UP We Go
The weather was beautifully sunny when we left Mackinac Island. The ferry sped us back over to Mackinaw City, where we hopped in our car to head over the 'Mighty Mac', the bridge that connects lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula - or 'UP' in local parlance. It's the third longest suspension bridge in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows and the Golden Gate.
Our first stop on the UP was Soo Locks... a.k.a. the coldest place I've ever been in summer. The locks are located on the St Marys River between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The locks fill up one compartment at a time, making it possible for ships to bypass the 21 foot drop that happens along this section of the river.
Next we headed up to Whitefish Point - specifically, to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is located a wild, barren point of land that juts out into Lake Superior. A light has been in place there since 1848, first a stone structure that burned whale oil, and later - on President Lincoln's orders - a steel structure. Since the 70s, the light has been automated, but today a museum of maritime history stands at the site.
At least 6,000 ships have sunk on the Great Lakes, which are more like a tempestuous inland sea than their name suggests. The area around Whitefish Point alone has claimed 240 ships since the early 1800s. The museum features an exhibit on the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the largest ships to sail the Great Lakes. The Edmund Fitzgerald hauled ore from Minnesota mines to the ironworks near Detroit. The ship sunk in Canadian waters in November of 1975, the entire crew of 29 being lost. Divers recovered the bell of the ship, which sits here today as a memorial.
Our last stop for the afternoon was Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The root beer-colored water of these falls comes from the tannins that leech into the river from the nearby cedar swamps. The upper set of falls are pretty impressive, being the third most voluminous to the east of the Mississippi (after Niagara and Cohoes, both in New York). My goal for the trip was to see a wolf, and here, I did! Of course, it was taxidermied, but hey... it's the thought that counts.
We drove on, overshooting our next day's destination to stay in a cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. It was the first of several breathtaking sunsets we experienced on the lake; we arrived just as the colors were fading below the horizon.