Tuesday Tour: Road trip lights

We love road trips.

I know many folks prefer plane travel when the destination is several hundred or thousand miles away. But for us, a road trip is far more pleasant. You can take your time. You can stop wherever and whenever you like. You can traverse along the scenic route, not just the most direct one.

A couple of years ago, we traveled by car to New England, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. After days and various stops in Vermont and New Hampshire, we arrived in Maine.

We were anxious to drive along the Atlantic Ocean coast of that state, especially in Acadia National Park, and compare it to our memories of the Pacific coastline of Oregon.

We certainly weren’t disappointed and we located a number of lighthouses for me to photograph, although this trip was completed prior to our acquiring our trusty U.S. lighthouses map and guide. The unique Egg Rock Light, located in Frenchman’s Bay, was one of those.

Since it is situated out in the water, I had to resort to using a telephoto lens to attempt a capture, and I don’t think it’s a great photo. The surrounding scenery though was gorgeous.

However, you can ascertain from it that this lighthouse is a square, brick tower extending out of a square keeper’s dwelling. The second building there is the fog station.

Egg Rock Light was constructed in 1875 but was automated in 1976 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Today, it still is an active navigation aid managed by the Coast Guard and flashes red every 40 seconds.

An interesting historical tidbit is how Egg Rock got its name – an abundance of birds’ eggs could be collected on the island, but seabirds abandoned the island after the lighthouse was built. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, today the site is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not open to the public.

Our next lighthouse stop within Acadia National Park was more spectacular – Bass Harbor Head Light.  Located on Mount Desert Island in Tremont, Maine, this cliff-side brick light marks the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay.

Although there are well over 60 lighthouses in Maine, not many of them are accessible by driving vehicles but Bass Harbor Head Light Station is one of them. Normally the parking lot is free and the grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. until sunset. Now, of course, covid-19 restrictions apply.

After arriving there, we followed a path that led us to the tower and a viewing area where the harbor and distant islands could be observed.  We viewed the bell, now outside the tower, and plaques detailing the lighthouse’s history on the grounds. Neither the tower itself nor the keeper’s house is open to the public.  

For the brave at heart and fit in body, you can also take a path leading to a stairway down the cliff, but one has to keep in mind that there are no safety devices on the boulders below and the Maine coast is a rough one with many loose stones and slippery places.

The stairway back up to the lighthouse is also very steep. We chose only to go part way, although now I realize it would have provided a more dramatic photograph from the ocean side of the lighthouse had we ventured to the bottom.

Standing 56 feet above water, Bass Harbor Light was erected in 1858 with a fog bell and tower added in 1876. An even larger bell weighing in around 4,000 pounds was later installed in the 32-foot tower itself.  Electrified in 1949 and then automated in 1974, this light can be seen 13 nautical miles.

Even though the land upon which the lighthouse sits belongs to Acadia National Park, just this year, the light station was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service. Rights to operate and maintain this navigational aid is still retained by the Coast Guard.

Bass Harbor Head Light Station’s claim to fame is that it is the fifth most popular site in Acadia National Park. An estimated 180,000 people visit it every year. It has also been featured on the America the Beautiful quarter minted in 2012 and appeared on a 2016 postage stamp depicting the National Park Service’s centennial.

Someday I’m hoping Papa and I can take more long distance road trips once again. And when we do, I’d like to go back to that rugged coast of Maine and beyond into our next-door neighbor country Canada to catch a glimpse of more lighthouses.

Like the vital rudder of a ship, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our home port is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed.” ~  Thomas S. Monson

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Tuesday Tour: Guiding light in autumn

It won’t come to you as a surprise.

If you’ve been a reader of Mama’s Empty Nest for very long, you are probably quite aware that autumn is my very favorite season of all.

Oh, I like winter enough when it snows and is frosty outside. Spring rates as my second favorite season because finally color bursts forth across the landscape. Summer? Blech. I only tolerate those months of the year when it’s not hot and humid and that doesn’t happen very often in my neck of the woods.

Since Papa and I entered the empty nest stage of life well over a decade ago when our last offspring headed off to college life, we’ve enjoyed taking vacations in the fall. And now that we’re retired, traveling during that season suits us even more. The weather is usually very pleasant and sightseeing spots are far less crowded.

Our trip to Michigan last year was no different except that we encountered much colder weather than we expected. But even though we had to find a retailer to purchase winter hats and gloves to stay warm, we relished in our sightseeing – especially all of the lighthouses we visited in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We spent a day enjoying snow flurries while touring that area with our trusty lighthouse map/guide specifically to find a couple of lighthouses. Our day trip ended in Sault Ste. Marie shivering in rapidly falling temperatures at sunset to watch a ship proceed through the locks there, which is one of the most heavily used commercial shipping canals in the world.

Prior to that though, we traveled along the shoreline of the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, to Point Iroquois Light 20 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie.

The area known as Point Iroquois was named by the Ojibwa for the Iroquois war party who invaded the area in an attempt to dominate the fur trade but were defeated in a massacre in 1662. The name used by the Ojibwa in their native language meant “place of Iroquois bones.”

After French explorers arrived in the area, the point became a notable landmark, especially once Sault Ste. Marie was established as a settlement. By the mid 1800’s, copper and iron ore were discovered in the area resulting in the need for a passage for ore-carrying vessels to safely travel and the “Soo Locks” was built.

Because of the increased volume of water traffic leaving and approaching the locks and the very hazardous weather conditions in the area, the addition of lighthouses along Lake Superior became apparent. 

Construction of Point Iroquois Light Station, which would serve to guide ships through a narrow channel between shallow sand bars and shoals off the point and rocky reefs on the Canadian side of Whitefish Bay, commenced in 1854 and was completed the next year. The light was emitted for the first time in September 1857.

The original lighthouse consisted of a cylindrical 45-foot wooden tower with a detached one-and-a-half story stone dwelling for the keeper’s quarters. Years later, both structures were in poor condition, so construction began on a new 65-foot brick tower and eight-room keeper’s home in 1870, which still stand today.

When a fog signal was added to the station, another keeper was required, so an addition to the keeper’s home was added in 1905 to provide more living space.

After 107 years of service, Point Iroquois Lighthouse became deactivated in 1963 when it was replaced by the automated Gros Cap Point Light in Canada. The lantern room’s Fresnel lens was removed, shipped to Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institute, and the lighthouse property deemed excess. In 1965, the U.S. Forest Service assumed responsibility for the property.

Ten years later, the light station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and during the 1980’s, Bay Mills-Brimley Historical Research Society joined the forest service in restoring the lighthouse and creating a museum and gift shop in the keeper’s dwelling.

Despite the navigational light and fog horn aid Point Iroquois provided in its many years of service, occasionally ships still wrecked in the passage. Such an event occurred in 1919 during a November lake storm.

The steamer Myron sunk in the freezing lake and 16 of the crew lost their lives. The light keeper at the time found their bodies washed ashore and had to transport them to a nearby town undertaker. Reportedly, the undertaker paid $10 apiece for “floaters.”

Treacherous winter weather also took its toll when the keeper and assistant took a team of horses out on the ice to either fish or gather ice blocks to store in the ice house.

On more than one occasion, horses broke through the ice because of soft spots where warm springs bubbled up. During one such episode, the horses became so frightened that they thrashed around and unfortunately sank into the icy lake to their deaths.

Those are just some of the stories about the light keepers and their families visitors learn about when viewing exhibits at this light station’s museum.

The lantern room is open to the public and you can climb the 72 steps of the circular iron stairway to reach it. Papa and I accomplished that and were rewarded with an amazing view of Lake Superior, particularly beautiful in autumn.

We peeked into the assistant light keeper’s apartment which has been restored to reflect how it looked during the 1950’s. We thoroughly delighted in a short walk along a wooded boardwalk path to a cobblestone beach where we gained different perspectives of the lighthouse amid the fall foliage. 

Currently during this pandemic, the Point Iroquois Lighthouse is closed. However, visitors can still stroll the boardwalk and grounds there.

I sincerely hope my readers are finding the stories of all of these lighthouses I highlight on my Tuesday Tour posts as fascinating as I am. Each lighthouse has a different story to tell just as each has a purpose for existing.

And isn’t that just like us as human beings? We each have a story, we each have a purpose, and sometimes, our purpose is to tell our stories to help someone else.

Just like a guiding lighthouse.

“ …what he told himself on those sea-soaked nights…Others joined in and it was discovered that every light had a story-no, every light was a story. And the flashes themselves were the stories going out over the waves, as markers and guides and comfort and warning.” ~ Jeanette Winterson in  Lighthousekeeping

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

For the love of family

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Family game time

Family time.

It’s always been an important aspect of our lives here in this empty nest home even when it wasn’t empty.

When our three offspring were young, we tried to spend as much time as possible together, attending activities and sports events to support one another. At times it was oh, so very hectic.

That and living at a great distance away from our extended family – parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins – prevented us from spending as much time with our relatives as we would have liked.

Over 20 years ago, we relocated back to my hometown to be closer to some of our family. Our kids were teens and pre-teens and our household was still a busy one; Papa’s work travels interfered, but we managed to devote time to parents before they passed away and to some of our extended family.

But since Papa’s extended family lived several hours away, we couldn’t always attend family events like reunions.  As the years passed, we found ourselves only seeing those family members at funerals.

Circumstances changed as we entered these retirement years, and we’ve found ourselves with time to devote to family gatherings afar. As the older generations of our families are now gone, it seems more important than ever to stay connected.

Now days, families are scattered hither and yon. Two of our own grown children live in other states as does one of my sisters and one of Papa’s brothers and their families. Visiting with them requires major trips.

Maybe that’s why I relish time with family so very much. We just don’t get to experience that luxury very often.

Back in the beginning of September, Papa and I traveled across our state for an overnight stay to attend a family reunion with his mother’s relatives. Uncles and aunts are now long gone but still the cousins meet on a Sunday afternoon at a state park for a picnic and time together.

We enjoyed our visit and picnic lunch in a quiet, tranquil area of the park. It was a joy to see the “kids” all grown up with spouses and little ones of their own. The day resulted in a wonderful time of reconnecting, reminiscing, and reacquainting.

Just last weekend, we were blessed with another joyful time of family togetherness when our own “kids” all came home for a visit. The house was full. And with two preschoolers running around, a baby, and a dog along with seven adults, it was a loud and boisterous place.

Quite a difference from what this empty nest home usually is like but we wouldn’t have traded that time and noise and chaos for all the world.

It’s family time. And it makes me happy and contented and looking forward to the next time we will gather again.

Christmas this year in this ol’ empty nest is going to be the most wonderful time of the year.

“When we sit thoughtfully pondering in a quiet place and the Spirit speaks to us, there will come into our hearts and souls the things that are truly our greatest desires, those things that are more important in the long run than anything else. Away from the appeal of the world, that greatest desire usually relates to relationships with family and with the Lord. And when that priority is in place, then we begin to plan our lives with purpose. We begin to have goals that cause us to live with anticipation.” ~ Ardeth Kapp

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com