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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, road trips, travel

Tuesday Tour: along the Seaway Trail

A couple of years ago, a seed was planted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in empty nest, Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: roadies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: memories as vast as the ocean

Can you ever get tired of pictures of the ocean? I can’t and I’m hoping you can’t either today as we journey down the Oregon Coast Highway, US Route 101, on my Tuesday Tour.

If a traveler desires to travel from start to finish along the Oregon coast, the first place to start is Astoria.  Next stops might include Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Tillamook (best ice cream and cheese ever!), Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, and Newport.

During our years living in the Pacific Northwest, we visited them all and you can read about those places and see my photographs in my previous blog posts.

But today I’m highlighting some of the Pacific Ocean’s beautiful sights, which our young family of five observed on our way to northern California for the first time in the early 1990’s, and showcasing just some of my captures with the 35 mm automatic film camera I had at the time.

Traveling south on US Route 101 just past Depoe Bay, we stopped at Cape Foulweather, a land formation 500 feet above the Pacific. Named by a seagoing captain named James Cook in 1778 after enduring terrible weather and rough ocean conditions, this area is now a state park where visitors may be fortunate enough to spy gray whales and bald eagles.

A little further south brought us to Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which has existed there since 1873 and I highlighted in my Tuesday Tour series on lighthouses. An interesting note to the Cape Foulweather area is that winds there can reach up to 100 miles/hour. Now you know why it’s named thusly.

Between Newport and Waldport, we found Seal Rock State Park, a perfect place to eat our picnic lunch in the day-use area. Then we explored the sandy beach, collecting seashells and examining the interesting tidepools.  

Our next stop was to view a spot located in Suislaw National Forest, which runs right up to the ocean. A small inlet called Devil’s Churn was carved into rock there by the crashing ocean waves over a multitude of years. Visitors have been known to be hit by the waves churning into the outlet when they send saltwater hundreds of feet into the air.

From there we continued southward to Florence, where one finds miles of beaches and the beginning of mountains of sand dunes. We also caught a glimpse of Heceta Head Lighthouse from a distance there. Another big attraction in the Florence area are the Sea Lion Caves, called America’s largest sea cave and home to scads of sea lions, which you can view while they lounge around inside the cave.

For almost 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay, we felt like we were in another area of the world. Why? Because the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located there, an amazing place where the forest, the desert, and the ocean all meet.

Our children loved frolicking over the huge sand dunes and pretending they were in a never-ending desert of sand looking for an oasis to find fresh water. With three rambunctious children who needed to get exercise outside of a long car ride, a lot of crawling and clowning around took place.

Our first day of that road trip ended when we spent the night in Gold Beach, a town in the Siskiyou Mountains where the Rogue River deposits itself into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great spot for wild, whitewater rafting on the river, jet boat tours, and plenty of fishing for salmon. 

The next day we passed through Brookings, the last Oregon town on US Route 101 and six miles from the California border. Driving into northern California, plenty more adventures awaited us as we made our way to Eureka and eventually San Francisco.

But for now, we’re going to leave the USA’s west coast and those travels from the past for a spell and I’ll take you on a more recent journey away from our empty nest beginning next Tuesday.

Those amazing ocean views will step back into my memories but won’t be forgotten. At some point in future Tuesday Tour posts, I’ll continue sharing some sites Papa and I explored ‘back in the day.’

“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” ~ Unknown

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com