Saturday, September 20, 2008

Manistee, Michigan, then on to Ludington and White Lake

September 15-17, 2008

We were a little worried when we started down the Manistee River and the Coast Guard blocked our path. Had they read our blog? Did they know that we had escaped from their blockade in Traverse City? Not to worry -- they were just returning from some maneuvers and not really stopping us from coming into Manistee.

And we were grateful for that because it was getting a little rough out there. Not anything Meridian couldn't handle. But the waves were picking up and being able to duck into Manistee was nice.

We hadn't been to Manistee since last year. One thing we knew for sure was that we were NOT going to visit the Manistee Historical Museum. Don't get us wrong. It is a GREAT museum. It's just that it has a lot of exhibits and artifacts about Great Lakes ship wrecks like the Carl S. Bradley, The Edmund Fitzgerald, and the Pere Marquette 18. The last time we went there, we read all those accounts of wrecks. Then headed out into a very windy Lake Michigan. All we kept thinking about were the wrecks in storms and suddenly being out on the lake in rough conditions got very uncomfortable and we had to duck into Portage Lake. So, no more maritime museum visits during windy conditions. But, if you're not going to be boating on Lake Michigan in stormy weather, definitely check out the museum.

But there is plenty more to do in Manistee. They have a great river walk that runs the length of the river/town. It gets quite a bit of use from joggers, runners, walkers, and strollers. Along the path they have pictures and stories about the history of Manistee. One of our favorites concerns a sand dune called Creeping Joe. In the late 1800s, Creeping Joe was a large stable sand dune. Stable, that is, until one of the political parties had a huge bonfire to celebrate an unexpected election win in 1884. The bonfire disrupted the plants that had stabilized Creeping Joe. So Joe started creeping, swallowed a couple of houses and threatened the whole town of Manistee. The town was saved when the railroad hauled away all the sand for construction, or cement, or some other such purpose.

We also took a kayak trip down the river into Manistee Lake, which is home to a very large, parked ship named the City of Milwaukee. There is a swing bridge right before Manistee Lake that only closes for train traffic. And there is also a very nice veteran's memorial park along the river.

For some reason that we've never figured out, Meridian seems to inspire people to recreate the "I'm King of the World" scene from the movie Titanic. It happens a lot. And Manistee was no different. A group of women were visiting Manistee and strolling down the river walk. They complimented us on Meridian. We got to talking and they asked if they could have their picture taken on Meridian. Only one of them, Marilyn, was brave enough to go through with it and here she is doing her version of "I'm King of the World". It's cute. We enjoy people having fun on Meridian.

And Meridian loves to get compliments and have her picture taken.

So a few blog posts ago (OK, way back in the East Jordan post), we mentioned that Bernie had stumbled upon a book called A Supremely Bad Idea, which is about a New Yorker who gets hooked on birdwatching as a hobby and his adventures while doing birding trips. It got Bernie interested in figuring out what kind of birds we're seeing and taking bird pictures through the binoculars (although that technique still hasn't been perfected yet). Then Phil read it and he got interested in birdwatching, too. Now he's tracking "life birds" (and debating whether or not he is allowed to retroactively count the ibis and roseated spoonbill we saw in Florida, which was before we even knew what a "life bird" was) and trying to study each bird's jizz (a shortened way of saying "general impression of size and shape"). He's poked around the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, which has a wealth of birding related information as well as recordings of bird calls. We've a long way to go but it's a start.

So on this beach in Manistee, this poor turkey vulture was just trying to have a washed-up salmon snack. Not only did he have to contend with a seagull who was just waiting for an opening (no pun intended), but the poor bird suddenly had an audience of three people watching and documenting his every nibble. He just wanted to eat in peace.

A Supremely Bad Idea is a neat book to read. But be forewarned: It may unlock a deeply hidden "birder" tendency you didn't know you had.

It's kind of hard to imagine but we've been cruising for 4 moons now. Well, this is the 4th full moon we've seen on the cruise.

We had a weather window on September 17 that let us move down to Ludington for a night. But first we had to let the Freighter Calumet pass by. (This is a different Calumet than the one that was scrapped in December 2007.)

Hmmmm ... These freighters don't get much wiggle room on the Manistee River. Guess we've got no business commenting on narrow slips when we see the passages these guys have to maneuver.

We weren't in Ludington very long this time, so no bike rides to the state park like we had done earlier this summer. But we did eat at the Jamesport Brewing Company. We'd eaten there last year and Bernie located her tasting notes from the flight of beers we sampled last year. Their Hefeweizen (summer in a glass) and Nitro Stout (creamy and chocolaty) brews are still our favorites.

Another weather window on September 18 let us move down to White Lake, Michigan.

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