a beacon in the night . . .

Lighthouses have always been an obsession of sorts for me.  Intrigued by their history, architecture and location, they have been the inspiration of many a road trip.  Perhaps being born in Michigan, home to 129 lighthouses sparked my first interest.  Whatever it may be, I have covered some serious ground in my quest for seeing them all. {Of course, that’s not truly possible, but one can dream, right?}

As many lighthouses I have seen, I have just as many tales.  But the one story that trumps them all happened one warm, summer night, IN Lake Michigan, just a month ago.

I’ve had the good fortune of traveling over hill and dale to a privately owned piece of property on the south island of New Zealand.  Unbeknownst to me, the surprise at the end of the road was my own private viewing of Cape Campbell lighthouse, located on an immaculate beach full of exquisite seashells, like none I had ever seen.  As magical as that experience was, they keep coming.

Life’s pressures were wearing on me, so I did what I do best, grab the camera and head out on a photo safari.  Like I previously mentioned, Michigan has the honor of having more lighthouses than any other state.  I set off to see how many I could see . . . in a short amount of time.  Traveling up through the state to the Upper Peninsula, I planned on stopping at Seul Choix first ~ aptly named, “only choice”.  

Charming, well-preserved and one I could climb to see the view ~ a near 360º of Lake Michigan ~ I was enchanted.  An elderly woman was the keeper of the museum down below, and delighted me with tales of ghosts.

Next stop was Munising, Michigan on Lake Superior.  My travel guides indicated three lighthouses on the mainland, but had quite the time finding them.  I stumbled across one in town, not on the water, but next to a park service building.  I snapped some pictures of the Munising (front) Range Light and kept exploring.  The sky turned dark and I found myself driving back and forth on a stretch of highway in Christmas, Michigan.  I happened upon the other land locked Munising (rear) Range Light, which stands a mere 31 ft. tall with a bright red light.  It’s tucked in the trees amongst the houses.  Funniest little light I have ever found.

Back and forth down the highway a few more times in search of the third, convinced it had to be there according to all the brochures & maps.  I noticed the tiniest little red sign resembling a license plate on a  post on the side of the road, with two tire tracks leading into the woods.  At this point, it was nearly midnight, but the moon was high and bright.  Without a thought, I immediately went foraging down the path.  If I had driving 20 more feet, I would have RUN INTO IT!!  Big as day, the incredible black and white Grand Island Harbor Rear Range Light was towering over me!  Giddy, truly giddy, at my discovery.  Squealing, even though not one soul around to hear me ~ I cared not.  I was elated.  Lady Moon peered behind, and with my headlights adding some dramatic flair, the Light was genuinely grand.  Satisfied with my accomplishments, I bed down for the night.

Little did I know the next day would bring one of the worst experiences in my lighthouse meanderings.  Au Sable (french for “of sand”) was my next destination.  The one and a half mile hike in follows the lake shoreline.  And evidently, when it is unseasonably warm, the water brings out flies.  Not just ordinary flies, but blood-sucking, biting flies that swarm – ALL over you.  I had previously experienced this pesky insect the day before, so I was prepared . . . or so I thought.  My gait was brisk and I was clothed head-to-toe in white (long sleeves, pants and a cap) but I was no match for these vampires.  I couldn’t keep them off me.  Determination drove me toward the tower of brick, for I had come so far.  Picking up a ‘switch’ and batting them away, I even increased my speed to a jog/run but the weight of the camera smacking my back slowed me.  Once I arrived, I prayed I would find relief long enough to grab some shots.  However, the plague was upon me, for locusts joined in.  Pure misery, I relied on the automatic technology of my device to get the shots needed, as I jumped around like a man on fire and then ran like hell back to the car.  If I were paying attention, I’m sure someone recorded this for viral hits.  Nearing the vehicle, I began to disrobe because I was not exaggerating when I say they swarmed me.  I had clusters the size of my fist clinging to my clothing.  I dove inside the car wishing I entered the automobile sans the wretched pests. Relieved to be driving away, my thoughts were, “I think the lighthouse was white and black.  Maybe the photos came out . . . ” From one extreme to the other, I went from best to worst.  The next few were still lovely; peppered with unique experiences from the most unusual pier to meeting a couple renting the “house” part of the lighthouse, and receiving a personal tour after hours.  But the next has to qualify as the craziest encounter yet.

As so often the case on my spontaneous sojourns, I am chasing the light.  Meals and bathroom breaks are neglected, to the detriment of my blood sugar and bladder!  Ah, such are the ways of the obsessed.  This particular evening was no exception.  I zoomed from town to town, desperate for yet one more lighthouse; one more shot.  Arriving in Ludington way past the sunset I watched descend over the water in Manistee; it was dark.  Such details are merely a challenge, so off I went into the night, not sure what I might find.  I literally saw the light.  But what I couldn’t see was the way to it, for it was a distance out in the water.  A passerby told me I could walk out to it.  After some searching, I came across the path, which was actually a breakwater.  With only my iPhone illuminating the ground, I began the sketchy walk in the darkness.  The concrete path was narrow, with it’s edges sloping down into the water.  The waves lapped the sides, taunting me with every step.  I walked and walked, yet the lighthouse didn’t seem to be getting any closer, like one of those never-ending hallways in a horror flick.  It was a LONG walk {half a mile, to be exact!}.  As I neared the light, the waves were getting a little wicked.  One rogue wave could have swept me off into Lake Michigan without notice.  Silently, I agreed to not go any further if the waves were covering the breakwater.  I also agreed a little more loudly, that this was crazy, especially when I laid down on the ground.  Feeling extremely vulnerable, I tried to steady the camera in the blustery wind.  I adored the fact that I had no idea what was in front of me.  With a click of the shutter, the camera showed me.  My skills in night photography are still improving, but the fact that I captured anything made me proud.  And the spray of the water was my cue to hightail back to land.

Push yourself.

Find your way out of your comfort zone.

When you step outside, you’re going to love the feeling of achieving something new.

And boy, once you get a taste of it, insatiable is what you will become.

cliffside in newport, rhode island

yakina light, newport, oregon

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