Monday, August 30, 2010 Sunny, windy, 92
Vignettes from Today
NORTHWEST MICHIGAN Years ago a friend told me that the grid of roads through Michigan meant that it was straight and flat. Maybe some parts, but not the NW. The roads roll along with dense woods close on either side. It not only obstructs views, but, as evidenced by the quantity and variety of road kill, is home to many kinds of animals. (There was even a sign that read, "Elk Crossing Next Three Miles.") Occasionally an oil well or windmill will break into the scenery. We were also wondering why so many car trunks and rear bumpers were covered heavily with dust. It's because most side roads are unpaved. A real flashback to the 50's.
SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE Unlike other national parks we have visited, Sleeping Bear is not self-contained. We missed the Visitors Center because it was in the middle of the town of Empire which is midway between the northern and southern parts of the park. The park itself is accessed from side roads off of M22. We finally found a 12 mile loop road with 12 stops along the way including several overlooks. We saw Alligator Hill which mounds up high in the middle with its snout forming a dam between two small lakes. At another stop we saw Mama Bear Dune with her two cubs, Big and Little Manitou Islands. Legend says that Mama Bear forced her cubs into Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. She made it safely back to land, but they were stranded in the water. Our last overlook was at a dune 500' above the lake. Continual erosion from wind and waves has pushed the dune two miles back into the mainland. It was easy to imagine today as the winds were blowing so hard that it stung our faces and filled our ears with sand. Our last stop was in Leland. It has been a fishing port for at least 150 years. Now the old fish shanties have been converted into little boutique shops, restaurants, and ice cream stands. Very quaint.
TRAVERSE CITY This is the prettiest city we have seen so far. It hugs the shores of Great Traverse Bay. White sands line the beaches, and it is a great place for parasailing and wind surfing. Northwestern Michigan University is also right on the lakeshore. If I were studying there, its location would be a major distraction to my educational endeavors.
SAULT STE. MARIE We've seen the Eisenhower Lock in Messina, NY, and the locks on the Erie Canal, but these locks are much larger. The water to raise and lower the ships in the locks flows without the benefit of pumps. Over the course of four hours we watched three pleasure craft---one luxurious with her own captain and crew---and one 1,004' freighter move through the locks. The freighter moved extremely slowly because its deep hull must displace the water in the lock as it moves into it. It took 1 1/2 hours transit. The "newest" lock of the four located here was completed in 1968 and is the only one that is not operated manually. Soon construction will begin on another that will take advantage of the most modern technologies.
UPPER PENINSULA Although we traveled two hours through the dark, it was easy to discern that it is flat here and very sparsely populated. We passed through two spots in the road that might be considered towns and never saw more than five vehicles approaching us at one time and only two vehicles at a time behind us. The road is so straight and flat that it's tempting to "put the pedal to the metal" and fly. But the presence of three State Troopers squashed those ambitions.
Tomorrow we're on to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.