40-Mile Lighthouse (trip from Hoeft State Park)

Jul/11/2011 3 Malia Lane
Michigan, State Parks

July 10, 2011

I hate to think I almost missed the chance to see this lighthouse. Since I was leaving Hoeft State Park on Tuesday, I had planned this venture for Monday.  But on Sunday afternoon, something just told me to go visit it then.  I got there just an hour before closing and found out they were closed on Monday, so if I hadn’t gotten there when I did, I would have never seen it.

Even though I had seen two others since my arrival in Michigan (Tawas Point and Sturgeon Point), this one was really special and shouldn’t be missed.

40 Mile Lighthouse itself was a totally different style from the first two I’d seen, but the grounds and other features here make it a fascinating stop.

View of the keeper quarters and tower as seen from the beach.

The interior furnishings were wonderful period pieces that were either original to the house or donated by local enthusiasts. I especially loved seeing the ladies dress of the day and the kitchen facilities.

The museum was so fascinating with details of the many shipwrecks due to massive storms that even the strongest and brightest lighthouse could not save them from.

I was particularly moved by the loss of the Carl D. Bradley when I read its story:

“On the evening of November 18, 1958, the freighter Carl D. Bradley went down  in a brutal Lake Michigan storm—but what sets this tragedy apart is that out of 33 lives lost, 23 came from one small northern Michigan town: Rogers City. Rather than dissecting the accident with forensic detail, our story takes place on land, in the town where so many faced unimaginable grief literally overnight. The harsh numbers reflect the tragedy: 23 widows, 52 children made fatherless. Virtually every one of the 3,000 townsfolk was affected in some way. As one resident tearfully put it, “It’s been fifty years, and some of us still haven’t gotten over it.”

The model of it and the pictures of the 33 men who died and the two who survived are pictured on the collage above at top left.

Blake, the Park Supervisor at Hoeft State Park, later told me about a documentary that was made about this tragedy called “November Requiem,” a movie that won two Emmy awards in 2010 (Best Documentary and Best Original Music – MI Chapter).

I watched a 5 minute teaser preview on YouTube and have decided I’d really like to see the whole thing – fascinating!

There were also journals of former keepers with sad entries such as this dated October 18, 1903: “A Mackinaw sailbout about 25 feet long came ashore last night about 1/4 miles above the Station. One side was broke in, both spars were gone. There was a bunch of papers on board addressed to Ed. Nelson. At about 4:00 yesterday afternoon, a body that has since been identified as that of Edward Nelson of Rogers City, drifted ashore about one half mile from Presque Isle range light.  It was on Sept. 7 that Edward and his older brother left Rogers City in a sailboat…

The basement houses a mini-museum of antique washing and ironing “machines.”  Some of them looked more like torture devices!  I bet that’s what the ladies who used them thought, too!

Here’s tour guide Roy leading us up to the top of the tower.  I was interested to hear that this lighthouse offers a guest keeper program for RVers where they can park with full hookups at no charge in exchange for tour duties and other light upkeep duties. More info below on that.  Roy and his wife, Lyn, are from San Diego and this is their first year here and they both said they really are enjoying it.

A 4th Order Fresnel Lens is used here, the most common size used in the Great Lakes.  The order number refers to how far it can be seen and this one can be seen for 15 nautical miles.  Hard to believe this little light can be seen that far, huh?  I also find it so interesting that its inventor, Augustin-Jean Fresnel was considered “slow-witted” as a child, but this invention of his, first put into use in lighthouses in 1823, is still basically state-of-the-art for lighthouse lens design!

View of Lake Huron from the top of the tower.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of climbing lighthouses while I’m in Michigan with views like this!

Here’s the nice trail to get down to the beach where a short walk takes you to a very interesting sight…

The remains of the steamer, Joseph S. Fay, ran aground here during the “Big Blow of 1905” – one of 27 wooden vessels who were lost during this legendary storm.

As mentioned above, you can satisfy your craving to spend some real quality time in a lighthouse by taking advantage of the guest keeper program offered here.  Click here for more info on that and get your application in – full hookups with 50 amps – cool deal I’d say!  (Attention Glenda…)  🙂

When I went into the gift shop, I was able to meet Celeste, Paul’s wife (Paul was the first keeper that greeted me when I entered the lighthouse and first told me about the RVer guest keeper program).  She said they come back time after time because “it is peaceful, healing and it brings me back to nature and sanity.”  Now that’s a great job referral, huh??

If you’re not working here, I highly recommend staying at Hoeft State Park while in this area, but if you’re just passing by, they do have plenty of room for RV parking and a huge loop around if you just want to take the tour, walk around and hit the road again.  Either way, this is a great stop!

Later Lagniappe:

Rod & Mary were my great neighbors at Hoeft and after Rod saw this post, he sent me the following picture he took in January 2005.  He said there was a blizzard and the snow was just ending when he got to the lighthouse.  I love this picture – thanks, Rod!

  • Glenda Alexander

    You got my attention alright!  I’m keeping the information for future reference.  It would be a very interesting experience.  

  • Kathy

    Wow, thanks for all of your great comments.  I searched the bike path out of Rogers City and got your link – fantastic and informative.  You need to write for a travel magazine.  Keep it up.

    • Thanks a lot, Kathy!  And I actually do write for MotorHome Magazine and will be doing an article about my tour of MI state parks once summer is over.  So glad to have you as a travel companion now!  🙂