Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hanging out with Betsie

Point Betsie Lighthouse in Michigan is among my favorites. It's more than the beauty of the place, its changing tableau throughout the year, and its rich history. It's about experiences. Memorable experiences always add to the wonder of a place.

Photo of the Aurora Borealis over Point Betsie Lighthouse by Dennis Buchner

My first visit to Point Betsie was in the fall of 2000 when I attended the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. Jon and took our little motorhome to Michigan and visited a number of lighthouses on both shores before stopping at Alpena for the festival.  Lighthouse Kitty was with us. She was a good little traveler, though I doubt she knew the significance of all the places she had been.

We drove the narrow dirt road back to the Point Betsie Lighthouse (it might be paved now) and parked at the end. The road simply stopped, and Jon did some tricky maneuvers to get the motorhome turned around. Lighthouse Kitty jumped onto the roomy dashboard when the motor stopped, aiming to take a nap in the warm autumn sun.

A picture of a picture-taker! Jon photographed me taking a picture of Point Betsie, with a wave tumbling over the seawall just in front of me and the wind styling my hair. It was a lovely autumn day in Michigan!

We walked the grounds and took scads of pictures. The beacon blinked a hello and a good-bye. Steady, reliable, emotive. Lighthouse beacons always affect my senses, reminding me of all the kind and solicitous meanings they possess. 

Wind rustled the grasses and bent back the shrubs and trees. High clouds stretched across the heavens, shaped by the high currents. I wondered if this place ever experienced a calm.

A friendly red dog followed us as we toured the site. Animal lover that I am, I petted and chatted with him. He seemed happy to be greeted so fondly. I'm sure, if dogs could talk, he could have told me many interesting things about Point Betsie. Did he belong to a caretaker? A neighbor? Was he a stray? Or, like Jon and I, was he just visiting for a short time?

When it was time for us to leave, he followed me to the door of the motorhome, as if he thought he might go with us. The map on the side of the motorhome had many state stickers on it, suggesting travels aplenty. I went to the tiny kitchen and fetched a piece of lunch meat. Jon grinned, pointing out that Red Dog, as we'd named him, looked well-fed. But I am a giver. Red Dog enjoyed the morsels and took them gently from my hand. A dog with manners!

Another peculiar shot was taken by Jon, who photographed me snapping a picture of Red Dog racing us as we left Point Betsie.

As we fired up the motorhome, Red Dog took off ahead of us, running at top speed. Was he showing us the way out. Or did he think he'd follow us to our next stop? I snapped a photo of him speeding along the side of the road. He had been our welcoming committee and was our farewell committee too.

Dennis Buchner capture Point Betsie in her winter wear! You can purchase his photos at Fine Art America.

At the end of the dirt access road, Red Dog stopped. I waved as we passed him. He lingered a long time, wagging his tail and watching us go, before he turned and trotted back toward the light station.

Photo by Anne Chapman

Beautiful Point Betsie Lighthouse was named by the French--Pointe Aux Bec Scies. The French name was mined from a native name that referred to the sawbill ducks (Mergansers) that lived nearby.  The lighthouse was built in 1854-1858 and first signaled to mariners in 1859, marking the route to Manitou Passage.

Point Betsie Lighthouse in 1895, from the National Archives.
The lens, courtesy of www.pointbetsie.org

An aerial Coast Guard photo shows the bulwarks protecting Point Betsie Lighthouse from erosion.

Today, the lighthouse offers overnight accommodations.  It also has a nice museum in the quarters. To find out more, go to the lighthouse website.

Accommodations at Point Betsie, from www.pointbetsie.org

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