Biggest little city in the UP

We headed out the door on a major run for the day: 140 miles each way. We wanted to scout some campgrounds in Munising for next summer.

Were a little disappointed when we saw them, but the trip wasn’t a waste….we ate pasties from Muldoons, voted “best in the UP”!

But we looked on our maps and realized Marquette was only 40 miles up the road, and they had a campground that sounded interesting.

Good move.

As we came into town, we realized there was more to this place than we’d reckoned. Yeah, it’s the biggest city in the whole UP!

Still, some perspective: its population is less than Centerville, one of Dayton’s suburbs that serves as our legal address.

For us, the most notable feature was the town’s sudden rise from the surrounding flat countryside. Turns out it has an elevation change of 600 feet, enough to downhill ski on the outskirts of town!

Not this time of year, silly….

It was lovely when we arrived. Took a couple pictures of their downtown harbor, whose most noticeable feature is a huge abandoned dock formerly used to fill ships with iron ore. No matter, Lake Superior is still lovely and very much accessible!
DSC_6556_aDSC_6548_aThe campground was great, and we’re making plans to spend time there next summer!

As we left town, we passed the county road commission headquarters and its very creative sign out front.
DSC_6563_aAs we traveled home, the full moon rose ahead of us as the sun set behind. The photo below captures the moment without bothering too much with clarity….

The superior lake

Oh, those pejorative labels…..

Someone named it that way, and it could be as simple as it being in the superior position of the five great lakes….

Or it could be the most beautiful of the five…..

I’m not going there, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Whitefish Point and Tahquamenon Falls were the destinations for our day. And what a day!
DSC_6158_aClear blue sky, strong breeze that required a light jacket, deep blue waters, a view across the lake that showed the hills of Canada.
DSC_6169_aMichigan has done well to preserve the setting of the falls at Tahquamenon. They occur in a large upper falls, and four miles downstream a series of five smaller ones called the lower falls. Each set requires a fair walk from parking lots.
DSC_6282_aWe visited the upper falls, which are the third largest falls by volume east of the Mississippi.

The amber color of the water is caused by tannins leached from cedar, spruce and hemlock in the swamps drained by the river. The extremely soft water churned by the action of the falls causes the large amounts of foam, which has been the trademark of the Tahquamenon since the days of the early voyagers.

Drummmmm roll, please

The eastern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the shoreline along which boats and ships must travel in order to reach Lake Superior through the Soo Locks.

At its easternmost tip, De Tour Village faces Drummond Island across the channel where all these craft must pass.

That makes Drummond Island the extreme eastern portion of the state. Its historic claim to fame: the island was the last British outpost on American soil following the Treaty of Ghent, finally returned to American hands in 1828.

Today, its claim to fame is more down to earth: over two-thirds of the island is owned by the State of Michigan, and there are many miles of carefully drawn trails that are designated for ATVs and full-grown four-wheelers, and an endless array of harbors and coves around its convoluted shoreline that is dotted with numerous small islands. The ferryboat to and from the island is always full of pickups hauling trailers with boats or off-road vehicles.

We found the island to have a simple approach to life and business. In its 20-mile length and 10-mile breadth, there was one blinker traffic light…at the only real crossroad. The largest marina on the island has a dirt boat launch. Equipment for rent or use by those in vacation cottages are not locked up….they’re resting on the shore.
DSC_4869_aDSC_4878_aThe few year-round residents can be a crafty, even quirky, bunch. The “unique cedar furniture” is created by an old logger who sits in a steno chair with a small chain saw. Notice the taller table in the foreground of the picture below: its legs are in the shape of a large dog sitting on its haunches….except it has 3 front legs!
DSC_5006_aWe found no explanation for the trees filled with pairs of boots, shoes, and sandals at the entrance of a drive to a personal residence.
DSC_4913_aSimple solutions are applied to common problems: directions to homes and businesses are posted at intersections by home-made signs nailed to whatever is handy!
DSC_5019_aDrummond Island was a delightful place to spend the day, especially a late summer day….71 degrees with clear skies, nice breeze all day, the vegetation so lush you can’t walk off trail, and around every corner was a lovely bay on Lake Huron!
DSC_4977_aAnd on the way home…..

Adventures with mail boxes

It seems many of the year-round residents hereabouts are retired school teachers. And many are very active with woodworking.

Perhaps that explains the creative nature of their actions with mail boxes:
DSC_4346_aDSC_5677_aThere also is the very real problem of the repeated blasts of snow from plows in the lengthy winter time:
DSC_4508_aThen there was this family’s solution to winter snows:

Wooden ships

You’re acquainted with the song “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash:
Wooden ships on the water very free and easy
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be.

DSC_5579_aThere were well over a hundred wooden boats at the marina in Hessel, Michigan this past Saturday, to participate in the world’s largest annual show for antique wooden boats. A few, like this birch bark canoe, were not technically antique, but every one was handcrafted from wood. (click on any photo to enlarge for detail!)

In a day or so, I will add about 20 more photos, and these, to a new section called “Wooden boats” under the tab “Photos along the way”.
DSC_5234_aChris-Craft, Hacker-Craft, and Gar Wood boats, preserved, restored, cherished, and polished to a sheen so smooth and bright I could not actually photograph some of the wood decks…only the reflection of the sky and clouds!
DSC_5275_aThere were over 7500 people to admire and study the boats.
DSC_5410_aDSC_5530_aSome types were hugely popular, with multiple variations of the same size and shape…not just in color, but structural differences from one year to the next, and from customization by an owner.
DSC_5221_aA couple very large boats participated.
DSC_5338_aMany are “daily drivers”. The one above is a 1940 Chris-Craft, and the owner says he uses it all summer long. He has only one special rule for the grandkids: they must throw their life jackets in ahead, then crawl aboard (so the jacket hardware doesn’t scratch).

This boat is interesting in that the vertical lever at the back controls the rudder, so it can be steered by the wheel up front or from the back. It is unique in that the round control on the right side at the back also contains a duplicate throttle & horn. This was designed as a utility boat to haul cargo, so had the flexibility to be piloted from either end!
DSC_5279_aNot all boats were fancy schmancy, but they were all beautiful!
DSC_5449_aThis boat was originally constructed in 1895! The small brass wheel on the right side at the back controlled the rudder by lines that run across the deck. The rear lantern was its own work of art….
DSC_5545_aSpeaking of works of art….
DSC_5288_aThe owner of this boat, talking here to spectators, is the son of the original owner. It was bought in 1930 from the boat dealer here at the marina where this show occurred! The father sold it in 1947, but the son tracked it down in 1972 to the boatyard in Connecticut where it had been abandoned, sitting out for 12 years with the engine cover open! He had it restored in Cedarville by the company owned by the salesman who delivered it to the father when new!
DSC_5515_aThis 1936 Gar Wood was restored bit by bit and piece by piece over 25 years by its present owner, who had bought it from the original owner! The original owner had given it to his son, who proceeded to apply a nice green *paint* job….the father promptly reclaimed the boat! The present owner learned boat woodcrafting and applied the knowledge to this project. He eventually had the Hessel boatyard complete the exquisite decking work.
The final boat in today’s post reminded me of the boat I imagine Cleopatra used. Notice that its fenders are woven rope, and they are connected at the bottoms to a line that can be pulled in one place so that they all move aside for travel or drop for mooring. Ahhhhh, all controls at the ready for activation by finger-tip….

Along the shore

This area of country is about as un-commercialized as any you’ll ever see.

The reason, I think, is the few people who live here year-round don’t need much….they’ve come here for the simple life….and most visitors are relatives of those who live here OR whose families have vacationed here for generations….and they’ve come here for the simple life!

The village where we’re parked can’t support two gas stations….there’s an empty Shell station. The BP station sells t-shirts & hunting licenses and rents videos.

The single grocery store serves two villages, and is closed on Sundays. The single hardware store is a small-town gem, with one of everything under the sun and two of a couple things!

The roads mostly go straight. This picture was shot on a rare hazy day, but see the line of low hills at the horizon? Sault Ste Marie….on the Canadian side…..about 28 miles….up the road that was laid out by a rifle!
DSC_4354_a“What,” I hear you ask, “does this have to do with the shore?”


Know how you go to St Augustine but can barely see the water, and then usually from the moving car window? Tall hotels line the shore….

Know how you can stop along Highway 1 in a dozen places near Bodega Bay? Oops, no room to park because they’re all jammed with people….

The shoreline here is unspoiled and available.

The main road runs along the shore for 35 miles from Interstate 75 (yes, the same one we drove in Dayton every day for 36 years!) east to the end of land at De Tour Village.

The second picture below shows the multiple shorelines that occur with the multiple Les Cheneaux Islands.

The final picture below is the marina at De Tour Village. I’m told most of the large ships going to and from Lake Superior and the Soo Locks travel the channel between De Tour Village and Drummond Island….which is just on the other side of this marina. Maybe we’ll get some shots for you before we leave the area….

In the evening

Every day here begins quietly….no breeze, no boats creaking against the dock, no seagulls calling, calling….it’s very still.

As the shore comes alive, so does the water, and so does the breeze. Little waves begin to cause little creaks from little boats moored near our coach, little motors purr on small utility boats, the seagulls squawk and cry, the wind rustles the leaves, voices carry across the water.

Clouds alternate with sun all day long. Rain on the roof every three nights or so.

We’ve heard a siren once in 14 days.

No one’s in a hurry, not the vacationers whose presence has tripled since we arrived, and certainly not the locals.

Businesses close at 5pm (the bakery at 2p!), but restaurants stay open late…to 8p on weekdays.

It’s 8 now….and the breeze is almost gone, so is the sun, and so are the boats on the bay.

It’s evening.