Outside magazine, June 1994
On a foggy night in 1902, Big Bay's first lighthouse keeper, William Pryor, wandered into the woods and hanged himself from a tree. His journal hints that he was despondent over the death of his son, a worthy assistant who succumbed to gangrene, and haggard from 12-hour shifts in the lighthouse tower, where he tended the kerosene flame and regulated the 13-seconds-on-17-seconds-off signature.
Fortunately, an automated lamp eliminated the need for such maddening work in 1941, and the 60-foot tower and adjoining two-story home, perched on a cliff above 40 acres of prime Upper Peninsula wilderness, were converted to a bed-and-breakfast in 1986. A trip up to the lantern, which still guides ships on Lake Superior, offers a 360-degree panorama of sky, water, and the Huron Mountains to the west--and occasionally a glimpse of Pryor's bearded and hatted ghost.
The previous owner, an avid angler, claimed that Pryor's ghost woke him every morning and forced him to go fishing, but you won't need supernatural prodding to cast a line in the vicinity. Twelve miles from the inn, you can wade the Yellow Dog River, where former state supreme court justice John D. Voelker (aka Robert Traver, author of Anatomy of a Murder) went fly-fishing for trout. You can also cast for "coasters," Lake Superior brookies normally caught near shore, five miles away at Black Rock Point. Northcountry Outfitters (906-345-9504), in Big Bay, rents fishing essentials for $8 a day.
There are some 25 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails in the Huron Mountains area; maps are also available from Northcountry Outfitters. Huron Mountain Outfitters (906-345-9265) rents mountain bikes for $20 per day. Michigan Bicycle Touring (616-263-5885) runs five-day trips for hikers ($679) and mountain bikers ($819) that include lodging at the Lighthouse and a half-day of paddling.
Big Bay is a four-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge. From Marquette, take County Road 550 into Big Bay and follow the hand-painted signs out to the Lighthouse. The room to get--if you can--is the Sunset Suite, which has a cathedral ceiling, exposed brick walls, and a view of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Doubles cost $135 per night on weekends and $95 during the week from May through October. The rest of the year they cost $80. Michigan Bicycle Touring's packages include special arrangements for lunch and dinner; the inn serves breakfast only. Call 906-345-9957 for reservations.
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