The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Legal Action to Stop the Asian Carp

Michigan was the first state to initiate legal action to stop the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. Now, Wisconsin joins the battle. Since there are several agencies responsible for maintaining and overseeing the waterways that connect Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River system, legal action may be the only way to prevent this invasive species from entering the lake. The various agencies seem to be playing the 'it's not our responsibility' game and pointing fingers at each other.

The following is from today's

Wisconsin will join Michigan’s fight to stop Asian carp

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he will join the state of Michigan’s efforts to keep the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan.
“I am currently preparing Wisconsin’s response to the United States Supreme Court supporting Michigan’s filing in this matter,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “I remain deeply concerned about this matter and intend to present the best case to protect Lake Michigan and those of us who rely upon and cherish this resource.”
The deadline to file with the U.S. Supreme Court is Thursday, Dec. 31.
“We are going to be making our filing early this afternoon,” said Bill Cosh, communications officer for the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.
Michigan is seeking an injunction from the Supreme Court to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the Asian carp from reaching the great lakes. Experts fear the non-native Asian Carp would devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and destroy native fish populations in the lakes.
Minnesota and Ohio have also filed suit to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking legal means to stop the spread of the Asian carp.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to Van Hollen this week urging him to join with Michigan.
“I believe that we have reached the point where it is imperative to close waterways in Illinois to prevent the introduction of Asian carp in the Great Lakes,” Barrett said. “Asian Carp pose an economic and ecological threat to the entire Great Lakes, and their entry into Lake Michigan would cause irreparable harm to not only the Great Lakes, but also to Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes.”

Research and Notes

I made reference to the research I've been doing while I write the account of my Lake Trek. Well, I've been reading everything I could get my hands on for the last year or so about the Great Lakes and, specifically, Lake Michigan. I thought I'd show you the books that are threatening to push me out of my small home office.

The work of Jerry Dennis and the photographs of Ken Scott have inspired me to try to fully convey the beauty and scale of the Leelanau Peninsula area. I've read histories of the cities, both small and large, along the lakeshore. And I've collected books about all sorts of Great Lake topics: geology, history, culture, toxic sites, ship wrecks, car ferries, water use issues, travel guides, environment, ecosystems, etc.

I've also enjoyed reading how other writers have tackled the 'adventure memoir' (if there is such a category). Peter Jenkins' A WALK ACROSS AMERICA has been inspirational. And I recently discovered the British writer Robert Macfarlane and his gorgeous book THE WILD PLACES which chronicles his exploration of the remaining wild parts of Great Britain.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revisiting the Lake Trek

I've been going through the thousands (yes, thousands) of photos I took while on my 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach. And I'm beginning to assemble them into videos so that you can experience the Lake Trek with me.

I'm hard at work on the book about my adventure, doing research, rewriting, more research, looking over my copious notes, rewriting. I promise it will be a fun read and that you'll learn things you never knew about Lake Michigan (just as I did while walking around it).

'My Lake' is how I've come to think about the lake. I feel more protective of it, more connected to it, like I've recorded it in my body by spending this year walking entirely around it. 'Our Lake' is how we should all feel about Lake Michigan.

Here is the first video. It is of Segment 1 of the Lake Trek, Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan. I walked this segment alone from March 16-20. It is the most heavily industrialized part of the lake, so there were long stretches where I was forced inland to get around steel mills, container ports, and other industry. I've included shots along the lakeshore here.

Note: You may want to press the 'play' button, then pause it and let it completely load before resuming play. This will allow it to play smoothly.

Walk with me:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Handfuls of Lake Michigan

All along Lake Michigan's shoreline, when I found interesting things I would scoop up a handful and take a photo.

Here are just a few of these handfuls, shells and rocks and tumbled slag, found in various spots along the lakeshore.

The first photo is a mix of rocks and shells (both the invasive zebra mussel and native snail shells).

The second photo is unmistakably zebra mussels found near Cross Village on the NW of Michigan's lower peninsula. It was here that I came across the largest deposit of these shells, a windrow deposited by wind and wave that stretched for over 50 feet along the shore.

The next photo is of the colorful tumbled slag cast off from the iron smelting operation in the town of Fayette which operated for over 20 years in the later part of the 19th century. This site is on the Garden Peninsula in Michigan's UP.

The next photo is of a handful of tumbled slate found south of Michigan's Fisherman's Island State Park. This was the only place along the lakeshore where I came across this unusual stone in this quantity. There were walls of the shale, sometimes with tiny waterfalls cascading down the face.

I've been asked several times about the place to find the most colorful stones along the lake. This last handful is from the beach in the city of Charlevoix. For variety of color and the fact that all the stone had been so delightfully tumbled, I'd rate this beach among the best for interesting rocks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wild Side of the Lake

We've had a couple of big snowstorms
already this winter, and when that first 'lake effect' snow flies, I'm reminded of how the lake influences our weather and precipitation. I also think back to the first day I hiked with my son, Lucas, and how a storm had the lake all wild and riled with huge waves and howling wind. This was back in early April.

The photos at the top were taken on the same stretch of shoreline as the photo at the top of this blog. If you look closely, you'll see a vertical marker and a smaller, triangular one on the beach. These markers show just how far the lake was pushed up on the shoreline this day.

This was -- no contest -- the toughest day I hiked on the Lake Trek. Headwinds were sustained at 35mph and gusted to much stronger. We only did 5 miles that day, but it felt like 25.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lighthouse Museum

When I signed up to be a volunteer at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, I knew there would be a variety of tasks we volunteers would handle from running the gift shop on the weekend, to helping to winterize the lighthouse and out buildings. One thing I didn't expect, though, was to have the opportunity to help set up a display for the museum.

The museum is in the process of dedicating a room to the McCormick family who tended the light from 1922 to 1938. This family had eleven kids, two of whom still live in northern Michigan.

One of the kids, Doug (who himself would later be a lighthouse keeper), has donated many artifacts for the museum. Among them is is dress Coast Guard uniform complete with sword (held by volunteer, Bonnie, in photo above). Doug's unit was mobilized to the Pacific theater of war during WWII, and Doug was at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Volunteer John Reynolds (below) spent several days in the basement workshop of the lighthouse custom building a beautiful wood case to house and protect the uniform. I had the privilege of dressing the manequin.

It was fascinating to actually touch some of the history of this lighthouse, to listen to director Stef Staley talk about her vision for this room, and to feel a connection between the lighthouse's past and its future visitors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Asian Carp -- closer to the lake than previously thought

One Asian carp was found in the area that was treated with Rotenone (a fish poison).

The connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River system is manmade. It is the Sanitary and Ship Canal and it was dug in the 1890s. We are able to disconnect these two water systems. Shipping commodities around the Chicago area would have to be modified a bit, but most of the shipping within the canal systems does NOT go out into the lake anyway.

Even a temporary closure of the canals would be wise in order to determine how well the electric barriers are working and how they can be optimized or augmented with other barriers.

Here is a list of the decision makers in this battle:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

For questions about Rotenone application
Stacey Solano (217) 299-3733
Chris McCloud (217) 299-7128

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
For questions about the electric barriers/maintenance
Lynne Whelan (312) 846-5330

U.S. Coast Guard
For questions about the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal closure
Lt. Dave French (216) 902-6021

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For questions about the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes
Anne Rowan (312) 353-9391
Phillippa Cannon (312) 353-6218 (773) 271-3370 (cell)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
For questions about the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes
Ashley P. Spratt (612) 713-5314

Carp on Foodista

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Asian Carp Get Closer to Lake Michigan

We have a rare opportunity here. In the past, we haven't learned about new invasive species in the Great Lakes until it has established itself and, usually, destabilized the ecosystem even further. With the Asian Carp (which is making its way toward Lake Michigan via the Sanitary and Ship Canal), we have a window of time in which to take action to prevent their arrival in the lake.

There are currently two electric barriers in the canal to stop the fish from reaching the lake, but there is concern that they may not be entirely effective. Recent testing of the canal water was positive for the asian carp DNA. This means that the fish are closer to the lake than previously thought.

(Photo: The Calumet River flowing into Lake Michigan)

The decisive step of poisoning a stretch of the canal to kill all fish there is happening today. This will allow maintenance to be done on the electric barriers and also allow researchers to find out if any of the carp have reached the barriers. Read about it in the Detroit Free Press article. This is not a permanent fix for the problem, though, and flooding of the Des Plaines River could sweep the fish past the electric barriers.

Shipping in the Great Lakes is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is this industry that has transported the majority of the invasive species (from around the world) to the Great Lakes. The zebra mussel (from the Caspian Sea), the quagga mussel (from the Ukraine), and the round goby (from Europe) all hitched rides in the ballast water of ships from fresh water ports around the world and were then dumped into our lakes. How costly is it to treat ballast water so that nothing survives from these far off ports to attack our lakes? Certainly nowhere near the billions of dollars that just these three invasive species have cost the Great Lakes.

There are two major ports on the south end of the lake. I walked by both of them. Ocean going vessels can dock here, then barges take goods inland via canals and rivers to the Mississippi. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. How costly, really, would it be to seal off the canals permanently and transport cargo a short way overland to nearby rivers that connect to the Mississippi? It can't be as costly as turning our lakes over to these voracious, invasive fish.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunset from Leland

Here is another clip of a sunset, this time from the beach at the city of Leland. From this vantage point, the sun sets between Pyramid Point and the Manitou Islands.

This area is probably my favorite stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore is along here and the stunning Leelanau Peninsula. The land here shows the obvious shaping of the glaciers that pushed through this area, then receded several times over 10,000 years ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lake Michigan Sunset

While up at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, I was treated to some spectacular Lake Michigan sunsets. I filmed this one across Cathead Bay, just southwest of the lighthouse.


**For a real master photographer's eye on this gorgeous area, check out Ken Scott's work**

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Mystery of the Grooved Rocks

While volunteering up at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, I took some time to walk the shoreline. The director of the lighthouse pointed out an unusual stone in the shallow water near the lighthouse. This tan colored stone (first photo) had been worked at one end to form a groove. The story behind a rock like this was that the Native Americans would groove rocks along the shoreline where they wanted to tie up their canoes. This rock would probably been stood on end so that the groove would be on top, ready for a rope to be looped around it.

I hiked the 5 miles from the lighthouse to the other end of Cat Head Bay, and on that point found this second rock. It also looks like it has had grooves worked into it, and it was near the point which would have been a land feature easily recognized from the lake.

This second rock was quite large. My boot is in the shot to give a sense of its scale.

On the hike back from the point, I was treated to this fireball sunset.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You the First?

I was often asked as I walked around Lake Michigan if I was the first to do this. I had heard of many people biking around the lake and had read several books have been written by people who have driven around all five Great Lakes. It was back in February, though, when I heard a rumor about a woman who had walked around Lake Michigan, and possibly all five of the Great Lakes. And I finally had some time to track down the woman behind the story.

She is Josephine Mandamin, a member of the Anishinabe tribe in Canada and she did, indeed, organize and participate in a Water Walk, taking on one Great Lake a year between 2003 and 2008. This epic undertaking was prompted by a prophesy from a tribal elder that the waters of the Great Lakes would die within 30 years if action wasn't taken on their behalf. Mandamin's action was to raise awareness about the problems facing the lakes by walking around each one. She was joined each year by a small group from her tribe on her walks. They walked mostly on main roads so that they would pass through communities where Mandamin could share her message that "the water is sick...and people need to really fight for that water, to speak for that water, to love that water."

While I walked mostly alone and mainly on the shoreline, I hope that our paths overlapped at some point. It would be my honor to have followed in this amazing woman's footsteps, and I share her concern and love for Lake Michigan.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Lake Gives Apples

On my way back home from the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, I stopped in at an apple orchard. Christmas Cove Farm grows over 240 varieties of apples on their land near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.

There is rich history with many of the varieties grown there. The Zabergau was grown as far back as the 1700s in Germany. Snow has its roots in France even further back into the 1600s.

was a variety spread through this country by none other than Johnny Appleseed.

And Thomas Jefferson cultivated the Spitzenburg variety at Monticello.

Michigan -- especially the west side of the state -- is known for its rich agricultural tradition. This bountiful harvest is linked directly to Lake Michigan. It is the deep, fresh water of the lake that mediates the weather for this growing zone, and the glaciers that formed the lake also shaped the land for agriculture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Independent Bookstores Near the Lighthouse

I had the opportunity to visit two independent bookstores during the week I was volunteering at the lighthouse. Brilliant Books, in Suttons Bay, was a store that I had stopped in while on the Lake Trek. This time, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Peter Makin. We had a nice chat about his store and independent bookstores in general.

Brilliant Books was running a book fair while I was there. A percentage of the proceeds were going to local schools. At a time when Michigan's economy is struggling and school budgets are being slashed to the bone (and beyond), it was encouraging to know that Brilliant Books was pitching in to help local schools.

Peter also invited me back to do a reading and book signing during their Friday Night Series at Brilliant Books. I'm honored to be asked, and will look forward to being part of this series next year after my book has been published.

And then I stopped in at Dog Ears Books in Northport. There I met Pamela and her dog (whom I assume is the 'Dog' in the 'Dog Ears' title). This store has a large collection of used and new books and I found a signed copy of Jerry Dennis' It's Raining Frogs and Fishes.

I'm a big fan of Jerry Dennis' work, so it was great to hold this out-of-print title, then take it home with me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

To the Lighthouse...

I spent last week living and working at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse located on the northern tip of Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula. This lighthouse warned sailors of the shallow waters and guided them into the safety of Grand Traverse Bay from the 1850s until it was decommissioned in the 1970s.

We volunteers had a variety of tasks over the week. We staffed the gift shop and museum, put up decorations for the holidays, raked leaves, and helped install new museum displays.

Of course, there was time to hike the lakeshore and watch the sunset from the lighthouse tower. It was a full week, and I'll be posting more photos and stories soon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saving Sailing

My friend, Phil Martin, sent me the latest book published by his imprint, Crickhollow Books. It is Saving Sailing by Nicholas D. Hayes.

Now, I'm not much of a sailor (though I've enjoyed the times I've been out on the lake on boats), but I found the approach of this book to be rather fascinating.

Hayes uses the lens of sailing to examine society in much the same way that Malcolm Gladwell has used case studies and statistics to dissect societal trends. Hayes looks at how the amount of time we invest in pastimes which have a learning curve and that may be shared with -- and skills passed on to -- friends and family (like sailing) are becoming less common as we fill our time with cable tv and individual pursuits.

If you love to sail it is a must read.

Even if you're not a sailor, it's a compelling read.

If you're wondering about the health of the American family, this book provides a unique perspective and suggests prescriptions to strengthen the family.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

The 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach may be complete, by my adventure with the lake continues. For one week in November, I'll be living at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse on the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. They have a volunteer program there where you can stay and work at the lighthouse.

When I hiked this segment of the lake, I ran short on time and had to cut across the peninsula instead of walking to the top where the lighthouse keeps watch over the lake and bay. So, this is my time to explore some of these beautiful miles.

I'll be blogging about this experience and many more that I'll have over the upcoming months as I work on my book A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan.

So, check back, and check earlier posts for photos of my Lake Trek.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tracks in the Sand

There were all sorts of tracks in the sand where I left the prints of my boots. Often, I stopped to take photos as evidence of who had been walking the shoreline ahead of me.

There were scads of deer tracks (below) and at least one bear prowling the shoreline (above).

This track puzzled me for awhile until I saw a crayfish walking the sand leaving these marks behind.

An occasional hoof print where people had ridden in the surf and sand.

There were raccoon tracks, especially near streams.

And, of course, many types of birds left their marks as they wandered the shore.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rock Hound

Most people are familiar with the petoskey stone, a fossilized ancient corral, hexigonaria percarinata, found along the shoreline of NW Michigan (first photo). There are many other fossils to be found on the lake, though. Check out the second photo. I found all of these on my Lake Trek.

There is also a wide variety of rock types and colors in Lake Michigan. Photos 3&4 are of rocks from SW Michigan shoreline. Photo 5 is from the final stretch from Milwaukee to Chicago. One even looks like a fossilized tooth (photo 6).

The final handful are not natural stones at all. This is cast-off slag (the impurities separated out during the refining process) from a steel mill that has been tumbled by the lake for decades.

Around the city of Leland, Michigan, these are called 'Leland Blues.' Local artisans there make earrings and other crafts using these intriguing 'stones.'

The colors of tumbled slag range from turquoise to milky blue and all shades in between.