I am a birdwatcher, and any serious birdwatcher who lives in North America must eventually go to Michigan to participate in the Kirtland's warbler tours that are operated by the United States Forest Service. This rare and endangered bird, numbering only 200 pairs, nests solely in a small area in central Michigan dominated by jack pines.
The United States Forest Service manages the areas in which the warbler breeds by systematically burning portions of the forest to keep the jack pines at a certain height. The birds will not nest in mature pines, but will only breed where the pines are just a few feet tall.
The breeding areas are off limits to the public, and can only be visited by joining one of the guided tours run by the United States Forest Service. Before the tour, participants meet at either the Ramada Inn in Grayling or the United States Forest Service office in Mio to view an informative film which gives an overview of the steps taken to save the warbler. The group is then led to the breeding areas to try to catch a glimpse of the rare bird.
The day I went on the tour to look for the Kirtland's warbler was cold and rainy, not the best circumstances to look for birds. The forest ranger leading the tour even doubted whether we would get to see the warblers because of the weather. However, at our second stop, we heard a Kirtland's warbler singing about 200 yards (183 meters) off the road. I managed to get a quick glimpse of the elusive bird before it disappeared into the bushes. Fortunately, within about a minute, another bird appeared in a small jack pine a few feet away, and I was able to get an excellent view of the warbler, even without the aid of my binoculars. This was an exciting experience, because the Kirtland's warbler was my 500th species of bird seen in North America.
The small town of Mio has erected a monument to the Kirtland's Warbler (pictured here) in the local park. The town recognizes the importance of the Kirtland's warbler to its economy (many birdwatchers from all over the world visit each year, and they spend a lot of money on motels, restaurants, and other local businesses). Other towns within the range of the warbler also attract visitors with activities and events, such as the Kirtland's Warbler Festival held in Roscommon.
The monument was constructed of stone, and features a large model of the warbler behind glass panels and a plaque with information about the bird.
One of the oldest brick lighhouses on the Great Lakes, and one of the prettiest, this lonely tower stands 107 feet tall on the shore of Lake Michigan. On the afternoon of our visit a storm was brewing over Lake Michigan which made for a particularly dramatic picture.
Little Sable has the advantage of being part of Silver Lake State Park and is thereby protected. To find it, exit from US-31 at Shelby Road and head west away from the small town of Shelby. Follow that to 16th Avenue and head north, zigzagging over to 18th Avenue. Continue on Silver Lake Road to the lake and the Little Sable Lighthouse. There is a small admission fee to the state park. For a few dollars more you can get an annual permit to all Michigan state parks.
I am ashamed to admit that I have no idea what the name of this river is that runs along just outside of Wolverine. The most unexpected, besides the glorious beauty of nature, a couple of local people took me around. I went for a drive off the beaten path looking for wildlife which I never got to see. There are bear, elk, turkeys and all in the area. I got to see the fall colours which take one's breath away and the tracks used by the snowmobiles - the area is very dependent on their snow. There are places in the middle of absolutely nowhere to camp if that were one's thing. Even the drive to Wolverine from Petoskey is a great ride. Ah.. and the riber - it runs clean and cold and many a Petoskey Stone is found. My host kayaks down the river in the afternoons. For anyone looking to get away from the usual touristy things.
Having been to a lot of these country wineries over the years, you start to see that some are more than just run of the mill and St. Julian's is one of them. Perhaps because this is a true commercial winery whose wines are readily available in the region as far away as Chicago, they run a very nice tasting room and also offer tours of the facility. The original and largest of their tasting rooms is in Paw Paw, a little west of Lansing, but they have four others, including a new one in Frankenmuth. Their range of wines is pretty extensive, and includes kosher and Concord wines, but I think they do whites better than reds. They also have afabulous salad dressing that you can taste and purchase at a reasonable price. Mon-Sat 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday 12:00pm - 6:00pm
The Detroit River, connecting Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, marks the boundary with neighboring Canada and is home to a bunch of islands. Most of these are part of the US territory, Grosse Ile being the largest as its French name suggests. Two bridges connect the island to the US mainland, the one to the north can be crossed from Riverview for a fee which is not applied to bicycles. Beautiful homes abound here, many even have a private wharf facing Canada. A natural canal runs diagonally across Gross Ile - which is actually composed of several separate stretches of land - and some houses here feature huge weeping willows. This is one of my favorite cycling grounds for the quietness, the scenery and scarce road traffic. Meridian Road is probably the one with the heaviest motor traffic but a dedicated cycling path runs along it and prevents sharing the road.
Just a few miles south of Detroit city center lies Wyandotte, a clean and quiet suburb located in the "Downriver" area, that is along the Detroit River in between Lake St. Claire and Lake Erie. Several historical buildings erected in late 1800 sport their elegance on Biddle, the main street, and one of these is the former Alkali Company - now BASF.
A city park faces the river and Canada shores across. The green public area gathers admirers of this placid views and families, busy with barbecue practices, and lots of children at play. Boat river tours depart next to the independent wharf where fishermen try the luck of their lines.
I enjoyed cycling around Wyandotte and nearby Grosse Ile which is accessible via a bridge, toll-free for bicycles.
A number of events, mainly grouped during the summer months, transform Wyandotte into a lively place. I witnessed the Street Art Fair on Biddle, the street was closed to traffic in between Oak and Eureka but filled with thousands of happy strollers among hundreds of artists' booths.
Aside from official events, a group of classic cars enthusiasts gather on summer Sundays at Pennsalt Club & Lounge on Biddle - next to Wendy's eatery. Shiny machines are lined up in the parking lot and their owners seem to enjoy music and a good time. There's even an ultra-orthodox Elvis fan who not only enjoys displaying various memorabilia but also fancies unmistakable outfit and sings Elvis' original tunes.
This was the first established National Lakeshore. Washed by the immense Lake Superior, main features are its colorful sandstone cliffs and sand dunes immersed in a pristine environment.
Close to Munising, Castle Rock stands in front of turquois waters and is easily accessible with a short walk. The gently sloping Bridalveil Fall is visible from this point although a boat ride would yield its best.
So there you are driving along two lane Hwy 2 and watching the bumper of some neo-zone nitwit who thinks 45 is the maximum speed limit. You think you want to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. All of a sudden, the Cut River comes up! What an opportunity! 230 steps to the bottom and then back up! Guaranteed to stretch the legs and lungs of even the hardiest VTers. Once at the bottom, you find yourself on the scenic shore of Lake Michigan, soaking up the views and drifting on fresh Great Lake air. Can life get better? Sure it can. Have a few cold ones up in the well maintained park above.
The Keweenaw Peninsula is far northern Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, UP in the vernacular. From Detroit, it's another world and 14 hours of travel by car. It can be more a part of Minnesota or Wisconsin as it's easier to get to the Keweenaw from there. Less traveled than much of the U.S., with northern climate of cool to cold nights and cool days, it's a retreat from the heat of the mid-section of the U.S. (Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee). You'll find plenty to do and see.
My favorites include:
Isle Royale National Park called Royal, Isle in VT;
Hougton, gateway to the peninsula;
Copper Harbor, tip of the peninsula;
Calumet heart of the peninsula.
Don't forget that the peninsula is completly surrounded by Lake Superior the largest body of freshwater in the world (based on surface area).
L'Anse is located in a natural bay in Lake Superior where the largest Indian Reservation is located. Home to the Chippewa-Ojibwa tribe, this quiet corner features the typical beauty of the Upper Peninsula's frozen waters still at the end of April.
Keewenaw, the northernmost county in Michigan, is where US Highway 41 ends. The last stretch of it is a wonderful drive through the forest before reaching Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins State Park, the log-fenced structure of the old fort facing the placid waters of an inland lake.
From this point, don't miss the beautiful coastal drive on M26 through Eagle Harbor and Eagle River where the stream jumps as a waterfall before heading into Lake Superior.
The Lake Huron lights (travelogue) are more of the classic style. There are fewer ports and more points that stick out into the lake. Shipping traffic is trying to reach Port Huron or the Mackinac Straits. Between, the 'thumb' of Michigan protrudes out and the area called Presque Isle. Presque Isle has a ships graveyard off shore, which divers come from around the world to visit the wrecks.
Since the lights here are more in the tradition of warning off ships from reefs, islands and dangerous points, they are more in line with the classic tall towers.
Lake Huron Lights
Pointe Aux Barques
Port Austin Reef
Saginaw River Rear Range
Thunder bay Island
Presque Isle Harbor Front Range
Presque Isle Harbor Rear Range
Old Presque Isle
Forty Mile Point
Fourteen Foot Shoal
Bois Blanc Island
Cheboygan River Crib
Cheboygan River Front Range
Old Mackinac Point
Round Island Passage
De Tour Reef
The Lake Michigan Lights (travelogue) are among the easiest to see. That's because the entire coast has been developed into a tourist mecca.
Lake Michigan is one of the more indented lakes with harbor potential. While other lakes did not develop some of the potentials, here, there are ports nearly every 20 miles. Each port needed a harbor light to guide the ships in at night and in bad weather, so there are over 2 dozen lights that you can drive within sight of. It's not the same on other lakes, except as we've built roads into places that nobody wanted to go before.
Of course, harbor lights are not the classic towers. Little Sable is one of the towers. Most of the rest are either short towers at the end of piers. Or they are houses with cupolas on top for the light. Remote areas (when the lights were built) often were houses for the staff/family that took care of the light. By putting it on top, it was accessible during bad weather. Also as pier lights or harbor lights, they did not need to be tall, after all, they were to guide ships in, not warn them away.
Lake Michigan Lights
Grays Reef Light
St. James Harbor
Ile Aux Galets (Skillagalee)
South Fox Island
Little Traverse (Harbor Point)
Petoskey Pier head
Charlevoix South Pier head
North Manitou Shoal
South Manitou Island
Manning Memorial Lighthouse
Frankfort North Breakwater
Manistee North Pier head
Old Manistee Main
Ludington North Pier head
Muskegon South Pier head
St. Joseph North Pier
St. Joseph Lighthouse Depot
Menominee North Pier
Manistique East breakwater
Seul Choix Point
Believe it or not, there are lights on the Huron River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and Lake Erie. All most all are to guide ships. Therefore, they are short, not very picturesque and often overlooked. The Lake Eire lights in Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and New York are more interesting as the Michigan ones are primarily to guide ships in and out of the Detroit River.
Here, you'll learn the term Range Lights. Lights that guide ships through channels are set up in pairs. As a ship approaches the channel, the locate the 'front range light' then continue to move at an angle until the 'rear range light' is directly behind it. Kind of looking at a stop light with two lights on instead of just one. When the lights are in line, the ships can move forward in the channel.
This is particularly important in Lake St. Clair, for the lake averages 10' deep. Small sailboats and motorboats have no trouble. The big ore freighters and 'salties' pull 15' to 20' of draft. That means that they ride in a trench over 10' deep in the lake bottom. Any variation and they grind into the mud and close the channel down for weeks getting out.
Lake St. Clair Lights
St. Clair Flats Old Channel Ranges
Lake St. Clair
William Livingstone Memorial
Detroit Lighthouse Depot
Thames River Rear Range
Lake Superior light (travelogue) are a mix use group. Almost all are warning lights at reefs, including the one that are entrance lights for the harbors of the Upper Peninsula. Many more of these are hard to reach as they are set out on wind sweep points. Even the harbor lights for Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor are set on bare rock points. But, only Eagle Harbor Light is on the edge of town.
Eagle Harbor Light
Copper Harbor Light
84 E. Ferry St., Detroit, Michigan, 48202, United States
Good for: Families
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