Sunday, June 30, 2013

Munising and Pictured Rocks On Lake Superior

We're in Munising on the northwestern coast of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan staying at a municipal campground on the South Bay of Lake Superior.  

Munising became our destination so we could see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was named the country's first National Lakeshore in 1966 during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.  This area has over a hundred miles of hiking trails, dozens of waterfalls, beautiful rock formations, sandy beaches and at least one shipwreck that can be seen from the water's surface.

The weather here has been warm and humid. The mosquitoes here are healthy and plentiful. The flies are also pretty hearty. We avoid being outside at dawn and dusk and we've made a sport of eradicating the little buggers from the coach every night before bedtime. Otherwise, we awake to a buzzzzzz in our ears. I've smacked my ears 'till they hurt.

Dogs are allowed on the shore of Lake Superior at the campground. 
Ozzie (L) and Lexie (on leash) like strolling and sniffing around on the sand.
The first afternoon here we met a nice couple in a campsite across from us.  He's John and she's Jerilyn. They're from somewhere in the palm of Michigan's mitten. John and Jerilyn have a sweet little girl named Maggie who is a little larger than Lexie, about Ozzie's size, but I'm not sure what breed.  Maggie is a show stopper with cute antics and tons of personality.

Along about the third day here, we learned about a nearby pontoon boat rental business. The prices were reasonable. We decided to invite John and Jerilyn to join us for a half-day excursion, taking all three dogs along; something we can never do when we take a public boat tour.  Happily, they agreed and we planned to leave the dock around 1 p.m. the next day. 

John and Jerilyn with Maggie the show dog.

Lexie and Ozzie were couch potatoes while boating.

East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island
John and Jerilyn were easy to like, relaxed and nearing retirement. Wayne and I did our best to convert them to retirement as full-time RV'ers and think we might have gotten them to think about it, at least. It's always such fun to rendezvous with other RV'ers and we would surely like to team up with them again.

Jerilyn, John and Maggie
The Pictured Rocks stretch for about 15 miles along Lake Superior from Sand Point on the west to just after Spray Falls on the east. They are spectacular!
Along one of the beach areas, we disembarked and took the pups for a walk.
Our pontoon (at least for the afternoon). 
The name "Pictured Rocks" comes from the streaks of mineral stain that decorate the face of the weather-sculpted cliffs. Sandstone cliffs of ochre, tan, and brown - sandwiched with layers of white, green, orange, and black - glisten against the cloud-streaked sky and clear waters of Lake Superior.

Petit Portal or Lovers Leap? Not sure which.

Saltless and Shark Free!

The wild beauty of Pictured Rocks includes sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes, forest, and shoreline. All this beckoned us to visit the Pictured Rocks.

Petit Portal close-up from the opposite side.
Notice the crystal clear fresh water.
Colorful and bold, the Pictured Rocks tower 50 to 200 feet directly up from Lake Superior.  Sometimes, a photograph just can't capture the majesty of such places.  Take a look at how tiny the boat looks in the photograph below. 

To get a good perspective of the size of the rock cliff, look at the pontoon boat to the left.
Pictured Rocks Lakeshore hugs the Lake Superior shoreline for more than 40 miles. Our outing barely made a dent in it. 

Chapel Beach and Falls

Chapel Rock
Notice the huge tree atop the flat rock with gaps between the lower rock layers.

The sun was warm but the air was cool enough that being in the shade made a sweatshirt necessary.  I don't think we could have ordered a better weather day.

Spray Falls
Miner's Castle
The day was memorable and perfect in every way.  Turns out it would be the last pretty afternoon for awhile.  Next day, late in the afternoon, an enormous black cloud and fierce wind came up, followed by rain. Two more days of rain, dense and frequent fog banks and plummeting temperatures came along too.

We'll be pushing on soon -- continuing westward and then north through the U.P.  Come on along.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why "Sault" Is "Soo" and The "Gitche Gumee"

Northward bound still, our next stop is Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula. This travel day was rainy, breezy and downright chilly. With a few miles to go today, we stopped for lunch and puppy pee-pee at one of the final rest areas on I-75 before reaching our destination.

Ozzie enjoys a view from his window perch. Lexie is intimidated by the sprawling window.
When we decided to make Soo Locks Campground our destination for this area, I simply had to find out more about the strange pronunciation of the a word spelled s-a-u-l-t.  Though I am of French heritage, I don't speak French and therefore, didn't know that "Soo" is simply the English pronunciation of "Sault". Now I know. And that's not to be confused with the American Indian "Sioux" ... also pronounced "Soo".  Thanks to the internet. You know they can't put it on the internet if it's not true.

Sault Ste. Marie

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is very much like Canada.  We're finding this area to be more rugged and rural than the lush green, well-groomed areas on the Lake Michigan coast we left last week.  Moreover, today's overcast skies, dense fog and the industrial "look" of Sault Ste. Marie also reminds us of many places we've visited in Canada. We love it.

Reaching Sault Ste. Marie, one of the first buildings to catch our attention was the fabulous Cloverland Electrical Cooperative Hydroelectric Plant.  It is gargantuan at 1/4 mile in length. Construction began in 1898 and was completed in 1902. Cloverland was, at that time, the second largest hydro facility ever built, second only to Niagara Falls. 
Constructed of steel and red sandstone excavated from the power canal.
The plant is 1/4 mile long, 80' wide and has seventy-four horizontal shaft turbines located on the generation floor level.
Each turbine has four runners (blades) that drive the 60-cycle generators.

 Soo Locks

The same afternoon we arrived at Soo Locks Campground, after setting up camp, we had to take in the Soo Locks as these kind of operations are simply irresistible to either of us.

A couple of Soo Lock factoids:
  • The Army Corps of Engineers are the stewards,
  • 11,000 vessels carrying 90 million tons of cargo pass through the locks annually
  • The largest freighters going through the locks are 1,000 feet in length
  • One 1,000 foot freighter might carry 72,000 tons in a single load
  • Most cargo through these locks is either iron ore, coal, grain or stone
  • The channels are maintained at a maximum draft of 25.5 feet
  • There are four locks, Poe Lock is the largest, built in 1968 and accommodates 1000' vessels
  • The Hydropower plant generates more than 150 million kilowatt hours of power a year

This aerial view of Soo Locks is looking toward Lake Superior.
St. Marys Falls (or rapids) is on in the lower right corner.
The St. Marys River is 63 miles long and drops 21 feet from Lake Superior to Lakes Huron and Michigan. Most of this drop occurs at the St. Marys Rapids.  It's the only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

The Ojibway (Chippewa) Indians who lived here long ago, carried their canoes around the rapids to reach Lake Superior from the St. Marys River.

The Corps of Engineers welcomes visitors to Soo Locks and have built a fabulous viewing stand from which we could easily watch the freighters move into place in the locks, drop (or raise) to the necessary level and then move on through.  It was a great process to watch.

There's Wayne standing in front of the visitors observation platform.
The Administration Building and Lockmasters Tower in the background.

MacArthur Lock and the Administration Building
The Soo Locks Visitors Center posts a schedule of freighters scheduled to arrive for processing through the locks. Right on time, the Cason J Callaway made its way through Poe Lock.

Just like a little boy.
The International Bridge and Railroad Bridge are just upstream from Soo Locks. They provide passage into Canada from the U.S.  The vehicle traffic lines were long coming south from Canada. 
The International Bridge high over the St. Marys River going into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Inside the Soo Locks Visitors Center, we found a treasure trove of information about the Great Lakes, freighters, history of the area and engineering feats that resulted in the Soo Locks being built.

I've finally re-learned all the names of the Great Lakes and their respective positions.  I'm sure this was previously memorized somewhere in grammar school, but was long forgotten.  Funny how this knowledge seems so valuable to me as I grow older.

Because I've become so captivated by shipping and the Great Lakes, we simply had to tour the Valley Camp Freighter Museum in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Valley Camp was such a long freighter, I couldn't get it in a single photo.
The Valley Camp was built in 1917 for the Producers Steamship Company.  It was first named Louis W. Hill. It changed names and hands several times. In 1957, it's final sale was to Republic Steel Corporation. From 1917 until it's last voyage in 1966, the 11,500 ton ship logged some 3 million miles and carried in excess of 16 million tons of cargo. It's 550 feet long with a beam of 58 feet and a depth of 31 feet.  The Valley Camp carried a crew of 32.

Typical cargo of Great Lake freighters -- Taconite (iron ore), grain and coal. 
The Valley Camp Tour Ship contains several Great Lakes aquariums, many freight ship related displays and allows tours of the crews quarters. We especially liked the lighthouse displays.
All about how the lights work in the lighthouses.  Fascinating

One end of the Valley Camp's cargo hold was completed a part of the museum.
The other end was left empty. It was an eerie sight. Damp, dark and huge.

The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Maybe it's because I liked, and was quite moved by the Gordon Lightfoot song. Or maybe I gave too much though about the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald, her captain and crew in a storm. It could be that I have a certain fear of sinking ships. Whatever the reason, the Edmund Fitzgerald display inside the Valley Camp Freighter Museum was especially moving. 

Lifeboat No. 2 washed ashore and was found two days after the Edmund Fitzgerald went down.

The other side of the lifeboat in the previous picture.

Lifeboat No. 1 was also recovered.

Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Music and lyrics ©1976 by Gordon Lightfoot

Lyrics | Gordon Lightfoot lyrics - The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand
tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.

And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'? 
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.
When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."

At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in;
he said,"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee."
"Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early!" 

Monday, June 24, 2013

We're Yoopers

The time came to continue travel up the little finger side of Michigan's mitten and we were blessed with some great weather for it.  Our travel today was mostly along US 31 and luckily, around lunchtime, we came upon Friske Orchards at Ellsworth.  It's asparagus season in this region and there have been plenty roadside stands but none that would accommodate the huge rig. Friske's has a great parking area in the rear, lots of grass -- good for walking dogs and just taking a break.   

Inside Friske's Orchard store we bought cherry jams, fresh asparagus, cream of asparagus soup, cherry candy and fresh baked cookies.  The soup and cookies were lunch.  Oh how good it was!  After about an hour, we pulled out again to continue today's journey.

I've been looking forward to see another of the Great Lakes and as we finally reached the Strait of Mackinac, I got my chance. Lake Huron is on one side, Lake Michigan is on the other. 

Taken through the coach window, we got some glare.
And what a beautiful bridge! Mackinac Bridge, like most bridges, is probably always in process of being painted. As we crossed, traffic was reduced to a single lane.  Not enjoyable for someone like me who has a phobia about high bridges. It was thrilling nevertheless. 

From Bridgeview Park
Just across the bridge, a lovely "Bridgeview Park" offers spectacular afternoon views of the bridge and honors the building of it.  It was completed in November 1957, is known as "Mighty Mac" and is the world's third longest suspension bridge.  Surprisingly the bridge was envisioned as early as the 1880's.  It is Michigan's #1 Civil Engineering Project of the 20th century. Four workers died in it's construction.

And So We Reached the UP (and became Yoopers)...

"Yooper" is a common term for residents of the Upper Penisula of Michigan. It is derived from the initials U.P. which is pronounced you-pee. U.P. stands for Upper Peninsula, as opposed to the lower peninsula of Michigan

St Ignace is where we are based for exploration of the area here on the southern fringe of the upper peninsula. Temperatures are noticeably cooler there than where we've been. Unseasonably so, we're told.
The lighthouse at St Ignace

Remember Marquette and Joliet?

Statue of Father Jacques Marquette
These names were familiar from high school American history, but I had to read to refresh my memory:  In a nutshell...

Marquette and Joliet found and explored the Mississippi River in the 1670's. They were the first Europeans to do so. 

Fr. Jacques Marquette was a Catholic missionary and explorer. He was born in France. Sometime around 1669 to 1671, he met Louis Joliet, a French-Canadian trader and explorer born near Québec City.

After the Mississippi River expedition, Father Marquette stayed by Lake Michigan; Louis Joliet returned to Québec.

Father Marquette preached among the Illinois Indians until his death in 1675. The location of his remains was forgotten, then found again. He was finally reburied here in St. Ignace.

At the grave of Father Marquette
Wayne got himself all engrossed in the Marquette and Joliet exploration and then, of course, we visited the grave of the Fr. Marquette. 

Another day we went back across the bridge to Mackinaw City and explored an American Revolutionary War site along the waterfront.  Fort Michilimackinac was built by the French in 1714-1715 to control the fur trade and European development of the upper Great Lakes.

Another great Michigan lighthouse.
This one is part of the Fort Michilimackinac State Park along the Mackinaw Strait.
The photo below was also taken at Fort Michilimackinack State Park. It's a nice area with exceptional views of Mackinac Bridge with a sandy beach, the lighthouse and park with picnic area. 
Ozzie and Lexie wanted their picture taken with Big Mac in the background. Pop and I obliged.
Since we arrived in the Mackinac Strait area, we've been seeing sighs for PASTIES.  Not pastries, mind you. We didn't know what they were so we stopped in at this nice little pastie shop in Mackinaw City and ordered up!

Hunt's has two locations in this area.  The lady behind the counter explained pasties to me.
Wayne hates rutabaga but he sat in the car while I went in to learn about and then order our pasties. Turns out the pasties are made with onion potato and the dreaded rutabaga! Only the meat was optional. I chose ground beef with a side of beef gravy.  I didn't mention to Wayne that he would be eating rutabaga.
Our first pasties
Once he had raved about the pastie and when most of it had already been eaten, I told Wayne about the rutabaga.  He's changed his mind about rutabaga.  It was fabulous.  Later, while talking about pasties with some of the locals, I learned they aren't hard to make.  Sometime when I'm in a rare cooking mood, I'll give it a whirl.

Another attraction in Mackinaw City is the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw docked there. It's a 290' ship decommissioned in 2006 and now serves as a Maritime Museum. We didn't go aboard although the idea of it's work is fascinating. It made a nice photo too, I thought.

USCG Mackinaw
We'll be heading north from here... making our way to Sault Ste. Marie to see if we can find out how "SAULT" became pronounced "SOO"....   Hope you'll travel along with us.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Top Quarter Of The World

Traverse City, Michigan has been a nice surprise. It's a beautiful town. Weather's been cooperative too -- warm in the sun, sweatshirts in the shade and along the water's edge. 

It's been suggested that we take a day trip up Mission Peninsula. It's a short ride... maybe 30 miles each way and the ride north on the western side takes us past some real nice houses -- not gaudy elaborate like so many you see along the coasts in Florida. These are just pretty houses with neat yards.

Mission Point State Park and the lighthouse there marks the end of the lovely ride up Michigan Highway 37 along East Traverse Bay. We passed cherry orchards, farms, lovely neighborhoods and vineyards.

Old Mission Lighthouse was operational from 1870 until 1933.

A better view of the Old Mission Lighthouse
Notice the single cloud looks a bit like a star.
Dogs are allowed on the Old Mission State Park property.  Lexie and Ozzie get to take advantage of this time to check out Lake Michigan... well, kind of anyway.  We took a walk out through the rocks to see what we could see.... We didn't go all the way to the water.  Lexie's legs are just too short for such an undertaking.

Wayne took the pictures as he hates getting his feet sandy.


The Top Quarter

The imaginary line right through this area marks the 45 parallel.  What that means is that when we step out onto the shore of Old Mission peninsula, we're standing north of the halfway mark between the North Pole and the Equator.  That means we're in the top quarter of the whole world!  Wow!

Lexie (R) and Ozzie (L) are in halfway between the North Pole and the Equator! 

The return down the peninsula was less beautiful but we did pass some nice orchards, vineyards and even a field or two of what looked like "hops", but I'm not absolutely sure and there was no one to ask.

One of the nicest vineyard and bay views
The homes in and around Traverse City were so nice, I couldn't help but snap a few pictures. 

A typical house in this area

We'll move along tomorrow morning, making our way to the Upper Peninsula and explore some more of the top quarter of the world.  Come along if you like.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Muskegon: Shipping Out

Anybody who knows Wayne knows he likes military history. Anytime we're near anything military, we soak up some of it's past.  Our visit to Muskegon today took us to two docking locations: USS LST 393 and USS Silversides.

USS LST 393 is one of the last two Landing Ship Tanks of the 1,051 built during World War II. Built in 1942, USS LST 393 was involved in the invasions of Sicily, Italy and D-Day in France.

The USS LST 393 Veterans Museum and tours of the ship are in their eighth year of operation and are open seven days a week during the summer season.  For all the details, check out the website at  The ship is at Mart Dock, on the Muskegon Lake waterfront, just off Shoreline Drive in the heart of downtown Muskegon.

Wayne at the ships museum entrance
From there we made our way to the docking location of the USS Silversides in the Beachwood-Bluffton area. This is at the Milwaukee-Muskegon Channel. The sun was bright, the sky was clear and the breeze was pretty stiff causing the wind chill to be near the point of being uncomfortable.  It was downright cold to me.

Entry to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum
That's a torpedo tube at the bottom left of the photo above.  It's 23 foot long and likely came from the aft torpedo room of the USS Barbaro SS 317. It is made of bronze to resist salt water corrosion.

The device in the photo below is a Hedgehog, one of just a handful on display in the whole world. It is an "anti-submarine" weapon. The Hedgehog was first developed by the British Royal Navy and was improved upon by the US Navy. This weapon caused much more damage to submarines (a 25% damage rate) than the old "depth charges" that had a damage rate of just 7%.

Hedgehog. All 24 mortars fire at once, forming a circle 100 feet across, landing 750 feet ahead of the surface ship.
Here's another unusual display: a submarine rescue chamber. It is dropped into the sea from the surface ship and attaches to the submarine's escape hatch. Interestingly enough, a chamber like this one rescued the crew of 33 from the USS Squalus off the coast of New Hampshire in 1939. One of the men rescued that day would become the final skipper of the USS Silversides.

This particular rescue chamber was built in 1957 for $1 million. It was never used.
The USCSC Mclane, a prohibition era Coast Guard Cutter is docked behind the USS Silversides at this location.  It's part of the ship tour at this location too.  I didn't get a good shot of it though.

But the USS Silversides is the main attraction. Commissioned just a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Silversides completed 14 combat war patrols in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Silversides is officially credited with sinking 23 major Japanese ships (the third highest total for any U.S. Navy Submarine) for an approximate tonnage of 90,080. Silversides received four Presidential Unit Citations and 12 Battle Stars for her wartime service.

Portions of the 1943 film Destination Tokyo were actually inspired by the real-life events
which occurred aboard the USS Silversides during the war.
Decommissioned from active service in 1946, Silversides was moved to Chicago where it was utilized by the U.S. Navy Reserve until 1969. Moving to Muskegon, Michigan in 1987, Silversides has been painstakingly maintained in its World War II configuration.

Wayne read that the USS Silversides is considered the U.S. Navy’s most successful surviving World War II submarine.

Leaving the USS Silversides Submarine Museum, we drove along the 2.5 mile sandy Pere Marquette Beach and saw the lighthouse by the same name.

Pere Marquette Lighthouse. 

Pere Marquette Beach
We took a different route back to Trailways Campground in Montague and happened to pass the spectacularly gargantuan "Michigan Adventure" amusement park.  It has, without a doubt, the largest string of roller coaster I can ever remember seeing.  I forgot to take a picture -- we came upon it without warning. 

View of White Lake and Montague coming from Whitehall.

Campground entrance. 
The world's largest working weathervane in the background.

Tomorrow morning, we'll be "shipping out" -- leaving this pleasant lakefront town and campground.  I managed to miss fresh asparagus at the local farmers market on both Wednesday and Saturday.  Drat. Maybe the next stop.