The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Case Against Mylar Balloons

I have spent the month of October on the shores of Lake Michigan near the lovely town of South Haven, Michigan. It has been a wonderful time to reconnect with my favorite place while preparing for my next 1000-mile hike.

Every day, I have hiked a couple of miles in one direction, then returned to my cottage retracing my steps. And every day as I returned, I picked up trash along the shoreline.

Day after day I have picked up plastic bottles, aluminum cans and collapsed juice pouches.

The big surprise in lakeshore trash is the number of mylar balloons I have found. These festive inflatables take FOREVER to degrade. Some, like the one to the left, has all of the color worn off by wind and waves, but it is still intact. These three (below) were tied together and washed up together.

This photo is ONE DAY'S gathering of trash.

Sure, there is the expected plastic and aluminum...

and there were FIVE mylar balloons just this one day.

Oh no...

Et tu, SpongeBob?

Et tu?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rocks and Waves

Lake Michigan is constantly tumbling rocks.

The rocks of Lake
Michigan are a colorful mix.

Some were dragged along with the glaciers from the Arctic Circle and deposited here for the lake to work on for thousands of years.

Wave after wave tosses and tumbles, smoothing and washing these stones.

Everyday is a treasure hunt on the shore.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Visitors to the Lake House

I am spending some time by the lake...
and have had visitors.

I put up a bi
rd feeder that has been frequented by white-breasted nuthatches and rose finches.

My sons came out to walk the lakeshore with me...

as did Maija, my writer friend.

And, of course, there are always the gulls and waves to converse with.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Inland Seas

It is on days like today with high winds kicking up Lake Michigan that you can understand why the Great Lakes are called The Inland Seas.

There is such power in these waves.

The Great Lakes contain 90% of the fresh, surface water in America.

My BOGS boots and I took a long walk today in the surf.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Attack of the QUAGGAS!

One of the questions I often get at while on my book tour is:

What's the most pressing issue
facing our Great Lakes?

There are many issues facing our lakes including loss of habitat for wildlife, loss of buffering wetlands, toxic sites, invasive species (both present and threatening to enter the lakes), over-development of the lakeshore, and ongoing pollution.

But if I could magically fix just one thing, I would eradicate the invasive mussels in our great lakes. Specifically, the quagga mussels (in photos) that have so completely colonized four of the lakes and are eroding the foundation of the food web.

gives more details about how the quaggas have thrived in our Great Lakes. It is estimated that there are over 400 TRILLION quaggas in Lake Michigan alone.

That's TRILLION with a "T"

What can be done about the quaggas? Unfortunately, it would take a magic wand to get rid of these invasive mussels. They spread rapidly, filter food endlessly out of the water, and reproduce prodigiously.

From the article:

"Quaggas are causing the biggest changes we've ever seen in Lake Michigan," said Tom Nalepa, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory who has studied the lake for more than 30 years. "The numbers are still going up. We are going to see more severe impacts."
The havoc they have created includes an increase in toxic algae, a loss of tiny plants and animals that fish feed on, a decline in prey fish, and skinnier game and commercial fish.

Short of a disease or poison that could be targeted at them in the lakes' depths, quaggas are here to stay, Nalepa said.

But they represent a lesson for the future.

Of the 186 invasive species in the Great Lakes, two-thirds came from ships in the St. Lawrence Seaway, which pick up ballast water in foreign ports and discharge it into the Great Lakes. "We need to cut off the tap," said Kerfoot.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Windward Shore

I have settled into a little cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan for a time. The season seems disjointed, though, with the unseasonably warm weather. We've had a stretch of seventy degree or higher days -- with two days pushing up against eighty degrees -- so it feels more like June and summer than October and fall. I just finished walking the beach for several miles, then turning back to retrace my steps back to my cottage.

It is odd for me to retrace my steps.

I am used to walking on and on and on...

It's been good hammock weather and I've been doing a lot of reading and writing here.

The first book I took with me to the hammock was just released by The University of Michigan Press.

It is by Jerry Dennis, the brilliant essayist whose work best captures the Great Lakes. This book is called THE WINDWARD SHORE: A Winter on the Great Lakes. It was a wonderful read and I'm glad I read it while the waves played background music along the shore.

Dennis has lived his life on the Great Lakes, mostly on Lake Michigan. He lives within sight and sound of the lake and he says:

"Day and night by the water -- it insinuates. Seeing it in all hours and in all seasons, hearing it even in your sleep, it changes you. You're reminded that everything is fluid, that time flows and carries us along from a springlike source to an oceanlike eternity. And although I know these inland seas are not oceans, I have followed them to an ocean and know the connectedness of waters -- and the connectedness of every other thing as well. And I know the lakes are treasures worth more than all the world's gold."

For this book, Dennis spent time in winter at several residences on the shores of the Great Lakes and tried to capture this least-celebrated season on the lakeshore. There are people who summer at the lakes who have never seen the many forms the ice can take in winter: frazil, shelf ice, pancake ice, boulders of ice and more. They've never seen a storm smash up the shelf ice, then toss it up into sculptures on the shore. They've never walked out on the ice and felt the waves pulsing beneath their feet.

Dennis captures this most harsh and beautiful season in this collection of essays. It's a book I'll pull down to re-read winter after coming winter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tracks on the Shore

The sands of Lake Michigan temporarily records the passage of creatures there.

From bird parties...

To the crossroads of beetles....

To a crazy bird dance...

In a neat circle.