Sunday, August 17, 2008

30 Mile Point Lighthouse

In a normal summer we ride every weekend. We get up in the on a Saturday or Sunday morning have our30 Mile Point "where do we want to go today" discussion over our morning coffee gear up and go. It's been a great way to see all there is to see in our corner of Upstate New York and beyond and has led to some great adventures over the years.

Unfortunately this has been anything but a normal summer between work and weather. It seems like every weekend has featured a threat of rain, hail and just downright nasty weather, not exactly the best weather for a leisurely ride around the countryside. I don't mind riding in the rain if I have somewhere I have to be, but I'm not going to choose to do it for no reason.

So when Saturday dawned bright and sunny with nary a drop of rain in the forecast, well we knew what we had to do. So we put the household chores on hold, piled on the bike, picked a direction and we were on our way.

It felt so good to get out riding again! Bright blue skies, with a few fluffy fair weather clouds just to break up the monotony and temps in the mid 70's....just about perfect! We decided to head west down the Lake Ontario State Parkway. The Parkway is the closest continuous roadway to the southern shore of Lake Ontario and is a nice ride because it runs through open country with many views of Lake Ontario. It's also nice because it's closed to commercial traffic so there are no big trucks to deal with and traffic for the most part is pretty light. The parkway also connects several state parks so you can stop off and enjoy a picnic or just take a break and enjoy some nice views of the Lake Ontario.

The only bad part about the parkway that the harsh Western New York winters has turned the western most portion into a "washboard". It's a pretty bouncy ride from Hamlin to the end of the Parkway!

At the end of the Parkway you jump on Rt 18 to continue your journey West. Cruising down Rt 18 we meander our way through the beautiful Western New York country side surrounded by corn fields, farm markets loaded with fresh produce and fragrant cow pastures. 30 Mile PointIf you stay on 18 you can head into Niagara Falls we didn't want to go quite that far so we headed for Golden Hill State Park and check out the historic 30 Mile Point Lighthouse that's located in the park.

As we worked our way east down Rt 18 a brown sign announces our arrival at Golden Hill State park. The first entrance is the boat launch, so unless you want to test the amphibious characteristics of your bike, continue on for 100 yards or so to the campground entrance. Upon entering the part we stopped at the main office to pay our $6 entrance fee. It's actually a day pass that will get you into any other state park that same day. We've never been able to make it to more than 1 state park in a day, but if you're feeling ambitious you can make the most out of your $6.

The park features a nicely appointed campground that was pretty full this weekend and bustling with families riding bikes, playing softball and just enjoying a summer day together. If you're into camping this would be a nice place to spend a few days and explore the area. From here it's an easy ride to Niagara Falls, and you can get away from all the hustle and bustle of the falls at the end of the day and relax by the shores of Lake Ontario

After paying our fee we goThe Viewt back on the bike and we could see the lighthouse towering above the park just to our right. We made our way to the parking lot and started to explore the grounds. As we entered the light house we were greeted by a very enthusiastic tour guide who let us know that a tour was about to start shortly. The fee for the tour is a whopping $1 per person and is well worth every penny.

The tour guide gave a brief history of the building including a few anecdotal stories of what life was like for the lighthouse keepers who used to live on the premises and take care of the light house. After seeing the living quarters which have been meticulously restored to their original condition we were then led up the dark winding staircase 60 feet to the top of the tower where the light used to be. The view from up here is breathtaking. On a clear, low humidity day you can even see the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada almost directly across the lake.

During our visit the wind was howling briskly out of the west kicking up the lake and almost making you hang on for dear life a the top of the catwalk. If you had a hat on, there's a good bet it would have taken wind and not touched down till it landed in Kingston, Ontario at the far east end of the lake!

OK, now a little history lesson: The Thirty Mile Point lighthouse was named for the fact that it is 30 miles from the mouth of the Niagara river. The lighthouse was constructed in 1875 as a marker to warn boats of a hazard to navigation as there was a large sandbar jutting The Lightout from the coast at this point which had caused many a ship to go down. The lighthouse is 70 feet high and constructed of limestone which was shipped in from the Thousand Island region at the eastern end of the lake. The lighthouse used to house a Third Order Fresnel Lens which cost over $3500. and housed a kerosene flame could be seen for over 16 miles.

In 1935, the Coast Guard assumed control of the light house, and finally after the sandbar eventually eroded away, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1959. It is now the showpiece of Golden Hill State Park and an interesting place to check out if you're ever in the area.
After our tour we walk the grounds for a while exploring the buildings taking some pictures and just enjoying a beautiful day on the shores of Lake Ontario. Finally we got on the bike and headed back home, but now before stopping for the obligatory ice cream along the way.