Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan: Miners Castle

One of the problems with this area is that if you don't go on a boat and stick to a car, you can't see much. The only area that has a view of the rocks is Miners Castle. Apparently the NPS isn't willing to cut down some trees to improve the view. Well, we can't blame them.

There are plenty of hiking trails along the lakeshore, and some of those might provide some good images. You can even walk to a beach - take an unpaved road for five miles, and then hike to Mosquito Beach.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore just doesn't work too well in this format. There's too much to see.

Let's start with an introduction. Pictured Rocks is along the coast of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. The launch point for visits is in Munising Falls. This is a little bit in the middle of nowhere, so not many people even know about it.

Part of the problem is that you can't really see it by land. So you have to jump on a ship, and go for a tour. That's when the "Wows!" begin.

The shortline to the north and east of Munising has been battered by Lake Superior and its storms for many, many years. As a result, plant life has died off, and minerals have been exposed. The result is bundle of colors that are beautiful to see. It takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to see it all. I wasn't taking notes during my cruise, so I have a series of pictures in which one great shot looks similar to the next. Some of the rock formations have names, but it doesn't really tell the story.

The best thing to do, then, is to go to the video tape - and be sure to go to the full screen:

And when you are done with the cruise, be sure to visit the guest shop. They have some good, unique items in there.

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Brimley, Michigan: Point Iroquois Light Station

There are several lighthouses along the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan. This is either the first or last one you'll encounter, depending on your direction.

The Point Iroquois Light Station overlooks the lake from Brimley. It opened in 1857, and had an important role in shipping. That's because it makes the journey into the Sault Ste. Marie area a little safer, as the region is the entry point to the St. Mary River. Authorities closed it as a working lighthouse in 1962 in favor of a beacon in the lake, but the place was later restored as an attraction.

The tower is 65 feet high, and you can climb it. I did, although it's not for those who don't like tight places. It's a nice view, though. Visitors may also walk along the shoreline.

It's all part of the Hiawatha National Forest, and there are a few displays and a gift shop in the "complex."  There aren't many places along this road to stop and admire the scenery, so this one is welcome.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: Tower of History

After taking the tour of the locks in Sault Ste. Marie, some visitors might want to know where they have been. The Tower of History is there to help.

It's a 210-foot structure located just down the road from the two docks that host the ferry companies. You take an elevator up to the viewing area, which has a few different platforms so that you can see the entire area. The views are pretty good. This picture not only has one of the lock entrances, but downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as well.

The interesting part of the Tower might be the owner. It's on the grounds of a church; the two share a parking lot. Now, can you imagine the discussion around 1968 there? "We've got some spare land here; let's build a 21-story tower." The church had big plans to make the tower part of a complex dedicated to original missionaries, but apparently decided that was a little too ambitious. So in 1980 it was turned over to a civic organization, if I'm reading the website correctly.

There is a video on local history and a couple of exhibits, but it seems like a tough sell to get people to stop and look at them. I think it was $7 to go up and look around - pleasant enough on a good day, I guess.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: Soo Locks Boat Tour

For the full story of the lock system in the Sault Ste. Marie area (for the record, cities on both sides of the border have that name), you need to head to the American side. A couple of companies will be happy to take you around the area on a ferry for a reasonable fee.

As these things go, this is pretty interesting. The journey starts along the American waterfront, passing an electrical plant that is a quarter-mile long. Eventually the ferry reaches a lock. If you are lucky, you'll get a good look at one of the big freighters that uses the Great Lakes for transportation. In the photograph here, you can see one of them going through one of the big locks. We went through a smaller one, shown on the left.

And once we were lifted up, we were on Lake Superior - in our case, completing our bucket list of Great Lakes. The tour goes into the lake a bit, goes past an enormous steel plant on the Ontario side of the water, and then heads back to the home port. It all takes a little less than two hours. They do have dinner cruises for those who like such things.

Here's your history lesson on the place:


If you find yourself in this part of the world, this probably is the one attraction you should see.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: Canal National Historic Site

If you've looked at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on a map, you probably know that it's the point where Lake Superior turns into Lake Huron, which makes it an easy crossing point between the United States to Canada.You probably don't know about the rapids, which made such crossings a bit tricking before the bridge was built.

What was obviously needed was some locks so that ships could sail smoothly in both directions. And that's what Sault Ste. Marie did in 1895. What's more, it's still open for business. In the photo here, you can see the bridge looking down on the area.

Interestingly, this was once the longest lock in the world. It's also said to be the first to use electrical power. There are no tricks or stunts here. You open the door to Lake Superior, the boat goes into the lock, close the first door, open the second door to Lake Huron, and the boat leaves. (Spoiler: This is a little oversimplified.)

The lock is too small for commercial ships these days, but recreational boaters can use it to this day. The area is also a nice park. During our visit, First Nation members were celebrating the first day of summer.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: Essar Centre

I don't want to say Sault Ste. Marie loves hockey, but ...

The main rink/arena for the city is located on Ron Francis Way in the downtown area.

Now, Ron was a heck of a player for a long time, and an admirable person as well. As of this writing he is Carolina's general manager. Francis also grew up in the Soo, so this is an appropriate honor.

As for the Essar Centre, it's about a block from the waterfront in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. You can't get much more convenient than that, especialy if you are visting. The building was put up in 2006, and seats almost 5,000. The primary tenant is the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League - and you have to admit that's a great nickname.

There's some history connected to hockey in the Soo. Phil and Tony Esposito grew up here, and Wayne Gretzky played here as a junior briefly. But the photo shows four big names with numbers hanging from the rafters - Francis, Adam Foote, John Vanbiesbrouch, and Craig Hartsburg. (Gretzky's number 99 isn't shown, but he's up there too.

It doesn't look like there's a bad seat in the place. When we were there, people were getting some walking in by doing laps of the concourse. Maybe when they were done, they stopped and looked at the hockey hall of fame for the region, which includes former Sabres' coach Ted Nolan.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: Lock City Dairies

After a long day of traveling, some ice cream is in order. The first choice in Sault Ste. Marie must be Lock City Dairies, located on the east side of town fairly close to the Sinclair Yards baseball complex.

Not only is the ice cream good, but the store comes with a photo opportunity. We couldn't pass it up - three cows in a silly pose. Yes, that is a Lock City Dairies can on top of the pile.

Now if this place would only serve coffee ice cream, it would be perfect.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: World's Largest Baseball

There's an old saying in baseball that when a batter is in a hot streak, the ball looks really big.

You'll feel ready to play in the majors after seeing this baseball.

It's said to be more than 2,000 times the size of a normal baseball. It greets people who come to Sinclair Yards, located on the east side of Sault Ste. Marie. This is part of a complex for youth baseball that is massive and impressive. There are seven fields in the immediate area.

For those who prefer other activities, softball and soccer can be played on adjoining fields. But baseball is the star attraction, and the Soo Minor Baseball Association takes good care of the facilities.

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: Moose Statue

When man goes up against a moose, the moose usually wins - unless man has some artificial help.

In this statue, it's the moose that has the help - but doesn't seem to need it. If you look carefully (click on the picture), you'll see a rifle with a sight in the left hand of the moose. The right hand has other things to do.

The cute statue is located on 1340 Great Northern Road, which is the main commercial strip leading north out of town. It is next to The Totem Pole Trading Post, which you can sort of see on the far right side of the photograph. The store has a nice supply of souvenirs for the area, and it's at the end of a small commercial strip.

This is worth a stop who like "silly" in their sculpture.

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Tobermory, Ontario: MS Chi-Cheemaun

If you've looked at Ontario on a map, you know there's a narrow peninsula that extends well into Lake Huron/Georgian Bay. In fact, it helps to split the two connected bodies of water.

Your choices of going to other parts of land to the north, then, are limited. You can go back down and drive around the lake or bay, which will take hours. Or, you can hop on the ferry - the MS Chi-Cheemaun.

It's a functional boat that does its job of getting passengers around the water to South Baymouth. The trip takes about an hour and a half, and the efficiency of the operation is evident. Cars line up and get on the boat as soon as it's clear from the last voyage. The passengers get off and can stroll about the ship. There's a decent cafeteria here, so it's not a bad spot for a meal if you come at the right time. A deck goes around the ship's edge, and there's a gift shop for those who want a souvenir.

Someone obviously had a sense of humor on top of the boat, as you can see by the paint job in the photograph above. Nicely played.

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Owen Sound, Ontario: Inglis Falls

When we visited the Owen Sound Welcome Center (friendly, helpful folks there, by the way), the woman behind the counter was surprised that we had been to the area before without seeing the best waterfall in the town limits. They can't say that about us now.

We were convinced to drop in on Inglis Falls, located a few miles south of downtown in a relatively undeveloped area. It's an impressive site.

Peter Inglis bought the land around the waterfall in 1845, and started a mill there. It produced flour, bran and wool, according to the tourist brochure. Now it's devoted to the public.

There are some good viewing spots around the waterfall, which featured waters with a tea-like color during our visit. Quite nice. The Sydenham River also is visible in the area above the falls, quietly moving along until it gets to the drop. There is plenty of parking for visitors, by the way, and it's on a good-sized hiking trail.

Care to see what it looked like six weeks before we got there? Me too.


There are other waterfalls in the area. Check out the website for details.

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Owen Sound, Ontario: Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame

The Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre is the obvious place for the Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame. Sure enough, one of the main corridors in the building is dedicated to that cause.

And, not surprisingly, the guy whose name is on the front of the building gets top billing in that Hall. The picture here has a tribute to him.

Harry Lumley picked up the nickname "Apple Cheeks" when he was a youngster in Owen Sound. He worked his way up the ladder and actually broke into the NHL at the age of 17 - the youngest NHL goalie in history. Harry bounced around from team to team once he arrived in the league to stay. He is best-known for having 13 shutouts in 1953-54, which stood as the league record for almost two decades.

Lumley wasn't the best goalie in the league then, as he had one more win than loss in his career. But he was a first-team all-star twice and played in four All-Star games. You have to remember that there were only six goalies in the NHL back then, so you had to be mighty good to be a starter. That's all why he is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Here's a little recap of his career in Toronto:

There are some other players in the Hall with NHL connections. There's even one familiar name to Buffalo lacrosse fans. Bob Hamley played on the championship teams in 1992 and 1993 with the Bandits. He also was a good coach in the indoor league for several years.

Good to see they remember Bob, and "Apple Cheeks," in Owen Sound.

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Owen Sound, Ontario: Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre

Every town in Canada either has a hockey rink or wants to have a hockey rink. Owen Sound is no exception. Welcome to the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre - more on Harry on another page.

What's more, you can walk into the place at almost anytime of the day and take a look around. Which is what we did when passing through this pretty area.

It's mostly known as the home of the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. That's a junior league (mostly ages 16 to 20, I believe) that's part of the feeder system to the National Hockey League. Other hockey and lacrosse teams play there as well, and I'd bet most of the community has done something there over the years.

Hockey facilities are affectionately called "barns" in Canada, and this certain fits the bill. When you walk inside, you can picture what it must be like to come for a hockey game on a cold winter night.

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Horseheads, New York: Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame

Sometimes you get a history lesson when you least expect.

Such as, when you visit a mall.

Tucked among the usual stores at the Arnot Mall in Horseheads, New York, is the Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame. It's a nice little tribute to the athletes, coaches and contributors to sports in that part of the world.

The most space, naturally, goes toward the memory of Ernie Davis. The standout athlete was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy (Syracuse, 1961). He signed with the Cleveland Browns after college, but came down with leukemia and never played a regular-season down with the team. Davis died a relatively short time after finishing at Syracuse. You may have seen the movie about his life a few years ago.

The local high schools all have a display as well, and the long list of inductees is here too. Apparently there was an Elmira Sports Hall of Fame that passed away around 1985, and this was the replacement. It takes a few minutes for a look around the room.

I lived in Elmira for a few years in the late 1960s, and saw some familiar names during a short visit here. It's nice to see those people remembered.

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