I have to get to big water and/or visit at least one lighthouse every year to retain my sanity. Fortunately, I live in a portion of the Midwest (“flyover” country to the ignorant and unwashed) that is within easy driving distance of both the great Mississippi River AND the freshwater inland seas of Lake Superior and Michigan. Even some of the larger shallow lakes like Lake Winnebago have lots of harbor lights. (Now that was a great day trip.)
I have been talking about getting to the North Point Light Station for years. I had seen the outside of it on a previous brief visit to North Park, but the tower and the museum weren’t open. Then I learned that the tower had been rehabbed and was open to the public on weekends. Somehow we never seemed to be able to get there during the dates and hours it was open.
Finally, in this year of our Lord 2013, we embarked on a great adventure to visit the North Point Light Station at last. To climb the 84 steps to its lantern room–the last 11 steps straight up a almost vertical ladder with slippery round metal rungs, suspended over the spiral stairwell that dropped away another 12 or 15 feet–in abject and gibbering terror.
My daughter does a good imitation of my scared-to-death self-talk as I made my way up the ladder moaning, sobbing, and hyperventilating. At one point, I did pause to give two smiling teenage boys accompanied by their grandmother the stink eye and a “don’t you laugh at me!” (They later swarmed up the ladder like monkeys.)
I’ve climbed ladders up to lantern rooms like this several other times: once in Port Washington and again in the Raspberry Island light in the Apostles. At the Raspberry Island light, we were allowed to duck out of the lantern room and onto the gallery surrounding it outside. There was only a slightly slanted roof an old iron rail between us and eternity! I remember being plenty on edge, but I was busy keeping a death grip on my daughter (who was having a great time!). I was also a few years younger.
It wasn’t so much that the view was that great. I was partly obscured by trees, which is the only problem with this handsome light. It was just that I had been talking about getting to the top of this light for so many years that I couldn’t face admitting to people that I had come so close only to chicken out at the last few feet!
Well, I made it to the top, and received an ovation from those below, including the teen boys. Their grandmother felt that I deserved a hand! I also made sure that my daughter got the certificate they give all the kids who make it to the top of the tower–after I convinced the woman at the desk that she wasn’t 21 years old! Fortunately, there was room on either side of hers to add her dad’s and my names. I think that adults who make it to the top of that tower deserve an award more than the kids who so blithely scramble up those last eleven steps. Begonia