It’s almost automatic, hopping on my bike for a ride to the light station to close off the day.
As I coast through the Porphyry Island Provincial Park Nature Reserve on the lighthouse road, my mind is digesting the day’s events as tourists keep arriving.
Looking up to see that the way is clear, I am met by a startled bear as I round the corner on the pathway.
He takes flight and crashes through the forest by leaps and bounds and then can be seen skirting a big patch of Devil’s Club.
Devil’s Club grows to six feet high and has sharp spines under its leaves and upon its trunk. It is believed to have been brought here by the First Nations from western Canada as a remedy for arthritis, cancer, fever and tuberculosis.
Now regaining my composure I continue up the path to the keeper’s dwelling built in 1948, the older two-storey house.
As the nights start to get longer the generator is energized to provide light to the homestead, which adds a degree of comfort after being bombarded by the elements all summer long.
As we take stock of our time on the island this summer it’s nice to remember the many visitors’ smiling faces, inquisitiveness and support that volunteers provided.
Lake Superior has many interesting stories to share but also as a light keeper there is so much to just observe on the water.
The frequency of ships steaming past has increased and we can just see the big wave that these ships push ahead of their bows.
In the old fog alarm building built in 1908 to help ward ships off the reefs with a sound-making device, there was also an observation room. From this room, weather statistics, facts and figures were kept, while a record of passing vessels seen in the shipping lanes were recorded.
Names such as Thordoc, Scotiadoc, Alexander Henry, Nokomis and the James Whalen tug were all part of the shipping story in the area from days gone by.
The job of these lighthouses are to help keep commerce going and build a stronger country by creating a healthy trade surplus. Grain is one of the most noted commodities to pass these shores, but in the past Silver Islet Mine created its own bonanza in the 1860s.
Local sailor from Silver Islet, Ted Duke dropped by to share his memories of the Porphyry site over the years. He did this as he ate some freshly grilled lake trout hooked by Archie Hoogsteen. Many years ago boaters would rendezvous for a social night at the Porphyry boathouse and also convene work parties to repair vandalized buildings.
It’s through the support of many people from Silver Islet over the years that gave Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior a better opportunity to sustain the operation in the early years.
If you are interested in coming out this season, our last charter leaves on Sunday from Silver Islet and can be booked at clls.ca.
Next week will be the last of this season’s Lighthouse Dispatches and looking forward to summing up the summer with you.
Until then, have a good day.
Paul Morralee is the managing director of the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior. He’ll be sharing stories from Point Porphyry Island Light Station throughout the summer.