Lighthouses have been a part of our landscape here in America since approximately 1716 with the building of the Boston Light. Located in Boston Harbor on Brewster Island, Massachusetts, it does what it was built to do – aid ships where navigation is difficult and treacherous. Another lighthouse of notoriety located in northwestern Spain is the Tower of Hercules. Roman-built in the last of the 1st century, it too holds a distinction for continuing to do from its beginning to the present what it was built to do. Guide ships safely to harbor. From the beginning of the history of lighthouses, there have been thousands more built. I can’t visit them all, but I do hope to see all that stand on the shores of America. Today I want to share with you one of my favorites, and ten ways to enjoy Big Sable Point Lighthouse.
10 Ways to Enjoy Big Sable Point Lighthouse
First Things First
1) Wear Comfortable Shoes
The trail out to the lighthouse is 3.6 miles round trip walking on pebbles and sand. Mostly hard-packed, the sand dunes have sometimes shifted and the sand is a bit like walking on a beach. There is also access via the shoreline, perhaps a bit longer, but no less beautiful. (There are also “bus days” for a fare. You’ll need to call ahead for a schedule of days and rates.
2) Use the Restroom facilities at the trailhead
There are no facilities until you arrive at the lighthouse. Once there you’ll discover these well-maintained privy’s. It is a good idea to make a stop there before continuing to the lighthouse and shoreline. There is much to see and do and these are the only facilities.
3) Carry a light windbreaker
The trail winds in and out of shady locations. You may not need your jacket initially but because of the proximity to Lake Michigan, there is often a cool breeze in the shady parts of the trail. You’ll be glad for the windbreaker if this should happen.
4) Allow time for a leisurely stroll out to the lighthouse
The scenery along the trail is worthy of exploration. By allowing plenty of time for not only the destination, but also for the journey, you’ll discover the source of the bird calls as they flit among the dense jack pines and fallen driftwood. (As seen in this picture, someone has littered along the way. I like to carry a small garbage container to pick up litter to be disposed of in a proper container.)
5) Carry bottled water
Carry enough bottled water to refresh yourself both walking in and walking out. On even the coolest of days you may want to take a breather and drink fluids. Once you leave the parking lot at the trail head, you’ll mostly be alone on the hike.
6) Carry a backpack filled with light picnic snacks
There are many beautiful places at Big Sable to sit along the waters edge for an impromptu picnic. It is a wild, natural experience away from all the normal activities and electronics that vie for our attention. (There’s probably not even cell tower service). There is a small gift shop selling mostly small snacks. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tasted so good as after a hike across the sand dunes.
7) Bring along some insect repellent
Depending on the time of year you visit, there may be a problem with sand fleas – or some sort of biting insects. There was such a stiff breeze when we visited that we didn’t experience any problem. But I’ll tell you for sure how uncomfortable I would have been if my sticky skin had become the target of a mosquito.
8) Bring the best camera you own
I carried my Canon EOS Rebel T5 on this hike, but more recently I’ve been carrying my iPhone 8 plus. When there is a lighthouse to be photographed, I always want to be ready to capture the very best shot possible. It is something that must be thought through before the hike because there are pros and cons about what type of equipment you want to carry. On the day I visited Big Sable, I wished I had carried my tripod and several lenses. It was one of those beautiful perfect, overcast, windy days. One never knows when the lighting, the cloud formations, or the stormy conditions, will yield the absolute most romantic shot.
9) Plan to Climb the Lighthouse
Once you have viewed the grounds, walked along the beach, listened to the wind blow through the grasses, sat a while on the park bench and just enjoyed the views, the lighthouse will be the highlight of the day. This beautiful tower stretching 112 feet into the sky is a piece of history that you’ll be able to experience first-hand. Built in 1867 the original brick deteriorated so badly that in 1900 it became necessary to install a steel plate encasement. As you climb upward there are portholes along the way with spectacular views.
10) Inquire About becoming A Volunteer Light Keeper
When we visited Big Sable I was ecstatic to discover that on occasions they have openings for volunteer “light-keepers”. Usually there are 6 or 7 who stay on the grounds. Up the wooden staircase in the gift shop are several rooms that are used for volunteers. There are no amenities, and no frills, but an honest lighthouse experience of tending to the Big Sable Light. Someday, this will be an experience I want to have. For now, I can dream of that day.
Lighthouses have a romantic, “feel-good” experience about them. They have stood for years as silent sentinels along shorelines doing what they do – guiding ships through dangerous waters. I too am called by God to be a lighthouse. Though the Bible doesn’t use the word “lighthouse”, I am commissioned to let my light shine before men that they may see my good works and glorify my Father in heaven. Until God decommissions my light, I’ll just keep singing, “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
Are you a lighthouse explorer? Of the approximately 124 lighthouses along the Michigan shorelines, which ones have you climbed?
COMING WEDNESDAY “REMEMBERING THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING”