum area are closed until further notice due to coronavirus concerns.

I remember visiting this lighthouse after the hectic pace of sightseeing in Boston and feeling such a sense of calm and serenity while viewing it.

Even though it was daylight, with each step of the short walk from the parking lot to Highland Light, I could sense a time-worn steadiness of the lighthouse and I imagined how sailors from yesteryear to the current time trusted its light guiding them through the sea.

Its light seemed brighter to twinkle,
      As if from passing ships
      It heard the benedictions
      Fall from the sailors’ lips.
And it seem’d to tell me the secret
      That gave it power to win
      The trust of the anxious seamen—
      Its light shone from within.

~Rowland Brown, “The Lighthouse,” Songs of Early Spring, with Lays of Later Life, 1872

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: river detour

Time for a detour.

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few weeks, you’ve seen my Tuesday Tour posts. This series highlights photos I’ve taken of the many lighthouses Papa and I have visited over the years.

Up until now, I’ve featured lighthouses we’ve seen on both sides of America – first on the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and Washington and then on the Atlantic on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But today, we’ll take a little detour along a river – the Hudson River in New York State to be exact.

Papa and I had traveled in New York many times before but had never journeyed along the Hudson River northward.  In 2017, we planned a summer road-trip/vacation to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Of course to get to our destinations, a trip through New York was required.  

One of our itinerary stops was the U.S. Military Academy at West Point because Papa always wanted to visit there. So prior to our trip, I began researching other interesting places to stop along the way. And I found a spot that sparked my interest in viewing and photographing lighthouses. The rest as they say, is history. (Which means there are so many more to come!)

It wasn’t the easiest place to find, but after driving through the eclectic town of Saugerties, we finally spotted a small parking lot, departed our car, doused ourselves with insect repellent, and sauntered down a half-mile trail to Saugerties Light, a light house overlooking the Hudson River just north of the town of the same name. The secluded lighthouse is accessed only by the walking trail or by boat.

The nature walk leading to the lighthouse was pleasant and as I snapped photos along the way, you couldn’t yet see it. But oh, when it finally came into view, I was hooked. Only a couple of other people were there, so I was able to take as many photos as I wanted without worrying about people in the photo.

Peace and solitude just exuded from this particular spot. We read the placards which gave us more information about Saugerties Light. As one of New York’s historic light stations, it’s listed on both the National Park Service’s Maritime Heritage Program and also on the National Register of Historic Places.

The original light station was erected back in 1835 to mark Hudson River shoals as well as the entrance to Saugerties harbor at Esopus Creek and was damaged by ice floes. The now existing one was built in 1869, automated in 1954, but then deteriorated after decades of remaining vacant.

At one point, the lighthouse was scheduled to be demolished, but the non-profit, Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy, purchased the structure in 1986, restored it, and it was re-dedicated as a navigation aid in 1990.

Presently, Saugerties Lighthouse and the nature trail leading to it is managed by the conservancy. A delightful fact about this beautiful place of serenity is that it is also a bed-and-breakfast where visitors can stay in one of two rooms in this quaint restored lighthouse. Public tours are also offered.

After visiting this particular lighthouse, my interest in visiting others and capturing their likenesses soared.

But more than that, Saugerties Light reminded me that often times truly serving others isn’t broadcast in a grand way with a lot of fanfare.

Instead when we serve others, it may not be easily perceived just like this particular lighthouse isn’t easily visible. It doesn’t call attention to itself by proclaiming, “Ta-da! Here I am for all to see! Look what I’m doing!”

Instead, it just stands there serving. Fulfilling a purpose. And that’s how we too should serve others. Just doing it in our own unobtrusive way, not seeking recognition, just serving because our service to others makes a difference. Our serving has a purpose, to place others before ourselves.

Sometimes our purpose is just meant to serve.

“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Outer Banks Lights

(Bodie Island Light, North Carolina, taken with film in 2003)

A trip to the beach had been a long time coming.

For the six years our family lived in the Pacific Northwest, we made a lot of trips to the Pacific coast and I possess a plethora pf photos taken with my old 35 mm film camera back then to prove it. But beach trips stopped for a few years when we moved across the country to our home state. Life got in the way of vacations.

However, in 2003, five years after our move, we planned a beach vacation to the Atlantic Ocean shore where we’d never been before – the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I really wasn’t yet enamored with visiting lighthouses but we decided to put two of them on our sightseeing itinerary anyway: Bodie (pronounced body) Island Light Station and the more famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Outer Banks were considered a dangerous area of the Atlantic coast where many ships were lost so both lighthouses, which are located in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and managed and operated by the National Park Service, were erected in the 1800’s.

Bodie Island Light Station, located south of Nags Head, North Carolina, is a 156-foot tall black and white horizontal striped tower with 214 spiraling steps. The current lighthouse is actually the third erected one named Bodie Island. The first one suffered foundational problems and was torn down and the second one was destroyed by retreating Confederates during the Civil War to prevent Union troops from occupying it.

Although Bodie Island Light was closed for many years because of safety issues, it has been renovated and is now open to the public and visitors can take a tour of it.  

An interesting fact about this particular lighthouse is that it’s one of the few lighthouses in the USA lit with a restored but original First Order Fresnel lens. The light rotates every 27.5 seconds and on a clear night, can be seen from up to 19 miles away.

During our 2003 vacation, we stayed on Hatteras Island, which is not as populated and crowded as other areas on the Outer Banks. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in America, is located there and is considered one of the most famous and recognized lighthouses because of its candy-cane style black and white stripes.  It attracts thousands of visitors every year.

(Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina, taken with film in 2003)

Its light beams 20 miles out into the Atlantic guiding ships through the treacherous waters there. Cape Hatteras Light is open for the public to climb the steps inside but it was so very hot and humid when we were there, I passed on doing so. The rest of my family paid to do so and were treated to quite a view from the top. Once a month during the summer season, there are full moon tours visitors can take at night as well.

A surprising fact about Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is that it was moved. Because many years of storms and hurricanes eroded the beach area in front of the lighthouse, it was feared the tower would tumble into the ocean. So just a few years before we visited, the lighthouse and surrounding outbuildings were moved inland by 2,900 feet to a safer location. That produced another claim to fame for this lighthouse, being the tallest brick structure in history to ever be moved.

Those two lighthouses were the last ones I captured on film with my old point and shoot camera. Many years passed before Papa and I would once again decide to visit lighthouses.

Once we did, we delighted in finding them on our travels and I developed a love of photographing them with my better DSLR camera.

That began another journey – searching for those lighthouses that just stand there shining and finding them. So there are more to come on my Tuesday Tour and better photographs to view.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” ~Anne Lamott

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: North Head Light

North Head Lighthouse, Long Beach, Washington (taken with film in 1996)

A long weekend stretched ahead of us. Four days off – no school, no work. And we were itching to go someplace we’d never been before. We wanted a mini escape from busy suburbia and to find a peaceful place of solitude.

On a whim and without any hotel reservations, our family of five left our Oregon home on Memorial Day weekend, no less, and headed north.

Our goal – Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, a 28-mile stretch of quiet sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean, about a two-hour trip away.  We traveled to Astoria, Oregon where we stopped to view some landmarks and then crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which was quite a sight and interesting drive itself.

This 4.1 mile long span from Astoria to Point Ellice, Washington, crosses the Columbia River at its mouth where it meets the Pacific.  That bridge might give some nervous travelers pause to cross but we found it exciting.

From there we drove up Highway 101 to Long Beach and fortunately found a place to stay right on the beach. Of course, it was May and the Pacific Northwest weather was still very chilly resulting in us wearing sweatshirts AND jackets.

We definitely found the beach peaceful and quiet and enjoyed walks, beach-combing for shells, playing in the sand, and kite flying. Needless to say, no frolicking in the waves since the ocean water proved downright frigid at that time of year.  

During our weekend stay, we also visited another Pacific coast historic lighthouse, North Head Light, situated on a rocky cliff more than 190 feet above sea level near the small town of Ilwaco. 

North Head was built in the late 1890’s to directly face the ocean and be clearly visible to ships traveling southward to the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.  

Before North Head and nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse existed, the only way ships sailing for Portland and Astoria navigated through treacherous waves and ever-changing sandbars was by spying signal fires at night and white flags and shoreline trees with notches in them by day. Not a safe way to travel, which is why waters around Long Beach Peninsula was known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

An interesting fact about North Head Light is that it is considered the windiest lighthouse on the West Coast and the second most windy in North America. Maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 to 2012, ownership of this particular light station now belongs to Washington State Parks.

Although North Head Lighthouse is closed for tours currently, visitors can still access the grounds at no charge all year-round from dawn until dusk where they can marvel in awe at the amazing panoramic view of Long Beach Peninsula, the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River Bar, and even the northern Oregon coast just as we did back in 1996.

Visiting a light station like North Head, one can imagine the wind howling around a vessel out in the Pacific, waves crashing into it and tossing it to and fro, and mariners aboard fearing a violent end against a rocky coast but then…then, the lighthouse comes into view, guiding the ship safely on its way.

Such a scenario reminds me that life often resembles the treacherous sea but that’s when we must look for a light to guide us onward. And like a sentinel guarding the sea, the light will be there. It will always be there.

Loud howls the wind, and the sea runs high,
Bearing the burden of many a cry
For help to land, while the vessel runs,
Firing at random her signal guns.
Black is the night as a sable pall;
The thunder answers the sailor’s call;
And all seems lost till the friendly light
Of the lighthouse bursts on the wearied sight.

Then hurrah for the lighthouse, hurrah!
Her light shall shine o’er the billows afar,
Wherever gloom and doubt prevail,
To guard the storm-tossed shattered sail.

~William Thomas Birch, “The Lighthouse,” Home Reveries, 1871

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com