Written by MilwVon on 20 Apr, 2013
Wisconsin shares Lake Michigan with the State of Michigan, which has the second longest shoreline in the USA . . . second only to Alaska. Home to more than 100 lighthouses, Michigan is an interesting place to visit. I only wish I had…Read More
Wisconsin shares Lake Michigan with the State of Michigan, which has the second longest shoreline in the USA . . . second only to Alaska. Home to more than 100 lighthouses, Michigan is an interesting place to visit. I only wish I had more time than what I did . . . and that the weather was better!I left Milwaukee around 7:30am, hoping to get into Ypsilanti by 3:00pm local time. Since I was going to lose an hour travel east, I knew it was possible only if I didn't hit horrendous traffic going through Chicago.There are two routes to take east through Chicago; the southern route via toll roads that keeps you out of Chicago proper . . . and the more direct route that hugs along the city limits. Since Illinois nearly doubled their toll rates a couple of years ago, we avoid paying them a penny so my plan and with "TOOTS" help, I'd be going through town. (Toots is my Garmin GPS device.)I made excellent time through Chicago with only a minor two or three mile back-up. Once through the city, Indiana was next for a brief 30 minutes or so, and then on into Michigan. I made it into Ypsilanti by around 2:00pm EDT, allowing me plenty of time to have lunch and see a couple of historical museums on my wish list.I must say, I am very impressed with the efforts of the Michigan tourism department. Here in Wisconsin we are bombarded with radio and television ads that promote "True Michigan . . . Michigan.org . . . your journey begins here." Once in Michigan, it was time for a leg stretch and biological break. They have a very nice welcome center right after entering the state on I94. Being greeted by a lighthouse on a small retaining pond seemed appropriate.Inside, they had what I believe to be the best visitors center with tourist information, I've ever seen in all of my travels throughout the United States. Organized geographically and by special interest, anything you may want to see or explore in Michigan is promoted here! And unlike so many welcome centers today, this one had someone there to answer questions and to help you find the information necessary for your time in Michigan.For those considering a trip to Michigan, whether for business or pleasure, be sure to check out Michigan.org or the first Welcome Center you see once you arrive.Close
Written by callen60 on 11 Dec, 2008
This is Michigan’s most famous vacation spot, a small island with an eight-mile perimeter that is slightly out of step with the rest of the world. It’s steeped in history, with a touch of mystery, privilege, Victorian graciousness, natural beauty, and more than a little…Read More
This is Michigan’s most famous vacation spot, a small island with an eight-mile perimeter that is slightly out of step with the rest of the world. It’s steeped in history, with a touch of mystery, privilege, Victorian graciousness, natural beauty, and more than a little tourist-luring tackiness, and each of those aspects has its own sizable army of defenders. Mackinac sits in Lake Huron, a few miles east of the Straits of Mackinac and within view of the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s two peninsulas. Ferry service is the only route to the Island, and ships leave regularly from both St. Ignace on the UP side and Mackinaw City on the other side of the bridge. Three companies (Arnold, Star Line, and Shepler’s) have competed for years. ‘Fastest to the Island!’ is the claim of one; I’m not sure why anyone would count it a virtue to minimize a 20-minute ride on the Great Lakes: for me, the trip is always part of the experience. Count on about $25 for a roundtrip ticket; coupons or family tickets might reduce this a little. It cost the five of us $86 to get to Mackinac and back.The island itself is a fairly steep, rocky place. A bluff runs around the island’s edges, just a short distance inside the shoreline. That gap provides the most flat land at the southern end, where the town and docks lie on a small bay. To head inland, you’ll have to walk uphill, and steep hills at that: Fort Mackinac sits atop the bluff, above the harbor and well above your head. The Fort is one of many things worth your time while you’re here. It was the coolest place I’d ever been when I was eight; decades later, it’s still up there on my list. Together with the wooden Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland, it served as one of several outposts built by the European powers to protect and oversee the fur trade, and bring some sense of order to the frontier. During the War of 1812, the American garrison was surrounded, surprised, and surrendered without a shot after a British landing and stealthy approach from the island’s northwest corner. The view from the fort is tremendous, and spending a few hours here among the period-costumed rangers is always worth it.The Fort was decommissioned in the late 19th century, as first the fur trade and then the threat from the British faded, making a garrison unnecessary. The combination of the existing facility, government ownership, growing tourism trade, scenic beauty—and, oh yes, political influence by one of Michigan’s senators—made the Island the nation’s second national park in 1875 (I only learned this on my most recent visit). 20 years later, it became Michigan’s first state park, when the national government transferred its ownership to the state, with the requirement that those lands never become private property.Much of the land is still part of Mackinac Island State Park, but there is significant private ownership. You’ll see private homes along some of the bluffs, and a smaller number out around the island’s edges. The ‘downtown’ is near the south end, filled with docks, hotels, t-shirt shops, restaurants, and fudge shops. My guess is that if you asked most Michiganders what comes to mind first about Mackinac, you’d hear ‘fudge’ and ‘no cars’ most frequently.That’s right: no cars. In the late 19th century, the city fathers accepted the recommendation from the carriage trade that automobiles be banned from the island (they frightened the horses). Even today, only emergency vehicles are allowed to operate on the Island. That foresighted decision has given Mackinac a unique identity, and ensured a livelihood for both bike renters and carriage men.Carriages are everywhere, all run by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, the company formed 60 years ago by the carriage men. The standard tour lasts just under two hours, and takes you to all the island’s highlights, with stops at some of them. A ride in the buggy is definitely preferable to hiking up the hill to the center of the island, and should be a part of any visit.Tours all stop at Arch Rock, a natural arch near on the eastern bluff with a terrific view out over the Lakes. There’s also a monument to French explorer Joliet, the first European to pass through the Straits, beginning the four centuries of European presence in the Great Lakes. Skull Cave is another natural highlight, named for a British solider who spent the night on the run from a band of native Americans, only to find the remains of a former denizen.The grand hotels all remain from the Island’s initial heyday. Foremost among them is the Grand Hotel, featuring the longest front porch in America, and dominating the southwestern bluff. They have a gold mine here and they know it: rates start at $235 per person per night (including breakfast and dinner). But the service and the atmosphere may be worth it, although I have yet to see for myself. Other lodging options include the Chippewa and Iroquois Hotels, of the same vintage but not quite the same stratospheric price range. There’s also about a dozen B&Bs on the island, a few smaller hotels, and the Mission Point Resort.Even if you’re just looking to sightsee and move on, you could easily spend two full days here. Or you could make it the sole destination for a vacation, and spend the days hiking the island, riding bikes, munching on fudge, watching the sun go down at any of the waterfront establishments, and then spending the night if you can afford it; it’s a pleasure I have yet to experience. Word is that the Island is a different place after the last ferry leaves. And remember: it’s ‘mac-in-aw’, not ‘mac-in-ack’.Close
Written by callen60 on 08 Dec, 2008
Mackinac Island is surprisingly small in some ways; surprisingly large in others. The absence of cars immediately makes it a bigger place, leaving the end away from the boat docks accessible only the slower modes of foot, bike or carriage. Any visit to the Island…Read More
Mackinac Island is surprisingly small in some ways; surprisingly large in others. The absence of cars immediately makes it a bigger place, leaving the end away from the boat docks accessible only the slower modes of foot, bike or carriage. Any visit to the Island ought to include time away from the fudge factories and t-shirt shops, and the best way to do it is on bicycle.We arrived at the Arnold Line docks and immediately headed for bike rental shops. We scoured our tickets, the pamphlet racks, and tour guides for discount coupons, but couldn’t find any. There are plenty of vendors with bikes; as in any tourist area, you’ll pay a premium if you rent from the first one you meet on Main Street.Because it was a warm day, and a circuit of the island is always popular, we planned to rent bikes first before exploring more of the island on foot. We wandered a few blocks counterclockwise around the island, looking at rate boards and finally stopping at Mackinac Wheels just past the Island House. Despite my better judgment, the five of us left on four bikes, with my younger kids determined to ride a two-seater.In addition to our bicycle built for two, we had pretty basic Schwinns (three gears or so), which is largely what you’ll find on the island. Anything with more gears rents for more, but if you’re simply circumnavigating the island, basic will do just fine. (Those who head inland and up the steep central hill will probably want to pay the extra). We’d caught one of the earliest ferries to enjoy the morning before the crowds arrived, and were pedaling off by 8:30. It proved to be a warm day on the island, hitting 95 degrees by mid-afternoon: one of the hottest days I’ve ever experienced in upper Michigan. Cycling early proved to be a good decision in several ways, as we beat the heat and had only modest company on the road. We continued counterclockwise on M-185, the state’s only highway that does not allow cars. Appropriately enough, it’s certainly the only highway marked with hand-carved, wooden mile markers.It doesn’t take long to get out of ‘town’: another quarter-mile, and we had Lake Huron on our right, and the pricey Mission Point Resort on our left. The ‘highway’ (now appropriately named Lakeshore Road) then swings around to the north, running for two miles out to Point St. Clair. This is the most deserted and the prettiest part of the trip, with the bluff on your right and the lake across the road. There are at least half a dozen picnic tables along this stretch, and plenty of places to pull off, wade in the water, and skip stones into the distance.After mile 3, the island’s edge runs northeast for a mile before curving straight south at Point Aux Pins. St. Ignace and the UP shoreline come into view along this stretch. We pulled off and watched the ferries running both ways, including the Star Line boats with their characteristic roostertails of water arcing behind.After Point Aux Pins, you head nearly due south, with great views out across the Straits of Mackinac and of the Mackinac Bridge. I don’t think there’s a prettier suspension bridge anywhere, and this is a beautiful and unique perspective. You pass British Landing, where the redcoats came ashore in 1812 and then marched south to surround Fort Mackinac, surprising the American garrison who were not yet aware that war had broken out. A similar American attempt in 1814 failed miserably, a contrast that really galled me as an eight year old.The last three miles of the trail bring you back to the more populated part of Mackinac, past the small community of Stonecliff and several pretty parks. By mile 7, you’re back in ‘civilization’, and soon can see the Grand Hotel (whose prices are comparable to its elevation) above you on the bluff. With less than a half-mile remaining on your return to mile 0, you reach Windermere Point, which marks the beginning of the small bay around which downtown and the docks are constructed. By now, you may need to dismount to reduce the chance of running someone down while trying to ride.It takes a leisurely hour to ride around the island, and I’d make it a part of any trip here. My perfect day on Mackinac explores the shoreline by bike, the inland by carriage ride, and leaves time for visiting the fort and rewarding one’s self with an ample serving of fudge.Close
Written by callen60 on 14 Nov, 2008
My wife grew up spending summers on the Lake Michigan shore, a place I’ve come to treasure as much as she does. In those first years in the late 1960’s, her family and their neighbors would spend days pulling up the dune grass that seemed…Read More
My wife grew up spending summers on the Lake Michigan shore, a place I’ve come to treasure as much as she does. In those first years in the late 1960’s, her family and their neighbors would spend days pulling up the dune grass that seemed to mar their vision of long, white sand beaches. Besides, its edges were rough, and would cut your feet if you brushed across it at the right angle.If they thought about it all, they might have assumed that this one small change would lead to no others. It was a small version of the hubris that human beings constantly exhibit when we encounter the natural world: the idea that we can sculpt our surroundings to emphasize only those narrow aspects our current aesthetics picks out as valuable (assuming, of course, that commercial interests have yielded the playing field to aesthetics). As lakeshore residents learned throughout those decades, without the grasses, there’s nothing to hold the dunes in place against the forces of wind and wave. And subtly and slowly, the dunes shift, covering life that they previously protected, exposing the things buried by the even slower actions that formed them.Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore came into existence in 1972, after a relatively brief six-year birthing period following the legislation that authorized the property acquisition necessary for its creation. Compared with the more heated history of its Lower Peninsula sibling, Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, it won over local residents and commercial interests fairly easily. Timber and mining interests had run their course in the eastern UP, and the appeal of a new tourist-based economy was strong in the shrinking communities of Munising and Grand Marais.From the start, however, it was handicapped by lack of funding. Although tourist revenues have no doubt failed to meet both the projections of park developers and the expectations of area residents, I’m comfortable with the remote wilderness feel that still characterizes Pictured Rocks. There’s a reasonable balance between the ability to see the Rocks themselves via the Munising-based cruises, and the nearby sites at Miners Rock, Munising Falls, and Miners Falls. Further east, the lack of a highway makes the park inaccessible to the faint of heart. That’s a direct result of the long-running underfunding. The Park Service's Mission 66 era planning that began the Lakeshore called for a cliff-side highway, running from Munising to Grand Marais. Nothing approaching that has ever materialized, and even the current plans to fully pave the county highway that traverses the park is a far cry from that idea. The Lakeshore currently runs a $500,000 yearly deficit. I’ve never seen a park so clearly announce its fiscal limitations. Nonetheles, people are here: at the campsites, no matter how remote, it appeared to me. The work in the past has made this possible: the trails are well marked, the road signage is thorough, the interpretive trails are excellent. But if you want to see a skeletal park operation, come here. The Munising Falls Interpretive Center is open three days a week; trail brochures are missing or down to the last copy; campgrounds are staffed, if at all, by a volunteer. 2008 promised a $100,000 increase as part of the largest growth ever in NPS allocations. My guess is that this merely returns monies that were cut from even more skeletal (spectral?) budgets over the last eight years. Is the park still functioning? Yes. Has the land been ‘preserved’? Yes; perhaps even more than its founders intended. But without the staff and funds to explain it, to continue to protect it, and to help lead us to appreciate it, who knows what the next generations' values will emphasize. Two hundred years ago, towering white pines covered Michigan from shore to shore. Through 19th century lenses, they held only economic value until they were nearly gone. As 21st century Americans, what are we missing now? What will we neglect, without that effort to see a little deeper into the future than we naturally will? The UP was always a bit of a trip back in time, a little too distant to allow residents from the midwest's large cities to reach it easily. Thus it never became the vacationland of thousands in the way the northern lower peninsula, Wisconsin and Minnesota did. Even now, that’s largely true, but signs of change are clearly there. I loved Munising from my first visit as a 13 year old, but condos are finally rising along its lovely bay, as well as in the smaller, more remote town of Grand Marais. Counting on these towns to preserve something of the past may be unfair, as they struggle to find a reliable economic base in the generations after the UP’s initial life as resource basin for the industrial age. Balancing these issues is a broader challenge for all of us: identifying the dune grass of our own era, as we try to keep seeing places as they were or might be. It won’t happen just by pining for an earlier time: after all, that era also saw petting zoos at Miners Falls and hot dog stands nearly atop Miners Castle. It will require the same foresight, intentionality and cultivation that set aside 400 places across our country for their natural beauty, historical import, and ecological significance. Maintaining that vision will prove even more difficult than starting it.Close
This is one of my favorite places on earth. I first came here for two summers as a young teen camper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: known to ‘flatlanders’ (one of the kinder monikers for lower peninsula denizens) as the UP, and to natives as ‘da…Read More
This is one of my favorite places on earth. I first came here for two summers as a young teen camper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: known to ‘flatlanders’ (one of the kinder monikers for lower peninsula denizens) as the UP, and to natives as ‘da UP’. The camp was on a small lake in the Hiawatha National Forest, between Manistique and Munising, about halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. From this base, we traveled all over the UP, and I fell in love with its landscape, remote location, and 1950’s feel. During a visit last summer, it still seemed like a step back in time, although I saw small but disturbing signs that, 10 years into the new millennium, the 20th century is finally and fully arriving in the UP. As a 13 and 14 year old, I canoed the chains of lakes in Sylvania Recreation Area on the Wisconsin Border, hiked the trails to Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains State Park on the western Superior Shore, viewed the second-largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi at Tahquamenon, and joined the decades-old cruises along the Pictured Rocks east of Munising.These spectacular bluffs run for 15 miles along the coast, rising as high as 200 feet above Lake Superior, streaked with bright colors that come from the minerals washing out of the limestone. The Pictured Rocks were protected as the first inland coastline project under a Park Service initiative that had its roots in the Roosevelt administration. The objective was to preserve both shorelines and public access, allowing citizens to continue enjoying one of America’s richest and rapidly vanishing resources, which was in danger of becoming completely private. In the end, this initiative produced precious few outcomes: four sites along the Great Lakes (out of 43 possible areas), and nine oceanfront areas. Three areas in northern Michigan were targeted: Pictured Rocks, the Huron Mountains (which remained in private hands), and Sleeping Bear Dunes on the northern Lake Michigan shore. (As a Michigander, I’m proud that those three were the only ones recommended by the study for fast-track National Park status.)I’ve spent a lot of time in Michigan’s two Lakeshores, and will return to them again and again. I finally visited Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands last summer, and hope to complete the set next summer with a trip to the near-urban Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan’s southern shore. As a Midwesterner, I know how easy it would be to spend a lifetime exploring the Great Lakes; I’ll count it a small victory to have visited these four very different places.The canonical Pictured Rocks experience is the boat cruise out of Munising, the small city of a few thousand on the Lakeshore’s western edge. These cruises began after World War II, and generations of Michiganders and others have taken these nearly three hour tours along the cliffs and back.Most experiences of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore start and stop there. The bluffs are very difficult to reach by land, and hard to experience if you do, and so the lake provides the perfect way to appreciate their beauty. The lone access point is at Miners Castle, a Michigan landmark that looked uncannily like the rook on a chessboard. What erosion giveth, however, erosion eventually taketh away: the better part of the Castle fell into Lake Superior in April 2006. The Pictured Rocks end 15 miles from Munising, but the Lakeshore extends for another 25. A large part of this is spectacular Twelvemile Beach, whose eastern run ends only when the shore wraps around to the southeast at Au Sable Point and its accompanying lighthouse. Access to the Point and the Beach are also limited: there’s one access point to the shore, and the great majority of Twelvemile Beach can only be reached from the lake, by hiking along the beach, or from the Lakeshore-North Country Trail that passes through the entire extent of Pictured Rocks.The small town of Grand Marais marks the eastern edge of the Lakeshore. It’s a small fishing village that’s managed to survive, in part because it’s set on a beautiful harbor. It gets my vote for Michigan’s most remote city, as its 1,000 residents have quite a drive to reach the next locale of any size. Inside this end of the Lakeshore, the long stretch of Twelvemile Beach gives way to the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes, whose steep sides end at the edge of Lake Superior. You can hike, run, or tumble down to the water at the Log Slide, but remember: unless you’re continuing along the Lakeshore, you’ll have to come back up. As the sign says, it's a 500-foot trip down or up, and a 300-foot elevation gain on the way back.Over a hundred waterfalls are scattered across the Upper Peninsula, and at least six lie within the Lakeshore, three at the end of short, easy trails. Munising Falls is actually in town, just a half-mile east of the cruise dock, a half-mile off the shoreline of Munising Bay. Chapel Falls requires the most effort of these three: it’s a 20-mile drive east of Munising, and a three or four mile roundtrip hike. You’ll pass the turnoff to Mosquito Falls on the way; it’s on the Mosquito River; I haven’t visited (yet) so I can’t tell you how apt the name is. Miners Falls is in between, just a short drive out of Munising, and lies at the end of a modest trail not far from Miners Castle. Three others are visible only from the boat or nearly so: Bridalveil and Spray Falls tumble into Superior over the Rocks, and are one of many highlights on the cruise.Sable Falls is at the other end of the Lakeshore, just a mile inside the western boundary near the small town of Grand Marais. Sable and Munising Falls nearly define the extent of the Lakeshore, marking off a 40-mile run of Superior’s shoreline. At places, the public domain extends inward less than a mile; the mixed, forest-protecting public/private buffer zone boundary runs along a jagged line that varies in depth from two to four miles. Alger County Highway H-58 is the only road through the Lakeshore, and with the exception of spurs to Miners Castle and Miners Falls, Beaver Lake, and Chapel Falls, it’s the only road in the Lakeshore. It actually flirts with the park boundary for the first 25 miles, running right along the watershed boundary between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. H-58 veers north into the Lakeshore only after the pavement runs out five miles past the turnout to Little Beaver Lake and western access to Twelve Mile Beach.‘Caution: This road is a primitive, rough road’ warns the park map. It’s actually speaking about a three-mile turnout to a lookout above Beaver Basin, but it’s not that bad a description for much of H-58. I finally made my first traverse of the Lakeshore last summer, and we found ourselves frequently reduced to 15 MPH or less on the wide but washboarded gravel roads. Oncoming traffic posed little or no danger: the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula is one of Michigan’s most remote areas, and a check of the state map will show you that it has far less paved highway per square mile than any other region in either peninsula.Unfortunately, that’s soon to change. Alger County has decided to pave the entire extent of H-58 between Munising and Grand Marais, in order to increase the tourism that the Lakeshore promised but hasn’t quite materialized in its 40 years of existence. I’m sure I’m one of many disappointed by this decision: Michigan is filled with beautiful country, but what little of it approaches wilderness is here in the UP at the eastern and western ends. Paved access moves one remote, beautiful portion another step closer to the rest of civilization. With over a thousand miles of coastline, and over 10,000 inland lakes, you can hardly argue that the state’s residents are deprived without making this area easy to reach. Paving is schedule to finish in 2010, by which time I hope I’ve had a second shot at these roads in their present condition.Close
Written by MonnieR on 26 Feb, 2007
Should my husband suggest a spur-of-the-moment return trip to Sault Ste. Marie, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. Our previous summer vacation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula included a couple of days in this wonderful place – the oldest city in Michigan – but left us…Read More
Should my husband suggest a spur-of-the-moment return trip to Sault Ste. Marie, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. Our previous summer vacation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula included a couple of days in this wonderful place – the oldest city in Michigan – but left us both wanting more.We stayed at the Askwith Lockview Motel on West Portage Avenue just across the street from the Soo Locks - arguably the most impressive attraction here. The motel is right in the heart of town, so we could walk to most of the sights.The first evening here we visited the park surrounding the locks (admission is free) and stood in one of the visitor stands. Our jaws dropped at the sight of seagoing vessels bigger than football fields making navigating the St. Mary’s River that connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron. We’d made reservations with Soo Locks Boat Tours for an 8am cruise the following day that would take us on a four-hour voyage into Lake Superior and past several lighthouses. That's a bit early for me to crawl out of bed, but since breakfast was included, I figured it was worth the effort – and I was right. Despite chilly weather, I stayed topside, looking at lighthouses, freighters, the Algoma Steel plant and more.Back on land, we headed to the Tower of History in downtown Sault St. Marie. An elevator, plus a short two flights of steps, brought us up 200 feet to the top of the open-air tower, from which we had a bird's eye view of the Soo Locks and a panorama of about 1,200 square miles around. The view included the Museum Ship Valley Camp, a steam powered Great Lakes freighter built in 1917 that's now home to maritime exhibits.Then it was off to the Lockview Restaurant, part of our motel, for dinner. The menu "guaranteed" that the whitefish had been swimming in the lake no earlier than the night before, so it was a no-brainer for me. My husband, who can take fish or leave it, went for a plain old BLT sandwich. For the record, the whitefish, broiled in lemon pepper, was to die for.Next day, we walked through few downtown shops, purchasing the requisite T-shirts and gifts for the grandkids, then made our way to Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum which commemorates, among other things, the mysterious sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, popularized in the ballad by Gordon Lightfoot.Dinner was at Moloney's Irish Pub, an interesting-looking place on Portage Avenue. I stuck with whitefish - a broiled fillet with mashed garlic potatoes for $12.99 - and my husband tried a clam basket ($9.99). The whitefish here, though didn't seem as fresh, and most of his clams tough to the point of being inedible. As a bar, this place is great, but when it comes to eating, our money’s on the Lockview.Close
Written by MonnieR on 19 Feb, 2007
As towns go, St. Ignace is no spring chicken. Located just north of the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, the town was founded by Father Jacques Marquette in 1671 and named for St. Ignatius of Loyola. Rich in Native American history,…Read More
As towns go, St. Ignace is no spring chicken. Located just north of the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, the town was founded by Father Jacques Marquette in 1671 and named for St. Ignatius of Loyola. Rich in Native American history, St. Ignace once was a busy hub of fur trade, logging and commercial fishing. Getting there by car requires crossing the Straits of Mackinac via the Mackinac Bridge, or "Mighty Mac," as it’s been dubbed. At five miles in length, this suspension bridge is awesome. There’s a toll of $2.50 per car to cross if you’re heading north; the return trip costs nothing.My husband and I spent the better part of two days in St. Ignace, sightseeing and pigging out on whitefish, which is guaranteed to be on any Upper Peninsula menu.One of our favorite restaurants is the Mackinac Grille. Located on the waterfront board walk of the downtown, the restaurant overlooks Mackinac Island and the St. Ignace Lighthouse.We started with soup--whitefish chowder for my husband and baked potato chowder for me (both delicious). His was loaded with tomatoes and finely chopped vegetables, almost like salsa. The broth of mine was a bit thin, but it was packed with chopped bacon, shredded carrots and plenty of flavor.Our entrees were a Mackinac omelette with mushrooms, onions, bacon and melted cheese for my husband (accompanied by fried potato cubes) and whitefish--broiled in a sandwich with Cajun spices and topped with cole slaw – for me. A yummy macaroni salad with hot peppers came with it. The fish tasted like it had been swimming minutes ago.The prices here, by the way, are quite reasonable; our entire lunch, including two alcoholic beverages, was just 9 cents over $20.Then we set off to find history, starting at Marquette Mission Park, where Father Marquette is buried. Next door is the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. This museum and park, operated by the city, show what life was life in the Straits of Mackinac over 300 years ago.Then it was on to the Father Marquette National Memorial, nestled in Straits State Park. The memorial and 15-station interpretive trail interpret the period of European contact with Native American inhabitants of the Upper Great Lakes region.By then it was late afternoon, and I wanted to try win enough money for dinner. So, we headed for the Kewadin Shores Casino. Sticking to slot machines, I hoped to at least double my $20 investment (my limit for losing).Inside an inflatable dome-shaped building, blue-haired elderly ladies occupied every one of the nickel slot machines. It was easy to spot the "serious" players, who kept shifting their eyes to everyone else's machine to see whose was "hottest." I finally found an empty seat, but the machine was inhospitable. In less than 45 minutes, I lost the entire $20.Close
Written by lashr1999 on 18 Aug, 2006
We had told another friend that we would wake up early today so we could head to the tour early and try to find free parking before the crowds get there. Our plan was to meet up at 9 AM. My other friend…Read More
We had told another friend that we would wake up early today so we could head to the tour early and try to find free parking before the crowds get there. Our plan was to meet up at 9 AM. My other friend said this time was too early to get up on a weekend and kept trying to make the time later, while we kept on saying 9AM. This kept on back and forth until we reached a compromise of 10 AM. Well wouldn’t you know it we work up way after 10AM because of all the partying the day before. We were embarrassed, our other friend was waiting for us with the I told you so look. Anyway, we did end up finding parking and the traffic was not as bad as we had expected. We got to the concert and missed the first acts.
I came to Detroit to see the Vans Warped Tour. For those that do now this is a music and extreme sports event that tours different states created by Kevin Lyman in 1994. Vans has sponsored the tour since 1995. The tours focus on extreme sports has declined over the years and the tour focuses mainly on the music now. In terms of music, when the tour first started out punk rock and ska were played. Now, pop punk and alternative acts have joined the fray.
In 2002 when warped was held in Detroit the concert ran out of food and water. The concert became a miserable experience for those that attended. This year’s tour was more prepared. The venue was bigger in that more streets were closed of and there was more room to move around. It was estimated that 20,000 people came to the show. The sprinkler systems mid-park helped to cool people off. There were 8 stages and 2 main stages.
In total over 60 acts performed for 30 minutes each from 11AM to 9 PM. Here’s a list:
Armor For Sleep
Bullet for My Valentine
Down to Earth Approach
Eight Fingers Down
Everytime I Die
From Autumn to Ashes
Gatsby's American Dream
Gym Class Heroes
Handcuffs and Heals
He is Legend
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Less Than Jake
Manic Sewing Circle
Motion City Soundtrack
My American Heart
Protest the Hero
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Saves The Day
Saves The Day (Acoustic)
Secret Lives Of The Free Masons
Senses Fail (Acoustic)
So They Say
Street Drum Corps
Stretch Arm strong
The Academy Is..
The Blackout Pact
The Early November
The Fully Down
The Living End
The Modern Day Saint
The Pink Spiders
The Vincent Black Shadow
Tip The Van
We are the Fury
Several bands are playing at once but the area is set up to prevent music from one stage disrupting other active stages. You have to pick the band you really want to see and walk or run to catch the act. There is a festival atmosphere there are different merchant and food booths set up around the park. Some tables offered promo cd’s to introduce you to some new bands.
When we arrived Silverstein was playing. We caught the last 2 songs in their show. The crowd was huge and hyped up, lots of crowd surfing going on. After they finished, we caught The Living End, an Australian punk-flavored rockabilly band. I had never heard of this group before and they were awesome, the crowd loved them. I have to say I loved seeing and hearing the guy playing the stand up bass. It was different.
Next we caught Less than Jake.
These guys gave a fun performance and really knew how to get the audience involved in the performance.
I have no idea why there was a mosh pit for a ska band? The band wanted to form a circle pit. They made jokes about it saying that one of there friends said they never heard about it and it sounded obscene and how today they were going to show him what one was. Basically, all you are supposed to do is a group runs around something in a circle and head back. For Detroiters for some reason a crazy few were smacking people on the head when doing this. Probably a Detroit anger management issue I guess. Truthfully, I just stepped to the side no reason to be injured during a vacation.
Helmet rocked their classic 90’s songs Milquetoast and Unsung. With this performance there was an appropriate mosh pit in the middle. There was a crazy guy in a sack that that everyone was looking it. He was gyrating and dancing crazy. It was painful but fun to watch.
Next we caught the The Sound, a Swedish based group. This group may have been my favorite of the show and I hadn’t heard of them before. There performance was very high energy. My friend Sachin who plays the drums commented how the dual drum performance during their show was very innovative. The crowd was rocking out when the lead singer sang Living in America. I did get their cd a week later. I have to say this is one act you have to hear in concert to appreciate. Their cd sounded ok but in concert it is spectacular.
We took a break to walk around and get some much needed hydration. There were a mix of people here to see the tour. There were people with tattoos, mohawks and cool tees. There was a white guy with a kill whitey sign pointing at himself. A lot of people were like us during this part of the show sitting around on the pavement trying to rest and keep cool. No fx was the next band we caught. I have to say they were a disappointment. They spent most of the show talking and trying to make the audience hate them and talking how they did not believe in religion.
They didn’t do what must fans wanted which was perform and play their songs. I wish I had run to catch Aidens performance instead but the thought of walk in the hot sun to get to the other stage made us stay where we were.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ended our evening. She played opened with her classic Bad Reputation and then sang Crimson and Clover. Her energetic performance of I Love Rock 'n' Roll was my favorite.
She included material from her new album Sinner such as the song Backlash and the songs Riddles. Her song Riddles is pretty good and make you think she sings "Don't claim that you represent me because I don't believe a word that you say" and sings "Clean skies, baby, healthy forests, no child left behind wake up people!"
We ended the evening eating at the Pegasus at the Greektown casino. The food was pretty good. One this you have to try is the cheese. They put some type of alcohol on it the light it and a flame bursts out in front of you. It’s pretty cool. I wonder if there were any accidents with women with lots of hair products in their hair. Anyway, we decided to call it an early night on account of my 6 AM flight back home. All in all Warped tour was fun and exhausting and worth the trip. Tell me about your Warped experiences if you have been to one. Anyone else go to the one in Detroit?
Written by sightseeingsue on 11 Apr, 2006
I couldn’t help it… the song “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot kept buzzing in my head as we stood standing on a steel platform some 25 feet from the ground, looking down onto the “Alcocen” freighter as it glided through the…Read More
I couldn’t help it… the song “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot kept buzzing in my head as we stood standing on a steel platform some 25 feet from the ground, looking down onto the “Alcocen” freighter as it glided through the Soo Locks. This vessel had come up river from the St. Mary’s River, and had a load of cargo that needed to be delivered that would take him on a journey through the sometimes treacherous waters of Lake Superior. But in order for him to do this he needed the engineering marvel of the Soo Locks to make this voyage possible. All boat traffic regardless of their size that flows into or out of Lake Superior must move through the locks of the St. Mary’s River, at Sault Ste. Marie. The St. Mary’s River is the only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes but with it’s 21 feet difference in water levels makes it impossible for boats to maneuver through the rapids without the help of the locks. In the beginning, Ojibwa Indians would stop here, carry their canoes around the rapids just to reach Lake Superior, as these waters were crucial to their health and livelihood. The long hard winters took a toll on them and food was scarce, fish were plentiful here and was needed for their survival. Early pioneers arriving in this territory were also forced to carry their canoes around the rapids and later when settlement of this area brought increase trade as well as larger boats, wagons became necessary to haul cargo around the rapids to load onto other boats to Lake Superior. Therefore the need for the Locks became apparent and opened in June of 1855. Today the “Soo Locks” have the distinction of being the busiest locks in the world with an average of 12,000 passages each year. All different size boats pass through the locks from small passenger boats to large freighters, some as long as 1000 feet. This facility is operated and maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The locks operate most of the year, but are closed from January 15th to March 25th for yearly maintenance. We could see the freighter entering the locks from the river side and quickly ran up the stairs of the steel platform for a better view. As it rose to the level of Lake Superior the ships magnitude seem to explode right in front of our eyes. We were now standing directly in front of this enormous vessel and ready to see it off on it’s journey towards White fish Point. It only took a few minutes it seemed for the locks to fill up with water to the level it needed to allow the “Alcocen” to continue on its way. We even got a friendly wave from the crew as it headed out….On the grounds there is a very informational Visitors Center which has lots of fascinating material regarding the locks such as it construction, navigational charts, maps, artifacts, photographs as well as a working model of the locks. There is also a video that provides a historical perspective on the need and use of this maritime marvel that is very interesting to watch. If you arrive and there is no ship currently using the locks then head to the Visitor Center to see the posted schedule of arriving ships, which also provide some general information about them as well like there size, the cargo it’s hauling, and its destination. TVs are also mounted on the walls so you can watch the vessels as they approach the locks from the St. Mary's River. The Visitors Center is open from 7am to 11pm from mid-May to November.There are many park benches around the park to sit on and enjoy the ships as they sail on in, so don’t feel like you have to climb the steel platform to witness them. However, the observation platform will give you the best perspective and almost a birds-eye view. The grounds also offer several permanent outdoor artifacts as well as a model-size exhibit of the locks that we especially liked. Also offered is a Soo Locks Boat tour that will take you through the locks, exactly like the huge cargo ships do. We didn’t do this, due to a time crunch, but my husband’s cousin worked his way through Lake Superior College by being one of the narrators on these cruises years ago. He said if you get an opportunity… do this, and experience first hand how and why these locks are so impressive. There’s no doubt about it, the locks are a man-made marvel, and its waterway traffic system is the largest of this kind on earth. There is no where else in the US you can see huge freighters, within a few feet from you rise or fall some 21 feet in just a matter of minutes. So regardless of if you are into boats or not, this is definitely worth the visit if you are in the area. Close
Written by sightseeingsue on 25 Mar, 2006
Pack your camera, check your batteries and head out to Munising City Dock for a relaxing “3-hour tour” to discover spectacular rock and cliff formations, some of which rise over 200 feet of the Pictured Rocks. These nature wonders can be seen best by this…Read More
Pack your camera, check your batteries and head out to Munising City Dock for a relaxing “3-hour tour” to discover spectacular rock and cliff formations, some of which rise over 200 feet of the Pictured Rocks. These nature wonders can be seen best by this boat tour, which will take you out onto the crystal clear waters of lake Superior for an experience you won’t easily forget. Tickets can be purchased in advance, or by stopping by the gift shop next to the pier. Tours start the Friday before Memorial Day and continue through the day after Labor Day. Prices for the 2006 season; $29 for adults, $12 for children ages 6 to 12; and children 5 and younger are free. They do offer group rates too, and the schedule varies during the season so make sure to check out their website for accurate departure times. I would imagine that sometimes the tours may get cancelled if the weather is too rough. Once you are aboard one of several boats available in their fleet, you can either find a seat on the enclosed lower level of the boat or choose to seat up on the upper deck to take in the full experience of the ride. If the weather is warm get there early to assure a spot on the top deck, as these seats go quickly and have the best views. The ride was smooth as they have new state-of-the-art stabilizers that provide a smooth ride. But, I also checked the weather to make sure the weather was calm for the day I went out. I’m not much for wild waves on boat rides. Once seated, the captain and co-captain go over all the safety guidelines like don’t hang over the edge and keep small children supervised at all times, etc., and then we were off into the deep waters of Lake Superior. All the boats are regulated by the U. S. Coast Guard, and are equipped with all the latest, greatest safety gadgets available to assure you are getting a safe ride. Our trip was narrated by our captain and included a little history of Munising, their fleet of boats, and interesting facts of some of the landmarks we passed while on our tour. While still in the bay we saw Grand Island off into the distance, along with the East Channel Lighthouse, then once we reached beyond the bay we started to see the rocks. Now’s the time to take out your cameras.One of the first and probably the most famous you see is Miners Castle, as you can see this one not only from a boat, but also by the observatory deck in the park or by hiking the trails. When you see photos of Pictured Rocks , Miners Castle is usually the snapshot you will see. The tour goes on for 2 ½ to 3 hours, and sometimes takes you within feet of some of the rock formations to marvel at there heights and the unique colors they exhibit. Each rock takes on it’s own unique shape and color, and that is why the Indians probably named them after things they could easily identify. One of the more famous rocks, and one of my favorite, is Indian Head... it is looks like a profile of an Indians head, hence the name. As the tour continues you will see numerous caves, waterfalls, beaches and other named rock formations along the way. We were especially lucky as the waves were extremely calm that day to actually enter one of the caverns to get an up close and personal view. If you are near Munising during the summer months put this on your list of things to do…you won’t be disappointed. I look forward in doing this again, but next time I’m going for the sunset cruise for a totally different perspective of this incredible adventure. Close