This year marked the 100th Anniversary of the Split Rock Lighthouse. To highlight the event they planned to light the beacon on the first Friday of each month through the Summer and into the Fall. I haven’t ever created images of this lighthouse before so I was pretty fired up about the prospect of trying to get images of a lit lighthouse. All Summer, it just didn’t work out to get there on a Friday night. Our family was up on the North Shore in June, but not at the right time of the month. So, by September, I’m thinking, I only have one chance to do this. October would be do-able, but November was out because I’ll be out-of-town on business. November is the final first Friday lighting, then they will go back to once a year lightings each November. Those lightings are typically during the week from what I understand, so out of the question unless I was to take vacation time from work.
We decided to book a room for the first weekend in October so that we could see the lighting of the lighthouse, and to spend some good quality family time in one of our very favorite places, Duluth. Finding available rooms (in hotels with a pool!) proved to be difficult as it was peak Fall Colors season, so not only were rooms hard to find, but they were at their highest rates of the year. After lots of research and phone calls, I finally was able to find a room at the County Inn & Suites near Spirit Mountain. My original plan was to find something near Two Harbors or North of there so that we could spend Saturday at Tettagouche State Park hiking.
With that arrangement made, I needed to figure out the schedule for the lighting ceremony at the lighthouse…I called and was told the beacon is lit until 9pm. So, Gunnar has school and then football practice. So part of the logistics involved checking in with the team coaching staff to find out if Gunnar had any obligations after practice since it was Homecoming. He didn’t, and as a matter of fact he would probably be getting done with practice early – because of Homecoming. I thought, OK, we’ll pack Thursday night, I’ll get my photo gear together, make sure batteries are charged etc. Then the thought was that I would go in early and then leave work early. All of this happened like clockwork. I stopped in at home to load the car and pick up Carrie and Violet. As we pulled up to the Middle School practice field, we figured Gunnar would be waiting for us….they were still on the practice field! Our SMALL window of time to get to Split Rock seemed to shut a little.
We got Gunnar in the car after practice, and started driving towards the North Shore. We stopped in Mora, MN for a quick meal at a drive up window, and then were on our way. (this food stop has its own story, but that will be another post!) I drove hard (and carefully) towards Duluth, time is waning. We get to Duluth at 8pm, we’ve been driving for a couple of hours….and I had a call to make. It is going to take me an hour to get to Two Harbors from Duluth under normal road conditions. Duluth is all road construction on I35 all the way through town. Should I go for it and hope to make it on time to give my family an outstanding unique opportunity; or should I pull off at our hotel and get an earlier than expected start to our hotel stay? I decided to go for it. We’d come all that way…
We hit more road construction prior to Split Rock…would we make it? I was now obsessed with getting there on time, nothing was going to stop me. Right before the driveway to the park, there is a road side pull off viewing area where you can see the lighthouse. Gunnar spotted the light first, “there it is” (it looked like a yard light from our one second perspective. We pulled in to the park and were able to park right up next to the building (bad sign) it was 9pm on the nose. Crowds of people were walking in the opposite direction that we were (another bad sign). Gunnar and I got out and hustled down the path to the lighthouse….it got darker and darker the further we went. Then all of a sudden, there it was….dark as could be…I could make out the silhouette of the light house. “Gunnar, take a look at that!” I tried to take a positive spin…no matter how hard we had tried, we didn’t make it on time. “all that way for nothing” I heard my son say. “We had to try” I replied. Gunnar reassured me that it was ok, and I appreciated that, even thought I was personally crushed! I had my heart set on giving my family this experience, and it was a big whiff. We went in and bought a souvenir anyway to show that we were actually there. Carrie was great, didn’t say a word the whole time about my decision making. Sometimes the best laid plans are just not meant to be.