Tag Archives: lighthouse

I Can Climb!

1 Jul

Last week I went to Michigan for my nephew’s wedding.  I’m not crazy about flying, so I usually prefer traveling by car. My brother’s offer to ride with him in his van didn’t really appeal to me, either. When he gets behind the wheel, there’s no stopping. In fact, they did the entire 14 hr. trip in one day on the way back from the wedding. If I had done that, I would still be in recovery. So, Professorgrrl, who was also invited to the wedding, drove us there in a more leisurely fashion. We travel very well together. She drives, and I tell her how to drive.

I really wanted to see some sights while on this trip. Michigan is almost completely surrounded by water, so, I thought, why not see some of the Great Lakes while we were there? In fact, when I discovered that there are over 100 lighthouses in Michigan, I decided we should at least go see one of them, preferably one that could be climbed.

My orthopedist told me a couple years ago that I still have a few years remaining on my left knee, so I thought, let’s put it to good use! (You won’t find me wasting the last few years of my knee walking in a shopping mall!) In my mind, I am still a spring chicken and felt like I should try this climb. So, we went to see and climb the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse on Lake Huron in Port Huron, MI. It has 94 steps. Yikes!

94 Steps

Looking up the 94 steps of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse

These steps wind up in a very tight spiral so I climbed them like a monkey—grabbed the handrail with one hand and grabbed the steps with the other, with a backpack of camera equipment on my back. We were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Huron, looking into Canada, seen just beyond the Coast Guard Station in the photo below.

View from Fort Gratiot

View from the top of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, Port Huron, MI

Fort Gratiot is the oldest standing lighthouse in the state of Michigan. When we arrived for our tour of the lightkeepers cottage and the light house, it was around 2 PM. Our climb up the lighthouse steps was our tour guide’s 7th climb of the day, and he was retired from the Coast Guard and certainly not a spring chicken! I was very impressed with him. I am sure my knee could never do what his knees can do! But I was pleased with myself that I climbed it one time, though my knee wasn’t too happy about it for a couple of days.

Port Huron Lighthouse

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron, MI

The next lighthouse we visited was after the wedding, on the way back home. Fairport Harbor Lighthouse in Fairport Harbor, OH is a little shorter and has only 69 steps. For this climb, I got smarter and removed several unnecessary items from my camera backpack. Hindsight is 20/20. It was an overcast day, so the view wasn’t quite as stunning overlooking Lake Erie. However, with a zoom lens, you are rewarded with a view of another lighthouse, Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light. It is privately owned by someone who is in the process of renovating it. Our $3 admission tickets got us 2 lighthouses for the price of one! I love a deal! So does my knee.

Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light

Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light as viewed from the top of Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

View of Fairport Harbor, OH from the top of the lighthouse

The town of Fairport Harbor, OH, as viewed from the top of Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

I really liked the folks who ran the lighthouse museum. They asked us to please shut the door at the top before we came back down, since we were the last visitors there. They didn’t want to have to climb the 69 steps to shut the door at the top. It kind of gave us a sense of “this lighthouse belongs to all of us” feeling.

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse overlooking Lake Erie in Ohio

My knee didn’t mind too much the 69-step climb up to the top of this lighthouse. I climbed it the same way as at Fort Gratiot—like a monkey—since it had the same tight spiral staircase. Perhaps removing a few pounds out of my knapsack helped. I am getting smarter with age, too.

In a week or so, there’s another lighthouse that I hope to visit. Professorgrrl proclaimed the other day that I am a “pharologist,” which is one who studies or is enthused by lighthouses. I’ve been called a lot of names, but that’s a new one for me. The lighthouse that I may visit soon has 131 “ship’s ladder” steps; however, you have to make reservations well in advance to climb this one, and it’s booked up for most of July already. Anyone can climb the 12 steps to the first level, though, without a reservation. I am hopeful I can handle that, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” as we say in the South. We will see.

I guess maybe I am one who is enthused by lighthouses. Climbing them is a challenge that I have been able to handle up to this point in life.  A couple of years ago, I walked down (and back up) the 200+ cement steps of the path leading down to Point Reyes Lighthouse. Now, that was a workout! I had to rest on the way back up, due to the steep nature of the hike. I know that I probably have a shorter (no pun intended!) life span on some of my body parts, like the knees and hips, due to XLH, so I want to get in as much physical activity as I can. And lighthouses are fun to me. You’re rewarded with a beautiful view at the top, and they have such an interesting place in our history. Some stood as warnings that a ship might be too close to land and some were lighting the way to a safe harbor for travelers. Nowadays, people have GPS systems and probably don’t have a need for lighthouses. But many lighthouse keepers, men and women, risked their lives to keep the light burning in these old beacons. Some lighthouses are short and squatty and others are tall and thin, but all of them provided light to those who passed by.

People come in all shapes and sizes too, and I have had some friends and relatives who have been lights in my life, shining the way to a safe harbor. I hope that I can do that for others too, even if I am one of the short ones!

Self Portrait on the Backside of the Fresnel Lens at Fairport Ha

Self-portrait on the back side of a lighthouse Fresnel lens in the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Museum

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017