Exploring Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s Big Spring

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.

Self-propelled raft on the spring fed pond
Observation area on the raft – many large trout live in the spring

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.

Raft moved across the pond by way of a cable

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.

Gushing springs and moving sand can be seen from the raft

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.

Long drive home from the Spring on a narrow dirt road

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.

Side view of the pickle barrel house.

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.

Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Twelvemile beach on Lake Superior

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.

Miners Castle

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.

Miners Castle
Pictured Rocks Cruise boat near Miners Castle

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.

Miners Falls

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.

Trail to overlook of Munising Falls

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.

Wagner 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.

Hurricane River flowing into Lake Superior
We had many Lake Superior views on our walk to Au Sable Light Station

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.

Lots of wildflowers surrounded the light station.

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.

Log Slide

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.

Camping Near Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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.

A stop for pasties at Muldoon’s and a chat with Bigfoot

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.

Buying smoked whitefish at VanLandschoot Fish House

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.

Mark takes in the smell of smoking 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.

Wooden ship remains as seen through the glass bottom

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.

Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse

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.

A recessed cave on Grand Island
Boating into the cave

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.

Pictured Rocks Cruise
Colorful mineral stains on the cliffs

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.

Spray Falls drops 70 feet into Lake Superior – a shipwreck lies at the base of the Falls

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.

Chapel Rock

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!

More Exploring Near Lake Michigan – Biking, Lighthouses and More

View of Lake Michigan from Alligator Hill

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.

Conundrum Cafe

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.

Betsie Valley Trail
Crystal Lake

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.

Private beach on Crystal Lake
View of Crystal Lake from Betsie Valley Trail

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 Lighthouse

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.

Leland’s Fishtown
Leland’s Fishtown
Mark relaxing in the town of Leland
Leland River

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.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

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!

Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

DH Day Farm – I love this scenic barn built in the 1880’s.

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.

Ah……the trees!

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.

At the top of Sleeping Bear Dune

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.

Sleeping Bear Dune
Close up view of dune crawlers

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.

Another view looking out at the dunes

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 popular Dune Climb
Making my way up the dune

The views at the top were very scenic and worth the climb.

View of Glen Lake from the dunes
More dunes past the main dune 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.

Mark checking out the view

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.”

Lake Michigan shoreline near the Coast Guard station
A building onsite houses historic Coast Guard rescue boats

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.

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.

Glen Lake Overlook

Stay tuned for more exploring in Michigan!

Camping Near Lake Michigan and Cherry Country

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.

Camping at Indigo Bluffs RV Park
Lots of wildflowers at our park including these Coreopsis

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.

As you can see, the goodies didn’t last long.

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.

All things cherry at Cherry Republic – our favorite were Boomchunka cookies

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.

Homemade cherry crumb pie and cherry ice cream
How can anyone look so serious when they are eating scrumptious cherry pie and cherry ice cream?

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 😊 .

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan

1917 Overland Light Four Touring Car

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.

Rosa Parks made history on this bus

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.

The volunteer staff person sat me in the seat she claimed was Rosa’s.

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.

Kennedy’s limousine – view of the back where he sat when shot

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.

FDR’s Sunshine Special

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.

Quadricycle – Ford’s first car

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.

House of the future – Dymaxion

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.

Interior of the Dymaxion

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.

1939 Douglas DC-3 – first successful commercial airliner

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.

Exploring Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan – Part II

Greenfield Village – Stony Creek Mill Pond

I was pretty enamored with Greenfield Village, so I decided to spend another day exploring and write a second blog post as well. From the layout of the Village to every building and exhibit, I found much to be captivated by. Lovingly maintained and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, this is the best living history museum I have seen on my travels. I think it is even better than Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia which is heavily visited and one of the more famous living history museums. I believe It is natural in exploring attractions to find at least a few things that could be improved or are not visitor friendly. After two days at Greenfield I stopped to think what could be better and couldn’t come up with anything significant. There was plenty of room to roam around and even get away from crowds, the staff were engaging, the historical sites informative and attractive. Even the food, often a downer at many of these kinds of places, was quite good. We ate two decent lunches here and the baked potato with chili meal I had at the “Taste of History” Restaurant featured the biggest, nicest potato with tasty chili I have ever eaten. I think Luther Burbank who the meal honored would be pleased at how his potato was featured.

Greenfield Village has a historical section called “Porches and Parlors” where you can see the homes and learn about the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary people that changed America. Here can be found the homes of Robert Frost, Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank, Noah Webster and William Holmes McGuffey. Perhaps my favorite home in this section was the home of Mr. Webster, the Webster dictionary author. This became an interesting visit as I knew almost nothing about him.

Noah Webster home – built in 1823

Webster and his wife Rebecca lived here in their later years in New Haven, Connecticut. It was here in 1828 that Webster wrote his famous dictionary, “American Dictionary of the English Language.” A room upstairs is filled with spelling books (the famous blue back speller) and dictionaries that Webster wrote. The American Dictionary was the last dictionary written entirely by one person. The aim of the dictionary was to capture distinctively American words and spellings and included about 70,000 words. Webster added many technical and scientific words such as vaccination as well as common “Americanisms.” He included only one word that he made up himself – “demoralize.”

Webster’s most famous dictionary

Henry Ford and his wife liked the style of this 1619 English Cotswold Cottage so they had it dismantled in England and brought back to Greenfield. They also brought the barn to go with it. I thought this home was the most delightful of all the homes in the Village. It was set in an English style garden with many blooming plants and flowers.

Me looking out from Cotswold Cottage

Outside of the Susquehanna Plantation two actors portrayed life as slaves using songs, stories and quite a bit of audience participation. They were quite animated as the photo below shows. This Civil War era home was part of a 700 acre plantation of the Maryland Tidewater region. The home of the Carroll family, they grew 700 acres of tobacco and wheat and owned 65 slaves.

Actors at the Susquehanna Plantation
Susquehanna Plantation – a tired worker sits among the tobacco plants

I have always had a fondness for windmills and this one from Cape Cod, Massachusetts is claimed to be the oldest in the United States. The wind moved the sails of the windmill to operate the grain milling machinery inside.

Farris Windmill – built in the mid 1600’s

Amos and Grace Mattox, descendants of slaves raised their family in this Georgia farmhouse during the depression years of the 1930’s. The volunteer told me a story about how Mr. Ford came upon this house while traveling the back roads of Georgia. He wanted to buy it for Greenfield Village but Mr. Mattox wouldn’t sell. He kept trying though and eventually after Mattox passed away, his family agreed to sell and the home was moved to the Village in 1943. This was one of a group of homes Mr. Ford obtained to represent “African American progress from bondage through redemption to world recognition.”

Mattox Home – built around 1880

The authentic insulation of newspapers on the walls and cardboard on the ceiling gave the rooms a very homey feeling.

Mattox home interior

If you have visited any historic schools, you probably have seen the McGuffey Readers on desks, popular in frontier school houses. In 1800, William Holmes McGuffey was born in this stark looking log cabin built in the late 1790’s in southwestern Pennsylvania. Ford was a big fan of the McGuffey Readers and decided to purchase this home in 1937.

The Edison Complex is a major highlight of the Village. Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, once located in New Jersey was the first of its kind in the world. This is where Edison made his most important inventions, especially the incandescent light bulb. On October 22, 1879. Edison tested a bamboo filament which lasted over 30 hours. The laboratory remains just as it was when Edison worked here. It was truly amazing to see where this famous inventor spent so much of his time.

Thomas Edison’s Laboratory where he developed the lightbulb

The biggest surprise for me though was the phonograph machine that Edison developed in 1877 using wax and tinfoil strips. The machine was used for recording and playing back either voice or music. Edison voiced the words from the song, “Mary had a little lamb” on his phonograph and today at Greenfield, a volunteer demonstrated recording the same song and playing back the results. I can’t quite wrap my head around how using these elements produced such clear words – this is quite an invention!

Volunteer at Edison’s lab speaking the words from Mary had a little lamb on the phonograph cylinder.
Playing back the words after recording

In the year 1919, Henry Ford learned that his birthplace was at risk to be destroyed due to a road improvement project. He decided to move the farmhouse and restored it to how it was before his mother’s death when he was 13 years of age. He filled it with either original or similar furnishings that he remembered from his boyhood. In 1944, the building was moved to the Village. This home was the beginning of Ford’s work to bring more buildings to Greenfield and preserve them for others to enjoy. Today there are almost 100 historic buildings located here.

Henry Ford was born here in 1863

I hope you enjoyed reading about a little of what Greenfield Village offers. There is so much more to see here that I haven’t written about. It is definitely a must see destination! Has anyone been here and would like to share thoughts on your experiences? Would love to hear about them!

More Henry Ford to come in my next blog as I explore the Henry Ford Museum located next to Greenfield Village.

One more ride!