Grand Traverse Lighthouse


Along the northwest shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Bay formed by the mainland and the Lelanau Peninsula. At the tip of the Lelanau Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse marking the opening to the Grand Traverse Bay. This lighthouse has guided ships since it was built in 1858, now with an automatic light tower.

I wanted to photograph the lighthouse from a different perspective so I walked toward the beach. The beach was a surprise and provided a quiet retreat for the few minutes I wandered through the paths. I love the diversity of beach along the more than 3,000 miles of Great Lake beach front in Michigan.20160916-dsc_0099


By the Sea, By the Sea…

“By the sea, By the sea, By the beautiful sea; You and me, You and me, Oh how happy we’ll be.” There is a song, I think from the 20’s, with this line – and this is about all I can remember from when my mother was playing the “oldies” in the 40’s & 50’s.

WP Weekly Photo Challenge is “Sea” and we are by a sea that we don’t see very often – the Pacific. How different from the Great Lakes’ Shorelines and the Gulf Coast of Florida. We don’t normally see a rocky beach.

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The sea smell is different and this surprises me because I spend time near the salt water Gulf of Mexico. Where we are now has a stronger smell of fish and seaweed and salt. I always take in great big, deep breaths when I am close to large bodies of water and the smell feels familiar to me even if it isn’t.

There also is a lot of driftwood where we are in Northwest Washington.

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I remember when I wanted to decorate our yard with driftwood, big pieces that had washed up on the the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shores. I really wanted them but J. didn’t think hauling it up from the beach and then transporting it home was a good idea. I think he remembers too, because he asked if I wanted to take some home when we passed a big pile of it today. He must be confident that 30-some years have cured that crazy obsession. I am finding it a little tempting because there is so much of it on the beach here, and he has a bigger truck bed…

A similarity between the Pacific coast and the other coasts I love is the presence of lighthouses. Michigan has a lot of them and I have collected pictures of several. Yesterday I took this picture of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse that operated from 1860-1903.

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Next to the lighthouse is a bunker with big guns – at first we assumed they were from WWII but these were actually built in 1906 and decommissioned in 1951. The forts were built to protect the passage to the Bremerton Navel Ship Yards across the Puget Sound from Seattle. I am uncomfortable with war and the machinery of war, but then remembered that Michigan has forts on it’s “seas” although from an earlier period and made of logs. I guess each country has to protect it’s borders from other people who don’t play nice and that includes invasion by “sea”. As I have gotten older and know more I realize that there aren’t many time when it is easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys – history books are biased by who is telling the story. Did I say I don’t like war?

I am in a peaceful, happy mood today so enough about war and forts. I offer you the “sea” version of the peace dove.

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But even these have stolen a pork chop from my grill and a slice of pizza from my hand. Life is messy.

Upper Peninsula

Friend Natalie needed to go back to Escanaba where she grew up and wanted someone to go with her to help with the driving. I jumped at the chance. Escanaba is in Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula, on the far north shore of Lake Michigan, almost to Wisconsin. How nice that my trip was just in time for Frizz’s weekly alphabet challenge that is all the way up to “U”. I don’t think there is anywhere on earth that is like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

View of bridge from the Lower Peninsula.

View of bridge from the Lower Peninsula.

I had two goals for this trip. The first was to capture Natalie’s growing up places in photographs because she was going to the memorial service for a couple who were killed in a car accident. These were people she had known forever and were her last ties to Escanaba. I couldn’t accomplish this because the pieces of her old life – her home, her school – had all changed too much. It had been well over half a century. Natalie drove around and showed me places as she was remembering them fondly in her minds eye. “This was where…” Going back and remembering sometimes is an important part of moving on. So is realizing that things aren’t the same any more. That can hurt a little.

My second goal was to capture the personality of the U.P. We took many summer camping vacations to the upper peninsula when the kids were young so this wasn’t my first trip. Even though I’ve been this way before, I still feel an excitement deep within, experience a sense of wonder when I go across the Mackinac (pronounced Machinaw) bridge. Natalie and I agreed that it feels like a different world. It has a special personality created by its geography.

It is almost an island, but not. Along the south are Lake Huron and Lake Michigan with just a small wet border with Canada on the east. The Sault (pronounced Sue) Lockes between Sault Ste. Marie Canada and Sault Ste. Marie Michigan provide passage for ships between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, important because it then allows shipping of natural resources to Chicago and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean. The northern border of the UP is the shore of Lake Superior. The only land connection is the western border with Wisconsin.

I think most Yoopers (people who live in the UP or moved away after growing up there) feel a stronger connection with Wisconsin than with Michigan. There is a political, social, and economic disconnect between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. A part of that disconnect is the Straits of Machinac. This strait has strong, turbulent currents but it can freeze over if not kept open by the Coast Guard for shipping. The only way to cross was by car ferry until 1957 when the bridge was opened – it is the only physical connection between the two peninsulas. The 5-mile long bridge is frequently closed because of high winds, making it frightening for some people to drive. The bridge authority provides a driver service for those too anxious to drive themselves. On both days we drove the bridge there were calm winds. Even so, when I drove on the inside grated lane I could feel the car move because of the updraft.

Mackinac Bridge from Highway 2

Mackinac Bridge from Highway 2

The personality of the UP is defined, in large part for me, by Lake Superior. It is deep, it is big, it is clear, it is really cold all year, and it can be wild. Sink ships kind of wild. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald? – a ballad was written about it. Maybe it is a Michigan phenomenon but we look on Lake Superior with awe. Lake Superior produces a lot of snow – measured in feet kind of snow. And spring comes late – the trees were just starting to leaf out in the middle of May.

A stop at the Cut River Bridge on US 2

A stop at the Cut River Bridge on US 2

I don’t have photos of our many trips to Lake Superior where we scouted fire trails and lost roads for ghost towns – towns that flourished at the height of the copper mining era but then died. Sometimes these ghost towns were just foundations overgrown with weeds, sometimes the company towns looked like the people had recently left. There are lots of signs of past prosperity from logging and mining. Now people work hard to make a living from logging, fishing, farming and tourism. Last week-end the area was just waking up from the long hibernation of winter.

Here are photographs that seem to capture some of the personality of the UP. The slide show can be viewed by clicking on any photo that will also provide captions and information.

Natalie and I laughed because there seems to be Michigan time and Upper Peninsula time.  No one seemed to be in a hurry. Of course the marinas were empty and many of the business weren’t open yet because tourist season doesn’t start until after school is out for the summer. I hope the tourists will feel the difference, will take a deep breath of the air that smells so much fresher, and will let go of the stress that builds up “below the bridge.” Maybe they can open the car windows and let the wind blow it away as they are crossing.

Anther way you can unwind is to wander over to Frizz’s place and check out other entries. Here’s the spot: