The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Michigan City News-Dispatch Article

I had read the article online that the Michigan City paper did on the trek, but I had no idea it was on the front page until Janet Smith, owner of the Feallock House B&B, sent me a copy of the paper!

Nice photo, too, with the Michigan City lighthouse over my shoulder.

It's snowing here right now, and I'm glad to have a week off the trek to let the weather sort itself out. The next segment is from South Haven to Grand Haven, around 50 miles.

I head back to the lake on April 6.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Segment 2 Complete!

Segment 2 took me from Union Pier to South Haven up the west side of Michigan. It stretched 53 miles, passed through St. Joseph and Benton Harbor and ended in South Haven. Along the trek I also had to circumvent two nuclear power plants on the shores of Lake Michigan.

A special guest joined me on this segment, Ben, my son. He's 19 and a freshman at Calvin College studying engineering. And he was great fun on the trek. Well, except when he wanted to jog the last mile.

This segment covered a lovely section of the lake. The shoreline was quite varied. It ranged from high, treed bluffs, to sandy stretches, to eroding cliffs of clay and sand, to high dunes. Small towns stud this stretch and two nuclear power plants hold their ground on the lakeshore, too.

I've gone 125 miles around the lake now. The next segment will stretch from April 6-8. Another guest will join me on this segment: my son, Lucas. He's 16 and a soccer and track athlete. I fear there will be more jogging in this next segment.

Segment 2, Day 3 North of St. Joseph>South Haven 15 Miles!

High of 55 degrees.

Since there was no place to spend the night where Ben and I ended up after day 2's trek, my brother, Phil (in the middle in the photo to the left), picked us up and took us back to St. Joseph's to spend the night.

It was strange to travel those many miles in just a few minutes after Ben and I had taken hours along the beach to get so far.

This last day took us past another nuclear power plant, the Palisades Plant. Just north of the plant, we passed through the Van Buren State Park, a lovely, rustic place with tall, wooded dunes.

We had to scale some rock jetties on our way to South Haven, and Ben loved that.

In the last hours of the day, we passed the largest remains of the sheet ice of the winter.

Segment 2, Day 2 Stevensville>North of St. Joseph 22 Miles!

This was the longest day of the trek so far: 22 miles!

High of 61 degrees.

The maple sap is rising now. The photo on the left shows one lot where the maples were tapped and gallon jugs tied there to gather the sap.

The beginning of this day --heading north from Stevensville--gave us an unfriendly, sheer shoreline with many places where large boulders were placed to slow down erosion. We kept trying to make it down to the shore, but it was not until St. Joseph that the bluffs gave way to a walking-friendly beach.

We had a fantastic lunch at Cafe Tosi in St. Joseph (one of my favorite places on the lake). After lunch we visited Forever Books, and independent bookstore in the town. Then, we had many miles to go to our pick-up point, so we hit the trek again, heading north through Benton Harbor and past some of the tallest bluffs on the lake.

Segment 2, Day 1 Union Pier>Stevensville,MI 16 Miles

High of 61 degrees.

That's my son, Ben in the photo to the left. He was on spring break this week, and I roped him into experiencing the Lake Trek for this three-day segment.

We got mostly nice weather, partly sunny and breezy.

Early the first day as we headed north from Cherry Beach, we came to the water barriers at the Cook Nuclear Plant. We had to head inland (you can't pass between the plant and the lake) and could not get back to the lake the rest of that day due to the plant and the highway.

This industry needs the lake, too, like the steel and oil refineries I passed earlier in the trek. I've learned a lot about how the lake and industry interact and I'll be threading that history and information into my book about the trek.

This day also took us past Warren Dunes State Park. This was the place where I first fell in love with the lake.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Segment Complete!

I trekked 72 miles over five days covering the lake shore (and passing through or skirting some massive industrial complexes along the way).

It all began in Chicago on Monday, March 16, and by the end of today I had touched three states.

I dropped in on two more bookstores in Hyde Park and their links have been added to the sidebar!

It was an amazing beginning to this adventure and I met some great people along the way.

The trek continues with Segment 2: Union Pier to South Haven (both in Michigan) starting this Tuesday and ending Thursday (March 24-26). This segment is 60 miles long and I'll trek it with my son, Ben. Lucas, my other son, will join me on segment three in April.

I'm mailing out three hats today to followers of this blog (sign up by clicking hat in sidebar). Thank you all for following the journey!

Segment 1, Day 5 Michigan City, IN>Union Pier, MI 17 miles

High of 41 degrees.

Janet Smith, owner of the Feallock House Bed & Breakfast in the historic section of Michigan City not only makes a fabulous upside down pineapple french toast, she also invited community leaders to meet me over breakfast. In the group shot are Pat and Roger Potratz (he's the President of the Main Street Association), then Naomi and Neil Kienitz (he's a wonderful local artist and she works as a medical

transcriptionist), then Janet Smith is on the right (and again in
the shot with her cinnamon bread).

While I was having breakfast with these wonderful people, Janet was on the phone to the Mayor's office and then to the local paper. The Mayor had a meeting that morning, so she called Richard Murphy, a City Councilman. He and Deborah Sederberg, reporter from the News-Dispatch, met us at the beach to send me off on the last day of this segment of the Lake Trek.

Heaven help us if Janet Smith ever decides to use her powers for evil instead of good! Michigan City should be proud to have her and her wonderful B&B (where I got the best night's sleep of the trek so far) in their town.

The beach between Michigan City to New Buffalo is gorgeous. Part of
the reason it is so pristine is that Mary (in photo with black bag) always takes a trash bag along with her when she walks the stretch of beach by her home there. She loves the lake, too, and we talked about the Lake Trek a bit. She asked me if I ever got lonely on the trek and I said, "No, I have the lake." She smiled and nodded.

I met some wonderful people along the way and look forward to many more experiences along the Lake Trek. The next segment is next week, from Union Pier to South Haven and I'll walk it with my son, Ben.

Segment 1, Day 4 Portage, IN>Michigan City, IN 18 miles

High of 43 degrees.

This day I saw the last of the big industry along the lake. I had one steel mill and the massive Port of Indiana
to skirt, then I shot out to
the lake at Dune Acres where I met Harold (in photo to the right). He retired from working at Midland Steel after 35 years. He worked in the coal house slitting steel. Here they would take large rolls of steel and slit it down to smaller rolls for companies like Whirlpool or the car companies. He's now retired, but works part time in the Dune Acres community as a grounds and maintenance guy. He was checking out the flooding (yes, that's the playground underwater behind him).

I finally got out to the lake, all bundled up for the cold and windy day. There are still occasional chunks of ice on the beach, but they are covered with sand.

After walking the beach for about 5 miles, I drew near to Michigan City (in photo to right). After a total of 18 miles of trekking in the progressively colder day and with the last couple of miles on the shoulder of US12 and through Michigan City neighborhoods, I limped up to the Feallock House Bed & Breakfast. There the owner, Janet Smith, greeted me with a level of hospitality and excitement about the Lake Trek that I hadn't yet experienced.

More about this in Day 5!

Segment 1, Day 3 East Chicago, IN>Portage, IN 15 miles

High of 57 degrees.

Since I knew I'd have to catch a ride to get onto the other side of the highways from my hotel, I walked the beach as far as I could before catching a taxi. This first photo is Jeorse Park which butted up against the hotel/casino property and stretched to the distant steel mill and railroad yard.

After walking the beach and back, I caught a taxi into the center of nearby Gary.

The best thing about Gary is this massive sculptural tribute to the steel industry there.

After hustling through the center of the town, I trekked out US 12/20 for about six tough miles to get to a road that would finally shoot me back out to the lake.

It was all steel land I had to skirt here. And even from a mile or two away, I could hear the thrumming of that industry. I cannot imagine working within the walls of those steel mills. When the mill was built in Gary, it was the largest steel mill in the world.

It was torturous to visit so many bookstores along the way and not be able to buy any books (since I'd have to carry them on my back the rest of the way). I did give in, though, at 57th Street Books and purchased a collection of short stories by Stuart Dybek. He writes stories
set in Chicago, so it was good reading them while I was passing through that region. By the time I got to Gary, I had finished the book and it was extra weight on my back. Thankfully, I came across a 'Books for Charity' drop box along US12 (of all places) and could donate this book so it had a life after me. I hope Mr. Dybek approves.

Shortly after heading north again toward the lake, I entered the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore area. I made my way up to Marquette Beach. I could not stop smiling when I saw the first stretch of sand.

This wide stretch of beach is bookended by steel mills. It is odd to look out at the miles of lake stretching from the shore, then to glance left or right to see the billowing smoke from the mills.

It is an area with a strange mixture of nature's beauty and man's attempt to conquer, control, tame and use that very nature for his own purposes.

Segment 1, Day 2 Hyde Park>East Chicago, IN 12 miles

High of 71 degrees!

This day began in Jackson Park. This park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York's Central Park). This park was also the site of the 1893 World Exposition. The first two photos are from this grand (though in need of some care) park. The first is in the Japanese garden, a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise. The second are the first flowers in bloom along my Trek. If anyone knows the name of this flower, please post a comment. It's been driving me crazy! OKAY: My mom came through with the flower ID. She writes: "The flower is called the Snowdrop ( Galanthus) a native of Turkey and Eastern Europe. It is one of the first harbingers of spring and is in the amaryllis family. Mom" Thanks, Mom!

The Lakefront Trail kind of dies on the southside, so then I walked along major roads until I came upon the next park or other lake access. I went through Rainbow Park (which was deserted except for me), and then skirted the former site of the U.S. Steel South Works Plant. The plant operated from the mid 1800s to the 1990s before shutting down completely. The plant has since been scrubbed from the land (except for a lone power plant). It is now a fenced off scrubby plot of hundreds of acres. There is a trash-heaped berm of dirt blocking the street view of the site and I would have had to climb the fence to get a photo. This was not the sort of neighborhood to go shooting photos anyway, so I didn't do more than pick my way through the rubble of a neighborhood left behind when the mill and all the jobs left. The grand church pictured here stands in the middle of this devastated place.

I cut a few blocks inland to try to find some breakfast, and came across a delightful Mexican bakery on Commercial Avenue called Marzeya. The lobby area of the bakery is filled with glass cases stuffed with delightful pasteries (see photo). You merely pick up an aluminum tray and a pair of tongs and help yourself from the cases. Everything is made on site and fifty pound sacks of flour are stacked behind the counter.

From this point until I stopped for the night, I'd be passing through Calumet Park, then crossing into Indiana, then walking through a lot of industry only broken up by Whiting, IN.

The day warmed up (as they said it would) and it was rather hot when I passed through the BP refinery (formerly Standard Oil, then Amoco), one of the largest in the world. It isn't the most pedestrian-friendly walk (as you might imagine--actually it's probably even worse than you can imagine). I hustled through there. BP security tailed me at one point, but then lost interest. I then crossed over the drawbridge on the Indiana Harbor Canal and into the area between East Chicago and Gary.

As I got closer and closer to my hotel (the Ameristar which is situated on Lake Michigan), I realized that I could not approach it on foot. This was after crossing two on/off ramps to the layers of highway. You had to get ON, then OFF the highway in order to get to the hotel that was less than a half mile away. I started to backtrack to a bar I had passed to call a cab to take me there, when a man just getting off his shift at the mill pulled over and gave me a lift in his yellow Jeep. The day was so lovely that he had peeled back the soft top of the Jeep and it was great to feel the air rushing through the vehicle. The gentleman's name was Dwayne and he'd just returned from a trip to Hawaii. So, for that short ride through industrial horrorscape, we talked about the beaches of the islands so far removed from where we were.

I'm still thankful for Dwayne and his yellow Jeep with the top rolled back.

Segment 1, Day 1 Chicago>Hyde Park 10 miles

High of 64 degrees, sunny. The Trek began on Navy Pier which stretches over a half mile out into Lake Michigan. I got out there just as the sun was rising.

Chicago has preserved its lakefront for its people. There are pathways and parks stretching uninterrupted from downtown all the way to Hyde Park. I strolled along the paved Lakefront Trail through Burnham Park all the way to where I'd stay my first night.

The day was warm, but there were still chunks of floating ice and some ice on the rocks along the way.