Throwback Thursday: That Time I Tried to get to Munising & Ended Up in Grand Marais

Pano

So it turns out that roads don’t cross each other in the Upper Peninsula. I discovered this when I decided to wander my way in the general direction of Munising to see waterfalls, with no real timeline or plan except to be back on Mackinac Island when I had to be at work again. I just kept going north, figuring I’d turn west on the next road. That road didn’t exist until Lake Superior appeared in front of me, & then it turned out to be a horrible, rutted logging road that I could only go about 10mph on lest it shake my car to pieces. The first civilization I came to was Grand Marais, a good 45 miles east of Munising.

Grand Marais is nice though. I got to see the Pickle Barrel House, I had the beach pretty much to myself (although I didn’t go swimming – Lake Superior stays about 55° year-round & I’m not crazy). I did get to hike out to a waterfall & to some sand dunes in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. All in all it was a nice little weekend jaunt, just not the one I had in mind when I started.

Just Pretend it’s the Zombie Apocalypse

I’m going to do something uncharacteristic and tell you a little of my personal background.  I’m from Flint, Michigan.  I lived right in the heart of the city for two years, and spent the vast majority of my life in various suburbs of it.  Both of my parents worked there, my grandparents go to church there, I went to college there.  You may have heard of Flint.  Built & then abandoned by car manufacturing, crime & unemployment run high.  It’s been in the top 3 on the U.S. murder rate lists every year for at least a decade.  Lately, Flint has been in the news for having an undrinkable water supply.
Some people seem to think that the people of Flint voted to switch their water supply from Detroit to the Flint River because it was cheaper.  These people don’t know anything about Flint because anyone who lives anywhere near Flint knows that you don’t mess around with the Flint River.  Eighty years of industrial waste, they find bodies in there all the time, you certainly don’t DRINK that.  But our lovely governor Snyder appointed someone who knew jack-all about Flint, the residents, or the river, who had absolute power over the mayor, the city council, and everyone else who had actually been ELECTED to their positions, and HE was the one who made the call to run that filth into people’s homes.  It was every color except clear, little kids started getting rashes, people’s hair was falling out, but no, they said, it’s fine, boil it a little, everything’s alright.  Then they admitted maybe it wasn’t perfect and started giving out filters, but the problems persisted.  FINALLY, after A YEAR AND A HALF of the lucky people filling bathtubs bit by bit with bottled water, filling jugs at friends’ houses outside the city, and the unlucky ones just drinking it because they didn’t have the means to find another source, the powers that be said oops, there might actually be a problem here.
As it turns out, they had to put an awful lot of chemicals in the river water to make it safe to drink, and since nobody bothered to add an anti-corrosive to the mix (like we really need to be drinking that too), it was eating the lead pipes as it made its way into people’s homes.  The filters they gave out don’t remove the lead, and boiling the water only makes the concentrations higher. It’s actually so noxious that the few  factories that remain can’t use it because it destroys their machinery.  Oops indeed.
All that lead is now settled in the systems of thousands of little kids, and there’s no telling what the future holds for them.  They could have developmental and behavioral problems for the rest of their lives because the state wanted to save a little money.  Years from now we’ll be seeing them in mental health clinics, special education programs, and prisons.  They’ve switched the water back to the Detroit source, but the damage is done, the destroyed pipes are still leaching toxins and will have to be entirely replaced.  Who knows how long that will take, or how much it will cost.  The people of Flint can’t afford to fill bathtubs with bottled water, on top of the bills that the city is still charging them for unusable water.
Forget the question of how he still has a job, why isn’t Governor Snyder in JAIL?  If anybody else poisoned an entire city’s water system they’d be labeled a terrorist.  Meanwhile Nestle siphons millions of gallons out of Lake Huron and sells it back to us at obnoxious prices.  It looks like people who can actually fix the problem are finally starting to pay attention, now that Flint is in the media everywhere.  They’ve declared an emergency & sent the National Guard in to hand out bottles of water and filters that actually do work on lead.  U.S. Marshalls have been told to bring the emergency manager to a hearing after he declined Congress’s invitation.  I imagine Snyder will be next.  It only took two years.

These Last Couple of Weeks in Awkwardness

I’m pretty much ready to register for classes next week, right down to which sections I want, which of course means panicking about other people snapping them up before I can get them.  One is already gone, I’ve got enough options to cover for it but if my whole system breaks down I might completely lose it.

For any of my fellow/future college students who might be reading this, I’ve included some links below.  Anyone who signs up with my links gets themselves and me entries for prize money.

Scholarships.com – $1000

Noet – $500

Fastweb – $500

PowerWallet – $2500 sweepstakes that doesn’t really have anything to do with college.

Since I haven’t written anything interesting lately, I’ll leave you with these two photos from when the American Spirit got stuck on a sandbar in the channel between Mackinac & Round Islands while there was a storm going on off to the south.

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Added to the Travel Map:

Splendid China, Kissimmee, Florida – abandoned theme park.

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida – a botanical garden with a carillon, which is apparently a musical instrument using huge brass bells.

Great Blasket Island, Kerry, Ireland – abandoned settlement.

Bunker 42, Moscow, Russia – top-secret hideout built for Stalin himself.  Now you can play laser tag there.

HM-69, Everglades National Park, Florida – A decommissioned Nike missile base.

North Rona Island, Scotland – ruins & whatnot.

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland – ruin on a cliff.

This Month in Awkwardness

A friend of mine took me out geocaching and I’m completely hooked on it.  I’m kind of obsessive and I love collecting things so it’s a pretty perfect hobby.  Lately on my days off I keep thinking that I should go outside but then I think where would I go?  There’s not a lot to this island that I haven’t seen.  Hunting for these little boxes has gone a long way toward getting me back outside, even to places I’ve already been.  There’s a new page listed in the main menu for photos of the geocaches in their natural environments, complete with a map.

Otherwise I’m really just looking forward to Labor Day.  It’s so hot and so crowded right now that it really hinders my ability to do anything remotely fun unless it’s super early in the morning or super late at night.


Geocaching:


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Alanson, MI
Alanson, MI
Inland Waterway Nature Preserve, Alanson, MI.
Inland Waterway Nature Preserve, Alanson, MI.
Sanctuary Island Park, Alanson, MI.
Sanctuary Island Park, Alanson, MI.

Added to the Travel Map:

Obersalzberg, Berchtesgaden, Germany – ruins of Nazi mansions & underground bunkers.

Penn Hills Resort, Analomink, Pennsylvania – abandoned resort.

Château Edmond de Rothschild, Boulogne-Billancourt, France – abandoned mansion.

Destination: Round Island Lighthouse

Round Island is part of Hiawatha National Forest, is entirely uninhabited, and really doesn’t have any tourism to speak of.  Occasionally someone will take a kayak across the channel, or we’ll see a bonfire on the beach, but for the most part it’s pretty forlorn, the lighthouse locked up tight, nobody around.  One day a year the Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, together with Boy Scout Troop 323 of Freeland, Michigan, open it up for tours.  The tour itself is free, but if you don’t have your own way across transportation from Mackinac costs $15.  First they put seven people into a smallish fishing boat, then they transferred us into two inflatable Zodiac rafts.  I wish I’d been wearing lighter pants, I was siting right in the bow and my jeans didn’t get dry the whole time I was there.

Nobody really took care of it from the time it was decommissioned in 1958 until a storm swept away a whole corner of the building in 1972, and people started to realize they might lose it forever.  They kept it from collapsing then but the interior is still in desperate need of reconstruction.  Holes in the walls, holes in the floors, but it’s a beautiful building.  Boy Scouts throughout the building talked about the history all the way up.  The first floor housed the two massive compressors that created steam to run the foghorn, the second and third floors were living quarters for the keeper, his assistant, and their families.  Some of the bedrooms had the foghorn right outside the windows – I’m sure that was fun to sleep through.  On the fourth floor there’s just a ladder up into the lantern room, and from there a tiny hatch opening out onto the deck.

While I was there a woman named Gertie came to the island.  She’s 90 years old, and her father was once the lighthouse keeper.  She spent a handful of summers living here as a girl, and sat for a long time telling us about carrying water up from the lake, the things her sisters found walking the beach, and making whatever fun you could in such a lonely place.  We moved into what had once been her bedroom, and while she spoke a floorboard broke out from under her daughter’s foot.

Going inside Round Island Light is a rare opportunity, and one that I passed up too many times.  I probably spend three hours wandering through it and listening to Gertie’s stories.  It would be nice to see it restored someday, but the money and effort involved with such an undertaking may be too much.  In the meantime we’ll just have to love it as a beautiful ruin.

Destination: Drummond Island

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Drive an hour from St. Ignace, to the very eastern corner of the Upper Peninsula, onto the Drummond Islander IV in De Tour Village, and land in paradise.

Paradise with nobody in it.

Paradise with cool abandoned stuff.

Paradise with lots of trees & wildflowers.

Seriously.

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Ferry passage for a car and the driver is only $14.  It was shocking how much stuff they put on that boat – cars towing boats, fifth-wheel campers, I even saw a semi towing a huge excavator waiting to board.  I spent two nights at the semi-rustic Township Park campground, a spot with electricity is $16/night.  The first night I couldn’t sleep, so I laid awake listening to loons call.  Bring a canoe or kayak if you’ve got one, there’s all sorts of little outlying islands, including Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There’s also plenty of hiking and four-wheeling trails.  A lot of roads on the map unfortunately are signed as private roads, so I couldn’t explore as much as I wanted to :(.  There’s no shortage of services here, the main intersection in town has a grocery store, hardware store, and dry goods shop that all seem to be owned by the same family, and there’s plenty of restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds.  I think the gas station had as wide a variety as our grocery store here on Mackinac.

The Worst Mainland Trip of My Life: A Timeline

11:00 am  – I leave my house with an empty duffle bag intending to catch an 11:30 Star Line ferry to Mackinaw City, and from there to the Wal-Mart in Cheboygan to stock up on groceries.  There’s not a lot of options on the island so most residents make these trips occasionally.

11:16 am – I arrive on the dock and join a conglomeration of lines along with a bazillion other people.  It’s pouring rain so even though it only took me a few minutes to walk through town, my duffle and I are both soaked.

11:28 am – We’re supposed to leave in two minutes and the boat hasn’t even arrived from the mainland yet.

11:40 am – The 11:30 part 1 boat departs.  Since there’s 800 gajillion people trying to take this boat and nobody wants to sit on the exposed top decks because of the weather they’ve actually sent a second boat, but it’s not here yet so I’m still standing in the rain.

11:48 am – I finally board the ferry that was supposed to leave eighteen minutes ago.

11:55 am – The 11:30 part 2 boat casts off.

12:00 pm – Some guy starts clapping & singing, trying to get everyone else to join in.  I find myself desperately missing the boats that only have a handful of locals on them, where everyone is basically asleep.

12:33 – I debate briefly how best to reach my car.  Star Line has a shuttle service, but there’s a lot of people who also want to take it so it might be faster just to walk.  In the end the rain & cold win out and I board the van, telling the driver where I’m going.

12:45 – The shuttle driver has dropped off everyone else, I think I must be next but he appears to be driving in circles.  He’s going through all of Star Line’s outlying lots, so I figure he’s looking for other people to pick up as he makes his way to my destination.

12:50 – The driver stops to pick up someone, as he gets back on from bringing in her luggage he turns to me & says “I’m sorry, was I supposed to drop you off somewhere?”

12:55 pm – I reach my car, fully two hours after I first left the house.

2:30 pm – Having finished my shopping, I park my car and call for the shuttle to bring me back to the dock.  I had debated with myself here as well, but I wanted to make the 3:00 boat and it was still raining, so I decided again not to walk.

2:50 pm – I call the shuttle again, as nobody ever came the first time.

2:55 pm – The shuttle finally arrives.  It only takes a couple of minutes to get back through town and since the last boat left so late I figure I’ll probably still make it.  The shuttle stops to pick up someone else; when I ask if we’ll make the 3:00, the driver says we will.

3:02 pm – The shuttle pulls up to the dock right at the moment the boat is pulling away from it.  I watch it disappear into the fog, wondering why they this departure had to be the only one to ever leave on time and if my frozen food will still be frozen by the time I get it home.

3:15 pm – I rescue my cookies from my duffle bag so they won’t be obliterated by having a bunch of other people’s stuff thrown on top of them.

3:45 pm – I board the returning ferry and take a seat next to a window, the sill of which contains a puddle of rainwater and approximately 1,387 dead bugs.  Water keeps dripping on me but at that point I couldn’t get any wetter so I keep my seat.

4:04 pm – After an hour sitting around listening to Star Line employees gossip about Tinder and wondering if my glass jars of spaghetti sauce will still be intact after being manhandled by the luggage crew, I am finally heading back across the Straits.

4:25 pm – Having reached the island I find my bag buried under two others.  It’s not raining anymore but it’s still cold, and rather than park the luggage carts in the shelter they’ve left them out on the wet dock in the wind.  Aside from the couple of hotel porters milling around snagging the handful of pieces going to their respective properties, nobody is doing anything to take the luggage off or see that people get their bags.  I end up chucking the top bags off myself to get my stuff and get out of there.  By some miracle my food is still intact and relatively frozen.

This Week (OK More Like This Month) in Awkwardness

I completed my application to become a student at the University of South Florida in the winter.  o_O   I still have to send them some test scores & transcripts but Phase 1 is out of the way.

Mostly I’ve spent these last couple weeks getting back into the swing of island life.  Recently I’ve realized that crazy weather is one of my favorite things about this place.  Arizona got dull because it was the same every day; blue skies and sunshine get old after a while.  Here, you can wake up in sunshine and walk to work in fog, a wild storm will come out of nowhere followed by an incredible rainbow, it might snow in the morning and then be blazing hot by afternoon.  This time of year is especially rocky.  Every once in a while it decides to be spring for a day, but mostly it’s still winter.  The early trees are just barely budding, and it occasionally bursts out raining with almost no warning.  30 miles south of here it’s summer.  But I love it, and for some reason the tourists keep coming through the wind and fog to spend their money on sweatpants and winter coats once they get here so I guess it’s all good.

A rainbow in a harbor with storm clouds in the background. Mackinac Island, MI, USA. Shutterstock(R): 166408127 R iStock: 31374616 4 Sales

Prints of this photo can now be purchased here.


Book (Re)Finished:

Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals.

Melba Patillo was fifteen when she was chosen as one of nine African-American students to be the first to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  I read it a few years ago and picked it up again after I visited Central.  Her first-person account of that year is stunning.  For me, growing up 40 years later in the north, the extreme reaction she describes white citizens having to the very idea of school integration is almost unfathomable.  Racism is alive and well in Michigan, but to think that a whole city could care SO MUCH about someone’s skin color that they would hold riots and call out the National Guard to keep a few teenagers out of school is just bizarre.  Anyway it’s a good book and you should read it.


Added to the Travel Map:

Jiayuguan Fortress, Jiayuguan, China – Guards the western end of the Great Wall.

Reykjadalur, Hveragerði, Iceland – beautiful river valley with steaming geothermal pools.

Rutland State Park, Rutland, Massachusetts – contains the ruins of an abandoned prison.

Appuldurcombe House, Isle of Wight, England – abandoned manor house said to be the most haunted site on the island.

Deutsche Demokratische Republik Museum, Berlin, Germany – dedicated to the communist East German police state.

The Totalitarian Art Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands – covers the art & design styles of communist states.

Montemor-o-Novo Castle, Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal – abandoned ruin.

Wistman’s Wood National Nature Reserve, Devon, England – a beautiful wild forest.

Museum of KGB Cells, Tartu, Estonia – original holding rooms in the basement of what was once a KGB headquarters.

Bay of Nouadhibou, Nouadhibou, Mauritania – people just abandon ships here for some reason, so there’s wrecks laying around all over the place.

If you haven’t noticed by now, today’s list should make really obvious my bizarre fascination with all things Communist.  Not that I AM a Communist (although I don’t think it would matter if I was), I just get caught up in things that are so completely different from anything I’m familiar with.  North Korea is my ultimate goal of state-controlled weirdness, although I doubt I’ll ever be brave enough to actually go there.  In lieu of a country where they take your phone on arrival and don’t let you go anywhere without a chaperone, I keep finding European museums centered on the Soviet Union and East Germany, or Cold War sites right here at home.