Sunday, August 12, 2018

Peaceful Peninsula - Good Times on Leelaneau

August 1-6, 2018
Sutton's Bay, Michigan

The nearly 200 mile drive on Thursday morning takes us through more green forests and blue lakes. I'm still not used to all the expansion joints on cold weather state roads. They can be very annoying!

Crossing the beautiful Mackinac Bridge we see Lake Huron for the first time. We've now been to all the Great Lakes. 

Many of the small towns are packed with summer vacationers. The traffic is crazy.

Construction on the bridge requires us to drive in the middle at a reduced speed (oh darn!).

Traverse City is very popular.
I've been reading about Wild Cherry Resort on the Leelaneau Peninsula for years, and am looking forward to 10 days at this beautiful park. Even more so, we're excited to reunite with Linda and Steven (The Chouters), and Diana and Jim (ExploRVistas).

We saw Linda and Steven in Duluth a couple weeks ago. They went south when we went north, knowing we'd meet back here. It was the end of last summer, trying to outrun the smoke, that we last saw Diana and Jim. They're here for two months as interpretive hosts at the nearby national park.

What is it about water that makes a site so special? It's not a massive river, but even this little lake is a wonderful front yard. We also have a lovely concrete patio for our picnic table, and lots of beautifully maintained lawn to enjoy. 

A peaceful and relaxing space.
Our friends join us in the late afternoon for happy hour and getting caught up in the shade. From there we all head for dinner at Hop Lot Brewery - a unique outdoor eatery that is both tasty and very fun. It's great to spend time with these good friends. Naturally I fail to get any pics.

Friday morning Bill picks up fresh croissants which we enjoy with coffee on the patio. And the newspaper that is delivered to our front door every morning!  Diana and Jim join us later to head into Northport for an outdoor concert. A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tribute band entertains us for a couple hours in the park. The large crowd has brought chairs, low tables, dogs, a variety of food, and adult beverages to enjoy with the music. Just like us :-)

We need to do this more often, we have a wonderful time.

Bill, Diana and Jim with dozens of our best friends.

All ages appreciate the classics.

Certainly this table is set up just for me!

Chef Mario Batali - I didn't know who it was :-)

Now this guy.....I know him!
Breakfast Saturday morning is bittersweet. So happy to spend more time with Linda and Steven, but sad it will be a long time before we can do it again. We're grateful we've had so many fun opportunities to get to know these two, and look forward to more in the future. Seriously, I still didn't get a photo :-(((

With plans to see Diana and Jim later in the afternoon, we take a drive around Lake Leelaneau and up the west side to the end of the peninsula. 

I spend some time exploring the artisan shops and pretty gardens of the little town of Leland.

The remaining trunk of the Champion Cottonwood Tree. Planted in 1901, it was 100 feet tall when taken down in 2011. One of sixty trees designated as "champion" that were all used to create clones for planting identical beauties throughout the state. The tree overlooked the historic Fishtown district.

Painted fenceposts - I want a garden just so I can have one, or three!

A lamp for the gearhead in your life.

You know it's a cute town when this is their bank.

A lovely spot to contemplate the beauty of life.
When you leave your Cadillac and fishing boat alone in the garage too long.....
The road ends at the small Grand Traverse Lighthouse. We pay the $9 fee for the park, but forego the additional $5/each for the "insides". 

Grand Traverse Lighthouse, erected 1858. Converted to house two families in 1900, kitchen added in 1916 (where did they cook for 16 winters?).

This beauty shades the whole lawn.

Trail follows the shoreline behind the light.

Delicate delight along the water.


The light was moved to a nearby automatic tower in 1972, and the building was closed. In 1986 the state opened the museum.

A sign of the times.....

"Interesting" planters on the grounds.

I love these fresh Hydrangeas.
Diana and Jim finish their morning training and we pick them up for our own special tour of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We drive through Glen Haven Historic Village where they're volunteering in the life-saving-station at the Maritime Museum. Later in the week we'll come back to check out the buildings and see them in action!

We stop for the information movie at the visitors center, and learn the dunes were formed by glaciers. It is another uniquely beautiful place that thankfully has been protected for all of us to enjoy. The scenic drive takes us through green hardwoods to the overlook above the huge dunes.

A very, very steep wall of sand with signs advising people not to go down the dune.

So of course.......

The sign explains that if you can't get back to the top, you will pay for your rescue. The fellow on his knees looks like he may need to get out his checkbook. 
Late afternoon skies blend into the lake.

It "feels" like the sand should just slide into the water.

The Dune Climb offers a safer option for climbing. I still don't see the appeal :-)
After our private tour with information about the area not included in the "regular" offerings, we stop at Cherry Republic for a bite to eat. I remember reading about this world of cherry in Sherry's blog years ago, but forgot this is where it was! The cherry chicken salad is exceptional. Later I regret not taking home a piece of pie!! We pick up a few yummies in the large gift shop.

Everything cherry!
With such a perfect site in our peaceful park, we enjoy Sunday at home relaxing and taking advantage of full hook-ups to get all the laundry done. I'm already wishing I gave us more time here!

Cloudy and rain threatening on Monday, we head to Traverse City to run errands. Such a pretty town on the shore of Grand Traverse Bay. Unfortunately the dog wash place is closed :-( We find the rare car wash that cleans interiors and get the Jeep a much needed bath. The rain never comes so we luck out. Lunch at the Silver Swan is unique and delicious (really, check out the menu)! 

Mishwya with hommus and pita. OMG tasty!
Grand Traverse Bay
This pretty peninsula is living up to my expectations, and thankfully we have another five days to explore.




Thursday, August 9, 2018

Michigan - State Number 33!

July 29-August 1, 2018
Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

The Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 17) between Wawa, Canada and the US border spends most of its time along the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. A well-maintained two-lane road with multiple grades, some 7%, the 235 miles under perfect blue skies goes by quickly.

Until we get to the border. Because it takes me three attempts to just find the entrance that goes over the bridge. First I turn at the sign that points right to the border crossing, nope it's a street. Around the block I turn at the intersection just past the sign. Another nope, another trip around the block. Just what one needs to add to the anxiety of a border crossing :-(

Third time's a charm as I turn into the driveway that looks like it goes to an industrial parking lot but is really the entrance that goes behind the Canadian border building. We finally continue over the bridge to the empty lanes of the crossing from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, into Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. 

The poles and cameras are so tight on both sides that I have to inch through to the kiosk. I answer all the questions, and we're on our way. Again, no request for any records for Tessa, in fact no questions about animals on board. 

Then we have to pay $12 to get into Michigan. Guess I missed reading about that. The lanes are wider, the workers are smiling - I'm happy to pay just for that!

Once we're in Michigan it's only a few miles to Soo Canal Campground. Driving through downtown it's like a ghost town!  After a quick registration, we set up in a level grass site a few feet from the water of the St Mary River. It's already a favorite.


Did we miss a "town closed today" memo?

View from our front window.
Monday morning we check out the town. I'm expecting a bustling city only to find out that's "the other one" across the border. This Sault (pronounced 'soo') Ste Marie is much smaller. The rest of the day and evening we enjoy our waterfront site, watching the big ships pass by, and visiting with our neighbors.

Liz and Mike have been full-timing for over six years and we enjoy sharing our adventures around the country. They're leaving Wednesday, so we're glad we had the opportunity to visit.


A few carry marks from close encounters.

Occasionally they're carrying passengers.

Many are big lakers.

A few are even bigger!

The pink of a 9 pm setting sun.
Linda and Steven's (The Chouters) day trip to Whitefish Point looked like fun so Tuesday we head that way under sunny skies. 

First stop is Point Iroquois Lighthouse, a place of beauty and brutal history. The light was built in 1855 to guide sailors through the entrance of St Mary River into Lake Superior. With the completion of the Soo Locks ten years later, the light became an even more critical necessity for the safety of the river and lake traffic.


After 107 years of service, the light was switched off, replaced by an automatic beacon in a nearby channel.

A well maintained boardwalk was added during the restoration.

The 65 foot tower keeps watch over the busy waterway.

Clear water on a rocky beach.
Two hundred years before this point became home to the lighthouse, the location was the site of the local Chippawa tribe's defeat of the invading Iroquois. Several placards tell the story of this key moment in history that named the lighthouse all those years later.




Further north, the parking lot at Whitefish Point is overflowing, but we manage to snag a recently opened spot. Once we're on the grounds we find that most of the people are here to play on the beach, meaning the museum and grounds are not too crowded. 


The most unique light we've visited. There's no way I'm climbing up that tight, dark tower "pipe" to stand on that narrow lip at the top!

This is the base of the oldest operating light on Lake Superior. As it is considered the most important light because all ships entering the lake must pass it, there can be no doubt that the design works!

The buildings surrounding the light have all been maintained beautifully, and outlying buildings unused for years are being restored. 

Not the Pacific, but it still attracts beach-goers. 

A new monument with zero information about why it was added to the site.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum includes a lot of information on the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 just 17 miles from Whitefish Point. We both know the Gordon Lightfoot song, but neither of us remember that the shipwreck was after we graduated from high school. Somehow shipwrecks all seem like something that happened in the last century, not in our life times. 


The Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes when she launched in 1958, and in her 17 years on the water she held the record for fastest crossing of Superior. 
Almost as "famous" as its sinking, the recovery of the ship's bell in 1995 is an amazing story. While none of the full 29 member crew were ever recovered, the lifting of the bell had great meaning to the families. 


Use of the Newt Suit allowed divers to remain at 535 feet under the lake's surface to cut the ship's bell from the deck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The divers were supported by numerous ships from the Canadian navy.

The bell was brought up 20 years after the ship sank, and before it became illegal to dive to the wreck. At the same time, a memorial bell was lowered and secured to the spot of the original. This new bell is engraved with the names of the 29 lost crew members.
The museum includes smaller exhibits on the native and trader history of the area, the use of Fresnel lenses, and the exploration of the numerous shipwrecks in the surrounding waters. 


I definitely agree with Linda that this is the "realest" mannequin I've ever seen!

3,500 pound 2nd Order Fresnel lens retired in 1983.
Statistics, history and recovered artifacts from numerous shipwrecks are displayed.
After a stop for lunch at Brown's Fish House where we both enjoyed the delicious White Fish, we join a large crowd at Tahquamenon Falls. This is a very popular place where families enjoy playing in the lower falls. Both the visitor center and the surrounding picnic areas are packed. Still, we find an overlook with nice views of the wide falls.






We drive to the upper falls, but when the parking lot is once again filled with cars, buses and bikes, I decide I've had enough people for one day. Instead we head for home. It was a great day!

Wednesday morning I get a much needed haircut and manicure/pedicure. As always, I promise myself I'll do this more often. We'll see.

I've wanted to try Michigan's signature "sandwich" - the pastie (pronounced like past time). I pick up Bill and we head out to find one. Filled with meat and vegetables and served with gravy on the side, I'm now a big fan!


Super yummy!
One cannot visit this location without seeing the Soo Locks in action. With storms threatening we opt for the viewing platform rather than the tour boat. Our timing is perfect as the huge Canadian freighter Frontenac is just entering the closest lock. We stay and watch the whole crossing, even when the storm joins us. A very close, and loud, lightning strike causes an announcement to seek shelter immediately. We feel like the concrete platform is a safe shelter so we remain until the ship has moved beyond the gate. What a simple and brilliant solution for moving boats and ships from one lake to another!


Just a guy out walking his ship......

Entering the lock with the deck at the same level as the sides. A small plank is placed from one to the other to allow a new crew member to board.

Once the ship reaches this gate, the one behind is closed, and the water begins to rise.

In 20 minutes the water is nearly to the top of the gate.

25 minutes and 21 feet later, the gates open to give the Frontenac access to Lake Superior.

It takes awhile to move away from the dock on the left.

Passing under the Sault Ste Marie International Bridge.
Tomorrow we'll move south to a place I've read about for years, where we're excited to reconnect with some travel buddies!