TOPIC: June 23rd
== 1 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 12:55 pm
Here is the 3rd day report of our trip. Some days will be much
shorter and a few will be longer. I would guess the average will run
around 2 pages - a lot of writing.
I arose early on the June 23rd and took a walk down to the shores of
Lake Huron while Monica slept in. The long drive of the previous day
had left her extremely tired. She had done most of the driving as I
moaned and groaned in the passenger seat. I knew that if she built
up a fatigue/sleep debt, her enjoyment of the trip would trail off.
Our western pilgrimage would become a driving endurance marathon,
and Monica’s vacation would quite literally be ruined. I had no
intention of promoting that situation by surrendering to my
impatient streak to over-drive the day – a residue of my high
testosterone days. Besides, I had given Monica my solemn promise
that this trip would not be a repeat of the past two, which did
include driving marathons, albeit by her standards rather than mine.
On the walk down to the shore of Lake Huron, a few mosquitoes
harassed me and reminded me of just how much I dislike the little
beggars, but on the shore of the Lake, it was bug free and I could
walk slowly over the wet sand following the edge of the almost
completely calm water.
As I meandered along, I thought contemplatively about what a
giant body of water like Huron contributed to a variety of earthly
inhabitants, including ones that fly, swim, and crawl. I also
thought about what the lake had meant to early human inhabitants and
what it means to our species today. I had to acknowledge to myself
that over the centuries, the lake had filled many roles, most of
which I would never really know despite our expanding knowledge of
aquatic environments. I knew that beneath its still surface,
water-born creatures lived out lives undisturbed by events in the
above surface world that I knew. I also understood that despite the
calm of its surface, which I was enjoying at that moment, Huron
could turn fierce. Its tranquil waters experienced visually from the
sandy beach were deceptive. The calm of the moment held little hint
of churning waters that could toss around and rip apart small
vessels as easily as one could snap matchsticks between one’s
finger s and then scatter them in all directions.
A sudden tempest could arise and with little forewarning gentle
waters could turn deadly. Many a mariner has been sent to a watery
grave on Huron. I could only imagine facing one’s end in a series
of terror-filled moments with one’s attention oscillating between
catching the next precious, life-sustaining breath and fleeting
visions of a life about to end. Yes, Huron had exacted its toll, and
for me, that cast those placid waters in a different light – a
complex, Jekyll to Hyde aquatic personality. I walked on.
I had waited patiently two years for a real re-communing with the
Great Lakes. In the early morning light, the silent, multi-hued
waters extended to a band where rays of sun sparkled and then a
return to darker bands. The visual experience was one that I would
file in the recesses of my memory to be recalled at later dates when
my mood called for such recollections.
I continued to puzzle over the lake’s capacity to change moods
from the sublime to the deadly. How does one comprehend such
quixotic behavior when viewing from a distance? If one lives daily
with great waters, does one develop a love-hate relationship with
them? Does one learn to live matter-of-factly with an inner
awareness that the lake is the source of a daily livelihood, but
will one day become the instrument of a violent death? I felt drawn
to the power of the lake, yet I intended to keep my distance.
After a few more steps, the sound of gulls diverted my attention.
I glanced at my watch. I returned to the motel intending to rouse
Monica if she still slept, but she was up and it was breakfast time.
A simple bowl of cereal out of our trustworthy cooler was all each
of us needed to stoke our internal furnaces. Then we drove to a
parking area in the little park I had just walked in for a brief
commune with Huron before leaving the Port Huron area. Monica
walked, looked, and walked some more. Was she becoming a convert?
As we headed north from Port Huron, we agreed to proceed on the
Great Lakes Circle tour that follows the shores of Lake Huron. The
scenic route afforded us frequent opportunities to view the bright
blue waters of the lake and feel its expansiveness and dominance
over the land. It was at least an equal partner with the spacious
sky, both areas mostly free of people. I felt that we were being
honored by a waterscape presented to us by one of the greatest of
freshwater lakes, a lake that could swallow Massachusetts, Vermont,
and Connecticut, and have enough surface area remaining to cover
At one small state park, we learned of a great white quartzite
rock that once protruded slightly above the waters about a half mile
off shore. It had been a landmark and the subject of a treaty with
Native Americans. Only a small part of the rock remained visible. It
seems that the Air Force had used the historic marker for bombing
practice and over the course of many years had succeeded in blowing
most of it apart.
When I read the explanation on the accompanying historic marker,
I cringed. The collective testosterone of my former employer
disappointed me. Was not the military mind capable of seeing natural
land features, especially those with a historical value, as more
than mere targets to blow asunder? Sadly, the answer is no, except
for a few visionaries, or when the military is forced to acquiesce
to higher powers, but in the case of a simple rock, the powers had
not interceded. Huron’s loss was our loss.
An attendant story about the rock and its power was offered on
the marker. Evidently, at sometime in the past, white settlers
decided to hold a square dance on the rock. The whites were warned
by local Indians. It would be dangerous to hold such an event on the
rock. To the Indians, the rock was not only sacred, but held special
powers. As the account goes, all but one of the whites ignored the
warnings of the Indians and rowed out to the rock. At some point in
the square dance, a sudden storm brewed. A lightning bolt hit the
rock and killed all square dancers, leaving alive only the single
person who wisely chose not to ignore the Indians’ advice.
We had lunch at another lakeshore park. We had to pay to get in,
but it was worth the price. There were dunes and a small
semi-wetland with a trail to the water’s edge. After our lunch, we
took the trail. Wildflowers, native grasses, birds, and butterflies
gave the place an ambiance like none of the previous sites. Monica
was pleased. The abundance of shore life and niche-based ecosystems
seemed to comfort her, presenting an alternative to being thrust to
the edge of a seemingly endless expanse of water that wasn’t a
substitute for the ocean – one of her favorite natural features.
We eventually had to make a decision driven by our loose
schedule. As we headed west and away from Huron’s shores, I felt
Monica was beginning to embrace the Great Lakes, to provide a spot
for them in her thinking about bodies of water. She was clearly
making an effort to assimilate her individual experiences. Would
that lead to a harmonious role for the Great Lakes in her life? We
hadn’t reached that point. The educated part of Monica already
knew their importance, naturally, historically, and socially. It was
turning into an exercise of developing a heart rather than a head
Moving away from the environment of the lake, we re-entered the
domain of the forest as we reached I-75 and headed north. We would
flirt with the forest and then return to the lake. Our final
destination for day was the lower peninsula of Michigan and a
rendezvous with the northern shores of Lake Michigan. It would be
Monica’s third Great Lake of our journey and one I had promised
would provide her with a defining experience.
As we drove through the northern part of Michigan’s lower
peninsula, the landscape was pleasant. The mix of second-growth red
and white pines stood conspicuously out from the assortment of oaks
and maples. The woods were slightly more open than a typical New
England second-growth forest. It is hard for me to pin down the
overall feel I got. The air was slightly less humid. The
surroundings had a “pre-northern woods” feel.
As we sped on, I felt a sudden need to hear Rachmaninoff’s
second symphony, which Monica had bought for me in preparation for
our trip. Monica slid it into the car’s CD player and I began to
absorb the essence of the landscape as it was passed through the
cascade of symphonic notes. I would interpret the spirit of the land
through the moods that the composer wove into his second symphony
– a symphony that, for me, probes the depths of the soul, calls on
fate, as it is developed in its first three movements; it provides
the taste of victory, the emotions of defeat. In movement #4 the
feeling of triumph ultimately emerges from earthly toils and the
listener is given a glimpse of life through the veil. My humble
interpretation is that the arduous earth journey of a soul is, in
the end, worth the struggle.
As the symphony progressed from movement to movement, it seemed as
if my whole life was being replayed in the billowing white clouds
above us. I saw faces in the clouds. I acknowledged to myself that I
had entered a suspended state, somewhere between the past and the
future, but not the present, except for brief interludes. I was
aware of Monica at my side and thought of the long string of events
that had brought us together, of the loss of one wife and the
gaining of another, of the long struggles of my son, of the part of
me that needed to understand the complex web of events evaluated
from a higher perch. The symphony ended as we reached a rest stop.
As we stopped and walked to the visitor center, I briefly commented
to Monica on my view of the composer’s achievement and its effect
on me. She seemed slightly surprised, as if to indicate that the
symphonic work might not have had the same impact on her, yet I
believe a deeper part of her understood where I was coming from.
After all, we were together in that place.
Moving onward, we approached the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We
also approached Michigan’s 5-mile long Mackinaw Bridge, third
longest suspension bridge in the world. The Mackinaw is the
engineering marvel that separates Lower Michigan from the UP. Monica
had not crossed the bridge before and I was anxious for her to
experience the visuals and the attendant feelings that a trip across
the bridge can invoke. As we drove higher and higher onto the
super-structure, the experience was not disappointing to her as the
waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron intermingled below us. Beneath
the sturdy pilings of the huge bridge, one great body of water shook
hands with the other, both proud remnants of a once unimaginably
immense ice field.
I will end this chapter with a few observations about the UP.
When one crosses the Mackinaw Bridge, one is officially in the Upper
Peninsula. Over most of its 300-mile width, the UP is a place with a
distinctly different feel from the Lower Peninsula, even on the most
northern portions of the LP. People in the UP call themselves “Yoopers”.
They move at a slower, more deliberate pace. They are basically
friendly people and they are intentionally country. Monica would get
a better glimpse of UP life on the following day. Once on the Upper
Peninsula, we followed the northern shore of Lake Michigan following
Michigan State Route #2. We only covered about seven miles before we
reined it in at the picturesque Balsam Motel and its adjacent
Cabins. The motel also owned property across Route #2 right on the
shore of Lake Michigan. A small gazebo for guests overlooking the
lake provided a more imported rather than native cultural twist to
the spot. It was charming.
We had completed the day’s driving assignment and were ready to
rest. The only drawback to our spot was the sounds of Route #2. It
is surprisingly busy, but our accommodations were otherwise very
comfortable and we rested well, once I successfully trapped and
squashed a noisy fly that had been systematically buzzing our heads.
Had it been a nice, quiet little fly, it would have lived to perform
its “insectly” duties to include occasionally buzzing new room
occupants, but its unrelenting peskiness led to its demise. I felt
no sense of guilt.
== 2 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 2:02 pm
From: "Edward Frank"
Another nice installment of the adventures of you and Monica. There
is a small city park along the lake shore on the southern end of the
Mackinaw Bridge. There are a couple of informative signs. When I
last visited a few kids were bravely splashing in the very cold
water. here is an old lighthouse located at the park, with an
admission fee of course. From the beach area you can walk underneath
the actual superstructure of the bridge. Pretty cool. Did you stop
at the tourist information /visitors center just across the bridge
on the north end of the bridge?
== 3 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 3:10 pm
I didn't stop this time, but did the first time I crossed the bridge
in the late 1990s.
== 4 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 4:05 pm
From: the Forestmeister
And, when this is made into an Indie film, who should be the actors?
Come on everyone, nominate who you think should play Bob. <G>
== 5 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 4:44 pm
From: "Edward Frank"
I am kind of torn between Paul Reubens and Sean Connery.
== 6 of 6 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 5:20 pm
You've really put a challenge out there to our Ent brothers and
sisters. Who qualifies as a stand-in for old Burl-belly? Well, to do
the job right, the choice must have the right physical form, be
obsessive about tree measuring, not only like, but actually need,
watermelon for survival, speak with a half southern and a half
unrecognizable accent, and be able to talk to trees and get them to
TOPIC: June 23rd
== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Thurs, Aug 7 2008 5:13 am
From: the Forestmeister
Well, after reviewing a long list of movie stars, past and present-
couldn't find one that closely resembles Burl-belly, so it would
to be a character actor, one that can play many different roles and
change his appearance to do so- one that has a sense of humor and
act REAL excited when he sees a big, beautiful tree- I have chosen
Robin Williams, who could easily do the Tennessee accent, mimic
story telling shtick and just imagine Williams when he sees that
giant, ancient, gorgeous tree! (and Williams comes with a built in
rolly polly belly)
== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Thurs, Aug 7 2008 5:48 am
Good choice, if I do say so. One thing though, I don't have that
tummy anymore. Yes, alas, the burl-belly is gone, victim of my long
battle with Shingles and the nerve damage aftermath. Now I'm purty
as a picture!
== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Thurs, Aug 7 2008 3:57 pm
From: Lee Frelich
Rachmaninoff symphony #2 is also one of my favorites to play during
drive across the northwoods. I just did it yesterday.
I crossed the Big Mac Bridge once when the winds were from the west
mph and they were enforcing a special low speed limit by sending
across the bridge at 25 mph. Huge waves were passing perpendicularly
the bridge, which gave an strange unsettled feeling to the trip.
I don't know what you are going to say about Lake Michigan, but its
more schizophrenic than Lake Huron. More ships have sunk there, and
people have died than on all four other lakes combined, and it
into tornado and derecho territory too. Last Monday's derecho hit
with 90 mph winds, crossed the lake and hit Michigan City Indiana
winds of 80-100 mph. These derechos have capsized many boats that
stop and turn to point into the wind.
PS--I hope the derecho missed Warren Woods.
TOPIC: June 23rd
== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Aug 8 2008 7:01 am
From: Elisa Campbell
Do any of you know Stan Rogers song, White Squall, about a person
overboard by a squall? It's a wonderful song.
White Squall Lyrics (2.5 KB)
Printer Friendly Version
[The town of Wiarton is situated at the mouth of one of the deepest
ports. For years, over 30% of the Captains and First Mates employed
on the Lakes came from this quiet fishing town in the Bruce
are very few families in the town, even now, who have not lost a
relative to the fury of the lakes.]
== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Aug 8 2008 9:03 am
My observations of Lake Michigan will largely be based on a
landlubbers perspective - one who makes his pronouncements looking
at the lake from its shores. We would welcome any thoughts you might
care to share describing the full power of the lake.
I cringe at the thought of all the population around the Lake
Michigan, but perhaps that 4th largest fresh water lake (by surface
area) has proven to be large and resilient enough to handle human
encroachment. What are the current threats to the lake as you
understand them? How well is the lake doing?
== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Aug 8 2008 9:30 am
The U.S. Senate just passed legislation preventing diversion of
water from the Great Lakes to states not bordering the Great Lakes.
The house needs to pass it and the President has supported it.
Invasive species are a problem. Zebra mussels continuously clog up
municipal drinking water and electric utility intake and wastewater
treatment discharge pipes. Their sharp shells wash up on nearby
beaches making them unusable.
Invasive animals like alewives, round goby, sea lamprey, Eurasian
ruffe, and spiny/fishhook waterfleas are messing up the ecosystems
causing a reduction in native fish populations.
On a side note, we had a seiche on this end of Lake Michigan a few
weeks ago with 20" water differential.
== 4 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Aug 8 2008 3:32 pm
From: Lee Frelich
Paul has done a good job describing the threats, except for global
which could lower the water level due to increased evaporation.
Other than the invasive species, at this point the lake seems to be
very well, certainly better than 30 years ago. Chicago has reversed
flow of the Chicago River, so that pollution from the lake's biggest
does not go into the lake (it goes into the Mississippi via the
Sanitary Canal, and contributes to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone
The lake has several hundred miles of wild shoreline in public
and the water is still robin's egg blue to cover up the 3000
its bottom. Even the cities on the lakes edge mostly have parkland
their Lake Michigan shoreline.
== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Aug 8 2008 4:00 pm
From: DON BERTOLETTE
While working at the other end of Lake Michigan as a youngster, I
recall the 'tide' brought about by high pressure storms over Lake
Michigan. Would they have been more appropriately referred to as
Speaking of walls of water, our own Turnagain Arm here near
Anchorage is known for its 'bore tides' (up to 6 foot surfable
standing walls of water). Yesterday's paper had a brief article
about a smaller one that a surfer missed and ended up being sucked
back into Cook Inlet, to be rescued several hours later.