When the Gales of November Came Early – 44 Years Ago (Repost)

Every November 10, I reblog my post on the Edmund Fitzgerald. 44 years seems like a long time to most of us, but to the families of the crew lost, it must seem like yesterday.
Ever since I moved to Michigan, and especially since I have now been to Whitefish Point and seen the bell and the other ephemera at the Shipwreck Museum, it is even more poignant.
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on the story. It would be especially interesting to hear your memories.

 

November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Than THESE in the Bush

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For the past several years, one of the main items on my “bucket list” has been to attend one of the Michigan Audubon trips to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan in the winter. We had signed up a number of times, but something had always come up to keep us from going on the trip. I was determined that this winter, we were going to make the trip and see some terrific birds.

 

Let me tell you a little about winter in Michigan. If you follow my blog, you know that this has been an extraordinarily cold and snowy winter. We’ve had temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit on multiple occasions. While this is definitely not preferred weather for the human species, it’s perfect for some of the boreal species of birds. These birds are at home in the very far north of Canada and Alaska. This year, nothing was going to stop us – and it didn’t.

Snowy Rid

Snowy Ride

We left Friday morning for Sault Saint Marie “the Soo.” There were several snow squalls along the way, but it made for a picturesque, albeit a bit dodgy, ride. I was glad that my Michigan-born husband was behind the wheel.

The BIG Bridge

The BIG Bridge

The ride across the Mackinac Straits over the big bridge was uneventful (thank goodness). The huge chunks of ice attest to the temperatures we’ve seen this winter. I have, however, seen old photos where the Straits have completely frozen and people have been able to walk from Mackinaw Island right to the mainland.

Talk about ICE

Talk about ICE

The Audubon trip started the next morning with us all meeting at the local McDonalds. The weather was quite cold (in the single digits – Fahrenheit – and low 10s), but it was gorgeously clear and sunny. As we spent most of the time in the car, the cold and wind only got to us when we got out to scan for birds or to set up scopes and get our binoculars on some pretty darned spectacular birds. Let me explain here that most of these birds are rare for our part of the country. Most of our targets were boreal species which rarely venture out of the heavily forested, far northern part of Canada.

Pine Grosbeaks!

Pine Grosbeaks!

 

Pine Grosbeaks!

Pine Grosbeaks!

One of our first stops was at feeders at a Michigan State University station. Here is where I first saw the Pine Grosbeaks that I had so dearly hoped to see. There weren’t just one or two birds – there were lots of them. The males are a gorgeous bright red with gray wings. These birds are regularly seen in the UP, but these were my first ever. They are quite confiding, and had little worry about so many humans standing around. (Our group was comprised of approximately 15 birders and Skye – our guide extraordinaire.)

Grosbeaks!

Grosbeaks!

Other birds that rarely venture into the Lower Peninsula are Redpolls. We were lucky enough to see several flocks of Common Redpolls, and more than a few Hoary Redpolls thrown into the mix.

Redpoll

Redpoll

The real focus of the trip, though, was owls. There had been several Snowy Owls reported as well as Northern Hawk Owl and the ever-elusive Great Gray Owl.

 

There was a lot of driving involved in our “owl-prowl.” We covered lots of territory without seeing any owls at all. I have to say that I was surprised at how many ravens we saw. Ravens are not at all common in the Lower Peninsula so seeing those was a treat. We also got the rare opportunity to see a dark-phase, Rough-Legged Hawk. What a beautiful bird! It was almost solid black except for a band of white through its wings.

Great Gray Owl (thanks to Jeromy Hakyl)

Great Gray Owl (thanks to Jeremy Halka)

We did finally luck out in that another birder who was reporting in on the internet found the Great Gray Owl. We made a hasty caravan back to the area in which it had been seen. Fortunately, the reporting birder was still in the area and told us exactly where to look. Sure enough! There he was – sitting comfortably in a tree not more than 40 feet from us. As mentioned earlier, there are some birds which are not around humans very much, so they do not fear us. Great Gray Owls fall into that category. As you can see in these spectacular photos, we didn’t perturb the bird at all. Let me mention right here that these photos were actually taken on cellphones. Yes, I’m serious. A terrific young student named Jeremy Halka (who was fighting a terrible cold but still came out) patiently focused cellphone cameras over and over to get us these terrific shots. He had figured out how to use the camera on a cellphone to take photos through our spotting scopes. This brings bird photography to a completely new level for most of us.

Great Gray Owl (gorgeous photography by Jeremy Halka)

Great Gray Owl (gorgeous photography by Jeremy Halka)

After we had all spent many cold minutes observing and photographing the Great Gray, he flew off to hunt for his next snack. We all piled happily into our vehicles and the caravan was off again. This time, we were heading back to the area we had hastily left in search of the Great Gray Owl. We hoped against hope that the Northern Hawk Owl that had been seen in the area was still there. It was!

 

Northern Hawk Owl (Jeremy Halka)

Northern Hawk Owl (Jeremy Halka)

Perched in the very top of a pine tree, our sharp-eyed leader found the Northern Hawk Owl surveying the snow-covered farm land around it. Another amazingly beautiful bird. I understand completely how this bird was named. He does look like a hawk and an owl, combined.

Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl (Photo by Jeremy Halka)

Once again, we were able to get some terrific photos thanks to Jeremy and his patience.

 

By this time, it’s getting to be late afternoon, and we are all pretty tired from fighting the cold. Our last destination was an area where Snowy Owls were commonly seen. I have to say, THIS was the bird that I’d been most hoping to get a good look at. I’d been looking forward to this for so long. The Great Gray was such a surprise, I had no long-term expectations. The Snowy, on the other hand, well I knew chances were good.

A little aside here… Jim and I had actually seen a Snowy Owl before, so it wasn’t a “life bird.” However, the only looks we’d ever had were through a spotting scope of an owl sitting down in a field several hundred yards away. It was also cold and very windy that day and there was snow-shimmer. Yes, we saw the top of the owl’s head and its feathers moving, but hardly the kind of observation we longed for. We had also gotten in the car and driven miles and miles on many occasions to try to see Snowy Owls that had been reported. Every time, we were unsuccessful (skunked in fishing/birding terms).

First Time to REALLY see a Snowy Owl!

First Time to REALLY see a Snowy Owl!

I can’t truly explain the absolute joy I felt when we stopped at our first sighting of a gorgeous Snowy Owl (either female or juvenile due to the dark spots – an adult, male Snowy is almost completely white). Let’s just say I’m not sure the car had come to a complete stop and the door remained wide open. Oh my GOODNESS!!!! What an amazingly beautiful bird! We had hit the owl “trifecta!” As we left this owl (I believe all but a very few of us had been able to get good looks at Snowy Owls before), we were blessed to see three more in rapid succession. I begged a stop at the second one as I had not been able to get a good photo of the first. The group was very considerate and we piled out, once again, to observe yet another juvenile or female owl.

jeremySnowy

Snowy Owl (photo by Jeremy Halka)

After leaving that owl and seeing the other two flying and at some distance, we called it a day. The cold and the exhilaration had taken it out of all of us. We caravanned back to the McDonalds and made plans to meet up again the next morning at 7.

Yep! That's MINUS 24 Fahrenheit! (-31 Celsius)

Yep! That’s MINUS 24 Fahrenheit! (-31 Celsius)

Sunday morning dawned clear, bright, and exceedingly cold. As most of the group were planning to head back “down state – home” later in the day, there were a larger number of cars in our caravan. Instead of driving this time, though, we rode with Sault Saint Marie resident, Doris. We were so grateful to her for driving in such inhospitable weather. It definitely was the coldest I’d ever been in. Yes, it was 24 BELOW zero Fahrenheit! I had to laugh when I found out that Doris grew up in Florida just like I did. What were two southern girls doing in -24F with snow up to our derrieres? Birding! That’s what we were doing. Must be some form of “sickness.”

 

Our first stop brought us a tree full of Sharp-tailed Grouse. The snow was so deep that they weren’t dancing on their lek.

Tree Full of Sharp-Tailed Grouse

Tree Full of Sharp-Tailed Grouse

How deep was the snow? It was so deep that the cattle could have easily stepped over their fencing. They were standing on top of it as it had gotten so packed down that they weren’t sinking in. I’ve never seen anything like it. I have to say, that the snowmobilers were having fabulous weather for their races, but I don’t think any of us were properly dressed for the extremes we encountered.

 

After leaving the grouse, we headed back to an area where Boreal Chickadee had been reported. If you read my blogs about our trip to the UP this summer, you know that we had looked all over to hopefully find Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay. For the first time on the trip, we didn’t see the bird we hoped to see. There were lots and lots of Black-capped Chickadees, but no Boreal Chickadees.

 

That was the trip. We ended up where we began – the McDonalds. We said our good-byes and went our separate ways. It was a terrific trip! We met lots of terrific people, learned a lot about the Soo, and saw fantastic birds.

 

Up Next: Not in Forty Years…

 

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WIDMSV – The Kipling House

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

This is the last of the posts on our Summer Vacation. It seems, somehow, appropriate as we’ve just passed Labor Day, schools are open, and football has kicked off. This is also the only post that completely focuses on one place – The Kipling House.

http://www.kiplinghouse.com/ 

Why would I do a whole post on one, particular Bed and Breakfast? Because it’s a great place to stay and an even better story!

 

First off, let me tell you where The Kipling House is located. It’s in Gladstone, Michigan. Gladstone? Like the old, English Prime Minister? Yep! Exactly! The town is named after the former Prime Minister. It’s very near to Escanaba, Michigan but it’s also closer to Seney National Wildlife Refuge (a place we’d hoped to be able to bird, but with the terrible fires this year we decided to delay). There really is much more history to the area of Kipling and Gladstone. I encourage you to go to the website and read the history – especially if Michigan history and/or trains are of interest to you.

Old image of The Kipling House
from their website

 

The Kipling House was built in the late 1800s, and has had many functions over the ensuing years. Now, it’s a comfortable, classy, bed and breakfast run by some of the nicest, most welcoming innkeepers you could ever meet.

Meghan & Bob
(from their website)

Meghan and Robert Micheau are a young couple who had a dream. The dream was to raise their family in the Escanaba/Gladstone area where Robert grew up and where Robert’s family still lives. Meghan is from the Hartland, Michigan area.

 

Meghan went to school in Hartland, Michigan and then went on to Oakland Community College (OCC). At first, she thought she would become a nurse; however, she found nursing just wasn’t what she wanted to do. OCC offered courses in culinary arts, so she gave that a try. Sure enough, Meghan found her passion (so much so that she was baking and decorating all kinds of pastries and using her parents as “testers.”) While she knew she didn’t want to work in the restaurant business (and I can certainly understand her feelings having been in that industry, myself, for several years), she felt that perhaps a bed and breakfast where her ‘calling.’

 

While visiting Robert’s parents (prior to their marriage), Robert and Meghan went for a bike ride. During their ride, Robert (oh, so casually) asked Meghan if she thought she could live in the area. Without missing a beat, she glibly replied that maybe so if he bought her the beautiful bed and breakfast they were passing. It just so happens, that this was The Kipling House.

 

Fast forward a short while and, as if ordained, The Kipling House came up for sale. The owners actually let Robert and Meghan run the Inn for a year prior to selling it to them so they could see what was involved in being innkeepers. The Micheaus did all the work and paid all the bills from the income of the inn. Sure enough, they were naturals, and the inn came under new ownership.

 

That brings us up to 2010. Here is a young couple running their inn – coming up to the Memorial Day holiday – with a very pregnant Meghan. As frequently happens, as soon as the inn filled to capacity, the baby made it known that it was time for him to enter the world. I can only imagine the scenario with Meghan in labor, Robert worrying about his wife, his baby on the way, AND an inn full of guests. Thank heavens, both mothers were there to help.

 

Apparently, the transition was pretty seamless and Meghan and Robert were able to bring home their beautiful, healthy, baby boy and miss very little time from their inn-keeping duties.

The Kipling House today

When we visited in July, The Kipling House was a warm, inviting place that felt as though we were staying with friends. We staying in the “Governor’s Room.” It was a pleasant, large room with adjoining bath.

The Governor’s Room

 

Governor’s Room Bath

The Kipling Cottage is a great place for couples! The downstairs is a sitting room with small kitchenette, while the loft is the sleeping area. It’s separate from the main house and would work for a small family, also. One might want to have a few provisions in the kitchenette for dinner or lunch, but you would never want to miss out on Meghan’s amazing breakfasts or desserts. Oh! Did I mention that Meghan makes dessert and puts on the table in the foyer for everyone who would like some after dinner? We were lucky enough to get rhubarb pie! They grow the rhubarb right in the back yard.

I must make mention of the gazebo! The minute I saw it, with the gardens and fountain around it, I knew it would be a fabulous place for a wedding. Anyone considering nuptuals?

The Kipling House Gazebo

Now, let me tell you about breakfast! The first day, we had pfannenkuchen which is a light, Scandinavian-style pancake with loads of butter, a lovely fruit salad, home-made (naturally) scones and bacon. There was enough food to prepare for a day of birding and then some. The second day, we had a slice of tremendous quiche, fruit, sausage and cinnamon rolls. Everything was delicious! The guests are able to name what time they would like their breakfast, so sometimes you sit – family style – with other guests. That’s a great way to meet new people and share stories. It’s so wonderful that a couple with such talent find their niche.

Meghan Micheau
(hostess extraordinaire)

One last little nicety that I must mention is afternoon snacks! After spending the day birding on the Stonington Peninsula, imagine our pleasure to walk into the foyer at The Kipling House to find a basket full of snack treats and cold, bottled water. Perfect! Such a nice touch, and one that is rare to find.

 

Finally, I have to tell you that I fell completely in love while visiting The Kipling House. I fell in love with a two-year-old, adorable boy named Bobby! This young chap has a bright smile and the sunniest, friendliest disposition one could hope for. Bobby, it seems, was born to be around guests just like his parents. He’s gregarious (which is remarkable for any child of two) and well-behaved. When I asked him if I could take his photo, he grinned up at me and said, “Yes!”

 

Once I took the first photo, he said, “Take another!” I happily obliged.

 

Then he chimed up, ”Take another!”

 

I think he would have happily sat there and posed for me all day. Sadly, though, it was time for us to take our leave. At that stage, I could have happily packed Bobby up in the car with us and brought him back over the bridge. I just don’t think his parents would have let us, though.

 

So, my friends, if you are ever planning to visit the Escanaba area, you really must stay at The Kipling House. Let me be very clear, here. I am not receiving any kind of remuneration or benefit for recommending the inn. I just love to share excellent places and activities with you. I know that we’ll be back when we plan to spend a few days birding in Seney. Besides, I just can’t wait to see that little boy again!

 

Up Next: “A Public Service”

 

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WIDMSV – Escanaba (In Da Moonlight?) and Birding the Stonington Peninsula

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We left the Eagle River Inn early to get a good jump on the day. We sure were doing better than the poor soul we saw laying on the beach. Too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. I guess after all the partying the night before, this guy found himself a nice piece of beach to sleep on. (By the way, we know he wasn’t dead because we saw him roll over to get his face out of the rising sun.)

 

On our way out of the Keweenaw, we made a quick stop to pass on a message from one of my high school mates to an old friend of hers and grab a bite of breakfast. We hadn’t planned to stop again until we reached Escanaba, but we saw this giant ruler and sign on the side of the road and just had to check it out. I mentioned this in my previous post, but just in case you missed it…

 

 

Are you KIDDING me??!!

Are you kidding me??? A record three-hundred-and-ninety-point-four inches of SNOW???? I did the math. That’s over 32-½  feet of snow in one season. As much as I love the Keweenaw, winter there would not be for me (or Jim, either).

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

We made good time and arrived in Escanaba right around lunch time. We had read reviews in “TripAdvisor,” and Breezy Point sounded like the place for lunch. As I said in my review on TripAdvisor, it’s a local “dive” bar with a juke box, pool tables, cold beer and really good burgers. Service was slow, but it WAS the day after a holiday and it seems everyone was running a little slow. (Okay, I just have to say it. I’m from the south – y’all know that – and southerners are notoriously dissed for being “slow.” Honey, we ain’t got NOTHING on some of the folks in Escanaba, Michigan.)

Photo from TripAdvisor

If y’all ever decide to go to Escanaba and want to try out the really, good burgers at Breezy Point, I strongly suggest trying to sit outside. The views are really nice. If it hadn’t been record heat, we’d have opted for those tables, too.

 

We headed for our B&B. The Kipling House is actually in Gladstone, Michigan, but it’s close to Escanaba and we are so very glad that we chose this place to stay. As a matter of fact, there’s so much to tell you about this place that I’m giving it a complete post of its own. That will be the next one – the last in the installments of WIDMSV.

 

We set out to explore Escanaba. Most of you won’t have gotten the “In Da Moonlight” reference. Jeff Daniels (yes, THAT Jeff Daniels) is a native son of Chelsea, Michigan. Chelsea is a near-neighbor to where Jim and I live. Jeff Daniels wrote a comedy (play/movie) “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” about Yooper hunters. He has quite a knowledge of Escanaba because his wife is originally from the town. We were lucky enough to catch Jeff Daniels in his one-man show, and he is absolutely hilarious. What a wit! Anyway, we decided that we needed to check out Escanaba.

 

Escanaba is a nice town. It seems, to me anyway, more like a Lower Peninsula town than others we’ve been to in the UP. Perhaps it’s the close proximity to Wisconsin that makes it “feel” different from the others in the area.

Photo from their website

 For dinner the first night, we went to The Stonehouse (http://www.stonehouseescanaba.com/Home.html ). The restaurant came highly recommended, and we know exactly why. Even though it’s going through some major renovations on the outside, the interior was calm and attractive. Service was friendly, yet professional. I had grouper (my very favorite fish) Panko-breaded topped with lobster and shrimp veloute. Jim had the “great lakes platter” (broiled whitefish and walleye with beer-battered perch. It was a delicious and enjoyable meal. We’d definitely go back.

 

From The Stonehouse website
(callout from me)

After dinner, we drove around Escanaba a little more. We drove down by the marina and found the Delta County Historical Society Lighthouse Museum. It was closed for the day, but we enjoyed walking around and seeing some of the static displays outside…

 

like this giant, wooden rudder

 

and this pile of logs (representative of the millions of board-feet of lumber harvested in the Upper Peninsula and sent to build America).

 

The next day, we went birding on the Stonington Peninsula. We were still in search of the illusive boreal species and this was our last chance this trip. Come to think of it, we didn’t even hear the first loon calling. Now THAT’S disappointing! We birded all along 28 Rd! We got great looks at Red-eyed Vireos (they were everywhere), PeeWees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Hermit Thrush, American Redstarts, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Ravens, and a silent empid. Still, no boreal birds, but it seemed everywhere we went, there were deer of all ages, sexes and sizes.

 

From 28 Rd (they have some strange road names up there), we headed down to the boat launch area where there was a gorgeous log home. There we saw an American Bittern, several Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, and one Black Tern.

 

We continued on to tip of the peninsula. There’s a tower that might be a good spot to look for wading birds, but the flats were conspicuously free of any form of bird. Needless to say, we were pretty disappointed, but we really weren’t there in a good “birding” time of year.

 

 

Escanaba from the Stonington Peninsula

We decided to call it a day. The trip home was coming up and we were hot and tired. It was time to start winding down. We went back to the B&B (remember, a whole post on this next time) to clean up, pack, and get ready for our trip home.

 

We went to Hereford & Hops for dinner. The restaurant is right on the main street in Escanaba. I must say that the beer was really, really good. The food (walleye) was, too, except the service was incredibly (and I do mean INCREDIBLY) slow. It was early on a Friday night and the place was still pretty empty. We really wonder how they manage when it starts getting busy (or if it actually does get busy at all). We even had difficulty getting our beer (and they’re a brew pub).

 

It was a wonderful trip. I have become a huge fan of the UP! I’ve heard my sister-in-law, Kathy, talk about it for years and how much she loves it up there. I knew that I would – for the same reasons, but you can’t imagine how amazingly beautiful it truly is. There are so many areas that we weren’t able to visit (the Porcupine Mountains, especially). We’re already talking about our next trip. I think late spring might be an excellent time (as long as the snow is gone).

 

Up Next: The Kipling House

 

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WIDMSV – The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

There’s something special about a holiday in a smaller town. It’s especially nice when it’s Independence Day and the weather is sunny and clear. We spent the day in Copper Harbor and the evening at the Eagle River Inn. It was so much fun.

We started the day going for breakfast in Copper Harbor. The place we had intended to eat wasn’t opening for breakfast that day, so we went to another restaurant, The Tamarack Inn. The service was spotty (which is somewhat understandable on a holiday), but we could tell they were trying to please. I had the fritter, French toast. AWESOME! Didn’t think I’d have to eat again for a week, though. We watched the remainder of the parade (which, sadly, we missed most of). What we did see and hear was the fire department with their engines all decked out with flags and bunting, people on bikes, people walking down the street all dressed up in red, white and blue, and others with their dogs in costume. It was a hoot! How, clearly, Americana is that?

 

 

From there, we drove up to the spot where US 41 starts! US 41 is a highway that has been nearby for a large part of my life. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Not far from there is  where US 41 becomes the ‘famous’ Tamiami (Tampa to Miami) Trail. It also runs through Georgia very near where Jim and I lived for so many years. As you can see from the photo, it runs from the very tip of the Keweenaw all the way to Miami, Florida.

We also got a wonderful surprise while we were taking photos of the sign. A male American Redstart was singing very close by. Before we knew it, he popped into view. Right after that, a Northern Parula started calling from just across the road. We waited and, sure enough, he flew right overhead and continued singing. I guess it’s never too late to look for ‘love’ in the Keweenaw.

 

From there, we headed back south (well, honestly, there isn’t much further north we could go without being in Lake Superior). We stopped at an outlook where the Eagle River flows into the Lake. Such a beautiful spot!

 

There were some really gorgeous flowers growing right by the river. I just had to take a photo. Then we walked out onto the rocks and saw some spectacular lake views.

 

  

Walking back up to the car, we saw this male American Redstart singing away. He was right over head and didn’t move when I focused my camera on him.

 

Then we headed to Studio 41 (http://www.studio41copper.com ).

 

What a fabulous place! It was hard not to buy everything in the shop – well, except for the price tags. Thing is, they represent several local artists as well as the works of the owners.

One of the items we bought was this gorgeous copper bracelet. The photo really doesn’t do it justice, and my almost constant wearing has dulled the shine to a lovely patina.

Another purchase are these fabulous maple leaves! They have these sculptures in many sizes, but this spray is just perfect for the location on one of our smaller living room walls.

 

After that, it was off to The Berry Patch once again. We enjoyed our ice cream so much the day before, we just had to go back. Of course, there’s something intrinsically American about ice cream on the 4th of July. In honor of George Washington (well, not REALLY), I had the tart cherry sundae. What a treat! The sweet, smooth, velvety vanilla ice cream with the tart cherry preserves… HEAVENLY! And, here, I’d thought I wouldn’t have room after breakfast. I guess it must have been all that walking in the fresh air.

 

We took the drive along the Lake Superior shoreline. This is such a gorgeous drive. The day was clear and, once again, the lake was flat and calm. I would love to have the time to paint all the beautiful views.

We stopped along the way at yet another lighthouse. This was in Eagle Harbor. They had built an observation deck with these informational plaques.  I thought they were very interesting.

 

 

Just where the road curls away from the shoreline you come to The Jam Pot (http://www.societystjohn.com/store/ ). They are a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite. The monastery bakes amazing breads, cakes and cookies, but we were there for the jam. What jam it is! They have so many varieties that it is virtually impossible to list them all, but we made sure that we bought bilberry and thimbleberry. They also have a full line of sugar-free jam.

  

Right next to The Jam Pot is Jacob’s Creek Falls. It’s so nice to find such a pretty waterfall so easily accessible. Even though it had been a drier than usual summer, the falls had plenty of water and it was so nice to enjoy the cool air and listen to the sound of falling water on rocks.

 

Once back at the Eagle River Inn (http://www.eagleriverinn.com/ ) we dropped off our purchases and headed down for the barbecue. That smoker that they built sure puts out some delicious que! A great pulled pork sandwich and a beer? That says Independence Day to me! We headed out to the beach to stand in the water and enjoy the company of new friends. There were a couple with their parents from Minnesota there. They also had two of the funniest, most friendly dogs (a Weimaraner and a German Shorthaired Pointer). We had a grand time visiting with both humans and canines.

A group of children came down the beach with their own version of a Lakes freighter. Interestingly enough, there was the life-sized version out on the lake at the same time.

We were really enjoying our evening waiting for the band to set up and the fireworks that would begin around 11 p.m. That was until a big storm blew up! There was a small boat that had come to anchor off the Inn to enjoy the band and the fireworks, but he had to head off in a hurry to beat the oncoming rain and wind. Mother Nature had her own fireworks in store for us! I thought the tent that had been set up for the band was going to end up in Wisconsin, but some brave souls held on until the storm eventually passed. By this time, we were up in our room and had decided to call it a night. We figured that they’d have to wait until another night for the fireworks and we were leaving in the morning.

 

We should have had more faith in the hardiness of the partiers. Sure enough, around midnight, the storm had cleared out and the fireworks were set up. The band had not stayed, but they had radio so the party continued and the fireworks went off. We really had an excellent view from our room as we faced the beach.

I was a little sad that we weren’t staying longer in the Keweenaw. I know that we will definitely come back. We will absolutely make reservations at The Eagle River Inn, and – this time – we’ll be able to bring our “kids!” One thing I can pretty well assure you of, is that we won’t be doing our travel to the Keweenaw in the winter. We saw this marker on our way south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Next: Escanaba (In Da Moonlight?) and Kipling

 

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WIDMSV – Eagle River Inn; Brockway Mountain Drive; Visiting an Old Friend’s Family

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

We reached the upper parts of the Keweenaw Peninsula expecting cooler weather. Unfortunately, the ‘weather gods’ didn’t get the memo. It was in the mid-90s! Again, it’s not SUPPOSED to be that hot in the Keweenaw. For the most part, they don’t have air-conditioning. They usually don’t need it. Phew!

Eagle River Inn (Beach side)
Photo from their Website

Representative Room
Eagle River Inn

We checked into our room at the Eagle River Inn (which was so clean and newly refurbished, we could still smell the fresh paint). The Eagle River Inn has been a labor of love for Mike and Marc (the proprietors). They have spent every penny they could come up with on fixing up this wonderful inn which is only steps away from one of the prettiest, most accessible beaches in the Keweenaw. Their attention to detail is amazing. They have turned this location into a comfortable, friendly, destination inn that we will look forward to visiting over and over again.

One of our “neighbors”

 

Did I mention that the Eagle River Inn is DOG FRIENDLY??!!!! They are! I believe that the future of inn-keeping is in pet-friendly accommodations. More and more, people consider their pets integral parts of the family. The idea of leaving a family member behind in a kennel or alone at home is troubling. A key to enjoying a family vacation is for the WHOLE family to enjoy the time together. I really have to commend The Eagle River Inn for being so forward thinking.

 

It was far more comfortable driving in the car – with air-conditioning –so we decided that the Brockway Mountain Drive sounded like a good idea. The drive is a beautifully scenic road that runs from just north of Eagle River up to Copper Harbor. The views winding up the road are just beautiful. There are views of Lake Superior

 

Inland lakes

 

 Valleys

 

 Rock outcroppings

 

I have read that there were plan to put a cell tower on Brockway Mountain. (Okay, y’all, this wouldn’t be considered a “mountain” in the south – well, except maybe Florida. In Michigan, however, this is surely a “mountain” as the glaciers really scraped most of the state flat.) It is the highest point around and I understand the need for communications, but I certainly hope that they figure something else out that won’t mar the beauty of this amazingly pristine area.

 

Wild Berry
(World’s Best Ice Cream!)

As we reached the end of the road, we found ourselves just a little ways from the Wild Berry. I had found out that one of my high school classmates had grown up in Copper Harbor, Michigan. She and her family (the Nousiainens) had owned and run the Wild Berry Ice Cream store. Her brother, George (who had been a few years ahead of us in school), had moved back to Copper Harbor and was still running the store.

 

ICE CREAM!!!!! What a marvelous idea! It was especially welcome in this heat. We would have loved to visit more with George and his wife, but we weren’t the only ones thinking that ice cream sounded like a good idea. The place was packed! We did, however, get the opportunity to treat ourselves to sundaes made with local fruit and some of the best, smoothest, most delicious ice cream I’ve ever eaten. (In retrospect, I wonder if the ice cream was really as fabulous as I remember or if it was just because it was so very welcome.)

Thimbleberry

 

I opted for thimbleberry. A thimbleberry is related to raspberries. It’s a delicious, tart fruit with LOTS (and I do mean to capitalize that) of seeds! It’s absolutely delicious, but the pips… I tend to think they’re worth dealing with.

 

Bilberry

Jim opted for bilberry. Bilberries are related to what we call blueberries. In fact, in Europe, these are what they know as blueberries. This special variety only grows in the Keweenaw and especially in the wilds around Copper Harbor. Bilberry is known to be good for maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels and the leaves make a tea that is good for blood pressure. I guess that means that Jim was eating “health food.” Yeah, uh huh…

 

All I can tell you is that we both thoroughly enjoyed our sundaes, and it was great to be able to visit with family of an old friend. We immediately made plans to come back the next day for more camaraderie and, of course, more ice cream.

 

By the time we finished our ice cream and said good-bye, we were getting pretty worn out. It had been a very long day starting with birding (and getting eaten alive) in the morning and lots of driving in the middle. We decided to head back to the Eagle River Inn, grab some dinner, and try to get some sleep.

 

The road that we took back south followed the shoreline of Lake Superior. What a gorgeous place this is! We stopped at a couple of outlooks along the way. At one, there was a couple who were tossing a ‘duck’ out into the Lake for their chocolate lab to fetch. We enjoyed watching the dog swim out again and again (obviously enjoying his game), retrieving his prize, and returning it to his people.

 

We wanted to make certain that we got back to Fitzgerald’s (the superb restaurant at the Eagle River Inn) for our dinner reservation. The special was smoked prime rib! They have a huge smoker in the parking lot of the Inn. It smelled so wonderful when we left that we wanted to be sure not to miss out.

Fitzgerald’s
(Photo from their Website)

We were rewarded handsomely! That was one of the finest meals we’ve had in a while. The meat was smoked to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent. Jim had a smoked-fish appetizer. I tried it, but I decided that I’d save the room for dinner. I did, however, have a nice ‘Bookers.’ I must make a special note of the tremendous variety of whiskies that Fitzgerald’s stocks. Whether it’s bourbon or scotch whiskey that float your boat, they probably have your brand – or a brand that you’ve been wanting to try. They also have an excellent selection of whiskies from other parts of the world (Canadian, Irish, even Japanese).

Sunset at
The Eagle River Inn

 

After eating a huge meal, and the long day, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. This was the first time it really occurred to me that we were much further north. At 11:00 p.m., it was still light (and still HOT)! After snapping several photos of the amazing sunset and a late lakes’ freighter, I finally drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! I figured I wouldn’t be getting much sleep at all then.

Lakes Freighter

 

Up Next: The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

 

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WIDMSV – Visiting Houghton and The Eagle Has Landed

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

After spending a couple of hours birding the Pesheekee Grade, we were ready to eat. There really isn’t any place to eat breakfast in the Michigamme area that we could find, so we headed on to Houghton. As much as I would have loved to visit the KBC brewery, it really wasn’t a prudent place to consider for breakfast.

 

The first restaurant we attempted to go to had been highly rated, but we opted out after a really poor experience. I am not going to name the establishment in my blog, because my southern heritage always taught me that, if I couldn’t say something nice – say nothing at all. Besides, even mentioning it here is giving it more attention than they gave us.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub

 

Luckily for us, we found The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub (http://www.librarybrewpub.com). It wasn’t quite time to start serving lunch yet (it was just around 11 a.m.), but we were courteously seated and given water and menus. Our server, Brian, was very nice and made us feel quite welcome. We opted for lunch and were very pleasantly surprised. I had the shrimp po boy and Jim had a combination sandwich. It was roast beef, cheddar cheese, and a BLT all rolled into one. He loved it. The experience was completely pleasant and the food was superb. They also are one of the innovators and first to use the new bill-paying service called “Tabbed Out.” What a smart idea that is! I hope more restaurants start using it soon. (Automatically pays your tab with your chosen credit card without having to wait for the check. It also computes tip and pays the establishment without passing your credit card around. BRILLIANT!)

Keweenaw Gems & Gifts
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We felt so much better after a good meal that we decided to stop at Keweenaw Gems and Gifts (http://www.copperconnection.com/) to see what kind of wonderful stone and metal arts we could find. What a ‘dangerous’ store. There were so many wonderful treasures, we had to really narrow down our focus. Once again, we could have totally blown our budget. We did make a couple of purchases. One was this lovely polished Petoskey Stone (Michigan’s State Stone) clock for Jim’s desk at work.

Petoskey Stone Clock

I just have to mention Lily, the Labradoodle. Lily comes to the store with her people. She’s the ‘official’ watch dog. Once she actually meets you, she’s a terrific ‘hostess.’ What a fantastic dog!

Lily
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We also purchased some gifts for friends. I just LOVE getting my Christmas shopping done before the Fourth of July!

Look at all the Treasure!
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

From Houghton, it was on to Eagle River. Eagle River is on the western coast of the Keweenaw peninsula. Our destination was the Eagle River Inn http://www.eagleriverinn.com/. We had read interesting reviews of the inn and I had written to the new owners and was very favorably impressed by their positive attitudes and their obvious desire to provide a terrific experience for their guests.

Marc & Mike (Proprietors, Eagle River Inn)
(Photo by Shawn Malone)

The Eagle River Inn is right on the beach. It’s only a few steps from the deck to the water. It’s especially nice because the beach there is nice, stone sand and the water is clear and the bottom is that same sand. Many places on the lake are rocky which makes it difficult to get to the water. It’s even harder when the rocks are covered with vegetation. (I wonder if we noticed more of that due to the extraordinarily hot weather or if it’s a symptom of invasive, non-native vegetation I’ve been reading about.) I will be writing more about the Inn (and their terrific restaurant, Fitzgerald’s) in coming posts. I’ll say right now, though, that I wish we’d scheduled more than two nights at the Inn. Here’s a photo of a sunset we saw our first night. The sunsets there are so breath-taking, you’ll undoubtedly see more photos of them in coming posts.

Sunset – First Night
Eagle River Inn

Up Next: Eagle River Inn and Brockway Mountain Drive

 

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