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
Written by sightseeingsue on 20 Apr, 2006
Five miles of panoramic views of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are there to greet you as you cross over the Straits on the Mackinaw Bridge, which connects the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula. To us Michiganders it’s known…Read More
Five miles of panoramic views of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are there to greet you as you cross over the Straits on the Mackinaw Bridge, which connects the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula. To us Michiganders it’s known as the "Mighty Mac," and is quite a site to see. Visible while crossing the bridge (looking east) is the "Grand Hotel" perched high above the isle it calls its home, Mackinaw Island. At the end of the bridge nearing St. Ignace, numerous sandbars can be seen through the translucent waters below. During the summer months it’s neat to see all the catamarans and water spouting ferries race across the waters to transport tourist to Mackinaw Island. The excitement for me starts about 5 miles south while still on I-75 heading north. Here is where I get my first glimpse of what lies ahead. Though only a peek, it gets your adrenaline flowing. Now is the time to tune into the bridges radio station to get the latest updates on bridge conditions. Once we past the exit sign for Mackinaw City, the last exit located on I-75 before crossing over the straits, speed limits reduced, and within minutes you are on your way heading across the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. The length of time it takes you to cross over varies. During normal weather conditions (which is my favorite time to cross) speed limits for passenger vehicles are 45mps, and large trucks or trailers maximum speeds limits of 25mph. Cars have there choice of driving in either of the two lanes, while larger trailer/trucks are only allowed to drive on the outside lane. Once in the middle of the bridge the inside lane is constructed out of a steel grate that you can actually see the water below through… besides being very noisy, I find it a little scary as well. On windy days you can actually feel the rushing of the air forcing your car to move slightly when driving across it. I know its an engineered necessity to have these exposed areas exist, to allow the swaying action that is required on windy days (at least that’s what my father who’s a structural engineer always told us), but it's still a little frightening for me. If you don’t like the wind kicking up your car a bit, or the noise, then drive on the outside lane. Here is where, if you aren’t uncomfortable with heights, it will give you the best bridge crossing experience. The protective railing isn’t that high, which allows excellent viewing, and some have questioned how safe it actually is. As far as I know only one very light weight vehicle (Yugo) has been blown off the bridge while driving excessively fast in extremely high winds. That might be why speed limit signs as well as speed recording devises monitor your speed as you enter and again as you cross. On extremely windy days (I believe over 30mphs) speed limits drop to a maximum of 25mph, or in rare cases, a police escort is needed for you to cross, or the bridge is totally closed until conditions improve. My husband once, in college, recalls being the last vehicle allowed to cross one night during a blizzard… he said he was never happier than to finally make it across into the Lower Peninsula that night. But don’t worry, days like this are few and far between. There is a toll to cross so the bridge can be maintained. Passenger vehicles are $1.25 per axle, $2.00 per axle for motor homes, and commercial rigs $3.00 per axle. Fares are collected on the Upper Peninsula side. Some facts regarding the bridge are quite impressive. Total length is 26,372 feet (roughly 5 miles), with main towers soaring 552 feet, maximum clearance at mid-span for the many passing ships is 155ft, and the deepest water depths are 295 feet. The bridge took 3 years to build and was open for traffic on Nov. 1, 1957. Before the bridge, ferry boats were used to get over to the other side. During some years, the straits below the bridge freeze solid enough for snowmobiles to drive across and rows of Christmas trees are laid, marking the path to follow. Snowmobiles are not allowed to cross over the bridge. Every Labor Day, the bridge allows people to cross on foot. This is the only day pedestrians are allowed to cross and is known as the annual "Bridge Walk." This annual walk started back in 1958 when 65 walkers participated, and now estimates of 50,000 to 65,000 eager people make the march every Labor Day. Our state's Governor always starts the walk off, with the rest following closely behind. The walk takes on average of 2 hours, and starts early around 7am. No additional walkers are allowed past 11am. Animals (except Seeing Eye dogs) are not allowed on the walk, and port-a-potties are only found at both ends. I have yet to build up enough nerve to part-take in this walk…maybe someday. Here is a "Bridge Cam" to check out. If you get an opportunity… take a drive across, it will be well worth the trip. Close
Written by sightseeingsue on 19 Apr, 2006
When life gets hectic my husband frequently recommends us buying and moving into an old lighthouse, promising us a peaceful solitude life, long walks on the beach, and endless water portraits at every glance. Though the thought of it at times seems tempting, a much…Read More
When life gets hectic my husband frequently recommends us buying and moving into an old lighthouse, promising us a peaceful solitude life, long walks on the beach, and endless water portraits at every glance. Though the thought of it at times seems tempting, a much more practical avenue would be to spend the night at one instead, and now at Whitefish Point, you can. Located next to the Whitefish Point Light Station is the recently restored U.S. Coast Guard Lifesaving Crew Quarter that for $150 a night it's possible. Whitefish Point is the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior and is highly visited by around 90,000 people each year. Located at the northeastern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about a 2-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge, take N-I-75, to M-123 north about 11 miles along Paradise to get here. The lighthouse tour is only one thing that brings the tourist flocking here, the others are its Shipwreck Museum, the Bird Observatory, and the stunning sites of Lakes Superior’s shoreline. The 80 mile stretch that extends from Whitefish Point west to the Pictured Rocks (Munising, MI) is called the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” and for good reason, as this is the site of over half of the 550 known shipwrecks on the lake. The most recent sinking was the 711’ freighter called the Edmund Fitzgerald, which lost her entire crew of 29 men on Nov. 10, 1975 , 17 miles NW of Whitefish Point, by breaking in two and lodging herself into the bottom of the lake in 535 feet of water. She surrendered to the violent gale force winds that November day, proving more powerful then her. Whitefish Point, today a quiet peaceful spot that holds historical tragic tales of the many unfortunate ships that have met there demise in the dangerous waters it resides on. The carefully restored lighthouse to the 1920 period is in exceptional condition and is open for touring with an admission fee. While touring you will learn about the hard and lonely life of keeper Robert Carlson, while he served from 1903 to 1931, and see the living quarters how they once stood. Many interesting artifacts, plus many original furniture pieces, are displayed here. The shipwreck museum for some is the highlight of the trip. Here you enter into the haunting world of underwater shipwrecks… lights are dim, eerie somber music can be heard, and numerous sunken artifacts discovered from the depths of the waters are at your side to explore. The original ships bells from the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the Niagara can be found here as well as its anchors, the actual hull from the SS Independence, a 19 foot clamshell, lighthouse lens, old dishes, coins, as well as other fantastic artifacts discovered by divers are proudly displayed here. Also on exhibit here are old diving equipment once used, replicas of many ships, maps, charts and numerous legends that make these tragic stories come to life. If you are into birding as I am, then you will love the Bird Observatory. Birds flock the point to find a refuge during their spring migration. (March to mid-May)They rest and feed until they continue on northward to Canada, then return back to the point in the late fall for their return trip to the south. The eagles arrive in mid-March, followed by large hawks (red-tailed), then falcons, 10-species of owls, and finally the waterfowl and songbirds. The visitor center is located directly across the lighthouse and provides lots of information on the migration birds seen here, outside offers wooden walkways that have been constructed to allow visitors the optimal viewing experience. Another place to go while at Whitefish Point is a trek down to the beach and walk along the shoreline in search of driftwood, and unique colored and shaped rocks. A large deck is now offered for those who rather just look but not get sands in their shoes. Either way the sites are awesome.Don’t miss seeing the short narrative movie made by the Discovery Channel and played regularly near the lighthouse in a very tiny theater. It cost a few bucks to watch but it's chuck full of information and facts of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s last journey. While departing, no words are spoken, eyes are filled with tears, Gordon Lightfoots song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” plays, and the bells chime… 29 times, for each man lost that November day. It’s a powerful presentation and one that leaves you totally understanding while the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum stands today.Before leaving make sure to check out the gift shop located next to the museum, its jammed full of cool books, maps, artwork, shirts, and many other trinkets exclusive to the point. A small store is also found here which offers snacks and sodas if needed. Expect to spend a couple hours here or more, as there lots of things to do and see. In my five times I have visited this place each time I find something new and exciting ready to explore. Hours of operation are 10am to 6pm daily , from May 15th through Oct. 15th. A large parking lot awaits you and gets very full with visitors but don’t worry about this place feeling crowded as its offers lots of areas for people to wander around and discover. Close
"I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun," ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not."These are some of the profound words found on the "Prayer of the Woods"…Read More
"I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun," ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not."These are some of the profound words found on the "Prayer of the Woods" sign you observe while you enter in to the pine and cedar forest at Kitch-iti- Kipi. Most people think Kitch-iti-Kipi is the Ojibway word for "great cold water or "Big Springs" but some history bluffs believes the name was given after the warrior who once drowned in these springs. Legend has it that a young warrior was trying to win the hand of a fair but fickle maiden. She would submit to his wooing only if he could catch her in his canoe as she jumped from a bough. What ever tale you believe, Kitch-iti-Kipi is Michigan’s largest spring and is located at Palms Book State Park on Indian Lake, near Manistique. To get here go west on US-2 through Manistique to a town called Thompson. Take M-149 north to County Road 455, past the West Unit of Indian Lake State Park, and then continue to the end of M-149 to reach this park. There is a State park sticker that is required to gain entry but the raft ride is free. There is no camping at Palm Book but there is camping at Indian Lake Park located just down the road. After a short walk through the enchanting woods of this park you will arrive at the spring. Kitch-iti-kipi or the "Big Spring" is 45 feet deep and 200 feet wide, and has a constant temperature of 45ºF year round with over 16,000 gallons of water gushing out of it every minute. It’s a real beauty too, with its crystal clear emerald colored water it was possible to experience its aquatic life living below. Hefty varieties of trout were swimming freely in its waters some as large as twenty pounds or more. If you are into fish…as my son is this was an awesome sight to behold. The light colored sandy bottom of the springs which constantly changes it shape by the force of the water makes it easy to observe whole fallen trees, limbs or branches as well as other objects that lie below. To feel the depth of the spring, and to truly see all the beauty that lies below, you will have to take the self-powered covered raft across the spring. It’s free, and kids can easily do this by pulling a cable. It only takes a few minutes to reach the other side, and can be stopped where every you wish it too. The bottom sides of the raft are made out of a plastic/glass material for easy viewing for small children. Parents will have to make sure small children don’t climb on the ledges and hang over the sides as there’s nothing below but 45 feet of crystal clear water to land in. (I mention this only because I witnessed a very small unsupervised child almost end up in Kitch-iti-kipi himself.) The raft is also wheel-chair accessible and covered to reduce reflections on those hot summer days. The park is only open Mid-May through Mid October but the "Spring" is open all year, as it never freezes. Snowmobiles and hikers can view this year round. It only takes less than a half-hour to visit this but bring a sack lunch or picnic basket to enjoy it here a little longer. The gift shop is open only during the parks season but offers lots of really neat souvenirs to purchase. Before you enter the woods. take a moment and read the sign which displays the "Prayer of the Woods..." appreciate the beauty and goodness nature offers us and do not harm its existence. Close