Since we had a lot of things to cram into today, we headed for Whitefish Point about 8:15. But our first stops were at McDonald’s for Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits and a Holiday station for gas.
Gas prices here in Michigan are a little strange. Diesel is pretty much the same price that we’ve paid for the last several months, about $3.80 a gallon. But unleaded is through the roof. The last time we filled up the truck was in Sioux Falls, SD, and we paid $3.16 a gallon. Here it’s anywhere from $3.90 to $4.00 a gallon. They were even complaining about it on the radio today.
Our 70 mile trip to the Great Lake Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point took about 90 minutes with a lot of nice scenery, but no moose.
After getting parked we started our visit at the main museum building. I was very interested in these lighthouse Fresnel lens. They’re able to take a relatively small light source and turn it into a beam that can be seen for miles.
In fact this 9 ft. tall, 3500 pound lens could throw a beam over 28 miles. Made up of 344 leaded crystal prisms, it floated on a pool of mercury allowing for near friction-less rotation. In use before electricity, a grandfather clock-like mechanism with a 44 ft. long pendulum turned the lens, sweeping the beam across the horizon every 7-1/2 seconds. And the clockwork had to be wound every 2 hours and 18 minutes throughout the night to keep the light rotating.
No wonder lighthouse keepers had a reputation for being so grumpy. They were sleep deprived.
The first commercial ship to sink on Lake Superior was the HMS Invincible in 1816, with over 300 more vessels to follow in the next almost 200 years. But of course the one that every one is most interested in is the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.
Launched in 1958, at 728 ft. it was the biggest ship on the Great Lakes. And to this day is the largest ship to ever sink on the Lakes.
In 1995 a dive team recovered the Fitzgerald’s bell which now resides here in the Museum. At the same time, a replacement bell inscribed with the names of the 29 crewmembers, was mounted on the wreck in its place.
In a nearby building another replica of the Fitzgerald can be found. This 1:60 scale model is made from over 18,000 Legos and has taken 9 years so far. “So far”, because it’s not quite finished yet.
Looks pretty good to me. I’m convinced you can build just about anything with Legos.
One of the things that fascinates people about the Fitzgerald is that to this day they still don’t know what happened on that November day in 1975. Did it capsize, take on water through broken hatch covers, or break in half straddling two large waves?
No one knows for sure.
One thing that seemed very apropos for our visit today is that when we left the rig in Sault Ste. Marie it was bright and sunny. But the closer we got to Whitefish Point the worse the weather got, ending with heavy clouds, high, gusty winds, spitting rain, and whitecaps on the Lake.
Just like it was on the Fitzgerald’s last voyage, bright and sunny when it left port, and then a unexpected storm rolling in.
After spending about two hours at the Museum, we headed over to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. At least we tried to.
Heading to the Museum earlier, and passing though the small town of Paradise, MI, we had to go through a construction zone where the road was down to one lane because they had dug out a deep trench in the other lane.
But coming back they now had both lanes of the pavement trenched out and were directing traffic across a temporary roadway that they had created by piling the dirt removed from the trenching into the deep ditch at the side of the road. What they apparently didn’t think about was how this big tour bus was going to navigate this.
The answer is, not very well.
Although OK for cars and trucks, the unpacked dirt was just a sandtrap for the bus, which promptly sunk up to its axles as you can see in the pics.
After about 30 minutes or so, they finally dragged him out with a front loader. Later, when we were at the Bear Ranch, I saw the tour bus and asked the driver about it. He said they told him it was well-packed and he wouldn’t get stuck.
He laughed and said, “It wasn’t and I did”. Glad I wasn’t trying to take the rig through there.
We got to Tahquamenon Falls State Park about 12:30 and made the 1/2 mile walk down to the Upper Falls to take a look. We noticed that the water is the same brown color as the Wisconsin River in the Dells, for the same reason.
The many swamps and decaying hardwood trees further north of here produce tannic acid that colors the waters downstream, though the acid level is not enough to hurt fish or other animals.
Since it was now after 1pm we decided to have lunch at the Pub restaurant there. Turned out to be very, very good. I had the Beer Cheese Soup and a fresh Whitefish sandwich, and Jan had the Broccoli Cheese Soup and a Mushroom Pesto over Linguini. Made with fresh wild mushrooms, she raved about it the rest of the afternoon.
She even got her one and only moose sighting there.
On a weirder note, they even had this Moose Nativity scene for sale in their gift shop.
For some reason, there’s something a little unsettling about this. They also had a Bear version, if you’re of that bent. Not that there’s any thing wrong with that.
Finishing up a delicious lunch, we headed for Oswald’s Bear Ranch, about 20 miles away.
Although it was OK, I think Jan and I were both a little disappointed, especially for the $20 a car that we paid to get in.
All of the bears are either rescues, or are born there. And they have four large fence-in areas for them. One for the adult males, one for the adult females, one for the yearlings, and one for the cubs.
It’s hard to get a lot of decent pictures because in most cases you’re shooting through a double layer of chainlink fence. They did have access holes in some areas, and observation towers in others, but the bears were always somewhere else, so you still couldn’t get many good shots.
They did have have this area where, for $10, you and your family could have your picture taken with a bear cub. They give you a large spoon with Fruit Loops in it (apparently bear cubs love Fruit Loops) and one of you holds the spoon and distracts the cub with the Fruit Loops while you all smile and one of the employees takes several pictures with your camera.
I tried to get Jan to do it, but she smartly said, “What if they run out of Fruit Loops, or the cub decides he’s full? What am I going to do with an empty spoon?”
I thought maybe she could whack it on the nose while I ran away, but I wisely didn’t say that. I can see her point though. I wouldn’t want to fight off a snarling little fuzzball full of teeth and claws with a spoon either.
Our last stop was the Visitor’s Center in Newberry, the so-called “Official Moose Capital of Michigan” (Jan says, “Yeah, right”) to pick up our Moose Guidebook and find out the best areas to look for moose.
Jan says, “Yeah, right.
So after checking out some of the spots and remaining mooseless, we headed home, finally getting back about 6:30 after a really great day of exploring the UP.
Tomorrow, Oh Canada!
Thought for the Day:
Ignorance is not bliss, it’s, well, ignorance. Don’t be ignorant.
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