Today, Door County is not a very rugged place. It's a favorite vacation spot for city folk, and it reflects their tastes with dozens of art galleries, bistros and B&Bs.
But once, Wisconsin's Door Peninsula was rough and remote, settled first by Scandinavian fishermen and loggers.
Navigating this long finger of land, which separates the wind-whipped expanses of Lake Michigan from Green Bay, was no treat for early mariners.
Once, passenger trains crisscrossed the state, and lighthouses guided sailors on the Great Lakes.
Trains and lighthouses are beloved relics now, symbols of a simpler past. In the iPod era, they seem antique, like Grandpa's buggy or Grandma's butter churn.
But don't relegate them to history's dustbin just yet.
Around the Great Lakes, love for lighthouses is unlimited. Often called "America's castles,'' lighthouses are symbols of a more adventurous era, and tourists find them irresistible.
"They work their way up the coast seeing all the lighthouses,'' says Ronda Werner of Michigan's Tawas Point Light.
"They bring their lighthouse book and want stamps in their passports, and they're all decked out in their lighthouse shirts and their little lighthouse earrings. It's wonderful so many people have this much passion for our lighthouses.''
By definition, lighthouses aren't easy to visit.
Most are between a rock and a hard place, out of the way and on the edge of a fickle inland sea.
“When the government came here after 1843, they were afraid the Native Americans would be hostile, but they quickly found out the only thing hostile was Lake Superior,'' said our captain on a cruise to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.
A century ago, in the Apostle Islands, only seven puny shafts of light stood between sailors and catastrophe.
Lake Superior has been called the most dangerous body of water in the world, an inland teakettle in which any tempest can be
Storms gather fury over 200 miles of open water, and heaven help mariners caught between wind and rock — heaven, or a lighthouse keeper with sharp eyes.
When Lake Superior lighthouses had keepers, there was nothing romantic about life there.
The posts were cold, lonely and meagerly furnished on the government dime. The work was physically taxing and repetitive. Through the long nights, keepers had to get up every two hours to wind the mechanism that rotated the lens.
It's no wonder many of the early lighthouse keepers were hermits or grouches.