What I Did on My Summer Vacation – Big Bay: Birding and “Made for the Movies”

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Our first, true vacation day. Yesterday counted, of course, but it was so much driving and getting into vacation “mode,” that it wasn’t very relaxing. To me, Sunday really started our vacation. Time to get out and do as we pleased.

Lake Superior Coastline


A note, here, about the weather. July 2012 was one for the record books for Michigan. The LP (Lower Peninsula) had highs that topped the 100 degree mark on multiple occasions. This is highly irregular! Michigan just isn’t supposed to have Phoenix weather (hot and incredibly dry). I have to tell you, the UP (Upper Peninsula) wasn’t spared record heat either!

Rose Room
(Our Room)


We awoke in our air-conditioned room at the Blueberry Ridge B&B. I mention the air-conditioning due to the fact that a/c is not all that common in the UP. Generally, they don’t need it. The other thing waiting for us just after we awoke was a serenade (piano and singing) from our hostess, Daphne. Did I mention she’s unique? “Morning Has Broken” has a whole new meaning to me, now.


Breakfast was delightful! Coffee was brewed and waiting. Daphne made gingered, fresh fruit for starters and I had fresh rhubarb (grown in her own yard) juice. Delicious stuffed, French toast rounded out the meal. One thing to take into consideration is that there was no protein served with breakfast. Although we would have preferred there to be some sausage, ham, or bacon, the meal was really good and plentiful. Once we were almost as stuffed as the French toast, we headed out for a day of birding, and exploring the Marquette area.

“A Birder’s Guide to Michigan”


Armed with (our good friend) Allen Chartier’s book A Birder’s Guide to Michigan, we headed off to look for our two, “target” birds for the UP – the Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay. We headed west from Marquette to bird along the AAA logging road. I was totally amazed at this area. It’s gorgeous, wooded, and the gravel road was in excellent condition. (I’m guessing I can thank the drought for the good condition of the road.) There was, however, a surprising amount of truck traffic for a Sunday. I think it was probably construction traffic as this area seems to be an up-and-coming area for hunting cabins.

Male Scarlet Tanager


While we found lots of birds (including, but not limited to, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pine Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and both Hermit and Wood Thrush). No Gray Jays and no confirmable Boreal Chickadees. (We did have one pretty fair-sized mixed flock of warblers fly through in which I glimpsed a bird that may have been the illusive chickadee, but I didn’t hear it or get a good enough look to confirm it.) RATS!


There is also a nature area that appears to be brand new. It’s the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook. I found out that it’s newly refurbished and used to be called “Gobbler’s Knob.” It’s very close to the AAA logging road. There are actually port-a-potties in the parking area there, and there’s a terrific and comfortable trail, with brand new railings and benches, that circle up to the lookout and back down through the woods. While we were there, we added Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Swainson’s Thrush to our birding list.


Thunder Bay Inn
(with thanks for sending the photos!)

By this time, it’s starting to get really hot. It’s past noon and we’d had enough tramping around in the dirt and getting bit by biting flies (mostly me). We decided to head for a place we’d heard lots about that was in nearby Big Bay – Thunder Bay Inn (www.thunderbayinn.net). The hotel was where traveling Ford executives visiting the Big Bay automotive plant stayed. A bar area was built onto the Inn in the late 1950s as they filmed the movie “Anatomy of a Murder” – starring Jimmy Stewart – there. The actual murder took place in Big Bay, so it was natural that they would want to do a lot of the filming on location. The actual bar in which the murder took place was very dark and impossible to film in, so they built a “made for movies” bar onto the Inn. It remains exactly as it was when the filming wrapped up. There’s lots of movie memorabilia available to read and enjoy, as well. The topper – the food was very good (I had a burger, and Jim a fish sandwich), the beer was very cold, and the server was very nice. We’re very glad we made the choice to go to Thunder Bay Inn for lunch. They are also known for their Friday fish-fry and prime rib Saturdays. We’re looking forward to trying both the next time we’re in the area.

Just Like In “Anatomy of a Murder”
(photo provided by Thunder Bay Inn)


Thunder Bay Inn – Lounge
Just as it was in the Movie

Up Next: Big Bay – A B&B in a Lighthouse; Gwinn – Up North Lodge


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