Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on the California Redwood Coast is loaded with ferns. I love seeing the forest floor and hillsides full of them. But one place in particular really celebrates fernery and is aptly called Fern Canyon. The first time I came here was over 18 years ago during an Oregon/Washington road trip with my sister, daughter and niece. We were all amazed by our visit and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Mark and I also came here some years ago and it was still just as wonderful. A return to Fern Canyon was definitely in order. I would love to visit this place every year if I could as it is that special.
I am glad we talked to the rangers before driving out to the Canyon. We visited the Redwood National Park Visitor Center a few days before and were told that the Canyon was accessible, but the footbridges over the creek had been removed for the season. A visit guaranteed wet feet. I decided we should bring our rubber boots and it was the best decision as we were able to walk through the creek and keep dry.
Getting to Fern Canyon is a bit of an adventure as it involves driving for some miles (about 10) on a winding, narrow dirt road with a couple of creek crossings. One of the creeks was rather wide but it was no problem for our truck. Once we reached the parking area it was a short walk before entering the Canyon where Home Creek flows. Since it is later in the year, I was a little surprised at how well the creek was flowing. As I said earlier, I was very happy about our rubber boots. While others were rock hopping and enduring soaked shoes, we could happily splash in and out of the creek. I think I spent most of my time walking in the creek, as it was just more fun that way.
Fern Canyon is well known for having 50 foot walls covered with ferns. These walls and all the fallen logs and branches give the Canyon a primeval look and feel. It is not surprising that several movies have been filmed here including “Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs” and “IMAX: Dinosaurs Alive.”
There are five different kinds of ferns growing here including five fingered, sword and lady. The National Park Service page describes these ferns as an “ancient species” dating back over 325 million years. In addition, there is lots of other foliage giving the Canyon a lush, tropical look. In some areas moss covers the walls and misty sprays from the top keep everything soaked.
Although the Canyon is fairly open most of the way, at one point there was a tangled mass of downed trees, stumps and logs. It looked like we wouldn’t be able to go further but we were able to pass under the trees and continue on.
Fern Canyon can be done as a loop hike with steps that lead up the hill to a trail in the forest and back to the beginning. We didn’t want to leave the creek and fern covered walls though and decided to continue further up the creek until there wasn’t any where to walk and go back the same way. This was a perfect walk, I just wish it had been longer as it is under a mile each way and I hated for it to end.
On this trip I took this walking stick that I am embarrassed to say I have been meaning to use for close to two years but keep forgetting to take it along. This stick has a bit of a story. When we were staying at a campground next to the Mississippi River we met one of our neighbors. Although we only had the opportunity to talk to him a few times, he kindly surprised us with this stick. On the river’s edge he found a willow branch which had been gnawed by a beaver. He turned it into a walking stick, writing in pen the date and place it was made (Vidalia, Louisiana). A thoughtful gift that shows we have met some of the nicest people on the road.
It seems to us that Fern Canyon is one of the more difficult places to take photos because it tends to be dark and shafts of light beaming in wash out the photos. I say this because I don’t think pictures can do this place justice. It needs to be seen to be appreciated. If you haven’t been I hope you will consider a trip here some day. There is also lots more to see in the area since it is part of Redwood National Park. The redwoods are incredible and the beaches are pretty great as well. Check out the gallery below for several more Fern Canyon photos.
In my next post more about our stay on the California Redwood Coast!
I thought I would update on what we have been up to the past few months. From the end of July to the first part of October, we stayed in Chico so we could be near my parents. My mother had to have emergency surgery and we are so thankful and pleased that she had a full and quick recovery. For some time she has been back to her normal activities – she is a tough one! When we first arrived in Chico we stayed at the RV park where we usually stay when visiting my parents – Almond Tree RV Park. This park is less than two miles from their house and is a really nice spot for short stays. Unfortunately, they have a two week stay limit and we wanted to be in Chico longer than that. I did some research and found another RV/trailer park about a mile down the road. It was reviewed as once being a “problem” place full of questionable residents that gave the Park a bad name. Enter a man named Eddie who became the manager, rousted the ones who wouldn’t follow the “law” and peace ensued.
Mark and I showed up to see if we could convince Eddie to take us in as residents. At first he was doubtful as our RV is smaller than ones usually accepted there. But it happened that a small site was being vacated the next day that could perfectly accommodate our rig. After filling out the rental agreement and other necessary paperwork we were accepted. We affectionately nicknamed it the “gravel pit,” because well, there is nothing but gravel there. But this place was just what we needed. It was very quiet and peaceful, close to my parents’ house and also close to shopping, restaurants and other businesses. In addition, the monthly cost was very low and Eddie was a great landlord.
Our two plus months in Chico were filled with lovely visits with my parents, sharing meals (my mom is a very good cook) and great talks full of reminiscing. Together we watched many baseball games as my dad is a big Giants fan and catches all the games. Mark and I never watch sports so this was a new thing for us and I learned some things I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about the game. Watching baseball games is more fun than we thought (except for all those looooong commercials 😞 ). During the games (and other times) my mom and I worked on this puzzle of the Anza Borrego Desert which was rather challenging, more so since we did it on a flowered table cloth and it was too long for the end of the table!
Staying in Chico meant attending church with my parents and helping out on Wednesdays at the Food Locker which is sponsored by the Catholic Ladies Relief Society. Food and other provisions are provided to the needy and my mother has volunteered here for 20 years 😃 .
I had been missing the food and restaurants in California and Chico has an abundance of good ones. There were great lunches at Sierra Nevada Brewery, Beatniks, Priya’s Indian for the buffet, Hula’s Mongolian Grill and Great Harvest Bread. We liked getting Italian food at California Pasta Productions which makes their own homemade noodles and sauces. On Saturdays I made sure to go to the Farmer’s Market which is one of my all time favorite outdoor markets. Among other things, the tomatoes, nectarines and bread were standouts.
My parents live in a beautiful, tree filled neighborhood that comes with a clubhouse and large pool. That pool was a welcome treat in the hot summer weather and my dad and I took advantage of it on several occasions. We arrived at Chico when temperatures were often in the mid to high 90’s, even breaking 100. Our trailer air conditioning couldn’t handle the heat by mid afternoons and often shut off. Getting exercise outside was not a popular option for us so we headed to the local mall to walk inside. It was the perfect place to do some laps and I got in some fast power walks, getting in a little better shape than when I arrived. Sadly, the Chico Mall like so many around the country are becoming like ghost towns with fewer and fewer shoppers. Who knows how long many of them will hang on.
When the temps cooled down after August we walked in Bidwell Park which in my humble opinion is one of the best parks in any town/city I have visited. The Park features amazing huge oak and sycamore trees and is very large (11 miles in length) with a road and many paths for walking, biking and horseback riding. The focal point of the Park is Big Chico Creek which flows year around. Due to the beauty of the trees, the original “Adventures of Robin Hood” movie starring Errol Flynn was filmed here in 1938.
The best part of our Chico stay were all the family get togethers. Besides my parents, we were able to visit with my sister, brother-in-law, son, daughter and family, two nieces and a great-niece. It was such a blessing to see everyone again.
We celebrated my dad’s birthday while we were there. Our family has always enjoyed gag gifts and years ago when our son Matt was a pre-teen, my parents gave him a broken tennis racket as a gag gift. Matt was wanting a new racket for Christmas and he was known for having busted a few while playing. This year Matt decided to return the favor and give his grandpa (once an avid tennis player) a busted racket. It brought lots of laughter from everyone when he opened his gift.
We also enjoyed trips to visit at the home of our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons who live south of Chico near the Sacramento area. We enjoyed their new spa and beautifully renovated backyard. It was great to be together again.
As I write this we are sitting in our little trailer in an RV park in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. We just arrived here today, the 37th state of our RV travels. After leaving Chico we stopped near Redwood National Park on the Northern California Coast for five nights. We had a wonderful stay there which I will be writing about in future blogs. For the rest of October and into early November we will be exploring Oregon, first making our way up the coast. Stay tuned!
After leaving our campsite near the town of Munising and the Pictured Rocks area, we traveled west to the Keweenaw Peninsula for our last stay in Michigan. The Peninsula is the most northern part of the state and juts out into Lake Superior. It was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. There didn’t seem to be many campgrounds to choose from but we did find one in the town of Ontonagon and reserved a spot for one week. I thought this would be a good location as it was central to the main town of Calumet to the north and also in the vicinity of Porcupine Mountains State Park and Bond Falls to the south. Our campsite was basic, inexpensive and situated across from the Ontonagon River.
The River is most well known for the Ontonagon Boulder discovered near the shore in 1667, exact location of discovery unknown. It is a 3,708 pound boulder of native copper that is now held by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C.
During our short stay in this town I found two main things of interest. The first was the Ontonagon Lighthouse which can only be accessed with a tour guide. The tour ended up being myself and one other family who met at the local museum and then were driven by van to the lighthouse built in 1866. One of the main keepers was a man named James Corgan who began work here in 1883 and remained for 37 years, retiring in 1919 when he was 71. Mr. Corgan is credited with saving the lighthouse when fire 🔥 broke out in Ontonagon in August 1896. The fire destroyed the town including sawmills and the Diamond Match Company, the town’s main enterprise. Mr. Corgan and his family carried water from the river, keeping the roofs and buildings wet to prevent igniting. The light was discontinued in 1964 and in 2008 restored to its 1915 appearance.
The tour was given by a life-long resident of Ontonagon, who reported he was 80 years old. He really knew the history of the town and lighthouse. Inside we were able to visit all of the rooms as well as the light tower. Although, me and those spiral staircases ☹️ .
After driving back from the lighthouse tour I saw a small hand made sign on a street corner advertising music that night by Peter Yarrow at the community theater building. I pondered if this could possibly be the Peter of the “Peter, Paul and Mary,” trio, the famous folk group in the 60’s and 70’s. I found out it was indeed and there was no way I was going to miss this show. I really enjoy the music of Peter, Paul and Mary and had never seen any of them performing live.
During the show Peter was accompanied by his son who played the washtub bass as well as a talented duo called “Mustard’s Retreat.” This turned out to be one of the most fun musical evenings I had been to in years. Peter encouraged lots of audience participation and we sang along with him during many of the songs, including: If I Had a Hammer, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Blowin’ in the Wind, Lemon Tree, This Land is Your Land and El Salvador. When it was time for Puff the Magic Dragon, he asked that all the children come on the stage. Well, there was a real lack of children in the theater that night but a few adults came up. He insisted that more join him and a few more came including myself. On stage we all sang about Puff together and it was a memorable experience. Throughout the show Peter was personable and funny with frequent messages promoting good will. He encouraged love and acceptance as the remedy for society’s ills. During the intermission he invited people to come and say hello and get a hug.
After intermission which included homemade cookies and punch (at no cost and something you don’t usually find in a big city) the concert continued as Peter played requested songs from the audience. When it was getting close to 10:30 and he had been performing for over three hours, even I a night owl was starting to get a little tired. After all, you can only sing along so long 😊 😊. I was amazed by his stamina and exuberance especially since he is now 81 years old. When the show ended I thought it was the best $20.00 I had spent in a long time. I was glad my eye had caught the small Peter Yarrow sign on the street corner.
The town of Calumet was once the center of the copper mine industry and a National Park (NPS) Historic Site Visitor Center is located there. The day we drove up we found a parade getting ready to start. Turned out this was part of the Upper Peninsula Firefighters Tournament which was in its 125th year. The tournament included fire departments from various towns competing in skill races and other events. We were glad we came at just the right time because we watched dozens of fire engines, both vintage and new as well as floats travel the downtown streets of Calumet.
One of the most clever floats was put together by the West Iron County Fire Department from the town of Iron River. Dressed like KISS band members they rocked and sang their hearts out.
Mark and I were surprised to learn that hockey had its beginnings in this part of the Peninsula. The nearby town of Houghton claims to be the birth place of organized professional ice hockey and home of the world’s first all professional ice hockey team which began in 1902. So, it made sense that there would be kids from ice hockey teams in the parade. We were especially interested to learn about hockey in this area because our son Matt has loved and continuously played the sport for 26 years, since he was nine years old.
The NPS Visitor Center was a place to get our passport book stamped and see all the exhibits regarding this once booming copper mining town. We learned that the copper rush began here in the early 1840’s, before the California gold rush got going in 1848. For about 40 years, Michigan surpassed all other states in copper production. Several copper mines no longer in operation can still be toured and are a popular attraction in this part of Michigan. Today, Arizona remains the top copper producing state.
I really enjoyed seeing Calumet’s historic buildings and many were built with Lake Superior sandstone. In the later years of the 19th century small towns with wooden buildings in the Keweenaw Peninsula were ravaged by fires. Sandstone was seen as a much better alternative as it was prized for its beauty and toughness. I always love seeing historic churches when we visit new places and I admired two very beautiful sandstone churches – St. Anne’s, a former French Canadian Catholic Church and now a heritage center with the National Park Service and St. Paul Catholic Church, built in 1902 and still holding services.
Calumet has several museums and we spent some time at the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum. It was built as a fire station in 1898 with the rear of the station functioning as a stable for eight horses that pulled the fire wagons. The horses were used into the 1930’s even though the first mechanized fire truck arrived in 1919. During the winter the wheels were removed from the fire engines and sleigh runners attached so the fire trucks could be pulled to fire locations by the horses.
The museum has a variety of historic fire wagons, engines, memorabilia, photos and information. The first mechanized fire truck was the La France pumper made in 1919 and shipped to Calumet over the ocean and then by rail.
Perhaps the most well known historic sandstone building is the Calumet Theater which was built as an opera house in 1900. Many famous performers of that era came to this opera house which still has shows today. I was hoping to see the inside of it but it was closed even though we were there on a weekend. I was told at the Visitor Center that the buildings are staffed by volunteers and hours of operation are therefore limited.
This finishes our Michigan exploration as the next day after our visit to Calumet we had to return to California for a family emergency. In my next post, I review our time in California and plans for the Fall.
While on the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise I met a lady who shared photos from her phone of a park she had recently visited and really enjoyed. She asked me if I had been to “Kitch-iti–kipi,” a spring fed pond south of the Pictured Rocks area. I had seen it listed on tourist information, but hadn’t researched or read about it. When I checked online I noted reviews from visitors that loved their visit there. It was also touted as one of the Upper Peninsula’s top attractions. It sounded like a place I would want to see before we moved on to the Keweenaw Peninsula. Mark declined an interest in going so one day I drove about an hour south toward Lake Michigan to Palms Book State Park near the town of Manistique where the “Big Spring” is located.
The “Big Spring” has a legend that involves a young Native American chieftain and his girlfriend. When he told her that he loved her more than any other maidens she insisted that he prove it. To test his devotion, she would leap from an overhanging branch and he would catch her from his canoe, proving his love. The chieftain took his fragile canoe onto the icy waters looking for her. The canoe tipped over and he drowned. The young maiden was actually back at her village with the other maidens laughing about his silly quest. The spring was named “Kitch-iti-kipi” in memory of the young Chippewa chieftain who went to his death in the icy waters. In the 1920’s a man named John Bellaire fell in love with the spring and arranged for it and additional acres be sold through the Palm Book Land Company to the State of Michigan for $10.00. The land was to be used for a state park. Mr. Bellaire enjoyed showing visitors the spring and eventually confessed that he and a poet made up this Indian legend.
This is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring and is 200 feet across, 40 feet deep with over 10,000 gallons a minute gushing out throughout the year from limestone fissures. The water is a constant 45 degrees and so crystal clear you can see all the way to the bottom. The highlight is a self propelled observation raft that can be moved across the pond by a cable in order to see into the spring fed pond.
The raft holds quite a few people and has an open viewing area in the middle to see the many large trout that live here. At certain places you can also see clouds of sand in motion where the springs come out. I rode the raft twice and each time there were people willing to work the wheel that moves the raft along a cable. Besides being so clear, the water is also a lovely green color, even during an overcast day.
To add to the mysteriousness of this place there are many ancient tree trunks and mineral crusted branches near the edge of the pond.
The drive to the park was interesting as my phone navigation took me on miles of dirt roads with thick forests in the middle of no where. I couldn’t believe there were no continual paved roads to Palms Book State Park and figured I must not have chosen the best route. On the way back I made sure I chose a different one and found myself driving in an even more remote area. Just like on my way down to the Park, if I had broken down it would have meant miles of walking along a lonely dirt road to get some help. Our truck is very reliable and has never broken down, but nonetheless, I felt a little vulnerable. I decided to just relax and enjoy all the beautiful trees on one of the more isolated routes I have traveled.
Now for something completely different in the small town of Grand Marais which is a gateway for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Pickle Barrel House is on the National Register of Historic Places and a quirky form of architecture I had never seen before. It is crafted as a typical barrel would have been except on a much larger scale. The main barrel contains a living area on the first floor and a bedroom on the second. A pantry connected this barrel to a smaller, single-story one, which housed a kitchen.
It was built in 1926 for William Donahey, a cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune who developed the Teenies Weenies cartoon feature. The cartoon characters were two inches tall and lived under a rose bush in a pickle barrel. Mr. Donahey and his wife used the barrel cottage for a summer home. Today it is a museum and visitors can tour all the rooms of this tiny home. Unfortunately, it was already closed for the day when we arrived. I was able to peek in the windows and front door to get a little idea of the interior.
I will close with a Lake Superior view at sunset. This was a great viewpoint not too far from our campsite that I visited a few times during our stay. In the next post we move on to Michigan’s copper country.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore located along Lake Superior is a National Park of colored sandstone cliffs, forests, beaches, waterfalls and sand dunes. It was authorized as the first national lakeshore in 1966 to preserve all these natural features. An interesting fact from the National Park Service is that Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake if measured by surface area. It is 350 miles long, 160 miles across and over 1,300 feet at its deepest point. The lake acts like an inland sea, creating powerful storms and exerting a great influence on the surrounding land causing the erosion of sandstone cliffs. Because of the variety of things to see here, this was an enjoyable and fun park to explore. Follow along as I show some of the places we visited during our stay.
Viewing the scenic cliffs from land can be difficult as there are not many viewpoints, especially ones that don’t require a long hike. Miners Castle is one of the most well known landmarks in the Park and also one of the most popular as it can be seen after a short walk from the parking lot. A longer walk down some stairs takes visitors to an even closer viewpoint of the Castle. Erosion of the sandstone created the formation that gives the cliff its name. On a sunny day, the water here is usually a deep green color. Unfortunately, the day we visited it was overcast and sprinkling, so the water was not quite as colorful.
I wanted to post some photos with views of Miners Castle when I took the Pictured Rocks Cruise. The formation is more dramatic when viewed from the water.
There are about 17 waterfalls located in the vicinity of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Miners Falls was my favorite of the ones I visited. A delightful walk in the woods led to this dramatic waterfall which drops 50 feet.
Munising Falls was the closest waterfall to the National Park Visitor Center in the town of Munising. It was just a short walk to the viewing area. There were three different spots to see the falls with the upper viewpoint my favorite. A set of stairs and a trail next to large sandstone cliffs led to the top. Dropping 50 feet, the falls were wispy and delicate looking.
Wagner Falls was the most peaceful of the falls I visited. I was able to sit on a nearby bench and just enjoy their beauty and the quiet of the forest. The day I came, not many people were visiting these falls.
One day we took a trip to the eastern side of the Park, away from the Munising area and closer to the town of Grand Marais. We did a hike to the Au Sable Light Station which can only be visited after a 1-1/2 mile trail. The hike starts at the Hurricane River Campground and hugs the Lake Superior shoreline the entire route.
It was fun to hike to a lighthouse rather than drive. This made it seem more remote and authentic. Plus, this lighthouse is in one of the most scenic areas of the lighthouses I have visited. It was completed in 1874 and has an 87 foot high tower. There is also a light keepers house that I toured. The light became fully automated in 1958 and still shines today, although it is powered by sunlight instead of kerosene. I really enjoyed our visit to Au Sable.
After our visit to Au Sable, we drove to the Log Slide scenic overlook which is located on large sand dunes. It reminded me some of the Sleeping Bear Dune in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Located 175 feet above Lake Superior, there used to be a viewing platform but it was destroyed one winter a few years ago. People can still walk around the top of the dunes and more adventurous ones head down to the shore, although it is not advised as it is a tough climb back up. Trying to catch some views, I walked rather gingerly on top of the dunes due to all the poison ivy. But a few people near me had no worries and were walking right through it. The area was named for a wooden chute that early logging companies used to slide logs 300 feet down the sand dunes to the lake.
Many waterfalls I have visited during our RV travels have required descending and ascending multiple steps to view them close up. Sable Falls was no exception and a sign warned that it was 168 stair steps down. The falls are a 75 foot cascade in a lovely setting and I enjoyed the walk to see them.
An added bonus was that you could follow the creek from the falls a short distance to where it emptied into the Lake next to tall dunes. Families were enjoying playing in the creek and along the beach.
I hope you enjoyed a look at what the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore has to offer. In the next post, a visit to Michigan’s largest freshwater spring.
After we crossed the Mackinac Bridge into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we could really feel and see the difference between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Besides being more sparsely populated, there were also the signs to remind us. We had arrived in the land of the “Yooper,” which is a term for those raised in the Upper Peninsula. Yoopers are portrayed as rugged individualists with a sense of humor. Our destination was the small town of Munising which is on Lake Superior and is a popular stop as it is located close to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Actually, our campground was several miles south of Munising in the tiny speck of a town called “Christmas.” The town supposedly received its name in 1938 when a man started a roadside factory making holiday gifts. I was interested to learn that there are several other states that have towns named “Christmas,” including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi. Today there are only about 400 people living here and the biggest building is the rather small casino. The campground was not at all like the lovely, tree shaded one we left in the Lower Peninsula near Sleeping Bear Dunes. This one was bare of trees and rather boring looking, but we were happy to get a spot. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most popular places to visit in the Upper Peninsula.
The Upper Peninsula is the place to get pasties, a Cornish specialty favored by miners who took these pies into the mines with them. Shaped like a turnover, they feature a thick pie crust and are usually filled with ground beef, potatoes, rutabagas and carrots. They are considered the iconic food in this part of Michigan and once we hit the Upper Peninsula, the signs advertising businesses that sold pasties seemed to be every where. I had pasties several times and decided that I didn’t like them all that much. I found the crust to be heavy, the filling rather bland and the beef stringy.
Whitefish found in the waters of Lake Superior is another popular food, especially the smoked kind. I have a story to tell about my first time trying smoked whitefish. In a past trip while visiting the Upper Peninsula with my sister, we stopped to get gas at a convenience store. Inside, my sister found smoked whitefish in a refrigerated case and decided to buy it. I gave her such a hard time about buying a piece of fish from a gas station we knew nothing about. As we drove on our way, she unwrapped the fish and started eating it. It looked okay, so I tried some as well and boy was it good. So, I spent some time apologizing for criticizing her judgment and we merrily went to our next destination enjoying this delicacy on the way.
In Munising we went to a shop that caught their own fish in the waters of Lake Superior. The VanLandschoot Company also smokes the fish outside in a wooden shed. They specialize in whitefish but also sold trout. I bought smoked whitefish and Mark had to take a cheesy tourist picture of the purchase. I also got some smoked whitefish sausage which was really good and had a smokier taste than the fish. Back outside, Mark and I stood next to the smoker shed for some time soaking up all those great warm smells of wood and fish.
The most popular activities around the town of Munising involve getting out on the waters of Lake Superior. And perhaps the favorite thing to do is take a boat trip on the lake. There are a variety of trips offered including a pirate boat, The Riptide Ride that goes very fast with crazy spins, a shipwreck cruise, kayaking trips and a boat trip to see the pictured rocks. I knew I wanted to do the trips to see shipwrecks and pictured rocks. My first venture out was on the Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour.
I read there are 550 known shipwrecks in Lake Superior and this tour took us out to learn about and view two of them. One of the ships, called the Bermuda was a fully intact wooden sailing ship built before the Civil War. It sits only 12 feet from the surface and sank in 1870 after leaking and filling with water. The other ship was called the Herman H. Hettler built in 1890. While carrying a load of 1,100 tons of table salt, the ship slammed into a rock reef during bad weather in November 1926.
As our tour boat moved over the wrecks, we were able to view the remains through the glass bottom while our captain explained what we were seeing. I took a bunch of photos, way too many that did not turn out! It was hard photographing these watery objects through the glass.
Besides the shipwrecks, we were also taken for a ride next to Grand Island which is located about 1/2 mile north of the town of Munising. A very short ferry ride takes visitors to this undeveloped island where there is camping, a small lake for fishing and trails for biking and hiking. Bike rentals are available at the ferry dock and I entertained the thought of renting one and taking it over to the island for a ride. But I usually check reviews (Trip Advisor) before doing something and several reviewers talked about the vicious mosquitos they could not escape. One reviewer mentioned that after the ferry dropped them off and they walked away from the dock, the mosquitos attacked them relentlessly. The biking also sounded more difficult than I wanted to deal with as the trails were described as steep in places, not graded and uneven. The bikers also mentioned mosquito hysteria.
Boating around Grand Island was great though as the scenery is beautiful and there were no mosquitos on board 😊. We stopped for a view of the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse which was completed in 1870. It is a wood framed keeper’s house with an attached square wooden tower. The light operated until 1913 and is now located on private property.
Along Grand Island’s shore are rocky cliffs and recessed caves. Our captain boated us into one cave which was kind of fun.
My second boating trip was with Pictured Rocks Cruises, which is very popular with multiple trips happening each day. The sandstone cliffs tower 50 to 200 feet above Lake Superior and receive their name due to the streaks of mineral stain that can be seen on the face of the weathered cliffs. The cliffs stretch for about 15 miles along the lake shore and the best way to see them is by boat.
There are a number of special sights along the lakeshore and one of my favorites was this arch formation. It was eroded out of the sandstone cliff face, formed by the powerful waves of Lake Superior.
We were also able to see two waterfalls dropping off the cliffs. One of the waterfalls barely had any water in it, but Spray Falls was still flowing rather well.
Hikers can reach Chapel Rock on foot but we were also able to see it from the boat. There used to be an archway connecting the rock to the mainland. In the 1940’s the arch collapsed. The lone white pine on the rock is reported to be about 250 years old.
The National Park Service manages the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There is quite a bit to see in this stunning area, so stay tuned as we explore more in the next post!
Hiking and biking are popular along Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes area and I did a little of each during our stay there. I loved the view from the Bluff Trail that I talked about in a previous post and I found another hike with a different view at the top of Alligator Hill. The blue waters of Lake Michigan surrounded by what looked like tropical greenery took my breath away.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has a paved biking trail that goes through much of the Park traveling through forests, the historic village of Glen Haven and past the Dune Climb area. I liked my day biking this path, but my favorite was the Betsie Valley Trail located a 30 minute drive away near the town of Frankfort. This rail trail goes 22 miles and I was lucky to find a bike rental shop right next to the trail in the small village of Elberta. This is a one stop kind of place where you can eat at the cafe, shop for souvenirs or specialty food items, rent a bike, kayak or even get your bike repaired. The place also has a catchy name, “Conundrum” Cafe.
I rode through the historic town of Frankfort on Lake Michigan where I saw the sandy dunes, a popular beach and a view of Frankfort Light located on the breakwater. The trail continued under lots of tree cover passing the Betsie River and on to Crystal Lake, the best part of this trip. Like most lakes I have seen in Michigan it is a beauty and as crystal clear as its name. I couldn’t resist riding off the trail close to the lake shore to admire the water’s clarity. Although there are areas of the Lake open to the public, I passed a number of homes with private lake front property. There were boat docks, lawns and sandy beaches where people had put out chairs, tables, fire pits and volleyball courts. It was a beautiful setting to ride next to – there are some lucky individuals who have this watery paradise to vacation next to and enjoy.
After my ride I drove to the Point Betsie Lighthouse which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. At 3,288 miles, Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline in the lower 48 states. So it is not surprising that with around 140, it has the most lighthouses of any state. Since I really enjoy seeing lighthouses, I think it would be fun to travel around the state and see as many as possible, but alas, we didn’t have that kind of time to spend.
Point Betsie completed in 1858 is a popular lighthouse and people enjoy not only touring the light but also playing at the adjacent beach. I like the setting of this lighthouse but I think the black retaining wall (bottom left of photo below) takes away some from the natural beauty. I think the building is lovely though. I didn’t have time to tour inside so I enjoyed the views from the outside.
One day Mark and I took a drive up the Leelanau Peninsula which is north of Traverse City. At the town of Leland we stopped to explore the historic Fishtown district. Situated on the Leland River are small fishing shanties and other gray weatherbeaten buildings which now are eateries and shops. It is an atmospheric place and the river was so high that it lapped over the walk ways and decks of some of the buildings. A family of ducks had even made a nest against one of the buildings. There were several boats docked as fishing is still a popular pastime here. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant with a view of the river and a small dam spillway.
We drove to the tip of the Peninsula where we found Grand Traverse Lighthouse built in 1858. I visited the museum inside but did not venture up the stairs to the tower. Those winding, open lighthouse stairs continue to not be good for those of us afraid of heights. The level of Lake Michigan is high and there was was no beach to be found near the lighthouse, just clumps of bushes standing in the water at the rocky shoreline.
On the way down the Peninsula we stopped at the Ruby Ellen farm, homesteaded in 1865 and owned by the same family for 146 years. It has 15 buildings that you can wander around and look at like this barn and silo pictured below. Since we arrived late afternoon, we were the only ones there and even when the small gift shop closed and volunteer staff left for the day, they didn’t seem to care that we stayed to explore. In 2003 a film called “Barn Red” was shot here which starred the famous actor Ernest Borgnine as a farmer in danger of losing his farm to developers.
Back at our campsite we found our bird feeder which has a protected case to discourage chipmunks and squirrels was not quite as protective as we hoped. This little guy got the top off and made himself at home amongst the seeds.
In the next post we leave Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and head for the Upper, also called the land of the Yooper!
Because we were staying for over a week close to the National Lakeshore, we were able to leisurely visit this lovely area along Lake Michigan in the Northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula. One of the not to be missed attractions is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which loops through a dense beech-maple forest, past sand dunes and overlooks of Lake Michigan, Glen Lakes and Sleeping Bear 🐻 Dunes.
I mentioned in my previous post that my sister and I did a trip to MIchigan about four years ago. We also took this scenic drive on that trip and at one point we stopped and took a picture of me in the road looking up at the trees. On this trip I paid close attention to try and find that bend in the road again as I wanted to recreate that photo. During my first trip here I was so taken with the hardwood forests along this drive that I had to stop for a closer look. Coming from the “dry” Central Valley of California, a dense forest of beech and maple was a sight to behold. On this trip I still found the trees to be amazing, but after traveling throughout the Eastern and Midwestern U.S., we have come upon these forests several times, so they are no longer a novelty, but still such a beautiful sight.
The most popular stop on this scenic drive is Sleeping Bear Dune. At 450 feet tall, this appears to be the tallest and most well known dune in the area. Although it is not advised, some people brave the trip down and back up. The National Park Service was giving more warnings than usual, because the lake level is high therefore there are less exposed beaches. If people descended in previous years, there was the option to walk down the beach and find an alternate way out besides the very difficult climb up.
A large platform is provided at the top of the Dune so visitors can admire the great views of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear.
Below, are photos of people struggling back up. In the first photo they look like ants on the sand. Since it is so steep, people often resort to crawling on hands and knees.
There is an Indian legend associated with Sleeping Bear Dune. Long ago, a bear and her two cubs tried to come to this part of the lake from Wisconsin hoping to find more food. After searching for food along the beach, they decided to swim across the rest of the lake. They went a long way out into the water and the cubs became very tired and weak. They eventually sank into the water and drowned. The mother bear sadly waded ashore and laid down, looking out on the water where her cubs had died. Eventually, both of them came to the surface as two little islands and the mother bear still lies there today atop the dunes, looking after her children.
The Dune Climb which is not located on the scenic drive is an easier dune to explore than Sleeping Bear. It is a popular attraction because it is fun to explore all that sand. Fun but also a lot of hard work climbing uphill, especially when my feet kept sinking in all that sand, hindering my progress.
The views at the top were very scenic and worth the climb.
For those interested, you can climb up and down many more dunes to reach the shore of Lake Michigan. I walked about half way on the “trail” but decided not to do the whole distance as it was tough going at times. When I saw the young out of breath and struggling I decided not to wear myself out.
The National Lakeshore features the U.S. Coast Guard Sleeping Bear Point Station (once known as the Life-saving Service) which was in use from 1902-1942. This building housed crews and equipment to rescue passengers and crews that were in distress on this part of Lake Michigan. Surf boats were usually sent out, but if the surf was too dangerous a rope and pulley system was launched from shore to the distressed vessel. Once secure, a sturdier rope went across to be set up like a zip line so people could be moved off the ship. Every afternoon park service rangers re-enact a rescue with kids getting to act as crew to save a stranded Raggedy Ann and Andy. The building pictured above is now a museum with photos and information about the daily lives of the coast guard crew. One of the signboards gave information on weekly duties at the station. I chuckled a little at the terminology in this section: “For Friday, practice in the method adopted for restoring the apparently drowned.”
Glen Haven was at one time a thriving little village located next to the Coast Guard Station and Lake Michigan. There was once a general store, blacksmith shop, hotel, wagon shop and school. A cannery was also built near the shore where cherries and apples were processed from nearby farms. The cannery building is now a boat museum.
Michigan seems to have some of the prettiest turquoise colored lakes of any state I have visited and Glen Lake pictured below is no exception.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a popular place in Michigan with a lot to see and many activities. In 2011, it was voted the most beautiful place in America by viewers of ABC’s “Good Morning America” show. So, I felt we were pretty fortunate to get an RV spot so close to the National Lakeshore since it was the middle of summer and I didn’t make reservations way in advance. This was the second time though in our travels when we had to move during our stay at a campground. The first time was in Virginia which was okay because for a few days we got to be right next to a creek. On this visit at Indigo Bluffs RV Park, we had to move just several spaces during the middle of our ten day stay. But all in all, this was one of the nicer campgrounds of our travels. The sites were shaded by lots of trees and the location was great – about three miles to the cute town of Empire on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center was also only a few miles away. From the Visitor Center it was not far to drive to all the scenic attractions in the area.
One perk was that a local farm had a stand onsite at the campground where they offered fresh picked vegetables and fruit for sale daily. It was nice on a couple of occasions to get a bag of salad greens from the cooler and tomatoes from the shelf.
A close drive took me to the start of a great little hike on the Empire Bluff Trail that went through the woods to an overlook of Lake Michigan. About four years ago when I visited Michigan with my sister, I was amazed by the color of this Lake. I never expected it to be so turquoise blue. On this trip I continued to be amazed by the color and beauty which I would only expect to see in a more tropical location.
The Empire Bluff Trail is one of the best short trails I have been on. With less than a mile each way and not too much effort, one is rewarded with spectacular, wide ranging views. It was rather hard for me to tear myself away and head back down to the car.
One thing I was looking most forward to in this part of Michigan was the cherries 🍒. Traverse City is nearby and calls itself the “Cherry Capital of the World.” More tart cherries are grown in Michigan than any other U.S. state and the bulk are grown around the Traverse area. Each summer a cherry festival is held in Traverse City. I was hoping to go cherry picking while here but I was told that cherries were late because of the cooler weather during spring and early summer. A few days before we were to leave I saw a sign pointing the way to a farm offering U-pick, so off I went to check it out. The farm had both sweet and tart cherries, but I was only interested in the sweet. When I arrived, I was given a small bucket and instructions to drive my truck through the farm on a dirt track and down into the orchards. When I got to my destination, I found only one other lady picking.
The cherries were small and not that sweet but it was fun to be among the trees and pick the fruit. Cherries just might be my favorite fruit, so I was happy to lose myself in a large cherry orchard.
Fitting with the area, Cherry Republic has stores in both Traverse City and the small town of Glen Arbor. Due to my obsession with cherries, I had to go there a few times because the store/cafe has all things cherry. We went to the Glen Arbor store which has a fun vibe both inside and out. To begin with, they actually have an Olympic sized cherry pit spitting arena for those that want to try out this “sport.” I saw a few people attempt it but I wasn’t sure where they got their pits as I didn’t see any fresh cherries for sale in the store.
If something can be made with cherries or flavored with them it seems to be for sale at Cherry Republic. There are packages of dried cherries, chocolate covered cherries, cherry nut mixes, cherry snacks, candies, honeys, jams, preserves, salsas, baking mixes, fudge sauces, juices, sodas and wines. There are samples of many of these items. The Boomchunka cookies were a hit with Mark and I. Mark is a definite “Cookie Monster.” It is rare for him to pass up a good cookie (or even a bad one). These were large, plump and tasty cookies filled with oats, coconut, dried cherries and chocolate chips.
Although the store is great, the cafe in a separate building is just as good or better. My sister and I discovered this treasure during our Michigan road trip and at that time I had the grilled cheese sandwich. On this trip it was still on the menu and is one of the richest grilled cheese I have ever had. It consists of cherry bread with a layer of cherry jam and white cheddar. The sandwich is covered with Parmesan and grilled. Dessert is not to be missed as they feature a variety of cherry pies as well as ice cream with different cherry flavors made on the premises.
The Traverse City area has another favorite food item of mine. In my opinion there are no better BBQ potato chips than Great Lakes. My sister and I discovered them during our past trip and we haven’t stopped thinking about them. Several times we have ordered some but unfortunately they declined my recent order, reporting that they can’t ship at this time to California 😢 . On this trip I also tried for the first time their cherry BBQ chips which are also fantastic with a slightly sweet taste.
While I am on the topic of cherries, Traverse City claims to have the pie pan that once held the largest cherry pie in the world. On July 25, 1987, Chef Pierre Bakeries (now the Sara Lee Company) in Traverse City baked a cherry pie weighing 28,350 pounds with a diameter of 17 feet, 6 inches. That’s a lot of cherries and dough!
Stay tuned for more on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area……but no more cherry talk 😊 .
One of the greatest collections of interesting American artifacts can be found in the exhibits of Henry Ford’s Museum. These artifacts tell the story of important inventions and events that defined U.S. history and culture. I found it to be a wondrous step back in time. Mr. Ford not only developed a car industry, but found the time and interest to preserve one of a kind items and begin a museum that has continued his legacy. In my opinion, this truly must be one of the best museums in America. It is so large that it takes a day to see it all, but for museum lovers or lovers of history, it is a day well spent! Come along as I show some of the museum highlights we found.
The museum is divided into a number of sections. Let’s first go to “With Liberty and Justice For All” where two artifacts are in the MUST SEE category. It is in this section where we learned about America’s struggle for freedom with an emphasis on the Civil Rights movement. One of the most noteworthy moments from this period was on December 1, 1995, when Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. After she was arrested and convicted, blacks in the city boycotted public buses for 381 days, marking the country’s first large scale demonstration against segregation. The boycott led to the Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation on public buses in Alabama.
Before the bus was obtained, it had sat unused for 30 years in an Alabama field. In 2001 it was put on auction and the Henry Ford Museum outbid other interested parties including the Smithsonian Institution by paying $492,000. The bus needed major restoration which cost an additional $300,000. The restored bus was first exhibited at the Museum in 2003, two years before Rosa Parks passed away in 2005.
The second MUST SEE in this section is one I found both mesmerizing and chilling – the rocker Abraham Lincoln sat in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot. For its age, the chair looks to be in good condition. The dark spots on the rocker look like blood and makes this exhibit that much more sobering. The chair was purchased by Henry Ford in 1929 after it was auctioned for $2,400. It was first housed in the Logan County Courthouse in Greenfield Village (my previous blog posts) until 1980 when it was moved into the museum.
Another presidential artifact in this section is George Washington’s camp bed and camp chest from the years 1775 – 1780. Washington carried folding beds, tents, eating utensils and other equipment while camping with his troops during the Revolutionary War. While visiting the Yorktown National Historic Site in Virginia we were able to see a tent that Washington used while in the field, so it was great to also see more artifacts from Washington’s days as commander.
From the serious to the whimsical we have the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, built in 1952 and considered the oldest of this type of vehicle. I believe I last ate a hot dog 🌭 more than 40 years ago and don’t plan to ever eat another one, but this vehicle couldn’t help but make me smile as it is just too cute. There are still Wienermobiles touring the country to promote the product with the drivers called “hotdoggers.” Amazingly, a little later on in our journey Mark and I actually saw one on the Interstate.
The Ford Museum has many vehicles on display. One of the more notable sections is the “Presidential Vehicles” with Kennedy’s 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible limousine the standout. It was in this vehicle on November 22, 1963 that he was assassinated in Dallas, TX. after his death, the car was rebuilt to make it more secure including titanium armor plating and a permanent roof. It was used occasionally by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter until retired in 1977.
There are four other presidential vehicles on display here: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan. FDR’s vehicle was the first vehicle built especially for presidential use in 1939. It was called the “Sunshine Special” because FDR loved to ride in it with the top down.
In the “Driving America” section we were able to see a number of historic cars including the first designed by Henry Ford. Built in 1896 and called the Quadricycle, it was Ford’s first attempt to build a gas powered automobile. He sold it for $200.00 then used the money to build his second car. It had an iron frame, a leather belt and chain drive for the transmission and a buggy seat.
It is hard for me to imagine a time when service station pumps didn’t calculate the amount of gasoline and price. At the Texaco station exhibit, the Texaco Fire Chief gasoline pumps from 1940 did away with the price charts used by service station attendants. Next to the pumps was a 1939 Dodge Tanker Truck that brought gasoline directly from the refinery to the service station.
Not surprising, we love a road trip, even a long one across the U.S., so I liked the exhibit of the Packard Model F Runabout, the 2nd car to cross the U.S. in 1903. Crossing America during that time though would have been extremely difficult. Some roads were surfaced with gravel but most were simply dirt paths. West of the Mississippi there were few roads. Two men made the journey: Tom Fetch, a packard plant foreman and Maurius Krarup, a journalist. Traveling from San Francisco to New York took them 61 days. Fetch summed up the trip by saying, “It was hard, very hard and I do not care to make the trip again.” Some times the good old days are just not that good. This car was not shined up for the exhibit as it still has dirt plastered all over.
This adorable looking 1927 Blue Bird School bus is claimed to be the oldest surviving school bus in America. It is the first in a long line of buses made by Blue Bird, one of the country’s major school bus builders. The creator, Albert Luce from Georgia, constructed a strong steel framework under the wood body and mounted it on a Ford Model TT truck.
Some of the exhibits at the Museum are hands on including the ”Build a Model T” in the “Made in America” section. Each day an entire Model T is assembled with the help of visitors. When we stopped by, several girls were working on putting a running board back on the car. What a great idea and activity! In a nearby area was an assembly line to put together miniature Model T’s. A volunteer staff asked for eight participants to man the different stations, for example putting together the chassis, body and wheels. My job was to turn the wheel to operate the conveyor belt and control how fast it went. Everyone had to work quickly to put together as many cars as possible in the allocated minutes.
Even the littlest visitors could try their hand at car repair and maintenance – there were tires to change and fluids to replace in the engine.
Moving away from automobiles we now have something completely different – the Dymaxion House. It was designed in 1945 by a visionary architect to be the strongest, lightest and most cost effective housing ever built. This domed roof, aluminum exterior home was to be mass produced on an assembly line and shipped pre-assembled. It was created to be an inexpensive solution to the postwar American housing shortage. The home has two bedrooms, living area, galley kitchen with all steel built in appliances and bathroom. Special features include revolving closets and shelves to maximize storage space. The bathroom was designed to conserve water by using a “fogger” or mist system in the shower and a shrink wrap packaging waste system for the commode. A ventilator on the top of the home allowed fresh air in but kept the wind out. This is the only prototype for the home as it could never be mass produced as planned. I wasn’t too wild about a house with so much metal. It just felt too industrial and not cozy.
The Ford Museum exhibits railroads and “Heroes of the Sky,” with historic aircraft like a replica of a Wright Brothers plane. In four simulated aircraft I experienced flight from different time periods and got dizzy practicing to be a “wing walker” while on a biplane projected from a large screen. In the “Agriculture” section were examples of innovative machines for farming and I sat inside a 1975 Sperry-New Holland Columbine. There were huge stationary steam engines to marvel at in the ”Made in America” section. We wandered in ”Your Place in Time” to see artifacts and technology from the different generations, including our own. In the 80’s area I couldn’t pass up making a video of myself with the Van Halen rock band for MTV.
We found this Museum to be filled with an amazing variety of exhibits with something to interest everyone! We are so thankful for visionaries like Ford who saw the need to preserve these pieces of history for later generations. I hope you liked seeing some of what this museum has to offer.
Stay tuned for my next blog when we move from technology to nature and visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area in Michigan.