the real vacation

This weekend, after the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, I took a mini-vacation.  A real vacation.  The kind where you stay in hotels, get to sleep late, have a loose agenda and get to eat out.  Don’tcha love those kinds of vacations?  Where did I go, you ask?  I’ll gladly tell you!  Nine years ago when I first moved to the Chicago area, I was out driving around and ended up on Sheridan Road going north towards Highland Park.  I knew that I would be going to Trinity as a student and so I was taking a leisurely stroll up there, exploring all the neighborhoods along the way.  Sheridan Road is a very tricky one.  It can meander in places you don’t expect and it can take 90-degree turns if you’re not careful.  It also happens to be a part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.  Supposedly a complete drive around the lake.  So I thought “gee, that would be kinda cool, drive all the way around the lake”, but then doubt started to creep in.  What would really be the point of driving around the lake?  Just to say I had done so?  Lame.

So as I started doing research about the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, I began to realize that there are lighthouses on the lake – and lots of them.  Somewhere between 90-100.  Now that would give my Circle Tour a point: photographing all the lighthouses.  And off we went!  I am on a quest to photograph as many lighthouses on Lake Michigan as I can get to.  (Some of them, as you’ll soon see, are far, far off the coast, out in the middle of the lake.) 

Here is the map for where I went last weekend, courtesy of MapQuest.


This is my 4th trip, totaling now about 27-8 lighthouses.  On Saturday I started in Green Bay, that much beloved cheesy city.  There are 2 lighthouses “in” Green Bay, but one of them is 9 miles off the coast.  The other one is this really cute range light right at the mouth of the river coming into the city.  This is the Grassy Island Range lights.  The way range lights work is the one in front is shorter than the one in back.  When you are out on the water needing to navigate your way into a harbor, you line yourself up with the lights and come straight in.

My next stop was in Menominee, MI, just across the border of Wisconsin.  This part of Michigan is called the Upper Peninsula, or the UP.  The lighthouse was out on the breakwater  – just a little jaunt – and it was the most perfect day to take a walk out there.  See the sailboat in the picture?  There were TONS of sailboats out that day.

Next up the coast was Escanaba, MI, and the Sand Point Lighthouse.  This lighthouse was an actual residence that has since been turned into a museum.  Unfortunately the museum was closed, so I didn’t get to go inside (or get my lighthouse passport stamped), but was able to walk around the property.

In this second image you can see the boat ramp/pull that was installed at a much later date and was actually transported to this location from another lighthouse up the coast.

This little thing is in Gladstone, which was not on my original plans to “visit” because it does not appear in any of my materials.  I just happened to see it from the highway and pulled over to investigate.  But it is an acutal working lighthouse, perched on the docks of this little harbor.

Next up are 2 lighthouses: Peninsula Point and Minneapolis Shoal (yeah, not in Minneapolis – don’t let the name throw you off).  To get to Peninsula Point, you have to turn off US Hwy 2, onto a county road CR 513, which started off decent enough as a newly black-topped 4-lane road.  Then it turned into a badly paved 2-lane road.  THEN it turned in to an UNpaved, 1 lane road.  Through dense forest.  Can you say “fun”?  The good part about the drive was seeing the very beginnings of “fall color”.  Here’s a sample:

Can you imagine what this would look like in full color?  Breathtaking.

This lighthouse (Peninsula Point) was also a residence, but the house part burned down in 1959 and the only remaining part of the lighthouse is the actual tower.  From this little vantage point (the top of the tower, that is) you can see Escanaba on the Western shore and St. Martin Island, MI, and even (I believe) Rock Island, WI (where the Pottawatomie Lighthouse is, which I’ve been to).  It has a great vantage point and was truly a necessary lighthouse for boat/ship navigation in this part of the lake.

Also from the tower, you can see the Minneapolis Shoal Lighthouse, out there in the water about 4 miles off the coast.  Without a boat this lighthouse is completely inaccessible.  I will have to be content with this picture:

And finally, Manistique, MI.  I didn’t get to tour this town very much, but from what I did see it looks to be a quaint little lakeside town.  I ate dinner and breakfast at the 3 Seasons Cafe, which was quite good and quaint.  Right on the water, which is really cool.  There are lots of 50’s style Motels dotting the highway, and I decided to try my luck and stay in one.  While quaint and a little dinky, it was clean and safe.  They even had wifi, which totally shocked me.  The lighthouse here has been automated since 1969, but is still in working order.  Apparently Manistique was a bustling logging town in the late 1870’s, shipping wood down to Chicago after the great fire (1871) and other southern-bound port cities.

Well, that was my mini-vacation!  Hope you enjoyed recapping it with me!


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