Which Town is My Favorite?

We have lived in Michigan for eleven months and I am surprised at how many of the towns in this state we have visited.  Each one has only added to my love of this state.

The latest town we visited was Manistee.  Located between Ludington and Frankfort Michigan we made this our base as we explored both this town and traveled north and south on different days to view more of Lake Michigan and the port cities.

The town has two beautiful beaches to explore.

The first one has a lighthouse and a causeway so that we could walk out to the light.

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The day we walked out the lake was pretty calm.  Two days later I would have been a little afraid to make that walk as the waves were crashing pretty high over the walkway.

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This light is at the end of a pier where the Manistee River meets Lake Michigan.  It is 39 feet tall and built from cast iron.  The light was built in 1872 after the first was completely destroyed in a fire that swept through the area in 1871.

The day we were at the beach there were families everywhere enjoying the beach, the boats, the sky.

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The second beach we visited early in the morning and had it all to our self.  This beach was even more family friendly with picnic tables, areas for sand badminton and play areas for the kids.  We enjoyed the birds and the quiet walk along the beach.

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We laughed at the sign telling us we could make it to Wisconsin in 54,200 strokes.  Since I cannot swim at all and Paul is no Olympic swimmer we decided to not try that.

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Found some neat artwork of fishes made from metal.

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In the late 1800’s this city was a part of Michigan’s lumber era.  Known as “Lake Michigan’s Victorian Port City” the city claimed more millionaires per capital than any other city in Michigan.  Today you can still see some of the beautiful homes that the lumber barons built.

Finding a good restaurant in a new town can be tricky.  Appearances can be deceptive.  We have selected places where the outside looked great only to find terrible service or less than desirable meals.  We have also taken chances and stopped at “holes in the wall” only to find some of the best food ever.

Highly recommended by the locals, we had supper at TJ’s Pub.  The atmosphere was great and the food even better.

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The pub was in the historical Ramsdell Inn.  This magnificent building was built in 1891 for only $35,000.  I cannot imagine what this structure would cost today.

We ended the day with a walk along the Manistee River.

rwThe Downtown Manistee, Michigan Riverwalk

For this book lover, who can resist a used book store?  I found a good used book on Elizabeth I for only $4.95.  Since I love American history and also English history,  of course, I had to buy it.

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I could have spent a fortune here as they have a lot of the old classics.  But I was a good girl and quickly left after my one purchase.

Every town I visit I think “this is the best so far.”  Leaving Manistee I was saying that – but then came Ludington and Frankfort.

If you love beaches, neat small towns, great food and lots of trees, come visit Michigan!

 

 

 

 

Still Chasing Lighthouses

The forests in Michigan in the latter half of the nineteenth century helped build the expansion in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.  Along with the abundant supply of trees in Michigan, the Great Lakes provided the means to transport the lumber to these cities.  But lighthouses were necessary for ships to navigate safely in the unpredictable waters of the Great lakes.

Two of these lighthouses were Big Sable Point Lighthouse and Little Sable Point Lighthouse.  In our recent road trip to the west side of the mitten we explored from Frankfort to Ludington and on our list of “must sees” were these two lighthouses.

Unfortunately we discovered a visit to Big Sable Point Lighthouse required a walk of  1.8 miles there – and then back.  My husband could probably have made the walk, but for me it was impossible.  So the only thing we have of Big Sable Point Lighthouse is the pictures we got from post cards.

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They do offer a bus ride to the lighthouse twice a year so I am hoping next spring we can go back and ride out to the point.

The French explorers called this area Grande Pointe au Sable.  The stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline between Big Sable Point and present-day Ludington was a dangerous area.  Twelve ships wrecked in 1855 leading the state to ask the federal government for a light station here.

In 1867 Big Sable was built.  Its tower is 112 feet high, only one of a few Michigan lighthouse reaching 100 feet.

Shortly after its construction was completed the brick began to crumble.  Steel plates were installed around the light tower.  Cement was then poured between the bricks.  Mariners complained that they could not see the tower during the day because the bricks, which were cream colored, looked too much like the sand.  Thus the black and white colors.

This lighthouse was the last of the Great lakes to become electrified.  That paved the way for automation and the lighthouse was closed in 1968.  However, the light still comes on automatically at dusk until dawn and can be seen approximately 18 miles out in Lake Michigan.

Disappointed that we did not make it to the lighthouse – but that gives us something to plan for our summer trips in 2020.

Thankfully we were able to reach Little Sable Point Lighthouse.  Named by the French Petite Pointe au Sable is translated into Little Sand Point.

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Constructed in 1874 it is one of the tallest in Michigan at over 100 feet.  There are 130 steps to climb to the top.  A few years ago I would have attempted it.  Sadly, today my arthritic knees did not permit that.

Still, it was great to see the lighthouse and the beach there was beautiful.

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Funds for the lighthouse were approved by Congress in 1872 but the point was inaccessible by roads so construction was delayed until 1874.  Even today getting there by road was a little scary.  Very narrow and winding with little room for two cars to pass.  When I was beginning to think we were driving to the middle of nowhere, we turned a corner and there it was.

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Like Big Sable Point Lighthouse, this lighthouse was also painted white so the mariners could see it better.  Since it was the lighthouse keeper’s responsibility to paint the tower each year, I am sure this was not a decision they welcomed.  In 1977 the tower paint was removed and the lighthouse was restored to its original brick.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse has the special distinction of having a woman lighthouse keeper.  She only served for one month but my research showed me there were many women who manned lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes region.

As I shared in an earlier post, Michigan with 3,288 miles of shoreline, is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the USA.  We have spent this summer exploring many of them – and my husband has been busy painting some of them.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

Summer is going by so fast, I am not sure how many more lighthouses we can tour this year – but that will give us something to look forward to when the winter snows comes.  If we ever run out of lighthouses to explore in Michigan, our neighboring state, Wisconsin will provide more lighthouses for our adventures.

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Chasing Lighthouses

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall we were anxious for spring to come so we could explore all the lighthouses in Michigan.

That story is told in:

Michigan’s Lighthouses

However, when spring came so did the rainy, cloudy days most of the Midwest has been experiencing.  We did have one beautiful weekend in May and we made a visit to Big Red Lighthouse in Holland, Mi.

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Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

While there we enjoyed the tulips that were everywhere in the town.  (If you ever get a chance to come to Holland for the Tulip Festival, take it.  You will not regret it.)

Welkom to Tulip Time

Sitting in our new home wishing, praying for some sunny days, finally we woke up Saturday to a perfect summer day.  Grabbing our camera, our Michigan travel book, we headed west to Lake Michigan.

When we take road trips we do not follow the beaten path.  For the most part we stay off the interstates and take all the side roads.  It takes longer but the trip is much more interesting.  Taking the back roads, we never know what we will see that will catch our eyes.  Many times we have found many interesting places that those who only travel the interstate never know exist.

We do take our GPS in case we get completely lost or if we get tired and want to find the quickest way to our destination.  But our own GPS is to just head in the direction of our journey’s end and “follow our nose” until we reach our target.

Our first stop on Saturday’s trip was the beach at Muskegon.  After the rainy, damp spring, what a sight to see the white sand the beautiful lake with the bright blue sky.

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Walking along the sand, we headed to the lighthouse there.  Muskegon’s first lighthouse was built in 1851.  In 1870 a house was built for the light keeper.  This replaced the 1851 lighthouse and was topped with a cast-iron lantern room for a light.  In time a fog horn structure was built with an elevated walk to connect the lighthouse with the fog horn.

In 1903 the existing wooden building was replaced with a conical steel tower, the Muskegon South Pierhead Light.  In 1929 the Muskegon South Breakwater Light was built.

Like many of these historic lighthouses over time they have deteriorated.  The Federal Government awarded both the Muskegon South Pierhead and the South Breakwater lighthouses to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in June.  They have both been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The US Coast Guard still is in charge of the lights at the top and the fog signal.

Tours are granted but since my knees are old and arthritic, we chose to just view from the beach, but I can imagine what a view it would be to climb to the top.

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Muskegon South Pierhead Light

 

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Muskegon South Breakwater Light

We drove on south to Grand Haven to the see the two lights there.  The two lighthouses are connected by a lighted catwalk and we were looking forward to taking a walk along the pier.  However, when we arrived at the beach, the traffic was terrible.  We drove and drove but could find no parking space.  Again, because of my knees, we could not park too far away and walk down to the lighthouses.

So, disappointed, we tried to take some pictures from a distance.

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I wish we could have been closer because the outer light from a distance looks a lot like Big Red Lighthouse.

We thought we would go back during the week when maybe the crowds were be smaller but my Michigan friends tell me it is a popular spot.  So – we will just settle for a look from a distance and move on to our next adventure chasing lighthouses.

 

 

Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall I was fascinated by the many lighthouses that are in the state.  In a blog I wrote then I said I was looking forward to spring/summer when we could begin exploring these lighthouses.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

Well – that time has come.

This past weekend we visited the most photographed lighthouse in the state – Big Red.   Located at the entrance of a channel that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa.   I was surprised at how small it actually was.  Thinking of lighthouses as being very tall, this one looked more like a big barn with a tower for the light.

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The lighthouse has a great history.   The area was settled by the Dutch in 1847 on the shore of Lake Macatawa.  Led by Rev. Albertus C Van Raalte a band of Hollanders founded the city of Holland.

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When they settled here they realized they needed access to Lake Michigan from Black Lake (now called Macatawa) to help their community grow and flourish.  The entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

After petitioning the government for help but getting none, the citizens took matters into their own hands and cut a channel that was deep enough for barges to use.  Finally, in 1866, Congress made an appropriation for work on the harbor taking over improvement of the harbor in 1867.

The government gave funds of $4,000 in 1870 to build the first lighthouse.  A small, square structure on top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room.  The lighthouse keeper lived on the shore near the lighthouse and would carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk where he would place the lamp under a lens or magnifying device.  He would use a 18 inch fish horn to warn incoming boats when the fog hide

 

When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. A building was made for the fog signal.  This building and the lighthouse stood next to each other until 1936 when the Coast Guard combined the two structures by placing a light tower on top of the building for the fog signal.

The two buildings were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base.  In 1956, to satisfy a Coast Guard requirement that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red, it was sandlasted and planted the bright red that gives it the title now of Big Red.

Marking the end for the need of lighthouse keepers, the light was electrifid in 1934 and in 1936 air powered horns using electricity were installed.

Since the lighthouse no longer was needed the Coast Guard declared it to be surplus.  A petition and letter writing campaign to save the lighthouse began.  The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was organized and this group gave it the name of “Big Red” to create more awareness in its effort to save the lighthouse.

 

 

 

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View of Big Red from the adjoining beach

 

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View of Lake Michigan from the beach by Big Red