Wednesday, August 31, 2022



They don’t call it Lake Superior for nothing.  Not only is it the largest freshwater lake in the world, it’s one of the most powerful.


 When the lake is stirred up, it has the power to shape the land, create sandstone cliffs, and move sand dunes.


 Lake Superior also has the power to destroy.  Strong northwest winds, seas up to 40 feet, hidden rock reefs, and low visibility all have created conditions that send ships to a watery graveyard.


  According to a recent article in the New York Times, 550 shipwrecks have been located in Lake Superior with another 40 vessels still missing.  At least 200 of those wrecks lie along an 80-mile stretch of coastline from Munising to Whitefish Point known as the Shipwreck Coast.


 Probably the most famous ship to sink was the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down on November 10, 1975, 17 miles from Whitefish  Point after battling near hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet.  All 29 crew members aboard perished.


 But one community along the Shipwreck Coast has worked to create a haven for ships in distress.  Michigan’s Grand Marais, which is where I’m currently staying on vacation, gets its name from the French for Big Marsh, some say. 


 Others argue that since swamp wasn’t a prominent feature of the area, early voyageurs in their variety of languages probably translated “marais” to mean cove or harbor of refuge.  And that translation truly fits what Grand Marais is…the only Harbor of Refuge between between Munising and Whitefish Point where vessels can safely shelter from heavy seas.

The harbor, however, had dangers of its own as Lake Superior’s constant wave action continually dumped sand into the harbor, threatening to fill it in. In the late 1890’s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built two parallel jetties out into Lake Superior.  They also created a timber pile breakwater from the east jetty, both of which closed the harbor and prevented the sand from shoaling in.


You can see what it all looks like from this Google Earth screenshot.  Unfortunately, during WW2 the Corps stopped maintaining the timber breakwater and Lake Superior waves destroyed it, allowing sand to quickly pile up again.  Grand Marais Bay’s original depth was 55 feet; today it is only 25 feet deep.


 The Lighthouse Board also erected two, white steel lighthouses to aid in navigation.  The Inner Light is located on the West Pier and stands 55 feet tall.


 The Outer Light stands 34 feet tall and is also on the West Pier, but at the entrance to the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge.


 The breakwater was eventually replaced with rocks, but still needs more work.  In 2010, the Corps developed a plan to build a new structure to keep the sand from filling the important harbor.  However, the plan was never implemented because the government ran out of funding.  Meanwhile, the locals struggle to find a way to keep the harbor open and operating as a Harbor of Refuge.


New York Times article by Christine Hauser published March 11, 2022.

Shipwreck Coast Map by Scott Schiller of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Photograph of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Wikipedia.

Seeing the Light by Terry Pepper

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map of Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge

Screen Shot of Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge from Google Earth






Thursday, August 25, 2022



I had my long time friend Catherine from Lansing visit this past week and we spent a lot of time at the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. 

Our first stop on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive was the Covered Bridge, a popular spot for picture-taking.

At the Glen Lake Overlook, you get views of Little Glen Lake in the foreground and Big Glen beyond that, divided by M-22.  Alligator Hill runs along the left side of the scene.


 The Dune Overlook provides majestic views of Lake Michigan, Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Bay, and tiny D.H. Day farm…all from atop a 200-foot high sand dune platform.


 You also see a variety of dune ecosystem features, such as sandy ridges, stabilizing plants, and blowouts.  The Manitou Islands are visible in the background.


 Our last stop on the Scenic Drive was the North Bar Lake Overlook.  The lake was formed behind a sand bar that separates it from Lake Michigan.  Empire Bluffs are seen to the South.


 We next moved on to another part of the National Lakeshore, the small village of Glen Haven.  Beautiful beaches are located there with gorgeous dune grass, making for good pictures.


 Glen Haven is a step back to a time when small villages and docks supplied fuel to steamers along the Great Lakes.  Restoration of buildings is happening there and one that is especially striking is the Cannery Boathouse.  Once a cherry cannery, it currently houses a museum of historic boats.


 Leaving Glen Haven, another striking dunescape unfolded before us.


 Our last stop of the day was the D.H. Day farm, the same farm we saw from the Dune Overlook on the Scenic Drive.  Up close, the architectural symmetry that defines this farm is evident.  While the property is privately owned now, it once was a hog farm, creamery, and bull barn.  

On Sunday, Gracie and I will head to Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula for nine days of relaxation, writing, and Lake Superior birding and picture-taking.  Look for more of my trip on my blog and Facebook Page next week.

Thursday, August 18, 2022



It’s been in the works for years, but the Boardman Lake Loop Trail is finally complete.  And what a wonder it is.


 This final section picks up behind the NMC University Center.


 Then it runs down the hill and meets the bridge crossing the south end of Boardman Lake.


 The bridge is quite the architectural marvel, I think, perfect for joggers, walkers, and bikers.


 My favorite feature of the bridge is the half oval extension out into the lake for people who want to watch what’s on the water without getting run over by the moving bridge traffic.


 On one of my first visits, I photographed this Killdeer, a large plover which breeds in our area over the summer months.


 But my real find was this pair of Great Egrets perched on a dead tree that had fallen into the lake.  I could see what a great habitat this would be for birds and critters.

Great Egrets are such striking birds with their yellow bills and eyes against their pure white feathers.

They spent a lot of time preening their long white feathers.

It was a breezy day, and it was interesting to watch their feathers fluttering in the wind.

 I moved on and crossed the first new bridge leading to Medalie Park.


 Right away I saw a group of photographers and birders with their cameras and scopes on tripods.  Turns out, I learned, there were two rare breeds of sandpipers on the mudflats.


 A final bridge crosses the Boardman River and closes the loop.  This trail is an amazing gift to our community and will be enjoyed by folks for years to come.  I love it already!






Saturday, August 13, 2022

Last Super Moon of 2022


While the sun was setting on one side of farm country, the Super Moon was rising on the other.  On Wednesday evening, the moonrise was an hour earlier, but there were more clouds.  On Thursday, the official Super Moon rose against clear skies.  It was an awesome sight. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022