Sunday 09 July 2017: Our First Visit to Beaver Island
Betsy and I awoke in Grayling at the crack of 4:00 and were out the door of the hotel at 5:00. We were to catch the 8:30 ferry in Charlevoix which would take us to some place new - Beaver Island.
We arrived in Charlevoix at 6:30, went to the Beaver Island Boat Company ferry terminal, purchased our tickets, dropped our luggage and bikes and then drove the van to the Round Lake Educational Center which is about a mile from the ferry terminal. This is where the van would stay for the next 3 days while we were on Beaver Island.
We then started the walk back to the downtown and harbor area.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
The walk back to downtown took us through a quiet and well treed residential area which had many nice older homes.
I would imagine once upon a time our neighborhood of Woodsdale in Wheeling looked like this. But, no more...
A gnarly old Sugar maple which I am guessing is probably 75 years old -at least.
When we got to town we had coffee and split a cinnamon bun at the Harbor View Cafe. I thought the name was interesting because the view from all of the tables was the parking lot, not the harbor.
This business card was out with many others on a window ledge at the Harbor View Cafe.
For those who only want their piece nestled into the finest leather you should check out Mr. Gallant's website.
We still had plenty of time before the ferry departed so we poked around the harbor and marina area a bit.
We saw some fancy stone work on the buildings and walls which grace the marina.
As you can see there was a heavy overcast but it was warm and calm and no rain. This is looking southeast toward Lake Charlevoix.
This is the Odmark Performance Pavilion.
Much to our delight many Serviceberries (Amelanchier) had been used in the landscaping scheme and they were loaded with fruits.
We were amazed at the number of fruits. At home the birds devour them before they are even ripe. We ate as many as we wanted and probably could have picked gallons of them.
Betsy pointed out this nice ornamental man hole so I took a few snaps.
Here is something you generally don't see in city park - a man made trout habitat.
Phase 3 and the final touch on this incredible endeavor is the East Park Trout Habitat situated along the southern exterior wall of the Harbor Master building. This habitat serves as its own ecosystem and can support a healthy trout population of over 50 fish. The trout habitat was opened on May 19, 2009 with the planting of 50 native trout.
Betsy done found her a manly man!
"Enjoy sailing beautiful Lake Michigan with Sunshine Charters!"
There was a lot of money, forethought and planning put into the landscaping. A first class job to be sure.
Betsy and I were glad this place was not yet open or we might have succumbed to the temptation.
Around 8:15 we boarded the ferry and settled in for the two hour trip to Beaver Island on the Emerald Isle ferry.
"céad míle fáilte" Literally ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’.
From the upper deck of the ferry we had a good view of some of the very large and very expensive boats in the Marina.
We also saw some very large and very expensive homes.
Here we go! Out into Lake Michigan.
This is Charlevoix's low income housing area.
In the foreground is the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station.
In the background is a cement plant built in the 1960s.
Overview of the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station
The mission of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division Research and Evaluation Program is to provide information, models and advice to make possible science-based management of Michigan's fishery resources. Since 1967, the Department has maintained a research station on Lake Michigan at Charlevoix, to fulfill the mission with emphasis on aquatic resources of Lake Michigan and its tributaries. This station was the first state-operated research facility dedicated to fisheries assessment work on the Great Lakes.
In the 1960s, the Medusa corporation decided to build their first greenfield cement plant. they build a cement plant in Charlevoix that came on line in 1967. The plant is located south of town off of US 31 near Fisherman's Island State Park.
In the late 1970s, Crane Company took over Medusa and began consolidating operations. This not only resulted in modernization and investment in the Charlevoix plant, but personnel (and their families) from other Crane cement holdings were transferred into the Charlevoix area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. . In the late 1990s the cement plant was bought out by Cemex, a transnational company from Mexico. In 2000 Cemex sold the plant to St Marys Cement Group. Until 2013 the cement plant was a frequent port of call for the oldest freighter on the great lakes, SS St. Marys Challenger.
I did not expect to see all these high rise condos along the shoreline. Not everyone in the area is happy with such developments. However, the area has been a tourist destination since the 1880s so this type of development should be no surprise.
We are in open water now and the ferry boat is producing quite a wake.
Dramamine + Betsy = sleep
There were occasional peeks of blue sky but it was overcast for most of the 2 hour trip.
We are getting close to Beaver Island now and we can see the town of St James and the harbor.
Beaver Island Harbor Light (or St. James Light) is a lighthouse located in St. James, Michigan, on the northern end of Beaver Island on Lake Michigan. It has also been called "St. James Harbor Light" and "Whiskey Point Light". It is associated with a U.S. Coast Guard station, which was formerly a lifesaving station. The tower is constructed of Cream City Brick.
Whiskey Point was originally named for the 1838 fur trading post that operated on the point, and for the commodity that was the post's chief item of sale. Soon afterward in the 1850s, St. James's Harbor on Beaver Island became established as a safe haven in a storm (an event quite common on Lake Michigan). The light was thus a natural extension of the emergency usage. The original light was constructed in 1856, and the light currently in use was constructed in 1870.
At this time, the harbor is used by the Beaver Island ferry, so the light is still an active aid to navigation.
Before we knew it we were docked, tied off and ready to disembark.
Today was Sunday and there were many more people leaving the island than going over.
When we got off the boat we were greeted by our host Sue Oole. We booked her AirBnB "Island Getaway" for 3 nights and she was dockside to get our luggage and show us to our "Getaway" for the next three days.
After getting our luggage loaded into Sue's car we followed her on our bikes to her place.
As soon as we got settled, we headed down to the beach right behind her house.
Nice. Just what we were waiting for.
A few short steps and we were down to the water's edge.
Ahh... the unspoiled shore lines and clear waters are what has turned us into Michigan beach lovers. As they say up here "No Salt - No Sharks".
Betsy and I have been making trips up to Michigan for almost 40 years. How is it then we never noticed Beaver Island sitting off the east shore of Lake Michigan? How could it be all of those times we looked at a map of Michigan we overlooked Beaver Island. Ah, yes - one of life's Great Mysteries.
How did we find out about Beaver Island? We have to go back a few months to answer that question.
This past January I led a hike to the Bowen house via the Hidden Canyon, Bowen and Yetman Trails. These trails are on the west side of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains.
It just so happened one of the attendees who was on that hike was from Michigan. Naturally I started telling about the various trips Betsy and I had taken over the years. After listening to me recount the litany of places we had been she asked me: "Have you ever been to Beaver Island".
When she heard we had not she told us we must visit. So we decided to. And here were are. For the next 3 days!
Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan and part of the Beaver Island archipelago. Once home to a unique American religious monarchy, the island is now a popular tourist and vacation destination.
Beaver Island lies approximately 32 miles (51 km) from the city of Charlevoix on the mainland, and can only be reached by air or boat.
If you are curious as to what the "unique American religious monarchy" was, I suggest you read the WikiPedia entry.
Next up - our host Sue takes us on a tour of the Island.
Mike and Betsy
~~~~~~~~~ A DeLuxe Tour of Beaver Island ~~~~~~~
Depending on their arrival time Sue serves her guests lunch or dinner on their day of arrival. We were very glad of this as Betsy and I were both mighty hungry.
Sue served a tasty lunch of Black Bean and Corn-Topped Potatoes, a layered salad and fresh fruit. Betsy and I both had our fill and more!
Later that afternoon Sue took us on a tour of the island. I will not even attempt to recount the route except to say we drove in a counter clockwise direction and went down many back roads.
Here are just a few of the highlights of Sue's tour.
Tucked way back in the woods on Beaver Island is the tomb of "Dr." Feodor Protar.
Dr Protor was a veterinarian from the Chicago area who would spend his vacations in the Great Lakes region. When he retired he moved to Beaver Island where he lived in a cabin.
Since the islanders had no doctor there he began helping out by treating them and soon became known by the residents as "Dr." Protar. Sue told us when "Dr." Protar needed help with diagnosing or treating a "patient" he would write to a friend of his in Chicago and ask for his advice.
The folks of Beaver Island were very grateful for his help and he was respected and revered by them.
Feodor had asked that upon his demise he be buried at sea. But since this was not possible the residents paid homage to him by building this tomb and memorializing him with a beautiful bronze plaque.
Born in the Russian Empire, Feodor Protar immigrated to the United States and established a home on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. He lived alone, sharing the isolated island with a small population of fisherfolk. His fellow islanders saw him as a benevolent eccentric and follower of a spiritual discipline inspired by novelist Leo Tolstoy. Trained or self-taught in pharmacology, Protar was eventually pressured by his neighbors into practicing as an unlicensed physician. This was a skill of serious importance to the islanders in the early 1900s, as the technology of the time meant that Beaver Island was isolated from the mainland in time of winter, and the island was not big enough to support a licensed physician. Michigan authorities appear to have realized that "Dr." Protar's practice was the only solution to the island's medical-access dilemma, and to have looked the other way.
"Dr." Protar's life is celebrated by the Beaver Island Historical Society, which operates a small waterfront museum in St. James, the island's harbor. Protar's grave was built by local resident William McDonough.
No doubt this large roadside stone would not be given a second look by most. But at some point someone with a trained eye saw something different in this stone and the adjacent brush field which surrounds it. Or did they?
The field, previously indistinguishable from a hundred others on the island, has become a source of great interest and enjoyment; almost any day, you can walk out there and see people staring at the ground and counting their paces, as they try to determine for themselves if this might have been a solar calendar or astronomical observatory.
Source: ©2017 The Seattle Times
The above quote is from an article by David Broder. If you read the short piece in its entirety it will give you a taste of the controversy surrounding this place and how tempers have flared over the years.
This is what all the controversy has been about. Below is the text from the sign.
It gets better. Read this and you will see why. Michigan's hidden history: a secret Stonehenge?
Not far down the road from the Mystery Rock is this beauty. Estimated to be in the neighborhood of 250 years old, this magnificent White Birch (Betula papyrifera) is said to be the second largest in the state of Michigan.
I always wanted to be a Rock Star.
Unlike the previous road side rock there is no mystery surrounding this one. It is one of many such stones moved by glaciers which once covered this area. It is estimated two thirds of the stone is subterranean.
We are now approaching the southern tip of Beaver Island. I don't remember where I took this photo but it gives you an idea of what the dunes and beaches are like.
This sign gives us some history of the lighthouse. Click on the image to better read it.
We are ready to climb.
These beautiful treads were made of cast iron.
She made it!
This sign was taped to the wall about half way up.
A first-order lens has a focal length of 920 mm (36 in) and a maximum diameter 2590 mm (8.5 ft) high. The complete assembly is about 3.7 m (12 ft) tall and 1.8 m (6 ft) wide. The smallest (sixth-order) has a focal length of 150 mm (5.9 in) and an optical diameter 433 mm (17 in) high.
Now at the southern tip of the island, we made our way back via the East Side Drive King's Highway. I have reported only a fraction of the information Sue imparted. I told her I wished I had a voice recorder going non stop.
We got back just in time for our Happy Hour.
Unfortunately it started to sprinkle shortly after we got settled in and then became a steady rain for most of the evening. Tuckered out, Betsy and I called it a day and hit the sack even earlier than usual.
Tomorrow we will enjoy the beauty of the early morning beach, bike around town and visit a local museum, sneak in a skinny-dip and enjoy a sunny happy hour on the beach.
Monday ~ 10 July 2017: Beaver Island - Beachin', Bikin' and Skinny Dippin'
Betsy and I got out to the beach for a walk after our morning coffee and banana bread. All was quiet. No sound but the gentle lapping of the water and the rustle of the leaves in the breeze.
I love the wild Michigan beaches - there is always something interesting to see, like the red colored Tansy rhizomes shown here. These rhizome are usually subterranean but the wave action has exposed them to the surface.
Tansy is unfortunately an invasive non native species which has spread world wide. But that is not its fault...
This is Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis.)
The flowers open visibly fast every evening producing an interesting spectacle, hence the name "evening primrose"
Moths pollinate the flowers, particularly Sphinx moths. Other occasional visitors include the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, honeybees, bumblebees, and Anthedonia compta (Primrose Miner Bee), the latter being an oligolege. These insects seek nectar, although some of the bees collect pollen.
The caterpillars of several moths feed on the foliage. This includes Endryas unio (Pearly Wood Nymph), Desmia funeralis (Grape Leaffolder Moth), Hyles lineata (White-Lined Sphinx), and Mompha eloisella (Momphid Moth; bores through stems).
Various beetles feed on the foliage, including Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle), Grahops pubescens (Leaf Beetle sp.), Altica fusconenea (Flea Beetle sp.), and several Curculio beetles. The seeds are eaten by goldfinches.
Generally speaking I do not go around ripping out ferns by the roots but I could not pass up this opportunity. The loose, sandy soil allowed me to excavate by hand this frond of the Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) with the rhizome section attached.
Seen here is the growing terminus of the Bracken fern rhizome. This fern can cover hundreds, if not thousands of acres and colonies can be 100s of years old.
Every trip we take to the Great Lakes we find different water levels. Of late they seem to be getting higher. Although on our 2010 trip the water levels were noticeably lower. That year I am sure this Willow growing in and at the waters edge could have easily been skirted by beach walkers.
The most recent high water mark can easily be seen here where the wave action deposited a "wind row" of detritus.
The Lake Michigan water was now still and crystal clear.
The yellow ground cover seen here is some species of Sedum. Considering we saw it along roads, in yards and on the beach I am doubtful it is a native plant.
The poor shot of the white flower is Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris).
This plant is native to Eurasia, and it was first observed in Illinois during the late 19th century. Bladder Campion was probably introduced into the United States as a horticultural plant because of the attractive flowers. Habitats include disturbed grassy areas in various waste areas, including vacant lots, abandoned fields, and areas along railroads. This plant also adapts to disturbed sandy areas where there is scant vegetation, including middle to upper beaches along Lake Michigan.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say at some point one will be able to take a walk and see nothing but non native plants.
This plant I could not identify even with the help of a field guide. I am sure Rodney will know what it is.
After our walk we went back and put on our suits and went for a dip.
After our dip we had some breakfast, got on our bikes and pedaled into town for a look around.
This old hotel which sits on the bay is now known as the "King Strang Hotel Club" and it is a private club. It has an interesting history.
Without the Irish settlers Beaver Island would not be what it is today.
The Irish potato blight had started in 1845 and decimated the country over the next three years. Absentee landlords shipped the few crops grown in the poor soils to the most lucrative markets, and farmers who had worked the same plot for generations, still using their great grandfathers' spade and hoe, were evicted if they could not pay their rent. Without the potato crop, there simply was no money.
Plunged into misery, the gaunt people of Arranmore were reduced to eating seaweed. In 1847, after half had been evicted by a landowner they'd never seen because they had no documents to prove they'd ever paid rent, the Society of Friends sent 2 coffin ships to bring many of them to America.
Like other Irish, the Arranmore Islanders congregated in Quebec and Toronto, in New York, and in the Pennsylvania coal fields. A high percentage spoke only Gaelic. They were dependent on social concourse for their sense of identity and did their best to stay together.
Thus when a few of them happened onto Beaver Island, both before and after the Mormon exodus, it could only be expected that they would get word to their family and friends.
Source: © 2002-2011 The Beaver Beacon
There is an Irish flavor just about everywhere on Beaver Island.
The Marine Museum is a must see even if you have only a marginal interest in such things.
Click to read the sign.
I love these old wooden signs.
At the entrance is this old wooden boat rudder.
I did not take any pictures of the displays on the inside. You will have to visit the museum and see them for yourself.
Paradise Harbor was once a very busy place.
Next door to the museum there was a fella working on restoring old maritime horns. When he blew this one it vibrated every bone in my body. Check out the size of the compressor hose!
I did grab one shot from inside the Marine Museum. This shows some islanders with a horse which is pulling an ice saw. All the pages of the article were on display. I might have to pick up a copy.
On our way back from Whiskey Point and the Marine Museum we stopped by McDonough's Market to check out their beer selection.
This photo was taped up on the wall back by the meat case. What a hoot! These two young turks and their family have really made their mark on Beaver Island: McDonough's Market and the Dalwhinnie Bakery & Deli and Wojan Realty, Contracting and Excavating.
We continued on through town and picked up the Donegal Bay Trail which we took to the St. James County Campground.
Here we found a nice quiet spot to enjoy a skinny dip.
We then pedaled back to Sue's place and arrived just in time for Happy Hour.
A fitting end to a fun day on the Island.
Tuesday ~ 11 July 2017: Pedaling around Beaver Island, more Museum time and our dinner out.
I got up early and went down to the beach to check out the sunrise. Pretty nice.
That is Garden Island in the distance.
Just as we were ready to start our bike ride, these two came to visit. Sue has a bunch of regulars who visit her naturalized "yard" which is full of milkweed and other goodies.
Our bike route would take us south down The King's Highway, then east on Hannigan's Road then north on East Side Road. There was very little traffic even on the paved section of Kings Highway. The unpaved section narrowed down and went through dense forests of maple and Thuja swamps. We heard a Black-throated green warbler, Winter wren, Ovenbird and others. It was a really nice pedal and we took our time and soaked it all in.
These two structure shots were the only ones I took on our bike ride. Sue told us this is one of the few Mormon built farm structures still standing.
When we got back to town we stopped at the Beaver Island Historical Society Museum. Another must see if you visit.
More info about them pesky Mormons.
We had cooked our meals for the first two nights and decided to eat out our last night on the Island. We chose Circle M as it was recommended by Sue and also by some folks we had met on the beach our first day here.
Here Betsy makes good use of her smart phone to Google exactly what "remoulade sauce" is.
We had poke for our appetizer. It was good but I enjoyed more the poke I had (several times) at Pacific Catch in San Francisco.
Our dinner which we split: Smoked white fish with remoulade sauce, taters and snap peas. Very tasty.
After finishing our beer we had a leisurely pedal back to Sue's place. When we arrived we updated her on our busy day and then it was off to bed.
And that concludes our first visit to Beaver Island. Hats off to Sue for helping make our visit comfortable and fun. You can find out about Sue's "Island Getaway" rental here.
Tomorrow we catch the 11:30 ferry back to Charlevoix, pedal down to pick up the van and then start the drive north to the UP.
See you then...
Mike and Betsy.