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
The sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 70s°F, and I was itching for a day trip while vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One hour east lied this quaint little village called Grand Marias where the Log Slide and Grand Sable Dunes…Read More
The sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 70s°F, and I was itching for a day trip while vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One hour east lied this quaint little village called Grand Marias where the Log Slide and Grand Sable Dunes are located. I had heard so much about this place but had yet to experience it. I looked at the map and saw two choices from Munising. One, the direct route took us on Hwy-28 to 77, then north to Grand Marias, about 60 miles total. The second route, marked by dashed lines on our resorts map looked a bit longer but possibly on a more scenic path. My husband tried to discourage me saying it’s a long way on dirt roads, my brother-in-law from Colorado was just along for the ride and said it was up to me to decide. We plopped in some good tunes, grabbed a few bottles of water and gassed up the old beast (2000 Chrysler Town & Country mini van) and off we headed on the road I anticipated would provide us many scenic views or that rare spotting of a moose, bear or a bald eagle… or at least that was my hope.The scenic path we opted for, takes you on miles of a terribly narrow, extremely deep sandy road barely improved and with little, if any, scenic sites. The road in spots was so sandy if you drove too slow you risk getting stuck or too fast would find yourself hydroplaning off into a path of a tree. We passed no quaint little towns to explore, had zero bars on our cell phones, past only one other vehicle, were running exceptionally low on windshield washer fluid, and saw not as much as a bird during our wild-life excursion. We did pass several fire-ravished forests and ventured down several tree-lined roads that required good driving skills on, in order to maneuver around its tight curves while still trying to stay within its grooved tracks. It became very challenging trying desperately to avoid the oncoming intruding tree limbs and branches eagerly waiting to scratch up your vehicles finish. But not one moment that screamed out to me… stop and take my picture.We did however finally run into some other cars once we hooked up with Scenic Hwy-15. This deep canopied road runs parallel to the Lake Superior lakeshore taking you to a campground and Au Sable Point Lighthouse. Again, the road extremely narrow, twisting, and now increasing congested with sightseers created yet another problem, one which involved trying to avoid hitting opposing traffic. There were no panoramic views of the big lake, even though we were traveling long side it within a few hundred yards perched high about its banks. Though the road was beautiful at times I felt driving on it was a little more stressful than enjoyable due to it’s rough terrain and high volume of travelers. Three and half hours later, in dire need of a restroom, a bit famished, nerves shot all to hell, and traveling with two grown men chanting, "FIND BEER" we arrived at Grand Sable Dunes (meaning Big Sand) where you find the "Log Slide". We quickly found the restrooms, though not the modern flush type I prefer, they severed its purpose. Picnic tables are also available for your use near the parking lot.History tells stories how loggers once rolled logs down long dry wooden chutes to the lake below to be loaded onto lumber schooners. They recall accounts of the chutes generating enough frictions to cause the chute to actually catch fire. This logs-slide was also very instrumental in the re-building of Chicago after it’s great fire. Today the chutes are all gone, but the lumberjack stories still remain.A 1000 foot groomed trail awaits you, and leads you through the woods to the Log Slide Overlook to see some of the world’s most pristine perched dunes, Grand Sable Dunes. The Dunes covers a 5 mile stretch between the Sable River and Au Sable. Once on the path you will pass a large exhibit explaining some of the history here, which displays an enormous "Big Wheel" to observe as well as an old horse-powered log-roller that was used to transport logs from the forest to the Log-slide. The walk is for the most part flat on a easily paved path. There are signs directing you to the observation deck for optimal viewing. Sign are posted for you to stay on the path or deck as widespread areas of poison ivy are commonly found off the trails.Once you arrive at the overlook platform, and take a moment to gasp at the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior on the horizon, you’ll become breathless by the beauty of the panoramic views the dunes present. For a brief moment, all life’s stresses and any memories of the rough journey leading you here are left behind…all you are left with is a sense of euphoria. Now I understood while so many list this place as a must see.Shortly after we arrived the fog had started to roll in and views were slightly obstructed. The dunes which go on for 5 miles in both directions and soaring 300 feet high were cut off by the thick fog rising from Lake Superior's waters. The Au Sable Lighthouse was visible to the west but not good enough to snap that perfect postcard picture. The Grand Sable Dunes outweighed all my expectations. I had only wished my photographs could have better illustrated the magnificent beauty they behold, and my camera lens not flattened out their massive stature.We opted not to climb the grand dunes as I heard the climb back up is grueling but the guys did manage to make it up one of the smaller dunes to have they photos taken to trick others into thinking they actually did. Now a nice walk back to the parking area to continue our trip. First head east to the quaint little village called Grand Marias for some food and beverages, then off west in search for a much needed car wash, then evidently end up back at the cabin. I definitely will return here, hopefully on a day that offers much clearer views, and I will be taking Hwy- 77 north to get here. Travel time from the Mackinaw Bridge is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes…but worth every minute to see this.Close
Written by Mr. Wonka on 25 Jun, 2005
Trust me when I say that Torch Lake holds some of the freshest, cleanest, most aqua-blue waters you’ll find in the great state of Michigan, much less North America. Sure, Lake Superior gives it a run for its money, but don’t drive all the way…Read More
Trust me when I say that Torch Lake holds some of the freshest, cleanest, most aqua-blue waters you’ll find in the great state of Michigan, much less North America. Sure, Lake Superior gives it a run for its money, but don’t drive all the way through the Upper Peninsula just to take a dip in the northernmost (and coldest) of the Great Lakes—besides, my last memory of swimming in Lake Superior is of my dad whipping a leech off my foot with a towel. No, with Torch Lake just 18 miles from Charlevoix down 31-South, plan for a peaceful day in relative seclusion on the shores of this gorgeous lake.
From Charlevoix, travel down 31-South until you hit M-88, just past an IGA/gas station on your right. If you’ll be spending the day on the lake, it’s a good idea to stop here for groceries, snacks, beers, etc. Take a left on M-88, and go about 1 mile until you see the Wilkinson Homestead Historical Society; immediately across the street you’ll find the Eastport Torch Lake Access Site on Eastport Landing, and it’s here that you’ll find one of my favorite places for a swim anywhere in the world. It doesn’t look like much, that’s for sure, because most people come here just for getting their boat in the water. The beach is pretty small, and there aren’t many facilities here to speak of, save for an outhouse that isn’t exactly a beacon of cleanliness. No grills, no room for a volleyball net, and it’d be packed if 40 or so people showed up.
Don’t let that scare you away. Not only are the chances of 40, or even 10, people showing up about as small as Tom Cruise admitting he’s a megalomaniac, but once you get in the cool, refreshing waters and walk along the sandy lake bottom, you’ll feel invigorated beyond belief. When I say sandy, I mean it—no rocks, no mushy sand, no seaweed, nothing. It’s like one huge sand dune down there. As for the water you’re swimming in? Forget about it. National Geographic Magazine has ranked Torch Lake as the third most beautiful lake in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The blue, incredibly clear waters are truly a wonder to see and experience, and the landscape is just breathtaking. Don’t forget to hunt for some of northern Michigan’s famous Petoskey stones along the shore—we found several.
When you’ve had enough of the beach, get back on M-88, but instead of taking a left to head back towards 31-South, take a right, go down a few miles, take another right on East Torch Lake Road, and cruise down a few miles until you hit historic Brownwood Acres. Though the lodge/restaurant is now closed, here you’ll still find a honey house, country store, old log school, candy and jam kitchen, Mary Lou’s Tea Room, a Sunday flea market during the summer, homemade fudge, farm animals/petting zoo, and more.
Established in 1945, this is one of the most popular family-friendly institutions in the area, and their famous honey, cherry butter, kream mustard, and fudge are not to be missed. I’ve always enjoyed their old-fashioned candy counter, where you’ll find everything from root-beer barrels to candy sticks to wax lips (remember those?). Lunch is served daily at Mary Lou’s Tea Room from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a menu that includes sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. Enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade while you’re at it. For more details, give them a call at 231/544-3910.
I hadn’t visited this area in nearly 20 years, and vowed to myself that it wouldn’t be even close to another 20 before I returned again. Because of Charlevoix’s excellent location in the northwestern tip of the state, day-trip possibilities to places like Traverse City, Mackinac Island, and Petoskey are a cinch. A visit to Torch Lake, however, should be your top priority.
Written by funandsun on 22 Jul, 2003
Silver Lake Buggy Rentals
8288 W. Hazel Rd.
Mears, MI 49436
Rates: 1 ½ hours = $105
2 hours = $135
3 hours = $200
5 hours = $350If you’re interested on getting out on the sand dunes, this is the way to go! These buggies are two seaters…Read More
Silver Lake Buggy Rentals
8288 W. Hazel Rd.
Mears, MI 49436
Rates: 1 ½ hours = $105
2 hours = $135
3 hours = $200
5 hours = $350
If you’re interested on getting out on the sand dunes, this is the way to go! These buggies are two seaters and can be rented for several hours. We choose 2 hours, which was plenty. The company sits directly on the main road in Silver Lake, across the street from Jellystone Park. The hours are from 9am - 9pm daily and I recommend calling for a reservation because they fill up fast. I also recommend arriving prior to your start time because there is paperwork to fill out and you must watch a safety video explaining the directional signs on the dunes and how to get in and out of the area.
There are a few necessary items I highly recommend you bring with you: sun glasses or goggles, a bandana for your face, and one for your head. Why, you ask? Because the sand flips and flies up and lands directly in your face and on your head. You may look silly looking like a western bandit with your bandanas adorning your face, but you’ll be a happy little bandit after your time on the dunes is up.
After you watch the video at the shop, you and the owner or an employee will visually check out each buggy and note any damage. This is so you won’t be responsible for those before you that may have rode the buggies hard. You are required to leave a $300 damage deposit, so drive safely so you can get that back! It is very difficult and unlikely that you will flip one of the buggies (you have to be trying some very difficult stunts) but if you do, the DNR will issue you a reckless driving ticket.
Safety is important. Most of their patrons are careful with the buggies and just go out for a little fun, but of course you have those wild and crazy drivers that everyone needs to watch out for.
After checking out the buggies, they are then hooked to the back of a four-wheel drive (their trucks are painted black and white like a cow so they can be easily seen on the dunes) and driven one and a half miles to the dunes entrance. You will then get in line to get into the dune area along with everyone else. This is a very popular place and is always busy. There are tickets to enter, which the buggy rental place has, and the first is 9 - 11am, then 11am - 1pm, and so on. The first part of each entrance time is of course the busiest with everyone rushing to get on the dunes. However, the best time to get on the dunes is first thing in the morning because this is the least crowded. You’ll have an opportunity to experience all areas of the dunes without having to watch out for quite so many vehicles that head there later in the day.
When you make it into the park and the buggies are unhooked from the truck, you get in, buckle up, and head for the dune entrance. The entrance is single line and you must take the entrance at half throttle (there are rangers sitting in this area to make sure you’re going slow). Don’t stop in this area because the sand is soft and you may get stuck. Once you make the turn to the left, hit it, because this is the entrance to the dunes so take off. Believe it or not, these buggies ride best at full throttle, so don’t be afraid to give it gas and take off.
There are many places to ride. You can go directly up to Lake Michigan over small dunes, or take the directional area and try to make it up and over some larger dunes. The larger ones are definitely more difficult, but a fun challenge to try and make it over. Some people have a "very rewarding experience" as the owner calls it, and get stuck. All you have to do is get out, pick up the buggy, and place it in a different direction and go. You must watch out at all times for other vehicles (everyone has a tall orange flag on their vehicle) and for debris. There are a lot of driftwood pieces but you’re not allowed to move them, even if they are at the bottom of a hill and you about run over them! Since the dunes are ever changing, that piece of wood will be covered up by the next day and another one exposed.
After riding the dunes for a couple of hours, your body will definitely feel it the next day, but this was a tremendous amount of fun. A husband and wife own this small business and they are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. On our first day, we encountered rain after being out on the dunes for about 45 minutes and they drove out, found us, took us back to their shop, and said for us to come back the next day and start our 2 hours over that we had purchased. They went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our stay. I would happily tell everyone about this buggy rental shop and will gladly go back ourselves.
Written by callen60 on 11 Dec, 2008
Much of northern Michigan is the midwest’s vacationland, and even the nation’s. Minnesota may have the trademark on ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’, but the same glaciers made Michigan a strong contender for that title. Mix a gazillion inland lakes with thousands of miles of coast…Read More
Much of northern Michigan is the midwest’s vacationland, and even the nation’s. Minnesota may have the trademark on ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’, but the same glaciers made Michigan a strong contender for that title. Mix a gazillion inland lakes with thousands of miles of coast along four of the five Great Lakes, and there’s a state with plenty to enjoy and explore.I left Michigan decades ago, but I come back every summer to visit family and to vacation. These days, I spend most of my time along Lake Michigan, but as a kid, both my family and generations of my friends and neighbors headed straight north for a classic summer getaway: north to the Straits, to Mackinac, the Soo and the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. My family took this trip when I was much younger than my kids are now; we retraced those steps in the opposite order as we approached from Wisconsin and the western UP.These trips were made easier by the Mackinac Bridge, a beautiful and impressive engineering achievement that spans the tempestuous, five-mile-wide Straits of Mackinac that both connect Lakes Michigan and Huron and separate the two peninsulas. As you cross the Big Mac, now in its fifth decade, you’ll see Mackinac Island off to the east in Lake Huron (but keep your eyes on the road). This is two square miles of car-free vacationland, an addictive mix of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Arrive by ferry, then take a carriage ride, rent a bike and tour the island, hike up the hills and visit the 200-year old fort, then buy a pound of fudge. You’ve earned it.Further north are the Tahquamenon Falls, a pair that includes one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. They sit in the middle of Michigan’s largest state park, and it’s worth visiting the larger upper falls and the scenic lower falls, which are separated by a few miles. Most visitors do this and leave, but there are 40,000 acres of wilderness to hike or ski in, and several miles of shorefront along Lake Superior.Head east from here to Sault Ste. Marie, the smaller Michigan half of what was once a single city spanning the rapids on the St. Mary’s River. Two hundred years ago, the British began building locks to safely move ships through the 20’ drop along this transition from Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The Soo Locks no longer seem like the amazing accomplishment they were last century, and look and feel like a visit to an earlier time.Close
Written by callen60 on 14 Nov, 2008
There are no better guides to the UP than Mary and Don Hunt. These lowlanders from Ann Arbor have spent a lifetime exploring Michigan’s northern reaches, and have shared their knowledge and their finds in a comprehensive book, a website, and a handy laminated map/guide…Read More
There are no better guides to the UP than Mary and Don Hunt. These lowlanders from Ann Arbor have spent a lifetime exploring Michigan’s northern reaches, and have shared their knowledge and their finds in a comprehensive book, a website, and a handy laminated map/guide of the UP. I discovered their book 10 years ago, just before heading off on a five-day trip across the UP with my wife, my first return to many of my favorite haunts since I was in high school. The Hunts have found every great diner, every gem of a motel, every historic site, and many hidden secrets and attractions that, without their help, you’d miss. Thanks to them, we found an installation celebrating one of many now-vanished CCC camps near Brevort, which let my wife reconnect with her grandfather’s experience and taught me more about one of my favorite parts of Roosevelt’s legacy. We found the factory ghost town of Alberta, Henry Ford’s attempt at a planned community, one last remnant of Ford’s vanished UP empire. I can’t imagine traveling here without their help. You can see what I’m talking about at the Hunt’s website, which contains big fractions of their encyclopedic UP guide. There are histories of dozens and dozens of UP communities, which reinforce my sense that the UP is one of those American areas that saw less life and ‘civilization’ as the 20th century advanced. Logging, mining, and the possibility of farming initially attracted settlers and immigrants to the UP; foremost among those who stayed when the resources ran out are the Finns, who found it remarkably similar to their homeland. Which it is: I was stunned to discover how much Finland resembles the UP on a 1984 visit. If you had kidnapped me in 1974 and released me in the Finnish woods, I would have been looking for signs to US 2.If you’re planning on visiting the UP, you’ll want to visit the Hunt's website. Heck, you might want to visit anyways, to see what a fabulous guide they’ve produced, highlighting scenic, historic, and cultural sites, plus recommendations for authentic lodging and restaurants. If you have any heart at all, you’ll want to order their 'Hunt’s Map Guide’ for $6.95, a 12"x38" laminated summary of all their work. It was the most compact and useful thing I’ve ever traveled with.Close
After finally ending our experience at the West Bay Diner, we returned to the Grand Sable Visitor Center, which had closed early the day before. As we drove along, it quickly became apparent that another beautiful day was emerging, despite the early clouds and light…Read More
After finally ending our experience at the West Bay Diner, we returned to the Grand Sable Visitor Center, which had closed early the day before. As we drove along, it quickly became apparent that another beautiful day was emerging, despite the early clouds and light mist that never quite turned into rain. Another Junior Ranger badge safely in hand, we drove to the edge of Grand Sable Lake, and wandered down the boat ramp. Birch trees, another ubiquitous northern Michigan resident, lined the approach to the lake, and my wife and enjoyed them while the kids briefly splashed around among the dunes. Our days big destination was Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan’s first state park, with a waterfall exceeded only by Niagara in the eastern U.S. There’s no easy route from here to there, and we would eventually head south, east, and then back north to reach the falls. Instead of leaving the lakeshore initially, we decided to drive straight east along the county roads, which were marked as a mixture of paved and gravel. We reminded ourselves to get gas as we passed back through Grand Marais, which was the only settlement of any size (counting 350 as a town of size).Alger County H58 curves along the bay’s southern shore, and then heads nearly straight east. The shoreline bumps north for a mile, leaving the road inland, but the beach eventually returns to within a quarter mile of the highway.That’s using the word ‘highway’ loosely. We’d asked the ranger about the wisdom of driving east this way towards the hamlet of Deer Park, a place I’d looked at on maps for years but had never visited. She laughed a little, and said you could make it, but you couldn’t make it quickly. Two miles outside of town, we found out what she meant. The roadway instantly degenerated into a patchwork of asphalt patches, piled atop each other in years of careless attempts to replace the ravages of winter freezes. We suddenly realized we hadn’t gassed up in Grand Marais. Neither of us like backtracking, and a quick view of a sign announcing a general store 11 miles ahead contained the word ‘gas’, so we decided to forge onwards. Thankfully, the county gave up any intention of paving the road after a few more miles, and it turned into a gravel and sand bed that was easier on everyone’s nerves. Before falling asleep, my daughters watched the onboard display steadily marching towards ‘0 miles to empty’. But the store was only 9 miles, and we easily had 20 more before the gas ran out. Plus, Deer Park was ahead, too.We passed through forest, along small lakes, and veered around the edges of property. I thought of the exclusive Huron Mountain Club 100 miles to the east, and how they fought the placement of a state highway through their 10,000-acre tract. The logging companies owned all this land 100 years ago, and we were driving along one of their routes for bringing the pines from the eastern UP to the harbor at Grand Marais. Some maps, in fact, describe the route we were on as the ‘Grand Marais Truck Trail’. When we reached the general store, it became apparent that the sign advertised LP Gas, not gasoline. That put a different spin on things. It was another eight miles to Deer Park, and traveling at 25 miles an hour wasn’t making the most of our remaining fuel. We were sneaking peeks of the shoreline here and there, and realizing that even this part of the coast was 100% owned. For a mile, a perfect white fence ran along the road’s northern edge, which looked as if it had been intended for New England and misplaced. It marked off a development, which was odd enough, and I learned later that area residents found the fence not just out of place, but offensive: UP sensibilities don’t include much room for those with a need to block off what they own. Gets in the way of snowmobiles, skis, and hunting, for starters.We pulled into Deer Lake, which sits at the end of Muskallonge Lake. This is a big fishing spot, and like many just-barely-inland lakes in both peninsulas, must have been formed by dunes and sand that eventually closed in a small southern dent in the shoreline. (A similar fate would have overtaken Grand Marais’ harbor if not for the construction of barriers at the eastern edge of the sand spit.)The Deer Park General Store sat just before the road abandoned the lake’s edge and turned due south. I gulped as I saw the complete absence of gas pumps, and the ‘6 miles to empty’ displayed on the console. There were a lot of people here—at least compared to where we’d been—but despite the campers in the state park, and those renting spots in the General Store’s RV complex, and those with cabins in the area, no one sold gas. They concentrated on much more important things, like bait.I steeled myself to look like a fool, and walked into the store. A 20-year old woman was behind the counter, and I explained how we were nearly out of gas, and had been counting on filling up here in Deer Park. "No problem," she said. "There’s a station down in Pine Stump Junction, only eight miles away. They’re not open today, but they’ll be open Wednesday." I realized that she thought we were staying in the area. I figured they had to have some fuel of their own, and I swallowed hard and begged. I’ll have to ask the owner, she said, and she’d just left to take the dogs for a walk. But she’d be back soon: the oldest one was really arthritic and couldn’t get far.I checked back in with my family, and waited around the store, feeling really foolish. On the walls were a collection of ads and flyers from the store’s history, including a few pictures from the 1940’s that showed gas pumps out front. Darn. Sixty years too late. After 15 long minutes, the clerk heard the owner returning, and went out back to meet her. I could see her telling my story, and felt like a moronic lowlander. Driving back roads? Without gas? What kind of people did they raise on the other side of the bridge?I retold my own tale to the woman in charge, and felt my face turning red. For good measure, I made sure to mention the three kids in the car. She let me wait a few seconds, and then told me to pull around to the back. From a rusty tank on a five foot frame, she gave us a couple unmetered gallons of fuel. My wife leaned out the window to say that we were up to 30 miles, enough to get us south to Newberry, the first place we were confident would hold gas stations that were open on Mondays. I started figuring out a way to pay for those precious gallons, but our benefactor waved me off. "Just do something nice for someone else," she said.I thanked her profusely, and climbed into the car. We agreed that we could at least buy some things at the store, so I grabbed the girls and declared it open season on junk food. Fueled up in multiple ways, we left Superior for the last time and headed on to Tahquamenon.Close
Written by TonyFla on 02 Nov, 2008
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum Captivates Visitors GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Take a walk back in time with President Gerald Ford and see mementos associated with his life and his years in the White House at the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum. Administered by the US…Read More
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum Captivates Visitors GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Take a walk back in time with President Gerald Ford and see mementos associated with his life and his years in the White House at the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum. Administered by the US National Archive and Records Administration as part of the Presidential Libraries System, the Gerald R. Ford Museum is located in Ford’s hometown of Grand Rapids, while his Presidential Library is in Ann Arbor, home of Ford’s college alma mater, the University of Michigan. The size of the triangular shaped museum is enormous. The two-story, 56,000 square feet museum teems with memorabilia telling the story of Ford’s legacy. Ford served as President from 1974-1977 during the highly tumultuous period of American history that was dominated by the impact of President Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate affair. Visitors to the $11 million museum, which is situated in a 20 acre park along the Grand River, are met first outside by a larger than life statute of an astronaut. President Ford was a major proponent of the US Space Program. The museum does a tremendous job of telling the story of key events that took place during Ford’s administration. On display is the bell of the SS Mayaguez. If the ship’s name doesn’t "ring a bell," maybe you will recall its story. The Mayaguez was a US container ship that was seized by Khmer Rouge forces while underway in Southeast Asia in 1975. Ford ordered a US rescue mission that resulted in the ship being freed, but with the loss of 15 US military personnel. Another highlight at the museum is associated with the Vietnam War, which officially ended during the Ford Administration. Although most US military action ceased in 1973 when President Nixon bought the troops home, it wasn’t until April 1975 that Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army. Displayed is the staircase from the US embassy in Saigon that was the scene of one of the most dramatic and reprinted photographs of the war – A US helicopter on the embassy’s roof and hundreds of Vietnamese crowding the outdoor staircase as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on the embassy compound. In an address in 1999, Ford admitted that including the staircase was controversial because to many it was an emblem of our military defeat in Vietnam . Ford countered that to him the staircase and its inclusion at the museum represented "a monument of hope and not despair." Other permanent museum exhibits include: "The 1970s, An overview;" some of the actual tools used in the Watergate break-in that doomed President Nixon and much more. Inside the museum is also a gift shop and a movie theater that airs a movie that tells the story of Gerald Ford. Finally, Ford is buried on the grounds of the museum. Admission is $7; $3 for youth; other discounts may be available. For more information on the President Gerald R. Ford Museum contact the museum at 616.254.0386 or on the web at www.FordLibraryMuseum.gov. For information on Grand Rapids: The historic Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is within easy walking distance of the Museum. Grand Rapids also boasts a boyhood home of President Ford. For more information on Grand Rapids visit wwww.grandrapids.org or call 800.678.9859.Disclosure: the author was the guest of the Grand Rapids CVB to facilitate writing this review.Close