LAKE COUNTY, Minn. - The invitation to see Split Rock Lighthouse's beacon lit — a rarity for the long decommissioned tourist attraction — was appealing enough to lure two St. Paul area hiking buddies to the North Shore on Wednesday night.

Emilio Rescigno and Elizabeth Germscheid made the more than three-hour drive after seeing an Instagram reel about how the lighthouse keepers planned to honor the late Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, whose song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is a fan favorite for lighthouse visitors. The lighting, which usually happens just a few times a year — including on the Nov. 10 anniversary of the shipwreck — lasted two hours.

The two were among the dozens who pulled into the adjacent Split Rock State Park under a bright moon, navigating paths and rocky shoreline for a look at the glowing beacon shining from the lighthouse that sits atop a 130-foot cliff on the edge of Lake Superior.

The trip was the continuation of a long-running inside joke for Rescigno and Germscheid, who are part of a group that regularly visits the North Shore and always cues up Lightfoot's shipwreck ballad when they crest the Interstate 35 hill that dips into Duluth. They aren't necessarily Lightfoot fans, but they are lighthouse-curious. Rescigno had never seen the landmark at all, while Germscheid has photos of herself as a kid eyeing it from this same shoreline.

"It was just a spontaneous, 'Ok, who wants to go,' " said Germscheid. "It's such a great time to see it. I feel like with it being kind of last minute, it's a good chance to see it with a smaller crowd."

The Edmund Fitzgerald, headed from Superior, Wis., to Detroit with a load of taconite, sank in a mighty storm in 1975 and none of the 29 crew members onboard survived. Lightfoot created his epic ballad about a month after the disaster that occurred on Lake Superior about 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Mich. It remains a song that resonates with many who live on or visit the North Shore. The musician died Monday — and the lighthouse keepers were quick to put out a call to honor him.

"It does move me a little bit when you hear it," said Hayes Scriven, the site's manager who has lived on the premises for three years. "It gives you chills and makes you feel more connected to the event."

Split Rock Lighthouse isn't directly connected to the Edmund Fitzgerald. It began serving ships in 1910, prompted by 30 shipwrecks during the 1905 gales of November, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. It had been decommissioned long before the famous freighter went down. In 1985, the lighthouse's then-keeper heard Lightfoot's song on the anniversary of the ship's sinking.

"It inspired him to go home and turn the beacon on at dusk," Scriven said. "It grew from that. Between the [annual Nov. 10] event and the popularity of the Lightfoot song, it's tied the Fitzgerald connection to the site."

Waves crashed hard on Wednesday night, the moon reflecting on the water, and flashlights dotted parts of the shore as visitors sought out the best views.

Shawn McKenzie of Superior was in the the U.S. Coast Guard and based in Sault St. Marie, Mich., on the night the ship went down. He was posted on the 110-foot tugboat the Naugatuck, the primary rescue vessel on the east end of Lake Superior. Ship repairs sidelined the crew that night.

"It was a wild night," he said before heading into the woods to see the sight with friends.

Lightfoot's song made an impact on him when it was released.

"We would all stop working if we heard it on the radio," he said.