Driving north from our home in Michigan we took a quick stop at Gaylord to try to get a peek at the elk herd found there.
The City of Gaylord maintains an elk herd and while there are several places to view them, we stopped at the Patrick Mankowskil Park. There on 108 acres the city staff provide the herd with corn, hay and sugar beets. Named after the man who was instrumental in raising funds to create this area to get a chance for a look at the elks, there is a plaque honoring him for his service to the City of Gaylord.
We only saw a few elk here. We were told the best times to view them is in September and October when the bulls are trying to establish mating rights with the females. April and May were also recommended as good times because the elk are active during the daylight hours eating the new green growth.
A short drive from downtown Gaylord is the Pigeon River Country State Forest that contains one of the largest free-ranging elk herds east of the Mississippi. However, we were on our way further north and left this viewing spot for another trip.
I did a little research to see what the difference is between elk and reindeer. I found that both are types of deer with the elk being larger than the reindeer. Both female and male reindeer have antlers, but only the male elk has antlers. Elks are found in North America while reindeer occupy the colder artic regions.
Many enjoy elk meat, and I am told it is very healthy as it is lean, low in fat and cholesterol, and delicious. You can even order elk meat on Amazon.
I am not sure I am quite that adventurous, but have any of my readers eaten elk meat? If so, did you like it?
Getting off the beaten path on a recent trip north led us to another special attraction. In the unincorporated area known as Indian River we found the Cross in the Woods Shrine.
This wooden cross was made from a 2,000-year-old California Redwood tree. The tree was found in the state of Oregon and the timber from the tree arrived in Roscomon, Michigan in 1953. The cross weighs 14 tons and is 55 feet in height (77 feet above the mound) with the crossbeam 22 feet. The cross was erected August 5, 1954 and the dedication took place August 22 of that year.
Declared a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on September 15, 2006, between 275,000 and 325,000 people visit the shrine each year. There are outdoor and indoor churches and smaller shrines throughout the location.
A few years after the dedication of the cross, the body of Christ was added. The corpus weights 7 tons. It is 28 feet from head to toe and the arm spread is 23 feet. The body of Christ was attached to the cross on August 9, 1959, and dedicated on August 16 of that year.
There is a large church where masses are held everyday year round. The windows inside are large giving the congregation an excellent view of the cross. There is also outside seating where masses are held outdoors just below the cross.
I found it interesting to learn that the man who designed the Corpus, Marshall M Fredericks resided in Michigan (where I now live) but he was born in Rock Island, Illinois (the area where I used to live). There is a Marshall M. Fredericks Sculptor Museum in Saginaw, Michigan featuring his works as well as other sculptors.
Fredericks said he wanted to “give the face an expression of great peace and strength and offer encouragement to everyone who viewed the Cross”. He imagined his sculptor as portraying Christ at the moment when he says, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Vatican gave him special permission to omit the crown of thorns and the wound on the side of Jesus.
I know I am being opinionated here, but I found leaving the crown of thorns and the wound on his side as somehow minimizing the whole message of the suffering Jesus endured for us.
We did explore the bookstore also and found many beautiful paintings and tapestries. There were a couple I would have loved to have – but with my husband painting more and more – our home is filled with his paintings with no room for anything else.
Discovering this site now leads us to another road trip – to Saginaw to check out the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculptor Museum.
We found the perfect elf house. Actually, several houses perfect for elves.
In Charlevoix, Michigan there are 26 houses built by Earl Young that appear to be perfect for a family of elves.
The neighborhood has a sign asking everyone to respect the privacy of these homes. However, across the street from most of the homes we found cars pulling to the side of the road and taking pictures. I wonder how it would feel to live in a house where tourists are standing across the street taking pictures.
They were so unique. I could not stop taking pictures.
Young created his homes to fit the site using the limestone, fieldstone and boulders he found in Northern Michigan. Each home is different from the other and has cedar-shake roofs with wide, wavy eaves. Over the course of his fifty-year career, Young built twenty-six residential houses and four commercial properties.
Along with the houses was all the beautiful use of the stones for fences.
The house that really caught my attention was the Thatch House. It was very large, and looked like a giant mushroom.
I discovered that this house is actually for rent for vacations or special events. It would be so cool (can I use that word?) to stay there, but since it rents for $1,000 a night during the week and over $1,400 for a weekend night, I will just settle to take pictures from the outside and try to imagine what it looks like on the inside.
But if you know of any elf looking for a home, send him to Charlevoix Michigan.
We decided to celebrate the end of summer and beginning of fall by taking our granddaughter to Potter’s Zoo. The Zoo is part of Potter Park in Lansing, Michigan.
It is the oldest public zoo in Michigan. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1986, the Zoo has also received the AZA Quarter Century Award recognizing their accreditation for 25 years or more. The Zoo covers over 20 acres and includes over 500 individual animals representing approximately 160 different species.
Every year they publish an annual report. The report for 2020 shows that even in spite of Covid-19 and being closed for 92 days (March 13 – June 15) they had 90,920 visitors.
The land for the Park was donated in 1910 by James W. Potter. He first donated 58 acres and later in 1917 gave an additional 27 acres. Additional donations of land from others increased the park to its present 102 acres.
Our first stop were the North American River Otters.
So many different animals to enjoy but one of my favorites was the peacock. These birds were walking all around the zoo. So beautiful when they open up their wings.
It was a very hot day and the lions and leopards were taking life easy.
We got to see the black rhino Jaali just before the Zoo will be saying goodbye to him.
Jaali was born at the Zoo in 2019. This was a special event for the Zoo as he is one of only a few black rhinos born in zoos. Jaali has been used to draw attention to black rhino conservation. Rhinos are becoming close to being extinct and veterinarians, zookeepers, rhino experts, and multiple AZA institutions have been working to try to breed more rhinos. Recently a breeding match for Jaali has been discovered and he will be soon be leaving to join his mate at another zoo where it is hoped they will find true love and increase the rhino population. The Zoo is actually holding a going-away party for Jaali in October.
Our granddaughter loves wolves so we had to make a stop there.
It was interesting to see the reasons why wolves howl.
To assemble the pack before and after hunts.
To alarm one another of danger.
To send territorial message from one pack to another.
Or, simply because they hear a nearby wolf howing.
The sign also told us that when wolves howl together, they harmonize rather than use the same note. This creates an illusion that there are more wolves in the pack than there actually are.
Another of the species in danger of extinction is the Eastern Bongo. From African, I thought these animals were very pretty.
There were several different kind of birds, but the one I loved the best was the bald eagle.
I did not realize there are different kinds of foxes. To me, a fox was a fox. We saw the Artic Fox, whose habitat is of course, the northern regions near the North Pole. I wonder how they like our hot summers here.
And the bat-eared fox was very interesting with its large ears – like a bat. We were told that these large ears help them locate beetle larvae buried underneath the ground.
By the time we had walked near the back of the zoo, I was so tired. Thankfully we found a nice place to sit and enjoy the farm animals.
By the end of the visit, we were happy but tired. A last visit at the gift shop was, of course, in order.
After living almost three years in Michigan and hearing of the beautiful Dow Gardens, my husband and I decided it was time to check it out.
All the hype we had heard was true – it is an unbelievable place of peace and beauty. My husband commented that this was just a glimpse of what the Garden of Eden must have been. We laughed that we might see Adam and Eve and our daughter who was with us wondered if they would have any clothes on. 🙂
This beautiful place was once the home of Herbert and Grace Dow. They built their home here in 1899. Called “The Pines” the couple raised their family here. Herbert Dow conducted experiments in fruit-growing and developed gardens. Today the home is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Tours are offered to view the insides of the home where it is furnished with many of the Dow items and gives a good look at what life was like for them. We were not able to take a tour of the home but we did sit on the porch and enjoy the beautiful huge yard with its large expanse of green grass and flowers plantings everywhere.
Herbert Dow was the founder of Dow Chemical Company and by his death had received over 90 patents for chemical processes, compounds and products. I do not understand all the science behind it, but the Dow Chemical Company website says he devised a new way of extracting the bromine that was trapped in underground brine. The company went on to became one of the world’s major producers of magnesium metal, agricultural chemicals, elemental chlorine, phenol and other dye chemicals. The company also was involved in producing plutonium, the element used in hydrogen bombs (a type of atomic bomb).
The company has been the subject of several lawsuits for environmental concerns. In 2011 Dow agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Mich.
Herbert Dow started the gardens as a hobby. He experimented growing different flowers, shrubs and trees seeing what would grow well in the sandy soil. On his death, his wife created The Herbert H and Grace A Dow Foundation. Its charter goals were to improve the lives of Michigan’s people through educational, religious, economic and cultural means. The Foundation gave the estate to Michigan for the community enjoyment. Today the 110-acre Dow Gardens welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year.
There are multiple gardens with 3 miles of accessible hard-surface walks. In the spring over 22,000 bulbs begin to bloom and in the summer over 35,000 annuals provide much color and beauty.
Walking along the path we heard the beautiful sound of running water. Turning a corner we came to a beautiful stream. It was so peaceful we had to stop and just sit and listen to the melodious sounds of the water as it flowed through the peaceful garden.
While we were there we found they had a exhibit of glass gardens by Lansing Michigan artist Craig Mitchell Smith. Mr. Smith creates beautiful floral forms out of glass. His work has been displayed at the Missouri Botanical Gardens and the Epcot Center of Disney World.
There was much more to see including the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens. This area is 54 acres of woodlands, ponds, meadows and stream. It contains the nation’s longest canopy walk. It is 1400 feet long and reaches up to 40 feet above the ground. There is also a playground for children, two pedestrian bridges and a Cafe. I would have loved to see the forest although I do not think I would have attempted the canopy walk. But my arthritic knees gave out on me and we had to call it a day.
My husband and I plan to go back at some point and check out the forest. If you are ever in mid-Michigan I would highly recommend you include a visit to the Dow Gardens. It is probably as close to the Garden of Eden that we will get in this life.
To celebrate our anniversary this year we took a short trip to the thumb of Michigan. Before moving to Michigan I had never heard this expression in reference to the state. However, when you look at the map of Michigan you can see that the lower peninsula does look like a mitten and – yes- the eastern part does look like a thumb.
We stayed at Port Huron where we could look over and see Canada. Unfortunately the border between our country and Canada is still closed. It was nice to see our flag and the Canadian flag flying together on both sides of the Clinton River which celebrates the two nations.
In 1836 the US established a Port of Entry and commercial ferry service began from Port Huron to Canada. It was not until 1938 that a bridge was built and opened to automobile traffic. Today the bridge is referred to as the Blue Water Bridge and is a twin-span international bridge connecting Interstate 69 and 94 in Michigan to Highway 402 in Ontario. Since moving to Michigan it has been our goal to cross this bridge and explore Canada. However, the Covid 19 has made that impossible for now. Hopefully in the future we can do that. Still, we enjoyed looking across into Canada and the bridge at night with its lights was beautiful.
We had a great lunch at Vintage Tavern. The food was great and the building built in the 1800’s was beautiful. They had the original tin ceiling with hardwood floors and brick walls throughout. There were also leaded stained glass windows and three fireplaces.
Thomas Edison lived here as a young boy and there is a museum commemorating his time in Port Huron.
As a student at Port Huron a schoolmaster called Edison “addled.” Furious, his mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”
In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.
While he was in Detroit Edison would visit the large library there. He said, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”
When he was 19 Edison moved to Kentucky and continued with his experiments. By the time of his death in 1831 he had a record 1,093 patents: 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries and 34 for the telephone.
Another interesting stop in Port Huron was the Great Lakes Maritime Center. Here we found a wealth of information about the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.
We also learned about the underground tunnels that run under the St Clair River allowing trains to make the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario. This tunnel was the first full-size subaqueous tunnel built in North America allowing a railroad to pass beneath a river. Before the tunnels were built trains would come to Port Huron where they would have to be loaded on a barge and carried across the river to tracks in Sarnia.
Along with all the interesting history of shipping on the Great Lakes, the Center was a nice place to just sit and watch the ships on the river as well as again glance across at Canada.
We finished our visit to the Thumb by checking out the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. This fort was built in 1914 during the War of 1812. Occupied by the United States Army until 1879 it stood guard over the juncture of St. Clair River and Lake Huron. In 1823 the lighthouse was built here and it is the first lighthouse in Michigan and the second oldest on the Great Lakes.
We enjoyed sitting here and watching the large ships coming from Lake Huron to the St Clair River.
The keepers house is large and looks beautiful although we were not able to go inside.
You can climb the stairs in the lighthouse and I only imagine what the view would be like. But my arthritic knees prevented me from climbing the 94 stairs to the top.
As always on our trips, there was so much more we wanted to see but time did not permit more exploring. There is much more to discover on the Thumb and hopefully we can return again and explore more.
Cherries are a stone fruit from the genus Prunus, which includes plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. Pits from the cherries have been found in Stone Age caves in Europe and were enjoyed by the Greeks and Romans. Immigrants from Europe introduced cherries to the USA in the 1600s and commercial cherry production began in the mid 1800’s in the USA.
All around the world cherries are grown and the top ten countries producing cherries are Iran, the U.S.A., Turkey, Italy, Germany, Spain, Lebanon, Rumania, France and the Russian Federation.
Cherries are a great health food. Rich in vitamin C and B vitamins they are also a good source of fiber. Also rich in anti-oxidants many claim they help control inflammation and help with arthritis.
Michigan is the number one state producing tart cherries and approximately 94% of cherries consumed in the USA are grown in Michigan. The cherry trees began to bloom in May and this spring my husband and I drove to northern Michigan to enjoy the beautiful blossoms.
Cherry harvest time starts in mid-July and lasts through mid-August.
Every July Traverse City hosts a Cherry Festival which draws as much as 500,000 visitors from all around the world. This tradition began in 1925. President Herbert Hoover attended in 1929 and President Gerald Ford served as grand marshal of the parade in 1975.
It’s amazing the products offered by cherry producers.
So get out your cookbooks and made a delicious cherry pie in celebration of this great healthy fruit!
You never know what treasures you will find when you get off the interstate and roam down country roads.
When my husband and I first moved to Michigan three years ago we found a beautiful old church in the small town of Muir. Passing through the town on the main road you would never see the church. But by turning off the main drag we found a church with historical value as well as beauty.
Recently we found another interesting church in the small town of Woodbury. Again, the church would never be spotted from the main highway but we discovered it when we turned off the main road into the town itself. It’s a small town with little to offer but this unique church caught our eye.
The sign outside said it was the St Herman Orthodox Christian Church.
Not being that familiar with the Orthodox faith we had never heard of a St Herman so we were intrigued.
When we drove by the church was not open but we checked their website and found that they had services on Monday. We drove back to Woodbury and the priest and his wife were so gracious to allow us to see the church and to share the history of both the building and the Orthodox faith.
The church building is over 100 years old and was originally built by the United Brethren. In 2006 the Orthodox church family purchased the building and began converting it into their own facility. In the Orthodox faith there is a great emphasis on icons of Christ and the saints. This church was beautiful inside with the “great crowd of witnesses” they had there. The priest’s wife was the artist and she spent over ten years paintings these colorful icons. I would have liked to have taken more pictures but out of respect for their tradition did not get too many.
On learning our names, they pointed out Saint Barbara and Saint Paul that were part of the saints at the front of the church. It was interesting to me that there were no pews in the sanctuary but they explained they stand for their services.
We also learned a little more about St Herman and found that there are several Orthodox churches in the USA that are named after him.
Born into a merchant family in the diocese of Moscow, St. Herman became a monk when he was still a teenager. When Russian explorers began looking toward Alaska St Herman was part of a group of ten men that came to evangelize the area. After five years the head of the mission with several of his group were drowned. Slowly others began to leave until St Herman alone remained. He loved the children, baking them cookies and nursing those who were sick. He started a school for orphans and took the side of the natives against the Russian fur traders who were exploiting them.
After his death in 1837 he was buried in the Resurrection Church on Kodiak. In 1970 the Orthodox church canonized Herman “as a sublime example of the Holy Life, for our spiritual benefit, inspiration, comfort, and the confirmation of our Faith.”[ He is considered by the Orthodox church to be the patron saint of Alaska.
The priest and his wife were very hospitable even inviting us to share their noon meal. They also invited us to join them for one of their services. I’m not sure I would be up to it as they stand for the service and their brochure says their services are long (as much as two hours). I would never be able to stand that long on these arthritic legs. Still, it would be interesting and I have always loved learning more about other Christian beliefs.
Life is much more interesting when you get off the interstate and explore!
Just a few miles from my home is a sign that says “P.O.W. Camp Owosso.” The sign is outside of a oval track for car and motorcycle racing.
Being new to this area, this sign caught my interest and I decided to do some research on the camp. Here is what I found.
During World War II, over 6,000 prisoners were housed in Prisoner of War (POW) camps in Michigan. While approximately 1000 were held in the Upper Peninsula, most were housed in the Lower Peninsula. Many camps were held at former Civilian Conservation Corps barracks that were no longer in use.
In Owosso, this racetrack that was not in use because of the war was chosen for a prison camp. Reports of exactly how many prisoners were held here vary between 350 and 1000. After the war the Germans were returned to their home and the administrative records were deposed of in the 1950s.
The men were housed six to a tent and the area was surrounded by a fence. In the winter time they were moved to the barracks at Fort Custer.
(picture thanks to Dominic Adams | email@example.com)
Due to the draft, the U.S. had a huge labor shortage. The government allowed POWs to be used for labor in nearby farms or businesses. W.R. Roach Canning Company was the principal contractor with the government for prison labor. But many also worked on local farms. The prisoners were paid for their labor with 80 cents per day going to them and the rest of the wage going to the federal government to maintain the camp. The 80 cents was given in canteen checks which could be used for cigarettes, candy and other personal items not provided by the government. Most worked for six days per week at 8 to 10 hour days. While the men did not have to work outside the camp, most preferred that to staying in the camp as there was a little more freedom and most farm families would feed them lunch. The government provided a couple of slices of bread and a piece of meat or cheese for lunch, but the families felt this was not adequate for manual labor and many allowed them to eat the noon meal with their family. This led to friendships between the farm families and the POWs and they remained friends after the war ended.
(National Archives picture “German Prisoners of War at a camp near Owasso, Michigan, being paid with canteen checks by Camp Commander Captain Ohrt.” Dated 8/8/44 – photo by Sgt. S.L. Hertel.)
Reports from that time indicate that the men were well behaved and there was little attempt to escape. But then where would they go? Thousands of miles from home over an ocean and with their German accent, they would quickly have been captured.
However, at Camp Owosso there was an escape attempt that included two local girls. In July, 1944 two local girls helped two men escape from the Canning Compay where they were working. They spent the night in the woods before being captured by authorities.
The girls probably did not realize the consequences of their actions. Found guilty of conspiracy, Kitty Case received one year and three months and Shielry Druce was sentenced to one year and a day.
The girls’ motive for helping the men was not given but one of the girls testified that she was in love with one of the men. This attempted escape brought lots of new attention to the local county. You can read a novel based on this story. Cottonwood Summer by Gary Slaughter.
The prisoners were also heroes to one family. Eva Worthington had just come home for giving birth to her tenth child when her house caught on fire. Her husband, superintendent of the Roach Canning Factory, was at work. Several prisoners saw the fire, hurried in and wrapped Mrs. Worthington in a mattress and carried her to safety.
When the war ended the men were returned to their homes, but some came back and settled in the US, at least one man marrying an American young lady he had met while working outside the camp.
Today the racetrack once again welcomes family and racers to enjoy the sport. Owosso Speedway is one of the premiere short tracks in the state of Michigan featuring constant side by side action and fun for the whole family.
Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in a lighthouse? Well – in Michigan you can have the chance to experience life as a lighthouse keeper.
Mission Point Lighthouse is located at the end of M-37 where the road ends at West Grand Traverse Bay.
The drive along the peninsula is a beautiful one with cherry trees blooming in the spring and vineyards all along the route. Ten wineries make up the wine trail. You can take a few hours or an entire day and enjoy tasting the different wines and enjoying the beautiful views from the vineyards. This drive was listed as one of ten beautiful coastal drives in North America by USA Today.
When a large ship during the 1860’s hit a shallow reef and sank just in front of where the lighthouse now sits, Congress authorized $6,000 to construct the lighthouse. Construction was delayed until 1870 because of the Civil War. From 1870 through 1933, Mission Point’s light kept the waters at the end of Old Mission Peninsula safe for mariners. Decommissioned in 1933 it was replaced with an automatic buoy light just offshore. Today the lighthouse is open to give visitors a look at what life was like for lighthouse keepers who lived around the turn of the century.
There are beautiful views of the Bay and trails through the trees surrounding the lighthouse.
Over the years seven different keepers lived in this house. One keeper, Captain John Lane, worked with his wife, Sarah. Upon his death, she continued to serve at the lighthouse for a few more months being the first and only female keeper in the lighthouse’s history. .
Because of the beautiful beach and surrounding forest with trails, by the turn of the century, visitors began coming. A fence was erected to protect the lighthouse and a wooden walkway was added so visitors could easily access the each and get a good look at the front of the lighthouse.
It is interesting that the lighthouse sits on the 45th parallel or halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.
The lighthouse offers a chance to actually experience life as a lighthouse keeper. You can stay in the lighthouse for a week or more. During that time you will work in the gift shop where you can meet and talk to visitors who come from all over the world.
The quarters is equipped with kitchen appliances, dishes, cooking utensils, small appliances and a washer and dryer. They also provide free WIFI, cable service and central air conditioning. You will be expected to bring your own bed sheets, pillows, blankets, towels and food. There are two single beds and a sleeper sofa in the living room. You will need to be able to limb the 37 steps to the tower where you will need to clean the windows, sweep stairs and vacuum daily.
Training will be given upon arrival. While you will be busy at the lighthouse during the day you will have plenty of time to explore Traverse City and the surrounding area each day after 5 pm and on the one day off allowed during each week’s stay. However, you will be expected to spend each night in the lighthouse.
There is a great demand for this opportunity as many who have tried the program come back each year.
Sound interesting? Check out this link to the lighthouse keeper application.