Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lake Superior Day Trip

As first-timers to the Great Lakes we had a wonderful day out to see just how the lakes impact the area. While my phone thought we were in Canada we did not need passports and nor did we set foot there although we could almost touch it at one point.
We headed out in a northerly direction, over the Mackinaw bridge with Michigan's oldest city, Sault St. Marie as our destination. Our purpose was to take a Soo Locks boat tour which would carry us through the locks and into Lake Superior. The difference in water level between the St Mary's River water level on the lower side and Lake Superior on the upper side is 21', hence the need for locks.
 There are three locks currently operational; this is the American Lock A where we entered, got locked in and waited while the water level rose to the Lake Superior height. The A and B locks are for small craft and large freighters. At the time we passed through it was just our small craft in the lock although there was a large freighter coming through Lock B heading in the opposite direction.
 Now the water level has equalized with Lake Superior, the gates slowly open and we can continue our cruise.
 Had we wanted to enter Canada by road this bridge, the International Highway, was the one we needed to be on.
 We cruised around somewhat allowing views of the large Canadian steel plant and hydro electric plant. The authorities made sure we stayed on the correct side!
 As intended we turned and headed back towards the St Mary's River which empties into Lake Huron. But first we had to drop down again and this time we passed through the Canadian lock. It is a smaller and newer one which can only take small and pleasure craft.
 The Canadians take a much more low key approach and people were wandering back and forth over the lock gates almost until they opened. But happily, all was fine, no-one fell in and we continued on our way.
 Looking back we could see the rapids which are natures way of getting from the higher water level of Superior down to the river. There's another of the three power stations we saw on our trip in the left foreground.

p.s. Later in the week we found out we were quite lucky to be at the Locks on Tuesday. On Wednesday a large freighter ran aground in the entry area to B Lock which shut down all water traffic in both directions until late Friday.
 We had our picnic lunch in the parking lot and then headed further on to Whitefish Point. The afternoon destination was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The lakes are deceivingly beautiful but Lake Superior has earned the reputation of being the most treacherous. With the loss of over 6000 ships to storms on the Great Lakes there is plenty of material for a shipwreck museum. Built around the restored Whitefish Point Light Station (established in 1849) there are many fascinating exhibits and buildings to look through.
 And afterwards, a walk on the lakeshore beckoned. Yes, it was a midsummer day but this is not your average "day at the beach".
 The most recent and perhaps most famous and mysterious wreck was the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald just 17 miles from here in November 1975.
 But for now it was time to lighten up a little and enjoy some beach art.
 Who's that looking out to Canada? A fabulous piece of driftwood don't you think?
 Where did they all go?
This creature is on the lookout.

Maybe we need to alert the lookout!

This was a great day out and we gained a better understanding of what it means to be a mariner in this area. For sure there's plenty of scope for writing sea shanties.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Up North Michigan Road Trip

In early August we went on a road trip to stay with family at their summer cottage in the idyllic Bay View community in Petoskey on the shores of Lake Michigan. The road trip there was not all that exciting (mile after mile of high speed driving on the PA and OH Turnpikes and then even more white knuckle driving on the 75 mph route 75 through central Michigan) but, ah, what a sweet destination. The image above is a pleasant gazebo stop off as a pedestrian heads down to the lakeshore.
 The Bay View community, named a National Historic Landmark in 1987, was established in 1875 as a religious campsite for the Detroit Conference and the Michigan Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Today it is a summer community comprising 337 acres, 447 privately owned cottages (including 400 built prior to 1900), two inns, one bed and breakfast inn and 31 additional buildings belonging to the Bay View Association. Most of the cottages are Victorian in style and this is what caused the community to first be recognized in 1957 by placement on the Michigan List of Historic Places. The sweet blue cottage pictured above became an early favorite of mine.
 Complementing the pretty cottages are some picture perfect flower gardens. This was just a small portion of a newly planted rain garden.
 This is one of the newest cottages. It is located right next to Sunset Park where the bicycles just seem prone to gather in happy chaos each and every day.
 Down on the lakeshore are the recreation club facilities. On this day there was a stiff breeze blowing and that seagull on the roof was clinging on and leaning into the wind to maintain it's spot overlooking the hive of activity on the shoreline.
 There is a wide roster of activities available and the youth are well taken care of. In the afternoon there are sailing lessons in one of the Bay View starfish fleet to teach how to sail in all conditions.
This cottage is one of the most photographed in the community. Well located alongside busy route 31 it directly overlooks the lake.
 Same cottage, side view. Check out that detail on the roofline!
 Another view of the rain garden.
 Such a well sited cottage, set back from the road and up on a knoll. Many of the cottages display flags out front and porches are a common feature.
 Why yes, I was captivated by the vision of the children's bikes just dropped off at the park before their riders headed down to the shore activity zone.
 Speaking of the shore, the safe way to get there is to use the pedestrian overpass which takes you from Sunset Park over busy route 31 and deposits you near the gazebo.
 Quick, capture the moment! He did indeed stop which gave me time to set up my shot.
 Can you guess where this was taken from? Why yes, you are correct... Sunset Park.
After the sunset it was a leisurely stroll back up the hill to the family cottage. My sister-in-law pointed out how stringing porch lights has become quite popular.

Come back in a few days for the next installment.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Not Quite a Total Solar Eclipse

Yesterday it was all about nature as she treated us to a total solar eclipse here. I thought I should grab the opportunity to get back to blogging.

With all the scary stories about the potential to damage your eyesight I will state upfront that I did not take any direct photos of the event. We were lucky enough to have a couple of pairs of the special glasses, courtesy of a friend who is a volunteer at the Udvar Hazy National air and Space Museum, but still, I was not taking too many chances.
 People had said to watch for nature using the trees as a "pin hole" camera. The crepe myrtle on the back deck was obliging in that respect.
 Toying with what to make this post about as I had very few photos my eyes lit upon another small miracle of nature; this self seeded petunia in the hibiscus pot and I let my glasses pose there momentarily.
 More crescent shadows. Alas, right at the central five minutes of totality (although, living where we do we were never going to have full totality) clouds rolled over the sun totally obscuring the big moment. But the clouds did keep breaking away for the second half of the main show and we were happy we got to see as much as we did of the big event.
 Much later in the day the sun was full on bright again.
The sunset almost passed un-noticed but I did see this last patch of color.

Now let's see if I can sort through the 500+ images on the photo card from our early August vacation before too much time passes.