Five Reasons to Stay Out After Dark in Northern Michigan

Landscape photographer, Aubrieta V. Hope, invites us to venture north this summer and enjoy the magic of a Pure Michigan night sky.

Very few places on earth are as beautiful and melodic as Northern Michigan after sunset.  The night sky beckons us with a million, twinkling reasons to stay up late.  And, the wild creatures call us as well.  Coyotes cry out from distant hilltops, their voices joined by cicadas, frogs, and songbirds.  Unlike many parts of the U.S., where city lights outshine the stars and traffic noises drown out the sounds of wildlife, the night is naturally dark and alive in Northern Michigan.

For the most vivid night skies, visit a park or rural area near one of the Great Lakes, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or Headlands International Dark Sky Park.  Spritz on some bug spray, pack a blanket and snacks, pop a headlamp on your head (the kind with a red-light setting), and try these ideas for experiencing the night sky.

1.  Stay and Enjoy the Twilight Glow 

Many people watch the sunset and leave, missing the beauty and peace of twilight.  Stay for the encore!  That’s when the sky catches fire, glowing red, orange, and pink, the embers burning to charcoal, and deepening to blue until the stars emerge and night falls.  Listen for the music of the night, the chorus of wildlife, and the whisper of wind and water.

MI15-0705-9944 Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope

2.  Take a Walk in the Moonlight  

The sight of a full moon rising, casting a silver path across the water is mesmerizing. In open areas, such as beaches or dunes, even a waning moon shines quite brightly.  Wander at will, but bring along your red-light headlamp to preserve your night vision in case you need extra light.

MI14-0561-1792 Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

3.  Catch the Northern Lights

What can be more memorable than seeing the northern lights sweep across the sky?  To increase your chances of catching them, spend time in a dark, open area with a clear view to the north.  If you notice the northern horizon brightening just after nightfall, stick around!  It just might be the northern lights. Many websites and phone apps provide northern lights forecasts.  I use www.softservenews.com and www.swpc.noaa.gov.

MI15-0701-9649 Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0579-7751 Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope

4.  Look for Ghosts in a Ghost Town

Michigan has a surprising number of ghost towns that are spooky-fun to stroll at night (unless prohibited). The past always seems much closer after dark!  My favorite ghost towns are at Glen Haven and South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  I’ve not met any ghosts there (yet).  But, I have seen beautiful night skies above each.  (Glen Haven is a great place to watch the northern lights.)

MI13-0526-1083 Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

5.  Make a Wish Upon a Shooting Star

You won’t need a telescope on a clear, moonless night in Northern Michigan to see the stars.  But you will need lots of wishes: shooting stars happen all the time!  Sometimes, as in this scene, shooting stars and the Milky Way appear simultaneously.  This year, the best nights for wishing will be August 9-13 (during the Perseid Meteor Showers). The peak of the showers will be August 12.

MI15-0701-9765 Shooting Stars at D H Day Barn by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Shooting Stars at D.H. Day Barn” by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0606-0758 Aubrieta Hope for Pure Michigan BlogAubrieta V. Hope is a scenic photographer and writer with a special interest in Northern and Upper Michigan.  Her images are available as prints, digital downloads, and Michigan souvenirs.  Visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com, check out her Michigan Scenery Facebook Page, or stop by Petoskey Pete’s in Glen Arbor.

Nine Things You Might Not Have Known About The Soo Locks

Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie is the last Friday in June. There’s something for everyone, historic open houses, spectacular vistas and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the great Soo Locks

Check out these nine interesting facts about the Soo Locks to inspire your visit from Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

A man-made marvel and the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage, yes the Soo Locks! On average, between seven and ten thousand ships come through the locks during the shipping season each year.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond.  We have repeat visitors every season; they call themselves Boat Nerds, that watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  Now here are some facts about the locking system and the St. Marys River.

$500.4 Billion value attributed to the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks each year. An average of 80 million tons of cargo moves through them each year.

7,000 passages each year – Crews at the Soo Locks complete these lockages during the 42- week- long navigations season. They are open 24 hours a day.  Can you take your personal boat through the locks? Yes, as long as you have a motor and permission from the lockmaster.

2,342 miles- ships from all over the world visit this port as the locks are a part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which connects Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic!

22 Million gallons of water to lift a boat. The locks are powered by gravity itself!  Water moves in and out of the lock chambers by just opening and closing valves.

1000 foot boats- There are 13-1000 footers on the Great Lakes, and the largest boat that comes through the Soo Locks is the Paul R. Tregurtha, in at 1013 feet 6 inches which is larger than three football fields! The first vessels on the great lakes were 40 foot-long canoes.

Mikel B Classen

Photo courtesy of Mikel B Classen via Sault Ste. Marie CVB

9 hours between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it takes a freighter about nine hours to pass through the St. Mary’s River system

21 foot drop- A thick layer of bedrock holds back the waters of Lake Superior where it joins the St. Marys River. This drop prevented boats from passing through. This reddish sandstone lines most of Lake Superior southern shores and is about 1000 feet-thick.   The Fairbanks Scale Company, which is still in business today, built the first permanent lock, State Lock.

3-4 cents per ton- From 1855 to 1881, this was the toll, but today it is free.

The propeller in Soo Locks Park is from a steamer named the Independence, which exploded just northwest of today’s locks.  One crewman is said to have survived a trip down the rapids on a hay bale from the ship.

Now that you know more about the Soo Locks, come and visit us during Engineer’s Weekend, when you can go into the locks and get up close and personal with this engineering marvel! Can’t make it that one day of the year? You can visit the Soo Locks Park anytime between late March and Mid-January to see the freighters go through the locks.

Engineer’s Day is always the last Friday in June, which falls on the 30th in 2017. See what Engineer’s Weekend is all about in the video below.

 

Have you been to the Soo Locks? Tell us about your experience!

7 Michigan Myths to Tell Around the Campfire

Whether they start with “I heard that…” or “my friend knew someone who…” urban legends have been a part of growing up for generations. Some are meant to entertain, others are meant to teach a lesson, and many others are more than a little spooky. One thing remains consistent: they are too unbelievable to take seriously, yet too believable to dismiss. Guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten put together this list of 7 myths and urban legends in Michigan that you can explore for yourself this summer.

1. The Singing Sands of Bete Grise

On the south side of the Keweenaw Peninsula is a beautiful beach that contains more than meets the eye. The legend is that a Native American woman lost her love to Lake Superior and, because she spent the rest of her life on the beach crying and calling out to him, the white sand still calls to him to this day. You can reawaken her voice by making the sand sing with the palm of your hand, by patting or brushing the surface. However, it only works if you’re on the beach at Bete Grise. Take the sand anywhere else, and it loses its voice.

A sunset at the Keweenaw Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of Amy Shook

2. Le Griffon Shipwreck 

Between the Upper Peninsula and Green Bay, there is a chain of small islands in Lake Michigan. Somewhere in this area (no one knows for sure) is a mysterious shipwreck that is considered a historic “holy grail.” The first full-size cargo ship to sail the inner Great Lakes, Le Griffon was built by explorer Robert de La Salle in 1679. The ship was a work of art, featuring a majestic griffin (half lion, half eagle) figurehead on its front and an eagle on its stern.

Le Griffon started her maiden voyage up the Niagara River to Lake Erie, gave Lake St. Clair its name while passing into Lake Huron, and stopped in Mackinaw City for Sunday Mass before landing at Washington Island, at the mouth of the Green Bay. There, the crew loaded the ship to the brim with valuable furs and other goods, while La Salle stayed ashore to make plans for further exploration west. Le Griffon departed for a return trip to Niagara slightly more than a month after its initial departure.

Woodcut of Le Griffon from "Nouvelle Decouverte."

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the ship and crew were never seen or heard from again. Many assumed that Le Griffon was lost during a fierce storm shortly after leaving port. Others reported that the ship was boarded and burned down or destroyed. This could have been the work of rival fur traders, local Native American tribes, or nearby Jesuits, all of whom were threatened by La Salle’s plans for westward expansion. La Salle believed that the weary crew, who had been forced to build the ship in harsh winter conditions with limited resources and under the constant threat of attack, had finally been convinced to mutiny by the untrustworthy pilot. He figured that they made off with the cargo before sinking the ship. We may never know what happened to Le Griffon, and the only clues lie in remains that may never be found.

3. Torch Lake Monster

With all this talk of bizarre things on or in the water, it makes you wonder what else might be down there. One famous lake monster, somewhere in the deep, clear waters of Torch Lake, has been preying on unsuspecting visitors and campers of YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha for generations. Dave Foley, a counselor at the camp in the 1960s and ‘70s, takes credit for starting the myth, which was later popularized in a song by fellow counselor and folk musician Bob Thurston. “One eye is brown, one eye is blue / His body covered all in icky green goo,” the lyrics sang. The presence of 50-pound muskies in the lake likely contributed to his tale. But another legend speaks of a sea panther, claiming that Torch Lake contains a monster with the head of a cat and the body of a lizard. Did Foley make up a monster story to entertain campers, only to stumble upon something even scarier?

4. Old Presque Isle Light

Let’s take a step out of the water for a moment and visit another one of Michigan’s great defining features: lighthouses. Ships traveling between the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Huron need to make a turn at Presque Isle, on the northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula. Old Presque Isle Light was built in 1840 to help guide safe passage, but it deteriorated quickly. In less than 30 years, it was replaced by New Presque Isle Light slightly farther north, which is still in operation today.

Old Presque Isle Light has been known to shine at night without electricity or a bulb

Photo Courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Old Presque Isle Light was refurbished as a museum in 1977, with George and Lorraine Parris hired as the original caretakers. They loved their role so much, George didn’t want to leave, even after his death in 1991. Lorraine first saw the lighthouse fully lit in 1992, despite all of the wiring being removed or disconnected for decades. Since then, sailors, pilots, and spectators from across the harbor have reported seeing the yellow glow, long after the bulb was removed from the lens. Many have also seen a figure in the lantern room, and others report mysteriously helpful coincidences around the lighthouse. The Coast Guard does not have an official explanation, but it sounds like George is still enjoying the lighthouse while helping visitors from the other side.

5. Paulding Light

Another inexplicable light shines in Paulding, a town near Sleepy Hollow on the west edge of the Upper Peninsula. Heavy woods surround the area, and a stretch of northbound Old US-45 ends abruptly at a sign from the U.S. Forestry Service. “This is the location from which the famous Paulding Light can be observed,” it reads. “Legend explains its presence as a railroad brakeman’s ghost, destined to remain forever at the sight of his untimely death.” Power lines and a service road cut straight through the trees as far back as the hills will let you see, and it’s in this clearing that sightings of the Paulding Light have happened almost nightly since 1966. Some explain the light with different ghost stories, while others contend it’s swamp gas or car headlights. Until you see it for yourself, there’s no way to be sure.

6. Dogman 

One of the most popular urban legends in Michigan involves a tall, dog-like creature with piercing eyes and a screaming howl. Neither a werewolf nor Bigfoot, instead you’ll find Dogman roaming the northern woods of the Lower Peninsula. Steve Cook, then a DJ at a Traverse City radio station, claims that he started the myth when he made up a song about Dogmen titled “The Legend” as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1987.

A potential photo of Dogman in the Upper Peninsula in 1968

Photo courtesy of CR Productions

Cook clearly underestimated this legend, as people quickly started calling in to corroborate the stories of their encounters. One man recalled an incident with the beast from 1938, when he was approached by a pack of dogs. Several scattered when he fired his rifle into the air, but one simply stood up tall and glared at him before sprinting away. The first reports of Dogman date back to 1887, when two lumberjacks saw a creature with a man’s body and a dog’s head, but there are also similar reports from French fur traders dating as far back as the early 1800s.

An unusual animal attack in the nearby town of Luther in 1997 seemed to confirm Cook’s prediction of a ten-year cycle for Dogman attacks, but video evidence of an attack in 2007 turned out to be a hoax. With the next round of Dogman sightings expected in 2017, will modern technology finally allow us to capture proof of this beast when it appears… and will you be brave enough to face it when it does?

7. True Love’s Kiss

Not wanting to leave you too freaked out about our great state, our list ends with an urban legend that will make you feel good. At least three universities have versions of this story, and it’s likely that many more have something similar.

At Michigan State University, the gorgeous Beaumont Tower stands above the trees in the middle of north campus. The spot itself has its own historic value, but today’s legend involves a kiss in the courtyard. A couple who kisses at this spot, either in the tower’s shadow or at the stroke of midnight, is destined to marry. One is only a “true Spartan” once they have kissed under the tower.

Each entrance to the University of Michigan’s Diag has its own charm, but the Engineering Arch has a special romantic importance. The legend is that college sweethearts who kiss under the arch at midnight will be destined to marry. This is more common as mythology than practice, but it’s a popular place for alumni to go for wedding or engagement photos.

The CMU seal is one of the most iconic landmarks on campus

Photo Courtesy of Central Michigan University

The seven-foot tall Central Michigan University seal has stood in front of Warriner Hall for generations. For just as long, there has been a legend that anyone who kisses their lover in front of the seal, at the stroke of midnight and under a full moon, will be together forever and destined to marry. And just when you thought you were done with ghost stories… the myth involves two star-crossed lovers who were supposed to meet under the seal at midnight to run away to get secretly married. The girl arrived early to wait eagerly, while the night kept getting colder and colder. The boy’s car broke down, and he was delayed several hours. He arrived to find her still there, frozen to death, determined to wait for him until the very end. As he cried and scooped her into his arms, he kissed her one last time and died of a broken heart. It’s said that the lovers were reunited in the afterlife, and their spirits visit the seal at midnight to bless lovers at their alma mater.

Heckaman

What stories, myths, and urban legends did everyone tell where you grew up? Let us know in the comments!

Joel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is also a social media professional with experience working with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.