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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finally: Mackinaw and the U.P.

Last Wednesday we left for our “weekend” trip to Mackinaw City and the U.P. ( U.P. is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).  It was about a three and a half hour drive, so we didn’t break our necks leaving real early, and made a couple of stops along the way. I try to find interesting places to visit along our route as we go along. Our first stop was the Fireman's Memorial in Roscommon, about two hours and ten minutes into the drive.

Designed by Michigan craftsman Edward Chesney, the bronze statue stands 12 feet tall and weighs 2000 pounds. It is dedicated to all the firemen of the state, and has the names of all those who have perished in the line of duty engraved in the walls behind the statue. It was very quiet and peaceful there, and we took a few moments to read the plaques and walk through the fire-fighting apparatus they had on display.
We then drove into the town of Roscommon to find some lunch, and also found the fire training facility and grounds, where they have a Fireman;s Festival for three days every September.

A twenty minute drive to the north found us entering the Hartwick Pines State Park. It was time to stretch the legs and seemed like a good place to take a walk, and wasn't far off the highway. It was certainly beautiful. The story behind the park, from the Michigan DNR website:

"In 1927, Karen Michelson Hartwick purchased over 8,000 acres of land, which included 85 acres of old growth white pine, from the Salling-Hanson Company of Grayling. Mrs. Hartwick was a daughter of Nels Michelson, a founding partner of the Salling-Hanson logging company. A short while later, Mrs. Hartwick donated the land to the State of Michigan as a memorial park to be named for her husband, the late Major Edward E. Hartwick of Grayling. Edward Hartwick had died overseas during World War I. Also wishing to commemorate the logging history of the region and of her family, Karen Hartwick requested that the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum be built in the park.
In 1934 and 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps work crew located within the park built two log structures to house this museum. Today, the museum uses exhibits, artifacts, and photographs, to recreate the atmosphere of a logging camp and tell the tale of the "shanty boys" who turned Michigan's vast forests into timber. Period settings depicting a bunkhouse, mess hall, blacksmith shop, camp office, and van (store) give the visitor a sense of what logging camp life was like."
We stopped at the Visitor Center, and took the mile-long trail through part of the Old Growth forest.One of the few stands of tall timber unfelled exists here, with the tall 150-foot pines in this virgin forest estimated to be around 350 years old. Other hiking trails led to Hartwick Lake and the East Branch Au Sable River, but being that Chelsea still had her stitches and wasn't allowed to get wet, we decided to stay away from the water this trip.

The first part of the trail led through the tall pine trees. I can't even imagine what it must be like to walk through the Sequoias out in California after seeing how tall these pines are.

See how small Al and the dogs look?

This is a small chapel in the forest, that still hosts small weddings and provides a quiet peaceful spot for reflection.

The inside of the chapel

The trails leads to the Logging Museum.  Here, visitors return to the state's 19th-century logging era, when thousands of men cut millions of board feet of lumber and Michigan led the nation in sawed lumber production. Within the forest visitor center and logging camp buildings, exhibits and period rooms tell the stories of the loggers, river men and entrepreneurs who powered Michigan's white pine industry.

And here's a picture of ME, for those of you wondering if I still existed :-). We're standing in front of one of Michigan's giant logging wheels. These were designed in 1875 and eliminated the need for freezing weather to move the logs around. Before they used these giant wheels, the wet mucky forest floor would keep bogging down the log skids, making it necessary for removal of the logs to take place when the ground was frozen. A complete history for anyone interested can be found here. 

After our walk and inspection of the logging museum, we left the Visitor's Center and set out on the 8 mile loop drive through the remote part of the forest. It was interesting, but not much to take pictures of. The only wildlife sightings we had were the white-tail deer, which is something we are definitely familiar with, coming from eastern Long Island :-). We also checked out the campground here, and it was very nice, but we would say big rigs would need to get sights in the center of the campground loops, as the outer edges are really rather short sites. Electric only, with water taps and nice bath houses, and it was a bit buggy also.

Back on the highway, we headed on to Mackinaw City, another hour and ten minutes north. You could tell you were getting further north as the geography was changing to much more heavily forested stretches, exits further apart, and not too much going on at each exit :-). It was very pretty, but I was happy to get checked in for our stay. We stayed at the Best Western Thunderbird Inn, as they were a pet friendly facility and had a suite that we could use. Casey and Chelsea needs their couch for bed time, you know :-). It was nice, but I'd much rather have a small cabin or cottage to stay in, it gives us more room and kitchen facilities. I know, why don't we take our trailer with us? Well, it's all set up for the season, and we'd have alot of stuff to take down and take apart to go on the road just for a couple of nights. It just seems like a better idea to leave it set up here, and have the freedom to roam about on our drives than worry about the size of our rig and if we'd fit in places.

Once we checked in and moved our bags into the room, we left to find downtown Mackinaw and find some dinner. Mackinaw City is a definite tourist town, the gateway to Michigan's U.P., and the southern terminus for the ferries to Mackinac Island. And this seems a good spot to insert an explanation of the two spelling, from the website A Walk in the WoRds:

"Mackinaw vs. Mackinac - Spelling and Pronunciation

A reader recently inquired about the two different versions of spelling Mackinac/Mackinaw in Michigan place names. The following excerpt from a Joe Grimm article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press is a wonderful explanation for the variation in spelling and the proper pronunciation.

How do you say it? It ends in "awe," never "ack". Never, ever. Make Mackinac rhyme with Saginaw. Doesn't that sound nicer? If you simply MUST say "ack", you can call the bridge "The Big Mac." That's the only time you can say "ack".

So, what's with the spelling? Well, it's confusing. So, while we're at it, let's get the spelling right, too.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Bridge
Straits of Mackinac
Fort Michilimackinac
Mackinaw City

Why the confusion? Blame the French. And the British. You can even blame the area's Native Americans. When Europeans got here (the French first), they picked up on all these words spoken by the local people and tried to write them down in their own language.

Are there other Mackinaw things? You bet. A mackinaw can also be cloth or coat made from thick woolen material, pronounced with an "awe."

What does Mackinac - or Mackinaw - even mean? Mackinac - and Mackinaw - are abbreviations for Michinnimakinong. Michinnimakinong is four words mashed together; mish-inni-maki-nong. In English they mean great connecting sound fault land or place. That, of course, is a good way to describe the Mackinac area."
Got that? Allrighty then :-). Mackinaw City is filled with tourist shops, t-shirt shops, ice cream stores, fudge shops, and more fudge shops. In fact, tourists here are commonly referred to as "fudgies", because every single one ends up in a fudge shop, buying fudge :-). Other Michigan terms we've found up here are that those who live in the U.P. refer to themselves as "yoopers" and people who live in the lower peninsula, or "mitten", are called "trolls". Seriously!
So we did our "fudgie" duty, window-shopped, found an outdoor cafe to get some dinner at, and then walked down towards the end of town, at the base of the bridge. Remember, it's light out up here until 10:00pm...it's not too far to the central time zone from here, and I'm having some trouble adjusting to the fact that it stays light so long...I end up staying up too late :-). Anyway, we walked around Michilimackinac State Park, viewing the bridge, the "Mighty Mac" crossing the Straits of Mackinac. For structural information on the bridge, click here. We will be crossing this bridge on Thursday, and for those who know how much I love going over bridges, that should be an adventure ( not!). The last thing for the night, was a walk around the grounds of the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. It was originally built in 1892, and had an attached residence that housed two different families that were keepers of the lighthouse. Its castle-like architecture is unlike any other Great Lakes lighthouse, and was restored in 1910. During the day, tours are available, and the museum is open.
The lighthouse from the road side, with "Mighty Mac" in the distance. The sun had already set, so no great colors, but I like the picture anyway!
The lighthouse from the shore side. You can see the castle-like elements from this angle.

We decided to call it a day at this point. The next day we are headed to Mackinac Island, and that tale will wait for the next blog...as well as the first horse and carriage ride for the dogs :-). Until tomorrow, have a great day!


  1. So glad you are taking time to see the other parts of Michigan. We would do as you are doing and just take the car or truck for a couple of days. It is like going on Vacation:o))

    Can't wait to see more!!

  2. Excellent blog, Karen. You certainly take the time to research all the places that you see and pass it along to us. This has got to be a lot of work....so thank you.
    I think that we, too, would leave the RV behind and spend the nights in a hotel. Too much to break down for just a few days not to mention how restricted you are because of the size of the rigs.
    Can't wait to hear if you liked Mackinac Island. We loved it. Infact, the whole 6 week trip to Michigan was so great, I would do it again tomorrow.Keep up the great blog.

  3. Thanks for the tour and be great pictures. Stay safe.

  4. Great tour, brought back memories of our trip there a few years ago-thanks!

  5. Great tour- glad you are getting some time to enjoy the area.

  6. Great Blog! Very interesting. Trolls huh? Hmmmm sound kind of insulting. Is there a "friendly" rivalry there in Michigan?

    Ironic that a park with a logging museum would have an Old Growth forest as well.

    I remember the ack/awe business when we were there. Reminiscent of the town in Virginia, Staunton pronounced STANTON not StAWEnton.
    Thanks for the explanations.