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Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Author: sightseeingsue (More Trip Reviews by sightseeingsue)
Date of Trip: April 2006

The park is only open Mid-May through Mid-October but the Spring is open all year, as it never freezes. Snowmobiles and hikers can view this year round. It only takes less than a half-hour to visit, but bring a sack lunch or picnic basket to enjoy it here a little longer. The gift shop is open only during the parks season but offers lots of really neat souvenirs to purchase.

Before you enter the woods take a moment and read the sign which displays the "Prayer of the Woods." Appreciate the beauty and goodness nature offers us and do not harm its existence.

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Traveling down West Lakeshore Drive about 7.5 miles past the small town of Brimley, we came upon the Point Iroquois lighthouse, not hidden down some isolated road but right in plain site in the Hiawatha National Forest. Not knowing much about the history of this lighthouse but curious by its ostentatious edifice, we veered off the road making this our first pit-stop.

A sign greets you -- "This point of land is the historic battleground where westward invasion by the Iroquois Indiana was halted by the victorious Chippewa" and then continues on with a brief history of the natives, mentions the 93 continuous years of operation which finally ceased in 1963 due to an automatic light being erected in the channel.

The Point Iroquois Lighthouse was established in 1855 when increase shipping traffic was anticipated due to the construction of the Soo Locks. The lighthouse is located at the entrance of the St. Mary's River near the Locks and quickly became one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Ships passing from Lake Superior into the canal came close to Point Iroquois, through a narrow passage between the sandy shores of the American side and the rocky reefs on the Canadian side. Later in 1870, the house and tower were completely rebuilt, and in 1902, a two-story brick house was added to the grounds to provide housing for an assistant keeper.

For almost 100 years, the Point Iroquois provided guidance for the many traveling vessels out in the big lake. But in 1962 its light was extinguished as a new automatic beacon erected farther out in the water was preferred.

The 2-story white brick house with bright red roof and the white 65-foot attached tower, have been renovated and is now open to the public. We first toured the two rooms restored to be reminiscent of the 1950s and enjoyed seeing all the antiques on display as well as how the house might have looked in those days.

A short time later we ventured outside to climb the 65 foot tower. After 72 very twisting stairs in an extremely narrow tower, we made it to the top -- glad I'm not claustrophobic. The view outside was spectacular and we could see for miles. Looking out on the horizon gave me the sense of what the keepers and their families might have witnessed as well. And as luck would have it, a freighter way in the distance could be seen sailing on by.

The weather was gorgeous so we headed for the wooded walkway to the beach area. It was a pleasant stroll through a few pines, tall grasses and native wildflowers that grow in the sandy soil of the grounds. The beach was as beautiful as we expected, with crystal clear water gently rolling in off the lake, and unique shaped driftwood found just lying in the sand. This was a perfect find, and we were so glad we stopped.

The museum and gift shop are open from May 15th - October 15th from 9am- to 5pm daily.

Road Less Traveled

The sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 70s°F, and I was itching for a day trip while vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One hour east lied this quaint little village called Grand Marias, where the Log Slide and Grand Sable Dunes are located. I had heard so much about this place but had yet to experience it. I looked at the map and saw two choices from Munising. One, the direct route took us on Hwy-28 to 77, then north to Grand Marias, about 60 miles total. The second route, marked by dashed lines on our resorts map looked a bit longer but possibly on a more scenic path. My husband tried to discourage me by saying it's a long way on dirt roads, my brother-in-law from Colorado was just along for the ride and said it was up to me to decide. We plopped in some good tunes, grabbed a few bottles of water and gassed up the old beast (2000 Chrysler Town & Country mini van) and off we headed on the road I anticipated would provide us many scenic views or that rare spotting of a moose, bear or a bald eagle -- or at least that was my hope.

The scenic path we opted for takes you on miles of a terribly narrow, extremely deep sandy road barely improved and with little, if any, scenic sites. The road in spots was so sandy if you drove too slow you risk getting stuck or too fast would find yourself hydroplaning off into a path of a tree. We passed no quaint little towns to explore, had zero bars on our cell phones, passed only one other vehicle, were running exceptionally low on windshield washer fluid, and saw not as much as a bird during our wild-life excursion. We did pass several fire-ravished forests and ventured down several tree-lined roads that required good driving skills on, in order to maneuver around its tight curves while still trying to stay within its grooved tracks. It became very challenging trying desperately to avoid the oncoming intruding tree limbs and branches eagerly waiting to scratch up our vehicles finish. But not one moment that screamed out to me "stop and take my picture!"

We did, however, finally run into some other cars once we hooked up with Scenic Hwy-15. This deep canopied road runs parallel to the Lake Superior lakeshore taking you to a campground and Au Sable Point Lighthouse. Again, the road extremely narrow, twisting, and now increasing congested with sightseers created yet another problem, one which involved trying to avoid hitting opposing traffic. There were no panoramic views of the big lake, even though we were traveling long side it within a few hundred yards perched high about its banks. Though the road was beautiful, at times I felt driving on it was a little more stressful than enjoyable due to it's rough terrain and high volume of travelers.

Three and half hours later, in dire need of a restroom, a bit famished, nerves shot all to hell, and traveling with two grown men chanting "FIND BEER," we arrived at Grand Sable Dunes (meaning Big Sand) where you find the Log Slide. We quickly found the restrooms. Though not the modern flush type I prefer, they severed its purpose. Picnic tables are also available for your use near the parking lot.

History tells stories how loggers once rolled logs down long dry wooden chutes to the lake below to be loaded onto lumber schooners. They recall accounts of the chutes generating enough frictions to cause the chute to actually catch fire. This log slide was also very instrumental in the re-building of Chicago after it's great fire. Today the chutes are all gone, but the lumberjack stories still remain.

A 1000 foot groomed trail awaits you, and leads you through the woods to the Log Slide Overlook to see some of the world's most pristine perched dunes, Grand Sable Dunes. The Dunes covers a 5 mile stretch between the Sable River and Au Sable. Once on the path you will pass a large exhibit explaining some of the history here, which displays an enormous Big Wheel to observe as well as an old horse-powered log-roller that was used to transport logs from the forest to the Log slide. The walk is for the most part flat on a easily paved path. There are signs directing you to the observation deck for optimal viewing. Sign are posted for you to stay on the path or deck as widespread areas of poison ivy are commonly found off the trails.

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