The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

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.

Invasive Species: The Asian Carp

The Asian Carp has colonized the Mississippi River and devoured most of the other fish in that ecosystem. Boaters on the river are routinely whacked in the face by these fish when they leap out of the water as boats pass by.

These fish can grow up to four feet long and weigh 100 pounds (photo credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency).

The electric barriers in the Chicago Shipping and Sanitary Canal are in place and active, but there is still a risk that the carp could enter Lake Michigan if the Des Plaines River floods north of the electric gates. This could allow the carp to circumvent the barriers and gain access to Lake Michigan.

In fact, it was a flood that allowed the carp to get into the Mississippi River.

Carp are in the canal just 25 miles from Lake Michigan. If they get into the lake, it's game over for the other fish in the lakes.

Alert your representatives in Congress to this issue at:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

A House-Senate conference committee now has the funding level of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in their hands. The House committee fully funded the initiative at $475 million, but the Senate committee slashed it by $75 million. Hopefully this final committee can restore the funding to its full amount.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland recently ran an editorial about this topic.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Hidden Cost of Coal Power

We all use electricity. You're using some right now to to read this. As I walked the lakeshore, I became much more in touch with just where we get our electricity. There are many power plants located on the lake. It makes sense since these facilities heat vast quantities of water to produce steam to turn massive turbines to generate the electricity we use in our homes.

Most of us don't question the power we use-- how is it generated? where is it generated? what impact on our environment does that power plant have?

Each power plant along my hike diverted me from the shoreline--you can't walk on property owned by the power companies, and they are especially sensitive about trespassing around nuclear power plants (I walked around three of these on my Lake Trek). Most of our the power generated around Lake Michigan comes from coal-fired plants like the ones I photographed here (yes, even the last one is coal-fired, located in Michigan City, IN).

Each year in America, coal-fired power plants produce 130 million tons of waste, and most of this is coal ash which is filled with toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead. This waste is stored in containment ponds near the plants and, since these plants are on the lake, the containment ponds are on the lake.

In this first satellite photo, the black area south of the Sheboygan, WI plant is the containment pond. And that pond is right up against Lake Michigan.

In the second photo, Port Sheldon, MI's containment pond snakes around a massive sand dune and ends near Lake Michigan. The black area south of the plant is an enormous mound of coal.

I walked past trains comprised of coal cars that stretched as far as I could see on my Lake Trek. It's time to 'green' our power production before we befoul the lake with a toxic spill.

60 Minutes recently did a piece on the toxicity of coal ash. Check it out HERE.