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Traveling Around - Traverse City, MI -Day Trip To A Michigan Lighthouse

Updated on January 12, 2018
Old Mission Lighthouse, Traverse City, MI
Old Mission Lighthouse, Traverse City, MI | Source

Going North

We decided to make a two fold trip to the north from our new home in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. We have never been successful at is seeing autumn colors that happen with the trees in Michigan during the fall so we decided to watch the news and weather on the television and make a trip at the appropriate time to see it this year. The second reason for the trip was to see and explore the lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Michigan

I tried to set up the trip on our GPS so that we would go up to the Peninsula via one route and return by another so that we'd experience even more of the autumn colors. I defined our first stop as being the Visitors' Center in downtown Traverse City. Took us about two hour on a circuitous country route to get there. We went through a lot of rolling country that was beautiful but was still pretty much entirely green.

The Visitors'. Center is easy to find and parking is sufficient. The Center itself is pretty small but the staff was very helpful. There was some road construction to contend with in Traverse City and the staff gave us directions to miss most of it on our trek to the lighthouse. We had previously decided where we wanted to go for lunch and were pleased that the staff was helpful with directions on reaching it after we had explored the peninsula.

Mission Peninsula Beach,  Traverse City, MI
Mission Peninsula Beach, Traverse City, MI | Source

The Lighthouse

Mission Point Lighthouse & Park is about 20 miles straight north out of Traverse City. The road north took us up the edge of the Western Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. We went by several fields of grapevines and most fields had a winery nearby where we could have stopped and shopped and sampled their product. It was still late morning and we simply enjoyed the drive.

The lighthouse is located at the tip of the peninsula and it is a short walk from the parking lot to the shoreline.

The beach is close to the lighthouse. It currently has a wooden fence with a legend painted on it warning that there are no lifeguards on duty and that extreme care should be exercised. However, there is no posted restriction about taking a dip if a tourist so desires.

It was early October and the beach was sandy and pretty but I didn't brave the water temperature - even with my toes.

If a tourist turned from the view in the picture and looked at the lighthouse, they would have the view in the picture at the top of this report.

The Lighthouse

The lighthouse is small and could not have accommodated a family but there were married lighthouse keepers with at least one small child that lived and worked in the very small quarters. There is currently a program for persons wishing to spend some time in the lighthouse. A lot of information is available on a website.

There are 37 steps leading from the ground floor to the light tower so it is not an insurmountable climb. The height of the lighthouse is 36 feet. In comparison, there is a lighthouse in Michigan (northwest of Traverse City across the upper peninsula in Lake Superior) that is 130 feet high. There is a minor charge as admission to the area housing the light. A discussion of the lighthouse keepers duties is posted in several places in the building and include instructions on how to trim the wick in the light, exercising care to keep it even.

The lighthouse was established in September of 1870 and was decommissioned in 1933. The lens for the light was invented by Frenchman Augustin-Jean Fresnel in the early 1800's. There are many current uses of the lens he invented. They are used in car brake lights, turn signals, and traffic lights.

The Hessler Cabin

In the 1860's, an immigrant couple - the Hesslers - built a cabin on a few acres of land near the site of the lighthouse. They lived there for about 10 years. The cabin was in use through the 1950's. In its later years, it was an outbuilding on a farm and in the 1960's was used a living quarters for itinerant cherry pickers. In 1992 it was moved from the Hessler Farm to the Lighthouse Park and restored to its present condition. There is an extensive discussion online about its construction and usage.

Log Cabin, Mission Point Peninsula, Traverse City, MI
Log Cabin, Mission Point Peninsula, Traverse City, MI | Source

A tourist can walk up and peek in the windows. On the third Sunday in June each year a log cabin day is held at the park and a tourist can go in the cabin and experience of little of what it used to be like.

Eating In Traverse City

We explored for a while and then headed back down the peninsula to Traverse City where we had decided to eat at a restaurant named "HamBonz". Not knowing what to expect we weren't surprised when we found an older building in the parking lot of a strip shopping center.

It was small - inside there was 4 tables for 4 and 2 tables for 2, making maximum seating capacity in the restaurant a total of 20. We had determined from an internet menu that we wanted was a bowl of soup and 1/2 a sandwich. Perhaps because we were strangers but knew what we wanted, the waitress got confused and made several errors in serving and getting our orders in the kitchen although we were the only customers in the place. The soup and sandwich were as good as we thought they should be, though, and we left happy and full.

Going Home And A Summary

We headed back towards home by a route different than the one we had used to arrive. As we drove, the scenery began to show some color so that by the time we got into our local area, there was about 20% of the trees that had changed to their autumn brilliance. The trip home took us about 2 1/2 hours. The entire trip took about 8 hours.

In retrospect, we enjoyed our trip to Traverse City and to the Mission Lighthouse. There was lots of color - but it was almost all green. Not what we had expected for early October.

There is extensive information available on their website.

Going Home And A Summary

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