Thursday, July 28, 2011

Egg Harbor

We came into Door County on Tuesday from the upper peninsula of Michigan. We had been here before, but I seemed to have forgotten the beauty of this area. We drove right up through the middle of the peninsula, where there are many cherry orchards ( now heavily loaded with the fruit), vineyards, and  fields of corn, peas, and wheat. When we checked into our campground the park's host informed us that we may pick blueberries and raspberries in the campground, as well as the sweet peas in the nearby field. What a wonderful time of the year to be here! The weather averages in the mid eighties during the day, and becomes quite cool as the sun come down. Yesterday, Wednesday, it was cloudy with some misting and by late afternoon a heavy fog rolled in. That is probably all the wet weather we will have for awhile. Door County is one of the driest counties in Wisconsin because Green Bay in not large enough to cause "lake effect" precipitation. We have already taken some time to drive into the little village of  Egg Harbor.
The cool, damp weather had driven many of the tourists into the little shops of the village yesterday. Because of that it probably was not a good day to purchase the cherries, wine and cheese which we needed for the coming wedding festivities this week-end. For some of you who may not know our family, we are here in Egg Harbor because of our son's wedding and a family reunion which will start the day after the wedding. Lots of good times ahead, and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and family. Maybe after things slow up a bit I will  be able to write more on Door County. We are off now to pick up son Michael in Green Bay. Daniel and Amanda (groom and bride-to-be) have a stop to make at the courthouse this morning, we will have a chance to see them before leaving for Green Bay.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Escanaba, Michigan

We had a wonderful day in yesterday in Escanaba. It started with Sunday services at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The pastor, Judy Kincaid, gave an inspiring sermon on the kingdom of God, as explained by
Christ in his parables (Matthew 13). As she said;  the kingdom of God is as close as my next breath, it is as powerful as one man dying for many. After the service we stayed for fellowship hour. The members of the church were very friendly and eager to talk with us about Escanaba. Apparently the winters are not as bad as we had thought, one lady described Escanaba as being the tropics of the upper penninsula- not much snow falls during the winter. The area was once a timber and fishing area. That changed in the 1800s with the mining of iron ore. Escanaba's deep harbor and close proximity to Michigan's mountain ranges made it an ideal location to ship out iron ore. That era ended in the 1950s. Today Escanaba is not doing as well economically and a local resident lamented that their children cannot find jobs, consequently they are moving from the town. Any tourist coming to this town should certainly eat at the Swedish Pantry Restaurant, which is where we went for lunch. What a charming place, the walls are filled with chiming and singing clocks going off at all times. We tried a Swedish sampler plate, complete with Swedish meatballs, potato sausage, and rutabaga. All of it was quite tasty! After lunch we walked around the Sand Point Lighthouse and the historical complex around it. Below is a picture of the harbor located at the mouth of the Escanaba River on Little Bay de Noc.
 The Escanaba River has been was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855 in his "Song of Hiawatha". He described the river as the "rushing Esconaba". We drove out to Pioneer Trail Park to walk along its banks. The river can be seen below, in the background is a paper mill belching out its white smoke.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

 For about 400 years the upper lakes (Lake Huron and Lake Michigan) have seen a lot of boat traffic; from canoes to large ships and tankers. The lakes have also swallowed up many of those vessels, there is no accurate record, but it is estimated that 10,000 boats have gone under. Harsh, rapidly changing weather, shoals, narrow channels, and icebergs have generally been the cause of those accidents. There have been 10 lighthouses built to aid the ships in traversing the upper lakes. The lighthouse pictured below was built in 1892.
Mackinaw Bridge was completed in 1958 (it took three years to build and the lives of five men). John, being the engineer that he is, was quite fascinated with the bridge. He took pictures of it during the day, at sunset, and at dusk. We climbed the steps up to the tower of the lighthouse and took this view of the bridge. John then went to a museum and a movie which showed how the bridge was built. I chose instead to check out the shops of Mackinaw city. The bridge, beside its lights, has other navigational aids which have enabled many of the lighthouses of the the upper lakes ( as the Point Lighthouse) to become inactive.
 John and I walked to the lake shore at our campground last evening to view the bridge at dusk.
Today we have traveled on to the upper peninsula and now are parked at Escanaba, Michigan. The campground was having a corn roast, as well as a concert by The Remnants Chorus (a local barber shop quartet group).  The food was plenteous and good, the singers were great. We sat with a Michigan hunter  who regaled us with his deer stories. Also a bit of a chill in the air.  What a pleasant way to end our day!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Natural History of Mackinac Island

The above picture was taken on Lake Shore Boulevard (M-185). The road is eight miles in circumference around Mackinaw Island, and is the only state road where cars are banned! The picturesque route took us past Arch Rock. John and I just could not pass up climbing the 700 foot elevation to see it!
I learned a new word while touring this island, and it is"brecciated". The rock formations on the island are brecciated, or composed of sharp-angled limestone fragments cemented in a fine matrix. The interpretive sign near the Arch Rock explained that at one time a solid mass arose 100 feet above the lake. Over many years the lake water dissolved the softer rock in the middle of the mass and the center of the formation crumbled, leaving a brecciated limestone arch. After lunch we traveled off the main road and took a path which went inland to Skull Cave,  thought to be the oldest geological formation on the island.
Story has it that a fur trader in 1763 hid from Native Indians in this cave and found many human bones on the floor of the cave. It was a sacred Native American burial ground. Traveling back on the main road again we found Devil's Kitchen, another gouged-out breccia formation that eroded at a time when the lake levels where higher. That formation is pictured below. We also took a side trip to see another formation called Sugar Loaf.

Mackinac Island

We had an absolutely wonderful day on the island yesterday. Fortunately the weather cooled down, the sun was hot but the breeze off the lake was pleasantly cool. To get to the island we had to board a ferry from Mackinaw city. It was necessary also to bring our bicycles with us as cars have been banned from the island since 1898. The picture below is that of a usual street scene on the island, horses and carriages are a common sight as well as a variety of bicycles. It is a bicyclist's paradise, but pedestrians and horses do have the right of way. Sometimes we had to do a bit of weaving around on the roads to avoid the horse excrement!
Arriving, then, by ferry boat we entered Haldimand Bay. Many of the island's popular sites, as Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel, and  the village's business district are in the immediate area surrounding the bay.
The harbor picture above was taken from Fort Mackinac. At the fort, in the soldier's barracks, there is a wonderful exhibit covering the history of the island and fort. The island is centrally located as the crossroads of the upper Great Lakes. An important fur industry sprang up here in the 19th century. Trappers brought their furs here and from this island the furs were shipped to the east coast. The first land battle of the war of 1812 happened on this island, at which time American soldiers tried to recapture Fort Mackinac from the British but were defeated.The fort was closed in 1895, but since then it has been restored and it is now open to the public. Live programs go on during the summer there with costumed historic interpreters.
Another important part of this island's history has been the tourist industry. The showplace of the Great Lakes, Grand Hotel was built in1887 to accommodate the late 19th-century influx of summer visitors. It has become such a popular spot that now only its patrons can enter the building- a small fee is charged for other who wish to tour it. We were fortunate to take at least one picture of the hotel, it is pictured below. While we were standing in front of it it we were approached by a hotel employee and informed that bikes were not allowed in front of the building! Anyway, the best part of our time on the island was spent biking along the lake shore and seeing some of the natural wonders of the island. More on that in my next posting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lake Huron

We are now parked near the shore of Lake Huron, in Mackinac city. In the distance is Mackinac Bridge. We plan to take a ferry to Mackinac Island tomorrow. The heat wave that currently covers the mid-section of the states does  extend this far- heat advisories have been issued. I took a dip in the lake shortly after we arrived here, and the lake water is very pleasantly cool. John and I went on a bike ride last evening over the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail from Clare to Farwell and, even though it was early evening, we did get a bit over-heated. Still, that part of the trail is quite beautiful with an abundance of wildflowers at this time of the year and the discomfort of feeling a bit warm was worth it! Before I close here I would like to write about a man I met last Saturday at the laundromat. His name is Larry the Cane Maker, a title which he is quite proud of. He first caught my attention because of his appearance, a rather short man with long scraggly hair and an equally long sparse red beard. He had a porkpie hat on, which he wore backwards. He was clad in a back vest and pants which were adorned with silver and turquoise. He had a bit of a limp and walked with a cane which was as ostentatious as the clothes he wore. It also was adorned with silver bling, and an antler served for the handle of the cane. Larry informed me that he had 40 other unusual canes in his camper which he also had made (I later learned that the small old rusted camper is the home of this man and his dog - he has no money to travel very far in the camper because his only income is a disability check).  Larry went back to his camper and brought out a beautifully finished cane, which he called his pirate's cane. It was a very unique cane complete with a skull and gems which lit up when Larry pushed on them. He informed John and I that the cane could be smoked and the smoke would come out of the skull. On the lower end of the cane was a bowl for the tobacco. John thought it was a work of art, and could be sold for a fair amount of money. Larry acted surprised to hear that and indicated that he had not given much thought to selling any of his canes. He also would not give John any clue as to how he made the pirate cane because that was his "proprietary secret".  Larry shared a lot with me regarding his personal life which I found quite interesting. John and I in our travels often encounter similar people who are living hand to mouth; we often wonder what brings them to live the way they do. After meeting Larry I have come to a new appreciation of his ilk.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

39th Dulcimer Funfest in Michigan

If you love music this was the place to be this past week from Thursday through Saturday. We probably would not have even known about it had it not been for our sister-in-law Mary Jo. She plays the auto harp and hammer dulcimer and attended workshops sessions featuring those instruments at the festival. That is Mary Jo ( in the foreground of the picture below), she is good form for the dulcimer workshop.
The festival was on the fairgrounds in Evart Michigan. Many of the workshops took place in the swine, rabbit, poultry and livestock sheds. Fortunately there were no lingering smells from the animals.
 As you may note in the picture above, it was not just dulcimers featured at the festival. We sat in on a jam session with ukuleles, and another one featuring harps.What was fun about the festival was that spontaneous jam sessions were always happening during the course of the day.. A variety of music could be heard any where and any time. Even in the picnic/dining areas people would gather together and pull out their guitars, harmonicas, fiddles and banjos. We also sat in on some workshops. We did not know what a psaltery was, so we sat in on a workshop which gave beginning instructions on how to play the bowed psaltery. Instruments were provided by the instructor in that class. The picture below is that of a young girl who is interested in learning to play the psaltery just because her aunt plays it.
 Another unusual, certainly not a common instrument, which we saw demonstrated was the hurdy-grudy. I thought that it was just a matter of cranking a wheel to get the sound out. But I discovered that there are different kinds of the instrument, especially in France and Germany. The one demonstrated to us also has a keyboard which has to be played in addition to the wheel being turned (that part of the instrument looks like an accordion). We also heard a musical saw being played  by none other than Abe Lincoln!
.He can produce a variety of beautiful music on that saw, which we found out later when played his recordings at home. Abe Lincoln is impersonated by Gerald Bestsrom, and he is the closest look-alike of Lincoln I have ever seen! He played the part of our sixteenth president in the recent movie The Conspirator.
John, my brother Wayne, and I did participate in one workshop where we learned the rudiments of singing in harmony. After one hour the class could produce some beautiful choral music. Our day ended with  an evening program given by a variety of musicians, most impressive of which was music by the Original Dulcimer Players Club of Michigan. There were 180 of them who played their hammer dulcimers in concert on the stadium field.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chippewa Nature Trail

This nature center is located in Midland, Michigan at the confluence of several rivers which eventually flow into Lake Huron. We enjoyed our hike here along the Chippewa River Trail, but we did wander off it at a several points to see several other places of interest. There is a replica of a log cabin and school house from the 1870s at the site of what had once been a homestead farm. The original well, some lilac bushes and many apple trees are all that is left now from that old homestead. The garden is pictured below. Wildflowers are in abundance at this time of the year.  This area is used a lot for local day camps.
It was at the Peepers Pond that we found a lot of wildlife activity. A blue heron arose from the water as we approached the area. We also espied a kingfisher sitting on a branch over the water. The presence of the green frog could be heard by its single noted sound (aptly described,as I later found out, as a loose banjo string). Turtles were out sunning themselves on logs in the pond.
A photo of the pond is in the picture above. All the white dots are the pond lilies. We had to move fast and get away from this area because of the presence of many mosquitoes. Back along the Chippewa Trail we just barely caught a glimpse of a pileated woodpecker as he flew away from us. We also chanced upon a lone deer peering at us from behind a thicket of trees. We found a lot of wildlife around the bird feeding area at the visitor's center. We saw a couple more different kinds of woodpeckers, pine grosbeak, goldfinch and nuthatches. On the ground below the feeders there were numerous black and brownish-red squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. Those critters all scattered as soon as the wild turkey came on the scene. It was interesting to get such a close viewing of wild turkey,  I never realized that the male has a long breast tuft.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Green Pine Lake Pathway

Every morning my brother Wayne stops at our door to see if I will join him on a short hike. I have not turned him down yet! Behind our campground is a wooded area with marked trails. We take those trails and wind our way down to the highway where there are some open fields to walk through. Wildflowers, especially the everlasting pea are in abundance, and make the hike very enjoyable.
We are parked near the town of Harrison, it advertises that around town one can do twenty lakes in twenty minutes.  Wednesday we attempted to do three of those lakes by foot. Unfortunately the economy has hit the trails and a machete is needed to get through the thick grass on the trails! Below is a picture of a bridge that goes over the trail. It also has a downed tree over one section of it.
It was not all bad on this hike. While stumbling through one over-grown area I detected a strong floral smell and chanced to look around for the origin of that smell. It was a wild rose bush. Seeing those flowers made up for all the discomforts of the hike.
The Green Pine Lake Pathway goes around three lakes. The trail around a bog on Green Pine Lake, which we had wanted to see, was the one most impossible to walk on. Our second trail took us to Pine Lake and we completed our walk along Mud Lake. It was a wonderful day for hiking, in the mid seventies with little humidity. The blue sky with large fluffy white clouds was absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Family Connections

One of the reasons we are presently in Michigan was because of the Hensler Reunion, which was held this past Sunday. So the subject of this posting has to do with my family history which I especially would like to share with our children. We started our day Sunday at St.John's Lutheran Church in Amelith. My parents were baptized, confirmed and married at this church. The original building is still there, it was built in 1870. It has had additional sections added onto it through the years. The sanctuary is quite impressive looking with many stained glass windows and a lit tableau of the Lord's Supper carved into the front of the altar.
The current pastor, Stephen Starke, is a well known hymn writer for the Missouri Synod. Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure of singing any of his songs during the service.  After church my brother Wayne introduced himself to the pastor as "Wayne Lohrmann" and that we were there because St.John's church was the home church of our parents.  Pastor Starke replied: "oh yes, Teacher Lohrmann". Our grandfather taught at St.John's school in the first half of the last century for about thirty years. We also talked to a couple after church who remembered their parents mentioning that they had Mr. Lohrmann as their teacher. Below is a picture of the front of the current school building.
 Across from the school building is a cemetery where both our grandparents and great grandparents are buried. Also on the church grounds is a large picnic shelter where the Hensler reunion is held annually. My mother had nine brothers and sisters so I have roughly about 40 first cousins. The reunion is always a fun time for us to visit with each other. There is now only one sibling left, Aunt Donna, who is so dear to all of her nieces and nephews. She is pictured below with her daughter Dearaine and my sister-in-law Heidi.
A day at the reunion is never complete without a stop at the century-old farm where our Hensler grandparents raised their children. Uncle Jack's son Bob and grandson now run the farm. It is still the original barn and I have many good memories of visiting there as a young child.

Civil Conservation Corps Museum

One nice thing about being up in the northern states is that we can expect cool temperatures. Last night it got into the fifty degree range and an extra blanket on the bed was required! As a bonus, it will only get into the mid seventies today. After some very warm days, this feels good. Last Saturday we drove to Higgins Lake State Park where the above mentioned museum is located. The statue is in memory of the many corps workers in Michigan. The Civil Conservation Corps existed from 1933-1942, and was created to put Americans back to work after the recession. The museum is also a history lesson about the first (and probably only) state-run tree nursery. At the turn of the century it was noted by the first warden of Higgins State Park that the land of this area (Which had been over-logged for many years) "was neglected far worse than raw land, full of stumps, impoverished and full of weeds".  Michigan's first publicly owned tree nursery operated here from 1903-1965. The CCC worked at this nursery part of that time, harvesting the seeds from cones,  planting and caring for the seedlings until they could either be planted on the nearby land or shipped out.
The museum has replicas of the cone barn and ice house where the young seedling's roots could be kept cool. The building on the left side of the above picture is the only original building left of the nursery. It was the packing house where the seedlings were packed for shipping. The large building in the foreground is the cone barn where the cones cleaned, heated, and tumbled for removal of the seeds. Quite an interesting process! The other picture I have here is of the CCC barracks.
In 1983 corps alumni members dedicated their photographs and other artifacts to the museum. Those items are in the barracks. In the history of the CCC in Michigan 100,000 men planted 484 million trees, constructed 7,000 truck trails, 504 bridges and 222 buildings. They also revitalized the Michigan state park system. As it often happens, I enjoyed this museum more than I expected I would.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traverse City Cherry Festival

This is a wonderful time to be in Michigan if one is looking for fruit. The strawberries are at the end of there season but there are a few still being sold, blueberries are at their peak, and cherries are just ripening. The cherry festival in Traverse city started July 2, so it had been going on for awhile before we came last Friday.  It is a bit of a drive from Harrison but our mouths were watering for those sweet cherries.  And cherries were the first thing we saw after arriving. A large cup of them cost $4.00, we just could not pass them up!
We discovered very quickly after walking around the fair that we did not want to be there very long. The sun was furiously beating down on us and there was very little shade to be found. We had lunch and a piece of delicious cherry pie before taking some time to watch the ultimate air dogs. The dogs were diving into a pool of water and competing for the greatest distance jumped. There also was a diaper derby and toddler trot going on, as well as cherry idol auditions. But, as I said, it was too hot to take in much of the action of the fair and we chose instead to walk along Grand Traverse Bay where the breeze off the water cooled us off.
We decided to leave the fair and drive north on the Leelanau Peninsula. Michigan is shaped like a mitten. At the base of the thumb is Detroit, and at the pinkie is Leelanau peninsula which forms the western edge of Grand Traverse bay. It was a beautiful drive of scenic forested rolling hills. We also saw many cherry orchards in this area, and a field of hops. Our goal was to check out the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which overlooks Lake Michigan.
The lighthouse was built in 1858, in 1900 it became a two family building and in 1972 it was closed. Lining the"great lakes" of Michigan are more than 100 lighthouses that illuminate the way for American and Canadian ships. While touring the museum there we learned some interesting facts about Lake Michigan, that it is the sixth largest lake in the world and contains a 100 different species of fish.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Northern Bound

Some of you have been wondering how KC has been doing.  His fur is certainly getting whiter. We probably cause his gray hair with our life style. He never knows if his home will be moving down the road or stationary. Also, whether we will be with him all day or gone for long hours. When we enter our home we can usually count on him greeting us at the door, where he is sitting in the picture above. We have been leaving him alone a lot lately while visiting with Marcus and Heidi, and that makes him quite unhappy. He shows his depression by crying around us when we come in. A few minutes of sitting on my lap in the recliner generally makes for a happier cat. Other than that issue he has been doing fine for an old man!  We left this morning to drive further north into Michigan, taking a highway which runs right through the middle of the state. I have been to Michigan many times but  had never noticed before that the central part has very few large towns. What we mainly saw today were farm fields and forests. The traffic was not  very heavy even as we drove around Lansing, the state capitol. We did see one large housing development from the highway as we drove through Isabella Indian Reservation, however. Just before reaching our destination we stopped at a Michigan Welcome Center, which we found most unusual because those places are generally located just over the state line and by then we were well into Michigan. Anyway, this center is quite beautiful with several flower gardens and sculptures of a highway construction crew.
 As you can see from the blue sky, we had a great day for traveling, the coolest weather we have had in
some time. I am looking forward to driving over the northern tier of our states in the next couple of months. At the welcome center were interesting exhibits showing what Michigan has to offer the tourist. I did not realize that its borders touch 4 of the Great Lakes. It is a wonderful place for the outdoors enthusiast; whether one enjoys hunting, fishing, skiing or canoeing. Jiffy Mix also has a display at the center, which advertises its factory in Chelsea where tours are offered daily. We are now parked in Harrison, Michigan. My brother Wayne and his wife are already parked in this campground. We will be attending a family reunion near Saginaw this coming week-end.  Unfortunately, KC will be probably alone again for some long hours!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Down on the Farm in Indiana

We spent our fourth of July on the Linnemeier farm. This is the farm/home of our Heidi's sister Inge and her husband Steve. Until the mid 1900s they were doing dairy farming, now they grow soy and wheat and also  truck farming for their produce stand. After having a large meal picnic-style outside we thought it would be fun to tour the farm. I thought it very clever that Steve and his partner Larry are growing the string beans  in what was once a feed trough. No bending needed to pick those beans! There is another crop of beans nearby in a what was once a manger.
To the left of the beans, and in the background is a hot house which they just set up this year. The cucumbers are ready to pick now because of the early start they got in the nursery. Steve said that it has been a very wet spring, most of his crops got a late start. Unfortunately now it is a very dry summer. The farm has a large collection of farm equipment. In the picture below is a machine, pulled by a tractor, which lays out plastic strips and pokes holes into the plastic where seeds may be placed. It is quite an interesting machine.
The wheat will be harvested soon. John and I were told that they could use some more hands to help with that. I think in the picture below Larry is trying to convince John that he needs to get into the fields and help out. John, however, was more interested in culling the nuts and bolts from some door knobs (those knobs are in the bag he is holding). He felt that the one summer he spent harvesting wheat about 35 years ago was all he will ever do again. John's next stop was going to be the tool shed where he hoped to find a vise for the knobs. His only goal while at the farm was to recycle the brass from those knobs!
Ben, our nephew, was with us for the day. He is eight years old and was greatly out-numbered by all the adults at the picnic. Steve made up for that by giving him a ride in the tractor across the fields. That was one happy boy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Toledo, Ohio

We are spending more time in Sylvania than originally planned. Our sister-in-law Heidi broke her wrist and needed surgery this past week so we are giving Marcus and Heidi some assistance around their house. John has done many needed house repairs for them. I have helped with cooking and done some gardening. It has been enjoyable doing household chores which we have not been into for the past two years, and hanging out in a regular home. On Friday Marcus drove us into downtown Toledo to visit the art museum and take in a Mud Hens game. Heidi was still not feeling well enough to be out and about. The weather was hot, in the mid 90s. However, by the time we had toured the art museum,  it was late afternoon and the temperature was starting to come down. On the grounds of the art museum is a wonderful sculpture garden. The artwork below is titled "Vermont(Autumn)" by Jim Dine.
Also on the grounds we saw a Korean dogwood, hard to believe we are seeing dogwood blooming at the beginning of July. It is the plant in the middle of the picture below. The artwork partly hidden behind the flowers had the title of Moses.
After the art museum we dined at Tony Pacco's for supper. The original restaurant was made famous by Klinger's references to it in the television series Mash. It has some very delicious Hungarian dishes, I enjoyed a cabbage roll and John had an awesome vegetable soup. MOAD is an acronym for Mother of all Dogs.
 From there we drove to the ball park, Third Fifth Field,  home of the Toledo Mud Hens. Friday evening they played against the Columbus Clippers and won by a score of 3 to 1. We are talking minor league baseball here, it is not like seeing the St.Louis Cardinals but we still had a very enjoyable evening. And I must say that the cost to see the game and the concessions are a bit cheaper.  Great small town entertainment!