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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lighthouses, Shipwrecks, and Raspberries

After spending a quiet night in Ocqueoc State Forest Campground, we headed east towards Alpena. Spotted a sign for Thompson's Harbor State Park along the way and had to turn in because we have a good friend named Thompson.

Driving a few miles in along a dirt road, we found ourselves the only vehicle parked at the trailhead.

The park is named for Archibald Thompson, from Barre Ontario, who set-up a lumber camp here in 1878.

In a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, there are six miles of Lake Huron shoreline and 4,800 acres preserved and available for hiking.

We set out on a short trail to find the lake, but it was so nice that we walked another two miles.

Even in late August we managed to find a few wildflowers.

The delightful smells of a balsam forest gave way to a field opening to Lake Huron. The trails passed through a wide variety of habitats. Getting back to the van another car drove in. We were happy that someone else would experience the park for themselves.

Seven miles down the road we found the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse.

Built in 1840, this 38 foot lighthouse was only used until 1871. The volunteer docent told us that, despite being decommissioned for over one hundred years, the light is said to be occasionally illuminated by the ghost of the original keeper, even attesting she has witnessed it herself.

We're still pleased when we go to park the new van and can slip into spots like this one between some cedar trees.

A little over a mile away stands the New Presque Isle lighthouse built in 1870 to replace the older light. Eighty feet taller than the old light, it continues to provide a beacon for ships traveling the shoreline today.

Beth looked up the ladder and declined the opportunity to climb the tower.

A mannequin of the lighthouse keeper in uniform sits in the keeper's office.

One of the least appealing names I've ever heard, this lifeboat is from the S.T. Crapo, a cement carrier built in River Rouge, Michigan in 1927. Despite the terrible name, the ship has survived and is currently in Green Bay, Wisconsin storing cement.

The loft in the assistant keeper's house was preserved as it would have been furnished in the late 1800's.

Alpena is the next town heading south and we arrived in time to tour the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. This free museum is well worth a visit. Six thousand square feet of exhibits show the maritime history of the area through models, video, and a few hands-on activities.

Divers are trained in these large pools outside the Maritime Center.

Wandering around outside, we found this big roll of nets being washed. The lady rinsing them works for the Department of Natural Resources sampling fish to help determine the health of the Great Lakes.

A huge old mill building abuts the GLMHC. Huge banners with historic photos have been hung to help visitors envision how the area once looked.

On less windy days, the boat docked here takes visitors out to view the shipwrecks in Lake Huron. Outfitted with glass windows in the hull, it would be great fun to look down into the lake for live views of  maritime history.

After enjoying Alpena, we considered spending the night at AJ's Berry Farm.  They are a Harvest Hosts Member site. Seeing that a strong storm front was predicted to come through overnight, we opted to continue on to Beth's sister's house in Gaylord.

That didn't stop us from visiting AJ's and stocking up on frozen blueberries, raspberries, jam, scones, and a little bit of chocolate cherry ice cream. We mentioned we were Harvest Hosts members and they insisted that we go out and pick some raspberries. Beth found enough to have on her cereal for a couple of delicious mornings.

We made dinner in the field before driving back to Gaylord. The owners were very friendly and we highly recommend stopping here if you are in the area.

One more plug for the GLMHC in Alpena. If you visit, you can walk through a partial replica of an old schooner as it would have been in a bad storm on the lake. Check out how it affects the lamps on board...


Monday, August 27, 2018

Cheboygan to Ocequeoc

Only six miles from Cheboygan State Park, downtown Cheboygan has ample parking right on the riverfront.

We parked with the upper range marker behind us. These are used by ships entering the channel. You line up an upper and lower range in the distance and know you are in the center of the channel. See this article for an in-depth explanation.

The riverfront has docks for visiting boats right in front of the parking for visiting vans. A pedestrian bridge crosses the river. The drawbridge is in the distance.

Viewed from the bridge, visiting boats line the riverfront. A boardwalk allows access to the river.

A block up from the river is where you will find downtown shops. An actual camera shop brought back lots of memories. They were even using some vintage Kodak logos.

The town park had fun sculptures with lots of mosaic work. Student paintings were also on display.

Driving east from Cheboygan we spotted the 1929 Poe Reef light sitting about three miles offshore. Poe Reef was established in 1929, and is still active today. The 500mm lens comes brings it closer.

Today's major destination was the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse. Although the buildings are closed on Mondays, the grounds are open for visitors. Parking was easy and close on a "closed" day.

Walking to the beach, we found the  130' remains of the S.S. Joseph S. Fay which wrecked here on October 19, 1905.

The 1896 lighthouse and windmill viewed from Lake Huron.

This building was built to house the crew that kept the steam engines ready to power the nearby fog horn and is now a gift shop.

These two big foghorns point out from the steam powered boiler building towards Lake Huron.

The Michigan shoreline of Lake Huron has lighthouses spaced so that ships can always have one in sight. No wonder lighthouse fans flock to the state.

Michigan does a good job with historical signs. We plan to learn more about shipwrecks tomorrow.
A Lighthouse Keeper Program here is aimed at volunteer RVers. Four, full service RV sites are available for two week, or longer, stays. Light duties include greeting visitors, giving tours, managing the gift shop and minor sweeping and dusting as needed. Click on the link below for more information

Moving southeast, we stopped at another Michigan State Harbor of Refuge.

Under cloudy skies, very few boats were docked. This traditional lake fishing boat illustrates the enclosed design ideal for cold weather and steep waves.

Today's last stop was at "the only waterfall in Michigan's lower peninsula." Ocqueoc Falls was a disappointment, especially after visiting so many beautiful waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula last summer. A video link is at the bottom of today's post.

A redeeming feature is a state forest campground within walking distance. With only four other sites occupied, it was another bargain at $15.

The campground road is hard packed gravel.

Our site backed up to the Ocqueoc River above the falls. Rain and thunderstorms finally caught up with us around 0200 providing a two hour fireworks display complete with surround sound.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Big Mack

Most of today is about the Mackinac Bridge and environs. We start out from last night's campsite.

 Leaving Little Lake Brevort, we headed south to get our first glimpse of Lake Michigan. We were searching for a canyon on Hwy 2 where it crosses the Cut River. Unfortunately, the area was under construction, so we were routed around the scenic area.

We did find another campground down the hill from Highway 2, right on the shore of Lake Huron that we will note for another trip. Epoufette Bay Campground was completely empty on this Sunday morning. A county park, it is a large field right on the lake with picnic tables and fire rings. His and her outhouses are the only services, but the water view is great.

For information, or to pay, contact the Cut River Store up on Highway 2 in Naubinway.

While we were checking out the campground, a fishing boat emerged from the fog towing their dinghy. A boat basin and launch is just across the small bay.

Climbing back up the bluff, we headed west to a highway scenic turn-out at a point that was once the western  boundary of Michigan. Looking at the weather forecast, we turned around and headed east with a plan to explore around the Mackinac area and avoid heavy rain by crossing back over to the lower peninsula.

The big landmark in this area is the Mackinac Bridge.

Getting closer, we took the last right before I-75 for a great view from the hill. Parking on the street, we noticed signs for a powwow. The Father Marquette Memorial park was hosting a Native American gathering.  Following the sound of drums we watched the dancers for a bit before moving on. Out of respect for the ceremony, we didn't capture any photographs.

At the bottom of the hill lies Bridge View Park. This is well worth a stop as the free visitor center has the history of this engineering marvel.

Some of the facts and figures are amazing, at least to us. The five mile long bridge uses 42,000 miles of wire in the main cables to support the 6,600 tons of main roadway. A mere 4.8 million rivets and over a million bolts hold it all together. For more figures, follow the link to the Bridge History.

This photo from the Visitor's Center shows the cables and towers during construction in the 1950's before the bridge deck was suspended.

The park also has picnic tables and gardens that attract migrating butterflies like this monarch.

Before crossing back, we explored a little of St. Ignace. Between the fudge shops and ferry docks, the Museum of Ojibwa Culture provided an interesting glimpse into life before European influence.

Northern Michigan students only have to memorize the Ojibwa clan. This map recalled my northern New York schooling with eight competing groups dividing that state.

A creative way of illustrating the various clans and responsibilities within the Ojibway, trees with models of the clan animals and explanations like this for the Mahng line a walkway outside the museum.

A full-size longhouse was erected on the grounds. It is used for ceremonies, but visitors are welcome to enter.

Leaving the Ojibway Museum, we splurged on ice cream at a shop next door. Crossing the street to a Kiwanis Park, we enjoyed our treats while watching ferries head out to Mackinac Island. It was the first time we'd seen a free sunscreen dispenser.

After paying our $4 toll to cross the bridge, we crossed, then circled around and parked almost underneath it to explore the Mackinac City side of the straits.

There are lots of great places to view the bridge from this side. Mackinac City has lots of "pocket parks" all along the waterfront. Each one offered a little different perspective.

Some of the homes along the shoreline looked like small hotels.

The unique lighthouse is undergoing renovation.

Statues are placed in most of the small parks. This one is a tribute to all the iron workers that helped build the bridge.

The easternmost park on our walk surprised us with a Coast Guard Icebreaker. It is open for tours, but not at 4:45 on Sunday.

The Ugly Annie leaves from this park for tours that take you under the bridge so you can sail on two of the Great Lakes on one voyage. Paragliders were out behind the boat getting another perspective on the area.

I promise this will be the last photo of the bridge. You can spot Ugly Annie heading west toward the sunset.

The Coast Guard also had a bouy tender docked nearby. The big crane on the bow lifts navigation buoys onto the low deck for repair and refurbishment.

Cheboygan State Park welcomed us with a spot where we could see Lake Huron through the trees.


The beach was in a shallow bay that came close to the level of the campsite. Lake levels are some of the highest in recent history this summer.

A leopard frog blended in with the reeds washed up on the shoreline.

This is a full State Park Campground, so they have campground hosts, water, electricity, and a dump station. There are even two showers for each gender. This sign posted in the shower room made me chuckle.

We enjoyed hot showers and settled in for a quiet night.

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