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.
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
Atop the glacial formed cliffs towering by the St. Croix river, are two beautiful parks: one on the Minnesota side and one on the Wisconsin side. They share the “Interstate” name and they share similar terrain, however they are operated independently by each state. For over 100 years, visitors have come to this area to view the rugged cliffs, unique glacial formations and the forested hills surrounding the scenic St. Croix River. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, the area is perfect for a number of recreational pursuits include hiking, camping, fishing and boating.
In 1895, the Minnesota Interstate Park was established to help preserve the scenic beauty and geologic wonders found in the area. Wisconsin followed suit in 1900 by establishing Interstate Park at the southern edge of St. Croix Falls, directly across from the Minnesota Park. Wisconsin’s Interstate Park is the oldest established Park in the state. When originally conceived in the early 1900’s , the Parks were run with a certain degree of reciprocity between the two states. However, with changes in administration of the Parks, after 2003 the Parks became independent of each other and are operated by their respective states. Even though the administration is separate, the ideology and shared vision of protecting this unique and beautiful glacial land is reciprocal.
Wisconsin Interstate Park is Wisconsin’s oldest state park and boasts incredible land forms and hiking trails with breathtaking view of the St. Croix River. Interesting geological formations in the park called “potholes” can be viewed in several locations throughout the park. Not the kind of potholes we usually think of that afflict the roadways for motorists, these potholes were formed when sand and rocks were trapped in glacial whirlpools and drilled deep potholes into solid rock. Another feature of the rock formations can be found by the cliffs rising from the riverbeds. Some of the cliffs rise up to 200 feet high above the river. One of the most unusual rock formation is the “Old Man of the Dalles”, with an uncanny look of an old man looking out over the St. Croix River. It makes one think of the man-made stone work of Mt. Rushmore, but it is truly amazing that this visage was totally crafted by natural forces.
Another interesting feature of this Wisconsin Park, is that it also has an affiliation with the National Park Service by virtue of the fact that this park is on the western edge of the Ice Age Trail. The effects of the glacial period are readily seen across the state of Wisconsin and better preserved than almost any other area of the country. The Interstate Park Visitor newsletter reports: “In 1964, legislation was passed by Congress to preserve and protect this heritage of the Ice Age in Wisconsin. This legislation created the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve. The Reserve consists of nine separate units located across the state from Lake Michigan on the east to the St. Croix River on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border on the west.”
The Ice Age Interpretive center, close to the entrance of the park, has informative displays on the effects of glacial activity and a 25 minute video entitled “Mammoths & Moraines”. Additionally they have a book store and gift store in this same facility. The staff there can help with any questions about the area and what your needs are when visiting the park. For example, which trails would be suited for my hiking ability? Some trails are much “trickier” and steep than others. If canoeing or boating, there are boat launches available on the St. Croix River and Lake O’ the Dalles. Campers can take their pick from 82 beautiful wooded sites. Camping is available May 1- October 1. The Interstate Park of Wisconsin encompasses 1,330 acres with an abundance of land to explore.
The Minnesota Interstate Park is smaller, at 293 acres, but also has an abundance of interesting terrain and activities. The views of the river provide different outlooks from the western side. When I was there, several brave souls were climbing the steep faces of the rocky cliffs. (With several safety harnesses, luckily….sorry, just not my cup of tea.) Another activity, only available on the Minnesota side of the river, are boat rides on the St. Croix on those old, quaint paddle boats. I must clarify that the boat tours are not affiliated with Minnesota Interstate Park, they just happen to be right next to the park. Both the Park and the boat tours are in Taylors Falls and both on the riverfront. When you are hiking in the park, it is common to see several of these tour boats going up and down through the Dalles. You gotta love those huge paddle wheels churning up the water. (Cue: “Mississippi Queen…You know what I Mean….”) Boats have been touring up and down this river since 1906. For more information on the Scenic Boat Tours, you can check out their website at: http://www.taylorsfallsboat.com
Exploring both of the parks can be very rewarding. They share a border and also share the same vision of protecting a beautiful part of our Midwestern landscape.
Information on Wisconsin’s Interstate Park can be found at:http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/interstate/
Information on Minnesota’s Interstate Park can be found at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/interstate/
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
The Namekagon River (pronounced: Nam-uh-Kah-gun) , in addition to the St. Croix River, make up 255 miles of protected riverway as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The National Park Service manages the riverway and Visitor Centers at both the St. Croix and the Namekagon sites and both provide ample opportunities for discovering all the natural beauty in the area.
The St. Croix Visitors Center is open year round (see my post dated: July 11,2017), however the Namekagon River Visitor Center is only open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Since my husband and I recently visited Namekagon Visitors Center, I guess we got there just in the nick of time, they will be closing for the season after the Labor Day holiday. It is worth the effort to go there: they have many interesting displays, educational materials and a short video about the history, geology and beauty of the rivers that are part of this conservation effort. Both the St.Croix and the Namekagon were among the first rivers protected by Congress under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. The diverse and rich history of these rivers tell many stories of both human inhabitants utilizing the resources of the river and the abundant wildlife that call this area home.
The Namekagon gets is name from the Ojibwe language meaning “river at the place abundant with sturgeons”. The Dakota (Sioux) and the Ojibwe (Chippewa) were the first inhabitants in this river region. The resources of the river provided ample fishing and the harvesting of wild rice. The Namekagon River is a 101 mile tributary of the St. Croix. It’s source is in northwestern Wisconsin in Bayfield County. It meanders southwest and joins the St. Croix River south of the city of Superior, WI. Here is a map detailing both rivers and the location of the visitors centers and boat launch sites. Opportunities abound not only for fishing, but kayaking and canoeing as well on these beautiful waterways that meander thru the northwoods.
The fascinating history of the area is also documented here at the visitors center. The logging era started in the 1800’s by these rivers and had a profound impact on the geology and economy of this area. The rivers were used to float the logs downstream to the mills for processing. During the peak of the logging industry, lumberjacks cut down 450 million board feet of lumber. Frequently there would be log jams on the river that were so dense that the loggers had to use dynamite to free the logs. Forests at the time seemed endless and were over harvested, so logging methods changed and the last log drive on the St. Croix was in 1914.
The beauty of the woods and the two rivers that run through them is wonderfully chronicled in the Namekagon Visitors Center. The Rangers there can provide historical and geological information on the area, as well as recreational information if you are planning an outing on the river. The center is easy to find: just off of Hwy 53 in Trego, 22 miles south of Hayward.
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Important deadline coming up!! As of August 28, 2017 the price of a Senior pass to the National Parks is increasing from $10.00 to $80.00 for persons 62 years and older. The lifetime pass is available to persons 62 (not 65, as some may think.) The additional funding will be used to maintain and protect the beauty of our National Parks and to improve the park visitors experience. Even at $80.00 it seems like a fantastic deal, to open the doors to travel at all of America’s wonderful Parks and historical sites. Nevertheless, if you can get access to that pass (if you are 62 or older) NOW is the time to purchase.
Another terrific perk about the Senior pass is that your traveling companions also gain entrance to the park on the pass. A wonderful chance to take your spouse, take your children or grandchildren! When my husband first got his pass, we took our college age sons to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Devil’s Tower. What a memorable trip that was! No entrance fees mean more souvenir shopping money! Yes, we still did our part to bolster the local economy and money into the Park’s gift store.
Senior Passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site, including national parks, that charges an entrance or standard amenity (day-use) fee. Proof of age and residency is required. A list of which sites sell the senior pass can be found on the National Park Service site: http://www.nps.gov In my own state of Wisconsin, there are 10 sites listed where you can purchase the pass, but all sites might not be very close driving distance. Additionally, passes can be purchased on-line, but an additional $10 fee is charged for processing.
So if you will be 62+ before August 28….better get your National Park pass to start working on that “bucket list”.
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Sometimes it is easy to make assumptions, frequently incorrect, based on common knowledge and not first hand experience. It can be an eye-opening experience when you learn something new, that turns your previous assumption upside down. That happened to me recently with an updated geography lesson about the upper Midwest. Growing up in Iowa, the Mighty Mississippi, was the grand daddy of all rivers and forms the eastern Iowa border. Sure, I had heard of the St. Croix River, but just knew it was “up north” somewhere. I didn’t realize that a large portion of the Wisconsin and Minnesota borders are defined by the St. Croix River, which joins the Mississippi further south, almost to the Iowa border in Prescott, Wisconsin. So many “flatlanders” like myself, just make the assumption that it is mostly the Mississippi that carves out the pathways in the Midwest. Yes, this is true, but the St. Croix has an impressive presence north of the 45th degree latitude.
A visit to the National Park Service Visitor Center of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is a great way to learn how the St. Croix and the Namekagon rivers have had an incredible influence on this area of the upper Midwest. In addition to learning about the fascinating geologic and historical information of the area, one can also get information here on hiking, canoeing and fishing these beautiful waters. The rivers have provided commerce, recreation and also abundant resources to support a diversity of wildlife. The rivers of the St.Croix and Namekagon together make up 252 miles of protected waterway in the St. Croix National Scenic Waterway.
The geologic history of the area began millions of years ago when the glaciers carved out the river valleys and rugged bluffs overlooking the flowing rivers. The first human inhabitants of the rivers were the Dakota (Sioux) and the Ojibwe (Chippewa) that found this area to have plentiful resources for an abundant life. The next to explore this area were the French and later the English fur trappers. The logging industry in the area took the St. Croix river valley by storm and the pique of the logging industry was the 1890’s. Log jams in the river frequently occurred, not only hindering the progress of lumber to the mills, but also damaging the fragile ecosytems of the rivers. The life of the lumberjacks was challenging on the river, to say the least, and many lost their lives in this profession. They built small shanties that floated in the river to help carry supplies and were sometimes used to sleep in as they were “steering” the lumber downstream. The shanty was called a Wannigan as shown is this photo. The last major log drive was in 1914. It is interesting that in St. Croix Falls, WI. and Taylors Falls, MN. the lumber industry and the rich heritage of the river is still celebrated today with “Wannigan Days”. Now that is neat! I learned that new tidbit of trivia when moving to this area….I bet not that many people know what a Wannigan is, well know you know.
When at the Visitor’s Center, be sure to check out the 500 gallon freshwater aquarium. It is stocked with great examples of the kinds of fish that anglers in the area are fishing for. The displays are great in learning all about the wildlife and the plant life near the river. Be sure to take a few minutes (only about 20) to view the film about the rivers and how the National Park Service established protection of this waterway thru the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The Visitor’s Center is also a great source of information for planning camping, canoeing and/or fishing trips. They can provide maps, educational materials and answer any questions about the area. The St.Croix River Visitor Center is easily found at 401 N. Hamilton Street, St. Croix Falls, Wi. It is just off the main road (87), 2 blocks north of the St. Croix Overlook Deck.
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
On the west coast, Seattle is an iconic waterfront city filled with experiences that you “gotta see” when visiting there. One of the neat features about Seattle is so many of the sites are along the waterfront or within walking distance of the main downtown area. Even if you only have a day or two to spend in this vibrant city, here are the Top Five attractions that really help to define the Seattle experience.
1–FERRY BOATS-Simplistic, but this is probably my favorite part of the Seattle area. Many native Seattle folks take them back and forth as commuters every business day and they are very commonplace along the waterfront. Nevertheless, I find them so much an exciting part of visiting this city. It is really amazing how many people and vehicles fit on one of these huge boats. Even more amazing, is how smoothly and efficiently the loading and unloading is accomplished several times a day. For more information on the ferry system, current schedules and sailing routes, check the Washington State Ferries web-site at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ Crossing the water to Bainbridge or Kingston is not a long journey, but just long enough to enjoy being on the water and fantastic views of the skyline. Also, usually just long enough to polish off a specialty coffee drink. There are quaint little coffee shops all over Seattle and of course, right at the entrance to the Ferry terminals. Seattle is really big on coffee and is known for being the birthplace of Starbucks coffee. Which leads me to my next favorite: the original Starbucks cafe.
2–ORIGINAL STARBUCKS- Yup…this is where it all began: Starbucks Coffee. Even if you are not a huge coffee drinker, it is so neat to visit the original site where the first Starbucks opened their flagship store in 1971. It is smaller than one would imagine, but therein lies the charm of the quaint place for the birthplace of this coffee giant. Tourists and locals alike seek out refreshment at this iconic stop frequently on their way to or from the next Seattle landmark: Pikes Place Market. Another place that lends itself to lots of photo opps and an abundance of great sights and scents to sample.
3–PIKES PLACE MARKET-There are outdoor markets aplenty, but none can compare to the excitement and bustle of Pikes Place Market. The Market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest operating farmers’ markets in the country. Before I went there, I heard that the vendors throw fish to each other in the process of filleting and also filling orders. What?! Sounds strange, and it is…but when you see a 15 pound salmon flying through the air it really gets your attention, not something you see in the average supermarket. The Market is full of wonderful fruits, fish, vegetables, flowers and homemade honeys & jams. Also, various craft items including jewelry, leather working, glass-works and pottery can be found there. The building itself is quite impressive and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. It sits overlooking the Seattle waterfront. Built on a steep hill, it has several different levels with an abundance of differing shops. The vendors take pride in beautiful displays of their wares, even the peppers are an art form in and of themselves; so many different colors and shapes!
4–PIER 54-IVAR’S & YE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP-Probably these two are the easiest to find attractions on the waterfront. Literally right when you walk off the Ferry boat and next to the ferry terminals. Ivar’s is the seafood restaurant with both “casual” dining (more like a fast food style…but the food is still top-notch) and a lovely sit down restaurant. Both Ivar’s restaurants offer great cuisine, depending what you are in the mood for. The “casual” restaurant has outdoor setting by the water; and adults and kids alike are entertained by feeding your french fries to the seagulls. Entertaining yes….but the seagulls can sometimes get pretty aggressive. Just use caution; very small children shouldn’t partake in this activity. Might be nice to keep all 10 digits.
Located on the same Pier is a very fun, touristy shop: Ye Old Curiosity Shop. Filled with many “curiosities” like shrunken heads, a 4 -legged chicken and mummies. Some of the stuff is kind of creepy, although entertaining. It has been part of the Seattle waterfront since 1899. They have changed exact locations several times, but are generally in the same area. In addition to all the oddities, they do carry lots of the “usual” souvenirs, jewelry and also unusual items for purchase to remember your trip to Seattle. The totem poles at the front of the stores make great photo opps for you and your group. A terrific place to stop by and it’s right by the waterfront.
5–SEATTLE SPACE NEEDLE-One of the most recognized landmarks in Seattle is the Space Needle. It is an observation tower that reaches 605 feet high and resembles the home of The Jetsons, if you remember that cartoon from the early 60’s. The tower was opened in 1962 and was built in honor of the World’s Fair held in Seattle that year. The views from the top are fantastic and every one visiting this ocean front city should go up once. Yet, if you’ve done it once, that is probably enough. Great views, but repeat visits to the city don’t really warrant several trips to the top of “the Needle”. We did it once when my kids were little, but on subsequent visits I have always longed for and participated in the above listed “top 4”. I wouldn’t think of going to Seattle without a trip to Pikes Place and lunch at Ivar’s. Polished off with a view of the setting sun by the deck of a Ferry boat. Just writing these words make me realize I need to get back to Seattle soon. Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Throughout the ages, fishermen have told their tales of “the one that got away”. Yet, in the north woods of Wisconsin there is a place that one can view the biggest, the best and the world records in fishing. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin pays tribute to fresh water sport fishing and truly is an interesting place to visit. Even, if you are not an avid fisherman, which I am not….it still is well worth a trip to see all the varied fishing artifacts and well over 300 mounted fish. The 7 acre complex boasts over 100,000 visitors annually. And YES…you can climb the staircase inside the giant Musky and take a picture from his gaping jaws…Ahhhh! The ultimate photo of your visit here!
Their website clarifies that it is more than just a museum showcasing trophy fish but also on a mission to promote the sport: “The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is the international headquarters for education, recognition and promotion of fresh water sportfishing.”
Also among the giant fish statutes, is a rather large and interesting museum with thousands of antique rods, outboard motors, and publications. Throughout the hallways are dedications of anglers, both living and memorialized, in the Halls of Fame who have brought many records to the sport of fishing. Some of the records are not just for the “biggest and best”, but also many anglers are remembered for their contribution for educating and promoting the sport of fishing. I really don’t pursue fishing as a hobby, but you can’t help but get a little sentimental when reading some of the dedications in the Hall of Fame.
The giant Musky statue is the landmark feature and is quite impressive. He was built in 1978-79 and is an impressive 143 feet long and is 50 feet high. When you ascend the staircase to reach the top of the Musky, along the way are amazing facts and figures about fishing and additional highlights covering anglers’ achievements.
When in the North woods of Wisconsin, The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is definitely worth checking out. For more information you can check out:http://www.freshwater-fishing.org So what tales of fishing adventures do you have to tell? Tall tales or otherwise, I love to hear them.
So head on out and “Put your traveling shoes on.” JES