Thursday, August 22, 2013

Petoskey Stones

We had heard about Petoskey Stones, the State Stone for Michigan, so we took a short side trip to Petoskey, Michigan to see if we could score some of these unique stones. Petoskey sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is considered an upscale tourist community, and home to about 6,000.  Nothing like taking two teens for a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan to try to find some stones....

As we left Mackinaw City behind and started towards Petoskey, we spotted this barn off the two lane highway. Obviously abandoned, I wanted to look inside for treasure but Debi would have none of that, so alas, we only snapped a picture and moved on.

As you come into the City of Petoskey, you're greeted with a fabulous view of Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. Pardon the pun, but it really was a "picture perfect day"!

It appeared half the City was out on sailboats, and rightly so, with sunshine and warm weather.
First off, I had no idea what a Petoskey Stone was, let alone what one looked like, so I did the only logical thing. First stop was to a lapidary store for information. We stopped at Bailey's Place along Hwy 31. Talking to the owner, we spent about an hour learning all there was about these elusive stones. Of course, he had some for sale. all polished up, and they were beautiful, but we wanted to find our own. Now knowing what the raw stones looked like we set off to the beach. Jasmine loved the water.

Score ! We were able to find about 10 of these stones. Petoskey stones are from the Davonian period. (about 400 million years ago) They are unique in that they are actually fossils of a coral reef that was in this area that long ago. The thing that makes these stones special is that coral is still within the rocks in a fossilized form. When found, they appear to be simple limestone rocks as you can see here and below.

Here is one of the stones I found on the beach. In it's raw form it appears white and chalky with  many small indentations. Not what you would wear as a piece of jewelry. 

To bring out the beauty of the stone, you must polish, (sand) the stone. Starting with 35 grit sand paper, I polished off the rough edges and began to see some of the coral cells. I then moved up to 100, 220, 400 and finished with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. After about an hour or so of sanding, this rock is pictured below.

No XBox for us, we were polishing stones!!

Notice the coral cells. The small indentation at the lower left is a portion of a shell that is over 400 million years old. It would not polish out. If you look at the above picture, you can see this shell on the right side of the rock. It appears as a white dot in one of the cells.

I'm not quite finished with this rock yet. I'll polish it some more with 600 grit sandpaper to make it really smooth, then I'll have it dipped to preserve it's color and enhance the shine.

As excited as it was to find these awesome stones, once back at the campsite we still took time to admire Mother Nature's handiwork. This picture and the one below were taken from our campsite.
Another day comes to a close along the shores of Lake Michigan. We will soon head south to the Motor City.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mackinac Island, Michigan - Page Two

We enjoyed our trip to Mackinac Island immensely. From the fudge factories and restaurants along main street and the churches and historical buildings downtown, to the historical Fort Mackinac overlooking the harbor, we visited them all. We purchased a tour package at our campground that included the boat trip to the island, two narrated tours in horse drawn carriages and entrance to the Fort and several other historical buildings including a blacksmith shop where a blacksmith was plying his trade. If going, plan on one very full day or better yet, stay at the Grand Hotel and enjoy 18 holes of golf on their beautiful course across the street. One could easily spend a day walking the quiet trails or cycling around the island. While the center of the city was somewhat hectic with all the tourists,  it was very calm and peaceful walking around the trails.

The Menominee Indians originally settled on Mackinac Island and the word Mackinac is actually a shortened variation of the Menominee word, "Michillimackinac", meaning turtle. An aerial view of the island shows its' form to resemble a turtle. This sculpture sits alongside one of the upscale restaurants on the island just down from the Grand Hotel.

Many trails meander through the forested hillsides of the island. Getting away from the tourist side of the island allows you to be greeted with sights similar to this. Located just west of Arch Rock, this area provides a place to sit and reflect about how beautiful this country really is.

Another quiet spot to pause and observe the busy harbor and the city below. Down below, the sounds of the  hustle and bustle of horse drawn carriages, people enjoying shopping and eating, bicycles moving up and down the streets, waft upward while we simply sit and enjoy nature at its' best.


Fort Mackinac has a lot of history. The fort was originally founded during the American Revolution in what is now Mackinaw City on the mainland, by the British. Believing the fort was too vulnerable to enemy attack, the British moved the fort to Mackinac Island in 1780. The Americans obtained control of the fort in 1796 where it remained under the American Flag until the War of 1812. In the first land engagement of that war, the British were able to capture the fort as the Americans were unprepared to do battle...the commanding officer had never received notification that we were at war with the British.

This is a view out one of the gun portals across the walls surrounding the fort.

The fort was so well defined, the British held onto the fort despite a well planned but bloody battle by the Americans in 1814. After the war ended, the American Flag once again flew over the fort. 

It remained an active fort until 1895, providing safety for the areas' many fur traders. 

One can easily see how easy it would be to defend this fort from enemies approaching from below.

Early in 1862, Fort Mackinac was called into duty as a prison for Civil War criminals. Several southerners were sent there but it was determined the fort was probably not suitable to house very many prisoners. After almost a year of discussions and fortification attempts, its' role as a prison was abandoned and everyone but the Ordinance Sergeant Marshall.

One of the cannon portholes that protected the area below.

Eventually the fort provided safety for many of the area's well to do who transformed the island into a major summer resort.

Leaving Fort Mackinac, one of the many trails leads off to a viewing platform with a view overlooking the downtown area and the harbor with it's lighthouse and beacon.

As this picture can attest, the day transformed from an overcast cloudy sky to a beautiful sun washed afternoon. It had also warmed up considerably.

Another picture of the Grand Hotel. Each of the rooms of this hotel are different, providing guests with a unique experience. Room rates vary from regular rooms @ $265/per person/per night, double occupancy to $419/per person/per night, double occupancy. If you would prefer a cottage, those are available for a mere $3,300/per night and can accommodate up to eight people. Monthly rate for the cottage is $67,500. Add 21.5% Island tax and 6% Michigan State sales tax to all the above.

I think I prefer our motor coach.
When the day ended, we waited for our ship to return us to the mainland. All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable day. We were all pretty tired and anxious to get home. The grandkids were looking forward to going to swimming in the Lake. We were looking forward to a hot shower, dinner and relaxing....

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Any trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan should include a trip to Mackinac Island. It is a beautiful place and I found it necessary to post it on two pages instead of one.  Enjoy...

Situated just off shore in Lake Huron, it is reachable only by boat, except in the winter if/when an ice bridge forms, when snowmobiles are allowed as maintenance vehicles. Bicycles and horse drawn carriages are the preferred means of transportation, as motor vehicles have been banned on the island since 1898.  Michigan highway 185 circles the island along the shoreline. It is the only State Highway in the United States that does not allow motor vehicles. It is widely known for it's fudge factories, so if someone sends you a text with WTF ?.. you'll know it means,  "Where's The Fudge?"

The short trip to the island is by boat and our pilot was nice enough to make a short detour to take us over for a close up of the Mackinac Bridge. This bridge connects the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and spans the Straits of Mackinac which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

Since it is a suspension bridge, it's subject to swaying in high winds, making a solid roadway virtually impossible. We sailed directly under the roadway and that shadow above is actually an automobile passing overhead.

Greeting all  visitors to Mackinac Island is the Round Island Point Lighthouse and caretakers home. It was built in 1895 and has weathered the sands of time. It functioned as a lighthouse until late 1947 when it was replaced by an automated beacon across the channel.

This is the "new" automated beacon, built in 1947 to replace the Round Island Light, pictured above.

With over 150 Lighthouses, including the Round Island Light, Michigan has more lighthouses than any other State in the United States.

Once past the lighthouse and beacon we entered the channel to the Island Dock. While many homes dot this area of the cove, eighty per cent of the island is part of the Mackinac Island State Park.  Originally it was a National Park established in 1875 as the Nation's second National Park behind Yellowstone. When the federal government left the island in 1895, all of the federal land, including Fort Mackinac, was given to the state of Michigan and became Michigan's first state park.

The "Welcome" sign that greets you as you step off the ship from the mainland.

Pictured here and above is the modern day street scene taken down main street on the Island. Because automobiles scared the horses, they were banned from the island in 1898. That ban is still in effect today. Exceptions are emergency vehicles and with a permit, construction vehicles.

One of the Island attractions is the Grand Victorian Hotel. Built in 1887 it has seen its' share of celebrities and honors. Its' swimming pool was built in 1947 for Ester Williams use in the movie "Time for Keeps".  Also, the majority of one of my favorite films, "Somewhere in Time" was filmed on site, here at the Grand Hotel.

 We visited "Arch Rock". If you look closely, you can see several people down at the shoreline in this picture. They are adjacent to M-185 that encircles the island. This 8.5 mile road is available to hikers and bikers only.

Arch Rock is a natural limestone formation 146' above Lake Huron. Limestone is not an ideal material to form an arch and it is quite rare in North America. Studies hint this arch may not survive past 2025 unless steps are taken to preserve it.
So ends this page of Mackinac Island. There's more to follow as time permits. As you can tell, the skies were cloudy and the boat ride over was a bit nippy. By mid morning though, most of the cloud cover was gone and it was T-shirt and Shorts weather again.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mackinac Bridge- Great Lakes Number Three- Lake Huron

I'm not going to kid anyone, the trip from Marquette to Mackinaw City was ugly! Rain, rain, and more rain...saw one car in a parking lot with water up to the door sills. Did I mention it was raining??? Anyway, we arrived safely at Mackinaw Mills Creek Campground and this place is huge. Lots of things for the kids to do too! After setting up the coach we went down to the water's edge to view the bridge. The Mackinac Bridge is beautiful at night all lit up....oh! yes, the rain was gone in the morning...:)

The day started out nice enough, with some clouds in the distance. Rain was forecast but only about 30%. Being the optimist, that meant, to me, a 70% chance of sunny skies....

The blue skies gave way to grey skies and the ominous clouds drew closer. So we guessed we were closer to the forecaster's 30% than my anticipated 70%....

This picture doesn't even begin to show how miserable this day had been. We are approaching the toll plaza for the Mackanac Bridge.

We had stopped to refuel in the rain, the card reader didn't work on the fuel island and shortly after refueling the dreaded "Water in Fuel" alarm started. Stop again in the rain to drain a quart of fuel from the filter and get back on the road....soaked...:(..It was going to be one of those days....

Of course there was construction on the bridge...all 5 miles of it...toll $19.00...only good part is the toll taker didn't charge me for each axle, coach has three, car has two. She instead charged me $15 for the coach, $5/per axle and the single auto rate. In California, they make you unhook the toad in order to save the extra charge.

Once over the bridge, we reached our destination, Mackinaw City.  

You may wonder why it's Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw City. Both are actually abbreviations for the Native American name for this area, Michinnimakinong, which is actually four words put together (Mich-inni-maki-nong) meaning connecting land or place. The British and French shortened the word to Mackinac (French) and Mackinaw (British).

We were going to go searching for a pot of gold, but I was too tired to do anything. But, I was happy the rain was ending.

Mackinac Bridge at sunset. This bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in the World! At 26,372 feet, it is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. The bridge rises 200 feet over the Straits of Mackinac which connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. All suspension bridges are designed to sway in the wind and this bridge has been recorded moving 35 feet sideways in severe windy conditions.

Lake Huron shoreline at sunset. One thing about stormy weather....sunsets are spectacular!

Another view of the Mackinac Bridge at sunset from the shores of Lake Huron. This is the view from our campground which is between Mackinaw City and Cheboygan, Michigan. It has almost 2 miles of shoreline within the campground.
The next day saw puffy white clouds and sunny skies. The two very small dots in the middle of the picture are our grandkids enjoying their third "Great Lake", Lake Huron. Only Lake Erie is left....

Monday, August 12, 2013

From Duluth Minnesota to Marquette Michigan

Since we had decided to forego going up and around Lake Superior through Canada we instead headed east on US Hwy 2  staying inside the USA. This is a beautiful quiet drive through wonderful forested lands passing by many rivers and lakes. We took Hwy 2 to the town of Ironwood, entering the Porcupine Mountains and the Ottawa National Forest. Just past Ironwood, we turned Northeast onto Hwy 28 and continued to Lake Gogebic where we stayed at a superb County Park, (except for the mosquitoes). From there we continued on Michigan Hwy 28 to Ishpemming/Marquette Michigan.  Here's that part of our journey....

This doesn't look like the Interstates! It also has no tolls, or traffic. We can go as slow as we please and no one really cares....well, the kids do to a certain extent....but they enjoyed the scenery and since we don't play the radio or TV while driving we had plenty of time to talk and discuss this beautiful part of the country.

What do you get when you use the roads less traveled? This view is out the windshield of our coach overlooking Lake Gogebic, the largest lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's located within the 1 million acre Ottawa National Forest and has excellent fishing. (We catch and release) The water was warm and clear. The lake also spans the Central and Eastern time zones, so you can make an hour of  fishing last a long time.

Ishpeming, Michigan during rush hour! Quaint city about 30 miles south of Lake Superior. Lots of shops and touristy stuff, including a WalMart, of course. City Hall, below, built around 1890 and still used today.


Ishpeming has two notable claims to fame...It is recognized as the birthplace of organized skiing in the United States in 1905 and as such is home to the National Ski Hall of Fame; and, was the site of Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers football team's first ever road game, which they won 33-0, on October 19, 1919.

Travel just east of Marquette, Michigan on Hwy 28 at Shotput Lane and you'll find the Junkyard Art outdoor studio of Tom Lakenen, called Lakenenland. Like every park, there has to be a greeter....shake hands? 

Tom has a day job and started creating his art sculptures about 15 yrs ago. Tom quit drinking about then and says he creates things he remembers from his drinking days. He originally created these sculptures for his own satisfaction and placed them in his yard. Eventually, after some harassment from the local townsmen, he rearranged them into a sculpture garden, opened his 37 acre property to the public and invited everyone, except the local government folks, to come view his creations.

Yes, that is a huge log pierced by steel rods holding bowling balls!... Tom is a welder and creator. All of his creations were made from cast off items from the local countryside. Remember, iron ore was mined in this area for years along with logging, so cast away metal items were plentiful.

Tom has developed his land with convenience for his guests. He cut a meandering road through his property and has placed his sculptures at various places along this road. There are over 80 sculptures in place and his work continues. You may stay in your car and drive through the area, or get out and walk the road to get up close and personal with his creations.

These were my personal favorites. A logger with an axe and two sawing a log. Check out the detail! We spent almost three hours visiting this "park".

What does it cost for a family of four to view this piece of American Folk Art, better known as Junkyard Art??? Zip! Zilch! Nada! Nyet! It's absolutely FREE! (but if you make a donation, whether it's a nickel or a dime, you get to ring a very large bell!!! We rang it several times..)

After leaving Lakenenland, we headed back towards Marquette. Along this stretch of Michigan 28 are several awesome parking spots where the clean sandy beaches of Lake Superior beckon you to come wade in it's sparkling waters.