Category Archives: Lighthouses

The Glimmer of Recognition

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” These wise words, spoken by the author of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” ring true about the joy of taking in a view, and sometimes there is a bit of Deja Vu happening…especially if you have seen something in photographs or have done your preliminary searching. Before I travel just about anywhere, I like to do my research about the area. It’s like exploring before you actually go exploring.  So wonderful to find out about the history, the terrain, and special “attractions” and features you may want to see when you are there. The beauty of this is not only learning new things, but also having the joy of seeing something with your own eyes after seeing a photo in a book or scrolling through sites on the internet. When you have already seen something as a reference point, if you have the opportunity of seeing something for the first time with your own eyes it brings a certain kind of exclamation of: “Oh, my Gosh…There it is!! That first initial Glimmer of Recognition, when the object or destination comes into view.

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Split Rock Lighthouse, Lake Superior

One of my most dramatic experiences with this phenomenon involves a lighthouse. Yes, a lighthouse. Not just any lighthouse, but my favorite lighthouse. I have a beautiful painting of it, and prior to moving near the north shores of Lake Superior…I had no idea it was so close to where I live. Venturing to visit there on a beautiful, sunny day we drove on the ribbon of highway around each bend and gradually approaching where we knew the lighthouse would be. Rounding a sharp curve, it was suddenly there up on the cliff. It almost seemed to jump at you from out of nowhere. I gasped and am a little embarrassed to say I actually teared up a little…it looked so small up there on that cliff over the turbulent waters of Lake Superior. Yet, I was so excited to see the actual lighthouse and tour it; hearing stories dating back to it’s construction in 1910.  Nevertheless, I remembered why it’s my favorite lighthouse: small in stature, but a mighty fortress as it sits atop that jagged cliff. It was a joy to see it and take my own photographs of it, not to just see it in a brochure or web site. And of course climbing the steps up to the lighthouse and admiring the view was a memorable part of the trip. I have been a few times and hope to go again.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

I have other travel experiences with this glimmer of recognition, but usually not quite as profound as my lighthouse moment. Any traveler can probably recall a time when they have exclaimed…Wow, Look….there it is! Some things don’t pop up suddenly, but instead gradually creep into view. Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is a perfect example of that.  It has special status within the National Park Service system because it was named as the first National Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. To accomplish this status, it also was the first act under the newly formed Antiquities Act. It truly is a unique feature on the landscape and can be seen for miles away as you approach the site.  When we drove there it’s truly amazing that you can see it long before you arrive there and calls of “Are we there yet?” are bound to come from the back seat…. It just appears on the low horizon as the highest thing around for miles. Viewing it from a distance is almost as amazing as up close. It’s kind of amazing when you get closer, because you can see that several brave souls climb it. My son ventured to explore the rocks at the base, and I just explored with my telephoto lens. That was high enough for me.

Quincy Market–Boston, Ma.

Another glimmer of recognition came recently on a trip to Boston. I heard many tales, and saw photos of the infamous Quincy Market. It was built in 1826 as a marketplace to accommodate the growing needs of the city and the overcrowding at Faneuil Hall. It has stately Greek columns and still serves as a thriving marketplace today. So in my quest to find it, we were walking and walking….and starting to wonder if we were going the right direction.  We rounded a corner and Voila! There it was, unmistakable. Doesn’t look like any other building in the area. Actually, when I first laid eyes on it, it seems bigger and perhaps more majestic than the photos portrayed. Interesting place to visit so I am glad I added it to our “to see” list while we were there.

There is such joy in seeing things with your own eyes, things that you have only heard or read about. Yet, that joy can be multiplied when as a traveler you take a little time to find out about your destination. The thrill of discovery will be yours! Put your traveling shoes on. Julie E. Smith

 

Boston Blend

Paul Revere statue by the Old North Church

 

Boston is a city that stands as a shining example of the blending of old and new elements. Boston is steeped with history showcasing the birth of our nation and the events of the American Revolution. Yet, in the same token it is a modern bustling city with glimmering skyscrapers next to the shores of the Atlantic. There is so much to take in when visiting this east coast city and there is something to appeal to every taste: history, architecture, diverse cuisine, beautiful parks and of course the famous Freedom Trail.

Red brick pathways of The Freedom Trail

Even if you have never been to Boston, the Freedom Trail is the most talked about and highlighted feature of the city.  The red brick pathways throughout the city streets lead you to 16 of some of the most significant events in the history of the United States. And yes, they happened in Boston.  Boston is frequently referred to as “The Cradle of Liberty”. The trail was originally conceived in 1951; the trail was completed and by 1953 40,000 people were walking the trail annually.  The trail is easy to follow by the narrow red bricks marking the way. The entire trail is only 2 1/2 miles long, but to take it all in perhaps its easier to walk part of the trail and “trolley” part of it. There are two trolley companies within the city that provide “hop on, hop off” service. I would highly recommend this, it’s an easy way to get around and see the sights you want to without becoming completed exhausted. They both have web sites and information on their tours: Old Town Trolley Tours and City View Trolley Tours.

One of the best places to start learning about all the ins and outs of the Freedom Trail is with the National Park Service. The NPS provides an abundance of information detailed the significant events of the birth of our nation. The National Park Service has two Visitor’s Centers in Boston: one in Faneuil Hall in the heart of government center area and the other by the harbor and the USS Constitution. We went to both Centers and both facilities offer an abundance of information to gain a better understanding of the historical significance of all the sites along the Freedom Trail. For those of you who are NPS passport holders, like myself, I am thrilled to report there are 16 different stamps you can collect from all the historic sites. I didn’t get all of them, but added quite a few to expand my Passport collection.

Boston’s Quincy Market- Built 1826

In the heart of the city is a vibrant market place housed in both Faneil Hall and Quincy Market. Faneil Hall was built in 1742 to serve as a central market but town meetings were also held here from 1764 to 1774. Samuel Adams led meetings here with protests against the taxation of the colonies, when some of the first stirrings of a revolution began. Today Faneuil Hall contains shops and restaurants on the first floor, the NPS Visitor’s Centers on the second floor and a museum on the third floor. The museum contains a collection about the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. The Company was founded in 1638 for defense of the colony. The display has occupied space in Faneuil Hall since 1746.

“In Boston, we love Lobsta”

In the same courtyard as Faneil Hall stands the stately building with Greek columns: Quincy Market. It was named after the Mayor of that time period (1823) who pushed to have the marketplace built to accommodate the needs of the growing city and the overcrowding at Faneuil Hall. Quincy Market was completed in 1826. It is a fascinating place to visit with all the sights and sounds of a thriving marketplace. Fish, meat, cheeses and an abundance of produce are seen up and down each aisle displayed by a diversity of vendors. Not only is this harbor town known for their wonderful seafood, but Bostonians have a unique accent and are not shy about it. Just take a look at this sign at a seafood vendor I saw at Quincy Market, it really gave me a chuckle. The way to pronounce Lobster is to drop the R….Lobsta…that’s the Boston way. I love it. We enjoyed talking with the locals and their accent was very evident with the trolley drivers. Perhaps they ham it up a bit for the tourists. I know that our Mid-western accents sound quite odd to them. That is always a fun part of traveling about the country. It’s English, but there are just so many different ways to speak it. Additionally, in this same marketplace, there are two additional buildings: South Market and North Market. Wow….So much shopping, So little time.

USS Constitution-oldest ship in the Navy

One of the highlights on the Freedom Trail takes you to the Charlestown Navy Yard; where the Charles River meets Boston Harbor. Here sitting in the harbor, is the oldest commissioned U.S. Naval ship: the USS Constitution.  She really is quite a sight to behold, and looking at all the rigging on her sails, it’s hard to imagine all the sailors operating them without tripping over each other. It would definitely have to be an orchestrated effort. The ship was built by Bostonians and launched in 1797. She sailed in 40 battles and never lost one. She was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” because of the way cannonballs would bounce off her tough oak planking. When visiting this sight, you are allowed to walk on the ship and explore it. However, security is tight because part of the facility is a working Navy base, it’s not all for tourism. The museum on the premises is also very interesting, it’s hard to take in all the information at one time, perhaps warrants multiple trips.

Swan Boat in Boston Common

The oldest public park in America, the Boston Common, is in the heart of the city and provides lush green spaces, manicured walkways trimmed with flowers, a small “frog pond” and a larger lake. It was originally  established by the Puritans in 1634. Within the park is a beautiful pond with the infamous Swan Boats floating gracefully across the pond. The boats are as quiet and gently moving as a real swan, because there are no motors; powered only by peddling of the swan boat “captain”. Even when filled with people, the whole park is serene and a lovely place to relax on a blanket on the grass.

“Make Way For Ducklings”

Another charming aspect of the park is the adorable “Make Way for Ducklings” statue that pays homage to the classic children’s story by Robert McCloskey. The tale of the wayward ducklings was inspired by the busy streets of Boston and a Mama Mallard trying to protect her brood. It was originally published in 1941, but it’s continued popularity has held the test of time as a classic children’s story.

Crossing the bridge on the Charles River, from Boston to Cambridge, takes you to two of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in America: Harvard University and MIT. Harvard holds the title of the oldest college in America, it was founded in 1636. Today Harvard also is known as a leading research facility.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded in 1861 and has become one of the world’s leading technical institutions.

Boston is indeed a city of manyfirsts” in our county. The first printing press was in Boston in 1638. The first subway was in Boston, 1898. The first World Series was held in Boston, 1903. The last “first” I will mention is near and dear to my heart: The Boston Light was the country’s first lighthouse in 1716. How could I have missed that when I was there….sounds like I need to head back to Boston for my OWN photo of that iconic lighthouse. Put your traveling shoes on. Julie E. Smith

The Boston Light-America’s first: 1716

The Diversity of the Apostle Islands

“Sea stack” in the Apostle Islands

Sea Caves, Lighthouses, Shipwrecks and breathtaking Sunsets…..all these amazing attributes are found among the 22 islands above the northern tip of Wisconsin in the chilly waters of Lake Superior. These unique islands were sculpted out of sandstone and formed towards the end of the glacial period 10,000 years ago. The amazing colored agates and rocks found in the area were deposited as the glaciers melted.

Many stories surround how the Apostle Islands got their names, but the commonly agreed upon one, involves the biblical parallel to the 12 Apostles.  Early explorers to the area were missionaries and tended to name new areas based on Biblical names. Counting the islands loosely, many believed that there were only 12, so the name: the Twelve Apostle Islands seemed appropriate.  Even though there are 22, the name Apostle Islands remained.

It’s interesting that there are only four areas protected by the National Park Service as “national lakeshores” and the Apostle Islands is one of them. President Nixon signed the bill establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 1970. There are 22 islands in the Apostle Islands, but one is omitted from the inclusion in the National Park protection: Madeline Island. This island is the largest of the islands and was omitted due to extensive residential and commercial development already existing on the island.

NPS Visitors Center

When visiting a National Park, my mantra has always been: “Let’s go to the Visitor’s Center first!” A visit to these islands is no exception to that rule. The Visitors Center is in an old courthouse; a historic building in it’s own right, but gives you a real overview of the islands and any information you my need while visiting.  The Visitors Center Park Headquarters is found at 415 Washington Ave. in Bayfield,  north from WI. 13 near 5th street. It resides in an old courthouse building that has been beautifully restored.  It was constructed from Brownstone mined from the Apostle Islands. Inside the center, are numerous displays of historical and also present day features of the park. The folks that work at the information desk have an abundance of information to help with any questions and suggestions about the surrounding area and lakeshore.  There is also a terrific film, 20 minutes long, explaining both the geology and human history of the area surrounding the Apostles entitled: “On the edge of Gichi Gami, Voices of the Apostle Islands.” Most people are familiar with Longfellow’s spelling of Gitche Gumee from his Hiawatha poem (1855). However, today in Ojibwe language class, you are more likely to see gichi-gami, gitchi-gami or kitchi-gami for Lake Superior. Loosely, it does indeed mean “Big Sea” or “Huge Water,” but just about always refers to Lake Superior.

Bayfield Wisconsin is a lovely town right on the south shore of Lake Superior and hails itself as the gateway to the Apostle Islands. Bayfield is the smallest incorporated city in Wisconsin, but it is brimming over with activity near the beauty of Lake Superior and the surrounding hillsides. The area is known for an abundance of recreational pursuits like hiking, kayaking and of course sailing.  When we were there, the town was host to a sailing race. Many of the sailing teams congregating at the local restaurants…you could just tell by the snippets of overheard conversations. Some of the sailing terminology that was bantered about is completely foreign to me, but the great thing is you could tell they were having a terrific time sailing among these beautiful islands.  Also, fruit and apple crops are abundant in this climate and area restaurants highlight locally grown produce. The Bayfield Apple Festival, always starting on the first Friday in October, is a weekend filled with farmers markets, fish fry and culminating with a parade. It’s quite the event in Bayfield. For more info. about Bayfield, check out: http://Bayfield.org

Lights of the Apostle Islands

Having an interest in lighthouses, I really came to the right place: The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has a larger concentration of lighthouses than any other National Park Service site. There are six lighthouses within the Apostle Islands, but there are even more in that area of Lake Superior, including Ashland Harbor. On the map here, you can see how the lighthouses are positioned among the islands. We only viewed the Raspberry and Devil’s Island lights, so perhaps another trip would be warranted.  After speaking with boat tour personnel and others, I found out that those two lighthouses are perhaps the most photographed and visited of all the lights.  Perhaps due in part to their easier accessibility to the mainland, but they are also possess their own unique characteristics. The building of the lighthouses between 1857 and 1915 ushered in the rise of modern shipping on Lake Superior.

Devil’s Island

Devil’s Island light opened in 1901 and sits atop the island that is the northernmost point of land in Wisconsin. I thought that alone was an interesting bit of trivia! This lighthouse is an impressive 80 feet high and is found above the beautiful sea caves that undercut the shoreline. The sandstone cliffs make a picturesque view with hardwood forests as the back drop. The incredibly rocky and treacherous shorelines, especially by Devil’s Island, make one realize why the lighthouses marking the way were so very important to the early mariners.

Raspberry Island Lighthouse

The Raspberry Island Lighthouse opened in 1862 with a height of 42 feet. The light was installed to mark the west channel in the islands. It is said to be one of the few remaining wood framed lighthouses on Lake Superior. Even though it is rather large, by lighthouses standards, it has a certain charm to it and has been lovingly restored in recent years. The property includes the attached lighthouse keeper quarters, a fog signal building, barn, brick oil house, two boathouses, two outhouses and a dock. When we were there, we saw a few people ascending the huge staircase from the shoreline and dock to the top landing: wow there’s your workout for the day.

There is so much beauty in the Apostle Islands to experience that one visit there will not suffice…looking forward to my next trip there. Put your traveling shoes on. JES

The Lighthouse Enigma; a sustaining fascination with those Beacons of Light.

Split Rock Lighthouse~Lake Superior

The Lighthouse: for generations of mariners, it helped to guide their safe journey and was a key element in navigation for over 300 years. Yet, with modern radar, Loran (“Long Range Navigation”) and GPS the lighthouses of the past have become transformed from work horses to historical landmarks. Even though lighthouses have become obsolete as a navigation tool, their history and architectural significance  continues to interest many visitors each year.  So why this interest in Lighthouses? To so many people, myself included, there is a sustained fascination with both the buildings themselves and the stories behind the “keepers of the light.” Lighthouses are not just little buildings by the water, they also have provided avenues of both historical and architectural study.

Additionally, they have become somewhat of a symbol as a “cultural reference” to provide guidance and inspiration to weary souls, referenced to as such in both literary works and popular culture.  In terms of symbolism, there is a dichotomy that exists between the isolation of the lighthouse keeper and their job requiring them to have a connection; a contact with the outside world.  That is why I, and perhaps others, feel such a connection to  lighthouses.  I sometimes feel a sense of isolation, but at the same time believing (hoping) that I am part of the community and part of something bigger. It’s good to think we are all a part of something larger in the scheme of things.

With respect to literary references, the one that jumps to my mind is  To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. The story takes place in 1927, but many of the struggles that the characters deal with are timeless. In the story, the lighthouse is a symbol of spiritual strength and guidance amidst all the stormy seas of life.  Yet, conversely there is a certain sadness inherent in this representation because life goals of each character, represented by the illumination of the lighthouse, are frequently unattainable.  The light may continue to illuminate, but there is a chance we may never reach safe harbor.

So beyond the cultural references, the physical evidence remains: there are over 1,000 lighthouses in the United States alone.  Many of these are in disrepair and hardly recognizable as a lighthouse.  Nevertheless, there are so many that have been restored and have become added to the list on travel destinations for many US travelers. The greatest concentration of lighthouses are found in the Midwestern states, by virtue of the  Great Lakes. The state of Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state with over 120.  With all these architectural wonders steeped in history, it is not surprising that organizations have been chartered to maintain and preserve them. One of the main organizations, with several “satellite” branches is the United States Lighthouse Society. Yes, there is such an organization with their main goal to: “endeavor to become the primary source for lighthouse and lighthouse heritage information.” Their web-site is an amazing source of both historical information and stunning photographs.  Check out their site at: uslhs.org

I last wrote about Lighthouses in my blog from March of 2016.  My curiosity about lighthouses has not waned and I have had the good fortune to visit a few more and learn even more on the topic. I am a firm believer that whatever your age, you can always learn something new.  It’s interesting that when you dabble in a subject, you just keep uncovering more about it.  Perhaps you are more attune to learning about things that were right there in front of you all along. My interest in lighthouses is a perfect example.  When I first began to dig deeper into the subject of  lighthouses, I discovered more information about the United States Lighthouse Society. 

Point No Point Lighthouse Hansville, Washington

A trip to the west coast to visit my sister-in-law included several beach walks by one of my favorite little lighthouses: Point No Point. Not very tall, but it has served it’s purpose located along the major shipping lanes along the Kitsap Peninsula. It was built in 1879 and was the very first lighthouse built on Puget Sound. Yet, the interesting thing is that the United States Lighthouse Society is housed in The Keeper’s Quarters of this lighthouse.   Small world.  I have walked by this same lighthouse countless times and did not know that it houses the organization that connects people to their love of lighthouses.  Their spectrum is not just the west coast, but from across the country and including information on Alaska and Hawaii lighthouses.

So many trips in this country might possibly include a trip to a lighthouse in the area you are visiting. Pencil one in on your itinerary; you won’t regret the nautical history lesson and the beauty of the beacon itself. Put your traveling shoes on. JES

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie, Marblehead, Ohio