Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: isn’t it grand?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “grand?”

You could be a grand champion, you might sum up a grand total, you might define a grand example, or enjoy a grand time at a grand celebration perhaps in a grand ballroom.  We use that word grand to describe something of importance or huge in size, concept, or appearance.

I bet it’s safe to say we’ve all viewed or experienced something grand in our lifetimes and the way we describe those occurrences influences what other people perceive about them.

Grand aspects of life often arrive in threes for Papa and me. I gave birth to three children, who we deem grand in importance to us, and we’ve been blessed with three grandchildren, certainly a grand occurrence.

Today on our Tuesday Tour, I’m sharing three grand sights Papa and I have been fortunate enough to have viewed.  

The Grand Canyon in Arizona, of course, is the grandest of all. But we’ve also seen lesser “grand canyons.” Perhaps they pale in comparison to the big one, but we found them to be grand in their own way.

Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has always been on our bucket list, and we made it there in March 2020 just as the you know what hit the news.

For much of our visit, that magnificent sight remained veiled behind a curtain of mist and fog but when it appeared in all its glory, we were mesmerized, inspired, and awe-struck at its sheer magnitude and beauty.

This past summer on a trip through upstate New York, we enjoyed traveling through the Adirondack Mountains and stumbled upon the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, also known as the Ausable Chasm, located west of Lake Champlain near Keeseville, NY.

A unique, sandstone gorge that geologists say is 500 million years old, the vertically-walled canyon is approximately two miles long. The Ausable River flows through the chasm on its way to emptying into Lake Champlain.

Ausable Chasm is touted to be the oldest natural attraction in the United States since it became a tourist spot in 1870. A campground there includes sites with cabins as well as tent sites and RV hookups and amenities.

Visitors can hike and bike along more than five miles of trails, float down river on tubes or with guides on rafts, and rock climb or rappel on the sandstone walls during the summer. In spring and fall, many of those activities are still available with limitations. Even in the winter season, tours can be taken on snowshoe and ice cleats.

While we did not partake in any of the activities at Ausable Chasm, we did enjoy a short walk in an area where we could view portions of the gorge.

The other grand scene we viewed on that same trip occurred in New York’s neighboring state when we stopped at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Located in the north central part of that state, this 47-mile long gorge, also known as Pine Creek Gorge, was carved by Pine Creek through the Tioga State Forest.

At its deepest point, the canyon is nearly 1500 feet. There are two vistas from which visitors can view this grand canyon: a 585-acre park on its east rim, Leonard Harrison State Park, and Colton Point State Park on the west rim.

We visited the Leonard Harrison park which had a very accessible walkway to view the forested canyon and Pine Creek below, a visitor’s center, and restroom facilities.

We lingered along the walkway captivated by the view and enjoyed briefly chatting with a few visitors there. Then we relished quiet solitude as we ate our picnic lunch nearby.

As beautiful as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania was in the summer, we can only imagine how spectacular it must appear in the fall. We’re hoping to take an autumn trip back there some time.

Having witnessed the tremendous power rushing water carves upon rock resulting in deep canyons, I can’t help but compare that action to life.

Sometimes life is so good, we feel like we are soaring on mountain tops. Yet other times, we find ourselves swept away by ravaging rivers of difficulties which result in sending us to lowlands or valleys of despair.

And if we allow it, we can become overwhelmed by how deep our canyons are.

But a way out, a climb out of the canyon, no matter how grand it may be, is always supplied by the One who provides exactly what we need just when we need it.

That same One created grand sights for us to view, sources of inspiration and beauty which ultimately show us His power and might.

If the God of the universe can create grand canyons, He can lift us out of despair and give us encouragement and hope. We just must reach for His hand.

“Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming Grand Canyons.” ~ Bernard Williams

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the mountains

Sometimes you just need an escape from reality and that’s exactly what Papa and I needed as the you know what continued to drag on.

“The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.” ~ Georges Simenon

That quote by the Belgian writer personifies a more soothing real world that became our landscape when Papa and I left our empty nest this past summer and traveled through parts of New York state where we had never before visited.  

After our successful quest to view 20-some lighthouses along the shores of Great Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River via the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, we traveled east to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

As our landscape changed to mountains, forest, and smaller lakes and rivers, we thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating, peaceful, and relaxing views that entered our world.  

Driving blue highways eastward towards Lake Champlain, we encountered few vehicles making for a pleasant journey.

We stopped for a short while at St. Regis Falls near a town named Waverly. The falls are on the river of the same name which is a tributary of the St. Lawrence River.

Shortly afterwards, a torrential downpour during a rainstorm didn’t daunt our journey, although visibility was a little dicey. But seeing the mist rise over the mountains added to the mystery of this mountainous region.

We paused once again at Barnum Pond, not far from Saranac Lake. Wondering how the pond got its name, I did a bit of research. Some folks claim it was named after famous circus man, P.T. Barnum, because he was a friend of local hotel owner Paul Smith, and he claimed Barnum enjoyed fishing there while staying in the hotel.  

Yet some historians refute that claim since the small body of water clearly was named Barnum Pond on a county map published in 1853, years before Smith built his hotel on nearby Lower St. Regis Lake and long before Barnum would have visited to go fishing.

Another theory involved a road constructed sometime from 1814-1817 to travel by two small lakes now called Barnum Pond and Osgood Pond. This theory suggests the road commissioner (Barnum) and a construction foreman (Osgood) named the ponds by their last names. 

However Barnum Pond’s name came about, the lake creates a pretty scene.

Continuing east through Lake Placid on our way to Wilmington, we visited High Falls Gorge, a 22-acre nature park through a gorge along the Ausable River.

We took a walking trail to view a series of four cascading waterfalls that travel over 700 horizontal feet allowing over one million gallons of water to flow through the gorge each day.

The park is privately owned, parking is free, but there is an entrance fee to walk the trail, which includes a clear groomed path, and a network of bridges and stairs which give you spectacular views of the rushing water.

Since it was a pleasantly cool day, we lingered for quite a while on the waterfall walk through a wooded area, marveling at this place that Native Americans called the “Ancient Valley of Foaming Water.”

Hard core hikers would probably find the walking trail too tame but for this pair of retirees, it was perfect.

And I just could not stop taking photographs of this astonishing sight in nature.

From walks beside a great lake to treks along a rushing river with mountains as backdrops, we found plenty of worthwhile sights in nature on our summer journey.

Nature often provides the best kind of road trips.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir

© 2021

Posted in Humor, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: eau de toilette

You can’t fight city hall, or can you?

If you’re unfamiliar with this idiom, “You can’t fight city hall,” most of us Americans use it to mean there’s no way we can win against the bureaucracy of government whether it be local, city, or national.

Supposedly, this saying originated and became popular back in the 19th century when a very powerful political machine, Tammany Hall, controlled New York’s Democratic party. And by controlling the party, that organization controlled city government. Anyone outside of that political organization had no say so.

With that in mind, I found it fascinating that an unusual photo opportunity we discovered on our summer journey to New York state provided me with not only quirky pictures but a story about one man “fighting city hall.”

While cruising through the New York town of Potsdam, I couldn’t help but notice an entire vacant lot filled with toilets. Yep, you read that correctly. Toilets. What toddlers call potties. In POTSdam. (I found that particularly funny.)

Now this wasn’t just a couple of abandoned toilets on a plot of ground. Oh no, toilet after toilet lined up in rows all adorned with brightly colored artificial flowers – potty posies.

Naturally, I yelled, “Stop the car!” to Papa and even though he managed to do so because we were at a traffic signal turning red, he willingly obliged me by going around the block, returning to the scene, and locating a spot to park so I could satisfy my trigger-happy finger on my camera.

Shaking my head in wonderment and after quite a lengthy conversation with Papa about what possibly could be the reason for someone purposefully adorning a vacant lot with a plethora of potties, I decided as soon as we arrived home, I’d search the all-knowing internet for an answer.

And I found one.

Pottsdam is a college town, home to Clarkson University and SUNY College at Potsdam, so you might think the toilets were placed there as a prank by students.  Nope. Turns out, a businessman and life-long Potsdam resident named Hank Robar created this “toilet garden,” one of two such unusual attractions.

Is he a budding contemporary artist of some sort? Well, no. He actually installed the first of his “gardens” as a protest. His own fight against City Hall because the town planning board rejected his bid to have his residential lot rezoned commercial. Back in 2004, he wanted to sell that property to Dunkin’ Donuts which would construct a store on the site, but city hall said no way.

In retrospect, I wonder if they are now regretting that decision since probably a donut shop would have been more preferable than a toilet garden. Or maybe they can just call it an outdoor art exhibit since New York Times bestselling author Jenny Larson wrote: “It’s okay to keep a broken oven in your yard as long as you call it art.”

So why not artful toilets – they are a form of pottery after all?

Regardless, the Potsdam potty garden provided a fun photo-op and some eau de toilette (literally translated: toilet water) humor that made me laugh even while I was writing this post, my ode to toilet.  

“Problems are like toilet paper. You pull on one and ten more come.” ~ Woody Allen

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: end of the trail

Back in the 1960’s, a popular singer named Bobby Vinton released a hit song with lyrics like these: ‘’Cause the night has a thousand eyes, And a thousand eyes can’t help but see if you are true to me…”   (Written by: Dorothy Wayne, Benjamin Weisman, Marilyn Garrett; Lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.)

Arriving near the end of our scenic driving tour on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in western New York state, I began to wish I had a thousand eyes – or at least a better pair of eyes.

As we entered the Thousand Islands region, which consists of both American and Canadian communities along the Saint Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, the quest for spotting the lighthouses there proved more difficult.

Logically this area is named so because there are more than 1000 islands within the international waterways of both the lake and river. Amazingly, the Sant Lawrence River is 250 feet deep in this area enabling ships to travel from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Thousand Island region was and still is a popular tourist attraction and legend has it that the salad dressing named Thousand Island came from this area, although that apparently cannot be proven to be fact.

The first beacon we managed to observe is Rock Island Lighthouse, located in the Saint Lawrence Seaway off Fisher’s Landing and only accessible by boat. This historic 50-foot-tall tower was one of six lights built along the river in order to guide water vessel traffic to and from Lake Ontario and was constructed in 1847.

Eventually, Rock Island Light was moved in the early 1900’s and closed by 1955. In the late 1970’s, New York state acquired the island and began restoring the lighthouse so the public could tour it.  Using my telephoto lens from a pavilion in Fisher’s Landing, I was able to capture some nice photos of Rock Island.

The next lighthouses in the Thousand Island region proved a bit more difficult to spot and photograph.

A lighthouse was needed to designate Bush Island, a mostly submerged rock formation which made passage between the mainland and another island named Wellesley very dangerous.  

Sunken Rock Lighthouse, a 27-foot-tall brick tower, was constructed on top of the rock in 1847, torn down in 1882, and replaced with a round iron tower. Now owned by the Saint Lawrence Seaway Corporation, Sunken Rock is still an operational lighthouse today. Again we searched for a convenient place to view the tower and a telephoto lens was necessary to get a nice photo.

Listed next on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail lighthouse tour is Sisters Island Light, which was built in 1848 in the middle of the Saint Lawrence Seaway shipping channel. Because of that, lighthouse lookers can’t see it from land. The only way to observe this privately owned tower is by taking a cruise tour, which we opted not to do on this trip.

After quite a bit of driving around the area, crossing and re-crossing bridges, we finally found a point to locate Crossover Island Light Station and use the telephoto lens once more.  The original beacon was first constructed in 1848, rebuilt in 1882, but then deactivated in 1941.

Named Crossover Island because ships cross there from country to country, the tower is located very near the Canada-United States border, which was closed when we visited.  This lighthouse is also privately owned, not open to the public, but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The Thousand Island region is one area where we could imagine spending more time since there are other attractions including two castles: Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island (we caught a far-off glimpse of Singer from a lookout point) and various boat tours of the islands.  Also, visitors could enter Canada from this area when that country’s border is open to Americans.

However, because we were traveling to yet another area of New York state, time constraint prevented us from doing more sightseeing there. Plus, we were on a mission to visit the last lighthouse on the scenic byway before the sun set and darkness enveloped us.

We arrived in Ogdensburg, New York where we had hotel reservations for the night and located Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse just as evening was drawing nigh.  Standing at the mouth of the Oswegatchie and Saint Lawrence Rivers, the tower was built in 1835, making it one of the oldest lighthouses in the Thousand Islands and the furthermost  eastern American beacon.

Although the light there was deactivated in 1964 and the property was sold to private owners, in 2011 the U.S. Coast Guard granted permission to once again light Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse as a private aid to navigation. The maintained beacon was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

We viewed this historic lighthouse after a long day of travel and lighthouse searching and at the end of our journey along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. We made great memories along that trail.

The next day we would trade lake and river views for mountain and forest vistas. But that’s another tale for yet another Tuesday Tour coming next week.

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” ~ Louis L’Amour

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the right path

It truly does help to keep your eyes wide open when you travel. By not doing so, you might miss something along the way that enhances your journey.

On our early summer road trip on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail through western New York state, often our eyes zeroed in on the magnificent Great Lake Ontario as we searched for the 27 lighthouses along this scenic byway in that state.

Entering Cape Vincent, New York, our focus centered on finding Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, the next stop on our list. But because I was glancing around in hopes of noticing any photo worthy attraction, I spotted a short tower resembling a lighthouse situated on a plot of land not near the lake at all.

Papa willingly turned around so we could backtrack, find a place to park, and allow me to jump out of our vehicle to explore that glimpse I caught.  I was certain it was just a lighthouse replica, a form of welcome “sign” to Cape Vincent.

But I was surprised to discover that the small, 15-foot structure was actually an authentic wooden lighthouse that once stood on a pier in the lake.  Cape Vincent Breakwater had been removed from its former location and relocated to the southern end of town.  

Constructed in 1904 to replace temporary breakwater lights, two such structures once existed but were removed from the pier and replaced by skeletal steel structures in 1951.  Only the one we noticed survived through the years and now is owned by the village of Cape Vincent where it welcomes land visitors.

Cape Vincent is known as the only U.S. town where one can view Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River where they merge. That merging point is marked by Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, which soon became one of my favorites on this trip. The winding drive along the river to this lighthouse is a scenic path (pictured at the beginning of this post) and beautiful homes are located along it.

In 1827 the first tower and keeper’s quarters were constructed at that merge point on three acres of land given by Captain John Tibbetts to the federal government for the establishment of a lighthouse.  By 1854, the tower was replaced by the circular one which stands to this day. The Fresnel lens installed at that time is still in operation and a fog signal was added in 1896.

Manned by the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 to 1981, Tibbetts Point then became automated. However, the lighthouse continues to be a navigational active aid maintained by the Coast Guard.

When the town of Cape Vincent acquired the property, a visitor’s center was added, and the keeper’s quarters became a hostel. Because the lighthouse tower is still an active aid, it’s not accessible for visitors.

But the fog signal building, containing interesting exhibits, is open to the public and we got a kick out of the opportunity to blow the fog signal. The visitor’s center/gift shop is also an interesting place and there is plenty of parking on the grounds, which makes this lighthouse conducive for easy viewing.

Strolling around the lovely grounds at Tibbetts Point was very pleasant and we ate our picnic lunch in a pavilion for that purpose on a sunshine-filled day. We also observed large ships passing by since the Saint Lawrence River is a major shipping route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Another enjoyable aspect we found was using an outdoor telescope on the grounds to peer out into the lake and locate another lighthouse called East Charity Shoal. Even with my telephoto lens, I couldn’t capture a good shot of this one.

But we also used the telescope to view windmills at Canada’s Wolfe Island Wind Farm across the Saint Lawrence River.

My photos don’t really do justice to how picturesque Tibbetts Point truly is because the grandest view of it is by air or from a boat on the lake or river. But you can see what I mean by watching this video of Tibbetts Point.

Our decision to search for lighthouses along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail certainly led us on the right path. As we wound down our tour, we discovered it was necessary to keep our eyes open in order to view the next beacons when we entered New York’s Thousand Islands region.

It’s a good analogy for life, isn’t it? Stay focused. Keep your eyes open. Look for the right path that will guide you to well-being not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That path will lead you to the lighthouse you need.

“If you open your eyes very wide and look around you carefully, you will always see a lighthouse which will lead you to the right path! Just watch around you carefully!” ~ Mehmet Murat Ildan

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: balanced history

The Papa of this empty nest and I have history.

Considering how many relationships end after just a few years nowadays in society, Papa’s and my history goes back pretty far. We met as college students and dated for three years before we took the plunge into wedlock 44 years ago as we were launching our careers.

In just a few years, Lord willing, we will hit the big 5-0. Not 50 years of age, that’s long past. Not quite 50 years of marriage yet, but adding up the time we’ve been a couple, 50 years together.

We’ve learned much through all these years, but one of the most significant aspects of successful relationships we’ve discovered is balance.

Picture one of those instruments used for weighing items, like the scales of justice shown below. Composed of an arm, supported in the center, extending out with two dishes suspended on each side of the arm’s ends.  When material of equal weight is placed in both pans, the scale is perfectly balanced.  

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Balance is a key in wedded life. Not perfect because no relationship ever attains that rating. Balance in an equal partnership. Balance in fulfilling both person’s needs. Balance in love, caring, and respect.  

And that’s what Papa and I have strived for during our married life. Honestly, we didn’t always succeed but we persevered in trying. Life throws relationships curve balls, and we experienced our share of those, but we learned to adjust and take care of one another until we could hit that ball out of the park.

Why am I reminded of this? Since our nest became empty when our last offspring graduated college and flew away over 10 years ago, Papa and I started contemplating more seriously what retirement years would be like.

And now we are in that stage of life. Spending more time together than ever since taking care of our children and working away from home doesn’t require our time any longer. And we enjoy traveling together to view new sights and gain new experiences.

When we plan a vacation or trip, we try to keep balanced. We discuss travel plans and include places I would like to visit and spots that interest Papa as well. Sometimes we travel to a place where one of us has visited before, but the other hasn’t. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’ve been there; I don’t want to go back,” we agree to travel there so either Papa or I can see that spot for the first time.

Unusual places and natural sights interest me, and I appreciate opportunities to photograph those. Papa loves historical and nautical attractions and museums. So, we try to combine both of our interests into our journeys.

Our early summer trip along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in western New York is a perfect example of how we include balance in our excursions.

Since Papa is fascinated by historical facts and places, we not only visited the lighthouses along that national scenic byway but also spent a considerable amount of time exploring Sackets Harbor Battlefield, the site of two battles during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.

The well-protected harbor on Lake Ontario became the US Navy’s Great Lakes headquarters and played an important role during that war. Papa relished reading all the historical signage about this village, where thousands of naval and army troops once worked, building ships, forts, and barracks, as I captured scenic photos of the lake and battlefield.

The historic area of Sackets Harbor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has many well-preserved 19th century structures. Today Sackets Harbor is a quaint village with many shops and restaurants as well as a spot for boat enthusiasts and a historical tourist attraction.

As we walked around the battlefield that nice summer day, only a few people were there. But the village itself where the shops and restaurants were located was very busy.

Too busy for us. A fact that both Papa and I have discovered in which we have balance. Neither of us cares to be in crowded, congested places for long. Our history proves it.

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” ~  David McCullough

© 2021

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 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