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!



  1. Glad you made it out to Whitefish Point, Jodee! That is a really well done museum.

  2. Michigan has never been on my radar but you guys are making me wonder!! Enjoy!

    1. We've just scratched the surface of Northern Michigan and are amazed at how beautiful and rural it is here.

  3. WOW!!! SUNFLOWERS!!!! Gorgeous. I love them. I had no idea Michigan was charging you to come on in. Guess they liked me better, I came from the south and they never charged me anything. Is it the Canadian Toll? Did you tell them you weren’t? I remember well the clear waters of Michigan and all those beautiful stones not to mention so many lighthouses which I also love love love. Thanks for the Native American history. The Edmund Fitzgerald was a sad story and a major one for the people of the area. So how were the mosquitoes at Taquamanon Falls? Guess they weren’t too bad if the people are swimming. We had to wear full body netting and leave after one day when they even invaded the motor home. You have to read that post if you never have. Love those pasties but try as I might, I cannot make mine taste like they do in the UP.

    1. They didn't ask if we were US citizens, just took the $12! Next time I'll tell them we know you :-) Thankfully, no mosquitos at the falls or anywhere else at that stop. I remember your posts in MI, that's how I knew about Cherry Republic :-)))

  4. All I’ve heard about Michigan is how horrible the mosquitos are...I’m thinking now we should reconsider. Love all the history and never, ever get tired of visiting lighthouses! Great post Jodee!

    1. We've had a handful of mosquitos, not as many as our last stop in Minnesota. Since they love me I am very happy we've missed them so far. The lighthouses on the lake are incredibly diverse, you'd love them!

  5. We love Michigan! We've been back twice and enjoy every part of it. Aren't the Great Lakes beautiful! We have now managed to see them all and they don't disappoint. The Soo Locks are amazing!! I'm sure we saw the same ships you did as they passed us in Clayton either coming or going:) I am sorry we didn't make the drive up to the Shipwreck Museum. Just darn! Yes, that is one very realistic mannequin! Creepy! Have a great time in Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes and with Jim and Diana! You do realize there was not one photo of the star of the blog!!

    1. When I published I told Bill I'd be in trouble for no fluffy pics :-)) We've seen all the lakes now as well, and I agree they are all wonderful. I still can't wrap my head around all that clear freshwater. We're loving this area and our time with Jim and Diana!

  6. Welcome back to the States. You sure picked a beautiful place to watch the ships pass. Interesting museum except the mannequin is creepy. Lovely waterfalls. I've always enjoyed watching boats/ships go through locks.

    1. Soo Locks is one of the most beautiful places we've stayed - absolutely love it there! I agree about the mannequin. When I saw his pic in Linda's blog post I thought he had to be a real guy who would get up and walk away later. Seeing it in person looking just the same added to the "weird" factor. Even up close you swear that's real skin!!!

  7. Your sunflower photos are gorgeous! This has been on our list for years, so I'm enjoying reading about your adventures and gathering ideas. The museum looks fascinating, and the Native American mannequin doesn't seem creepy to me, although it does look it might have come from Madam Tussaude. The Newt Suit, however, is creepy! Makes me hyperventilate just thinking about being cooped up in something like that.
    I've been leery about the skeeters in Michigan, so it's good to hear that they haven't been a problem.

    1. You would love exploring this area! Not as much wildlife as I expected, but still so much to see. I agree about the suit, although for some reason it doesn't seem as bad as those tiny two person subs! I like my oxygen unlimited :-)))