The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Advocate for Lake Michigan

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes ( He's the VP for Policy, which means he helps shape legislation, education, and grass roots efforts to protect and preserve the Great Lakes. He had suggested several books to read in an earlier e-mail exchange, and I had already read the books he listed.

Peter Annin's THE GREAT LAKES WATER WARS is an engaging history of water usage policy for the Great Lakes that details many legal skirmishes between the states and Canadian provinces which border the lakes and culminates with a detailed discussion of the Great Lakes Compact. This piece of legislation (which the Alliance for the Great Lakes was instrumental in helping shape and for also fostering its acceptance by all governing bodies concerned) is a landmark agreement on how and when and why the water of the Great Lakes can be used.

Access to fresh, clean water is going to be a defining issue worldwide in the next decades. The Great Lakes contains 20% of the world's fresh water. The Compact goes further to protect this water than any previous attempts to define the usage of this water.

My conversation with Mr. Brammeier was engaging and I will discuss many of the challenges facing Lake Michigan in my book about the trek: A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach.

Pre-Trek Planning

I was up north skiing this weekend at Crystal Mountain (the photo is the ski hills lit up at night). And, of course, I took some time to get out to the lake.

First, I went to Beulah, a small town at the base of Crystal Lake and stopped in at the Five Corners Store ( Bill and Patty Cary, and Bill's sister, Cathy, and stepson Billy were catching their breath after registering over a hundred fishermen and women for an ice fishing contest that day. They have a great store and they were excited to hear more about the lake trek. [Bill had coached my cousin Milene's son's soccer team, and she had mentioned my adventure to Bill.] They said that they'd love to stock the book in their store when it comes out, so I stopped in to meet the family and to see what they were catching out on Crystal Lake (perch, trout, and some fish that is considered to be 'freshwater lobster' that I'd never heard of before).

After promising to stop back in while on my journey this summer, I drove out to Frankfort, a cute little town on the shores of Lake Michigan with a deep, natural harbor. After stopping in at The Bookstore there (a lovely independent bookstore on Main Street), I parked at the beach. Oh, man was it cold! The wind was blowing and the sheet ice filled the mouth of the harbor. Outside the harbor, the waves had tossed and stacked the sheet ice into a rugged ridge about ten feet high.

I walked out on the pier a bit, until my ears (even under my hat and hood) stiffened with the cold. I love standing on the shores of West Michigan because the wind blows across all that water and it's clean and alive when it hits you. I've been to this harbor several times in all kinds of weather, and I stood their shivering and imagining what it would look like in June when I'd be walking this segment. It made me want to start right there, right then.

The start of the trek will have to wait, but not much longer. I will begin in Chicago, on the end of Navy Pier, March 16. From there, I will hike seventy miles (over five days) to New Buffalo, Michigan. Segment 2 will also happen in March, and Segment 3 in April.