Lighting the way to a relaxing vacation

A week ago today, I pulled my car into a parking spot in downtown Grand Marais in a spitting rain and chilly breeze and gazed across the marina. There it stood — the Grand Marais Light. It isn’t a lighthouse, but rather more like a beacon on a tower.

Never-the-less, it was featured in my “American Lighthouses” guide book. The visit meant yet another checkmark in my book, recorded with the date I visited it.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get to the northern-most Minnesota light — perhaps because it is located just 20-some miles from the Canadian border. (The car I parked behind in Grand Marais had license plates from the Yukon. I had to take a picture of the plate — mostly because I can’t imagine anyone actually living in the Yukon except for, well, Yukon Cornelius from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.)

Anyway, Grand Marais was a quaint little town, known for its sidewalk artists (just one was braving the weather outside during our visit), art galleries and, oh yes, Ole and Sven’s — or maybe it was Sven and Ole’s. Either way, the little restaurant serves up a great slice of pizza. Down the street, we also had to stop in at the “World’s Best Donut Shop,” which we discovered sells more than just donuts.

The visit to Grand Marais was part of a “Just Us Girls” mother-daughter trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior late last week. Just in case you are wondering, Grand Marais is a really long drive from Worthington, but once I steered us through the stresses of Twin Cities traffic and Duluth road construction, my mom and I were living the life of contentment.

Of course, the main reason for our trip was the “First Friday” beacon lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse. It was a day I’d been waiting for since last winter!

Minnesota’s most picturesque lighthouse celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 31 and, in honor of its centennial year, the Minnesota State Historical Society that manages the site is lighting the beautiful Fresnel lens for an hour on the first Friday of each month. The next lighting will be Oct. 1, followed by Nov. 5 and then a special lighting on Nov. 10 to mark the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Last Friday, Mom and I spent four hours at Split Rock Lighthouse. The last time we were there, Mom and Dad waited in the car while I paid the admission price and went onto the grounds to snap some photos of the lighthouse. This time, Mom and I took the educational tour, watched a short film in the museum’s theater, visited the keeper’s dwelling and fog signal building and, of course, toured the lighthouse itself.

It was while taking a short hike to the shoreline (not the path that included 170-plus steps to the bottom of the 130-foot cliff, but rather a much friendlier path inside Split Rock State Park) that I looked over at my mom and said, “This is so much fun!” By then, the lighthouse had been lit and we were walking in the dark with the aid of flashlights and looking for a nice vantage point to see the light shine out across Lake Superior.

The Split Rock Lighthouse was built as a navigational beacon in 1910 to help guide ships passed the dangers that lurked in Lake Superior’s waters north of Two Harbors. It remained in operation until 1969.

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