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.

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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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A Desert in Michigan?

When I think of sand, I think of the desert.  But how neat to enjoy sand dunes right here in Michigan – right alongside a beautiful lake!

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We explored the sand dunes at Silver Lake.  They are located along Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Ludington.  Over 2,000 acres of sand, the dunes are part of the Silver Lake State Park.  The park also includes four miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, a mature forest, hiking trails and a sandy beach.

The state has set aside 450 acres for off-road vehicle rides.  Riders can bring their 4 x 4’s or they can rent off-road vehicles specially designed to meet the challenge of driving on sand.  An ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) sticker and a ten-foot orange flag is required to drive on the area.

There is also a section set aside for pedestrians to walk or sand board.

The southern section is reserved for those who do not want to drive or walk on the sand dunes but do want to explore them.  Mac Wood’s Dunes Rides has leased this section from the state park since 1930 and takes visitors on a great ride.

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My husband and I chose to take the tour and it was quite a ride.

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Our driver was a retired school teacher who has been driving the buggies every summer for 20 years.  The ride was about forty minutes and covered seven miles of up and down and around corners.  Although he never went faster than 35 miles (I was sitting next to the driver and kept an eye on his speed), it seemed much faster.  When we got the top of a hill he would speed up just before we headed down.  The kids on the ride loved that and screamed with delight.  We were entertained with silly stories by our driver and he also shared some of the history and ecology of the sand dunes.

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Along the way were things designed to give a laugh like this pair of legs sticking out of the sand.

We stopped at the top of one of the biggest hills and got out to take some pictures.

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Some of the information he shared with us explained a little of how the dunes were formed.  His explanation was simple, but here is a more detailed explanation for those of you who are interested.

When you think of sand dunes, you commonly associate them with the desert. If Michigan is not a desert, then why do we find dunes here? The answer lies in the Great Lakes, primarily Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. All along the shores of these
beautiful lakes, wave action sorts the sediments in the near-shore area. As the waves pound the beach, much of the finer-than-sand-sized materials are carried out into deeper water while the sand-sized grains and larger particles and pebbles are moved nearer to the beach. During storms, large quantities of sand are moved past the beach. Eventually these piles dry out.  Until the sand dries, water between the grains holds the sand together. The adhesive quality of the water makes the sand temporarily immobile. The adhesion does not remain after the sand dries. The dry sand can then be transported and winnowed by the wind.  The wind carries the sand inland, where it is deposited as a dune.  A plant or some other object may deflect the wind. The deflection causes the wind velocity to decrease, and the sand is dropped or deposited. This leads to the formation of a larger and larger mound that will eventually become a dune. In time the mound may
become big enough to cover the object that started its formation.  In Michigan the supply of sand is not constant. So, in time, the dunes become covered with grasses and other forms of vegetation – even trees. In fact, some of Michigan’s sand dunes look more like “tree dunes”.  The climate encourages this vegetative cover. The presence of ground water near the surface further promotes vegetation. When vegetative cover prevents
the wind from moving the sand, the dunes are stabilized.  However, if the protective vegetation is removed, or if there are exceptionally high winds or the groundwater
level drops, the sand is exposed to wind erosion, and movement or migration begins again. The area where migration begins is called a blowout. Renewed dune movement can bury anything in its path, even the forests which once may have stabilized the dune. An example of a buried forest can be seen at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

Copyright © 2001 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division (GSD).
The DEQ GSD grants permission to publish or reproduce this document, all or in part, for non-profit purposes.
The contents of this electronic document (whole or in part) can be used if, and only if, additional fees are not
associated with the use or distribution of this document and credit is given to the DEQ GSD and the author(s).
This copyright statement must appear in any and all electronic or print documents using this file or any part

 

 

 

The Streets of New York – in the 1980’s

This past week my husband spoke to the residents of the Teen Challenge Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

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This is not the first interaction we have had with this organization.

Our first experience with Teen Challenge occurred in 1985 in New York City.  Just one year after we were married we spent two weeks at the center in New York working on the streets with Christians from all over the United States.

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This center was started by Dave Wilkerson.   A pastor of a small church in Pennsylvania, in 1958, after he saw a photograph in Life Magazine of seven teenagers who were gang members and on trial, he felt led by the Holy Spirit to go to New York and share God’s love with them.  When he entered the courtroom and asked to speak to them, the judge had him removed from the courtroom.

His burden for the young people caught up in the gangs became so strong that he began a street ministry to the young in New York.  His work with the gangs was very successful and he founded Teen Challenge to continue that work.

His story was made into a movie The Cross and the Switchblade in 1970.  By today’s movie standards the movie itself would not measure up to the acting and directing skills of today.  But the message is powerful and if you have not seen it, I encourage to look it up.

We met each morning as a group sharing a simple breakfast and then a time of worship.  Afterwards we broke out into smaller groups of about twelve or fourteen.  We spent a few minutes sharing how things were going for each of us and then we hit the streets of New York.  We partnered with member of local churches as we walked the streets talking and sharing with those we met on the streets and in the subways.

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This was our team.

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This woman was in her 70’s and we were so impressed that an “old woman” like her would join us on the streets of New York.  (Now I’m 71 and my husband 79 – maybe she was not so old.)

For someone from the Mid West this was quite an experience.  This was not the New York of today – but the New York of the 1980’s.

The city was near bankruptcy.  With the introduction of crack-cocaine, there was widespread drug addiction and violence.  Our team was told when we walked down the streets in Manhattan to always have the woman walk on the outside with the man next to the building entrances.  They said women had been pulled off the street into drug dens.  Some neighborhoods we entered we told to not take pictures because we might get shot for taking a picture of a drug deal going down.

Walking in Manhattan we saw signs like this everywhere.

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Stores like this were everywhere.  Our team moved among this neighborhood inviting people to our evening services.

 

Graffiti was everywhere.

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My husband on the subway.  In the 1980s, over 250 felonies were committed every week in the system, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world.

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On schools

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On stores

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Even on churches

What was really sad to me was when I saw beautiful murals that the local population had painted – and they did not even respect their own community – but painted graffiti on the murals.

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There were burnt out cars sitting on the streets and we often saw people sleeping in them.

 

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Each day we walked the streets in a different community and each evening we held street services in the area where we had spent the day.

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And how did all this walking the streets, holding services, meeting the drug addicts and homeless people on the street work out?

We will never know for sure in this life.  There were many different reactions.

  • While holding a service in Washington Square, a young man came up to the area where the musicians were playing, turned his back to us and mooned us.
  • In Manhattan a young man cursed at me and told me to “mind my own business.”

But then there were:

  • Several homeless drug addicts listened to us and came back with us to the Teen Challenge Center where they stayed and committed to the 12 month program to beat the drug habit.  Again, I have no idea how many stayed with the program but I do know the Teen Challenge program in New York has had a high success rate helping people beat addiction.  It was good to see the ones who came back with us in the beginning of our two-week stay.  To watch their eyes go from a blank, glassy look to a clear, coherent look.  To see their listless walk become a brisk lively walk.  To see the dull expression on their face turn to one of hope and smiles.
  • One young man my husband talked to had never heard that Jesus loved him.  After praying with my husband, he wept with joy.  We did not leave these people after such an encounter.  The local churches we partnered with continued to mentor and help them in their attempts to turn from cocaine and to begin a new life with Jesus Christ.
  • On the subway one day we found a pimp beating up on one of his “girls.”  Scared to death, but unable to ignore this, our team of 14 stepped in between the pimp and his “girl.”  He threatened us but we did outnumber him.  He got off at the next stop and we took the young girl with us back to the shelter to help her get free from prostitution and start anew.

The years have gone by and we often wonder about some of those we talked to, shared that God loved them, that there was hope and offered help.  Where are they now?  Did they stay with the program, with the local churches?

We will never know in this life, but I think how awesome it would be to meet one of them in heaven some day and hear their story of victory over cocaine.

So thankful that New York City did finally clean up much of the city and I hear today it is a beautiful place to visit.  Doubtful that I will never get back, but thankful for the two weeks spent on the streets of New York City in the 80’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food – Restaurants and Rubber Duckies -Lowell Michigan

A fun trip this week to Lowell, Michigan.   Founded as a trading post in 1831 by Daniel Marsac on the Grand River, in 1851 when a post office was established it was named Lowell after the township.  Located about 20 miles from Grand Rapids, this small town has a six-block downtown with antique stores, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques lining Main Street.

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In 1999 this downtown area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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Since my husband began painting again in his retirement, the first places we headed were the art galleries.   We found beautiful paintings – and some what I can only call “different” paintings.

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I love the picture of this old man!

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The colors here are so vibrant!

The Flat River meets the Grand River here at Lowell.   Duck boats are available to take a ride on the Flat River.

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We also saw plenty of ducks while we were there.

Real ducks.

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And rubber duckies.

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This weekend was the Riverwalk Festival and the folks from the local Art Council had a float playing on the “duck” theme.  We were walking along the street right beside this float as they played the rubber ducky song – and by the time it ended my husband had removed his hearing aids – and was ready to scream “enough!”

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It was neat to walk along the Flat River and enjoy all the arts and crafts and local food on display all along the riverwalk.

And lunch was delicious at the Flat River Grill.

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After exploring this unique and interesting small town, we headed north to the covered bridge at Fallassburgh.

You can read about this bridge and the village time forgot in my blog:

A Village Time Forgot

If you are ever in the Grand Rapids Michigan area, it would be worth your time to take a side trip to Lowell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Village Time Forgot

In our road trip today we visited one of only two covered bridges open to traffic in Michigan.

The bridge leads to a village that time has forgotten.  John Wesley Fallas and his brother, Silas, came to the area in 1837.  Built alongside the Flat River they used the power from the river to construct a sawmill and a chair factory.  In 1839 they built the first bridge across Flat River at this site.  Today, this is the fourth bridge built here and was completed in 1871.

 

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I loved the sign that indicated there was a fine of $5.00 if you drove across the bridge at a speed greater than walking.

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Today all that is left standing of the village is a school house, a cemetery, the Fallas and Misner House museums and the Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm.   The old school house was built in 1867 and was actually used as a school until 1961.

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School house was built in 1867 and actually used as a school until 1961.

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The Fallas home – for its time it was quite an elegant house. 

At one time the state road from Detroit to Grand Rapids passed through Fallasburgh and the village was a thriving area.  The village had a stone-mason, blacksmiths, general stores, mills, a post office and even a hotel and tavern.

Then the railroad came.  In 1858 the D&M Railroad came to a nearby town, Lowell.  Slowly, the village declined.  Most of the area’s hardwoods which supported the mills and the chair factory were depleted by late 1800’s.  The founder died in 1896 and by 1905 the post office had closed.

The village continued as a sleepy summer community until today it is only a reminder of the past.

A historical society has been founded and events are held throughout the year to keep the memory of the community alive.

The village is surrounded by a beautiful park.   Close to 300 acres of picnic areas, beautiful trees and  the Flat River.

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We drove along the road near the Flat River on our way home.  A beautiful drive.  Lots of curves and hills.  A perfect end to our visit to Fallasburgh.

 

 

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.