Turnip Rock is an Easy Paddle
One of the most amazing sites in the Upper Thumb is Turnip Rock. Carved over time by the force of constant wave action the soft limestone has been shaped to its namesake and separated from the mainland over thousands of years. CNN called it one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America and Pure Michigan featured it on it’s 2016 magazine cover. International travelers coming into Detroit Metropolitan Airport see Turnip Rock as their first view of Michigan’s wonder scenes coming into customs. It’s a marvel to behold and it’s an easy trip if the conditions are right.
This small guide offers a local point of view to avoid problems with the local law enforcement and property owners while being able to enjoy a unique natural wonder.
Turnip Rock is on Private Land
Despite its uniqueness as a natural wonder is located and surrounded by private land. Thus the only way to access it is from the water. Fortunately that can easily be achieved by canoe or kayak. This means that you can’t go feet dry. Stay in the water. If you must get out of our kayak stay as close to waters edge as possible. (Unless its an emergency)
Paddling Near the Rock on Busy Weekends
During the weekends the number of paddlers can get quite large. If the area around the rock is crowded consider paddling a few hundred yards past and view the overhangs and cave features that border the Pointe Aux Barques community. During the late 1800’s the cave were hideouts for fugitives. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore. You may be tempted to get out of your kayak and climb the rocks for a view. This is a no-no and there are several signs reminding not to trespass. (IMHO these signs are obtrusive, and possibly illegal as they are posted under the high water mark of Lake Huron)
Heed Weather and Travel Time
Plan on 2-3 hours total travel time to Turnip Rock from Port Austin. This assumes that the winds and lake are calm. You will paddle north-east along the shallow coastline until you see the small cliffs that mark the start of Pointe Aux Barques. If the wind is strong and the there are waves it’s a wise idea to defer to another day. Novice paddlers have been pushed by southern winds out into the lake requiring assistance or rescue.
Can I Climb on Turnip and Fingernail Rocks?
Despite numerous YouTube and other postings showing people climbing all over the rock formation, you are urged to not imbibe. The shore formations above the high water mark is private land. People have been hurt trying to climb it and arrested for trespass. Also the limestone is rather fragile and prone to breakage and collapse. The best way to mark your visit is to capture the rock formation with digital photos of you and your peeps in unique light and weather. Stay wet and wild and get a great shot from the water.
What to Bring on Board
Life jacket, Sunglasses, sunscreen, small towel, cell phone and a dry bag. Bring water and something to munch on. Water shoes are also highly recommended. It’s not a strenuous trip but winds and weather can make it a challenge for the unprepared.
Leave No Trace
Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility. While paddling to the rock remember to minimize your impact so it can be enjoyed for the next generation. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare. …
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. …
- Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out) …
- Leave What You Find. …
- Minimize Campfire Impacts. …
- Respect Wildlife. …
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
The Detroit Coney
Today we take a road trip from the Thumb region to visit our youngest at Western Michigan University. It also gives us a chance to explore a uniquely Michigan experience the Coney Island Hot Dog. Open just about any foodie magazine or Google about about Coney’s in Michigan and chances are you will stumble onto voluminous articles and posts discussing the back-to-back Detroit standbys of American and Lafayette Coney Islands. Local legend tells that theses two hot dog stands emerged out of disagreement between two partners. However rather then locating far away from each other the former partner ended up next door. A rivalry was born.
Enough About Detroit Coneys Already
I’ll admit I’m a big Lafayette and American fan. If we are in Detroit I’ll stop in. Just about every food writer in Michigan seems to place these two Detroit stands into the obligatory #1, #2 in best coney dog contests. Despite these perennial rankings many folks are amazed to learn that there are actually three tasty versions of the Michigan Coney; the Detroit, the Flint and the Jackson styles.
Want the Original Coney? Go to Detroit and Head West!
It seems to be universally accepted that the first Michigan Coney was created in Jackson by George Todoroff in 1914. His Jackson Coney Island restaurant was located in front of the Jackson Train Station on East Michigan Avenue. It closed when his son, who was running the restaurant, was drafted into World War II. It surprises many folks to learn that the oldest continuously operating Coney Island in Michigan belongs to Coney Island Kalamazoo. They opened their doors in 1915 and it has been running ever since. Its location downtown makes for a busy lunch crowd.
The Kalamazoo Coney
The mildly spicy low moisture Jackson style coney “sauce” is more like an open loose burger on top of natural casing hot dog. The meat spices have the obligatory garlic and chili powder but there are also hints of celery salt, turmeric and even the exotically expensive saffron. I asked one of the cooks about the spice mixture. She said that it comes pre-ground in a small stainless container for each batch and it’s a closely guarded secret. Topped with onions and mustard on a steamed bun. It didn’t last long.
Keep the Coney Rivalry Going
In our post about Unique Michigan Foods You Have to Try , I did get some hate email about our love for the Western Michigan version of the Coney dog. We stand by our tasty assessment and point out that the Kalamazoo Coney Dog doesn’t follow you around all afternoon, if you know what I mean. I say keep the dogs cooking and try to improve an original. Pass the mustard.
Port Austin’s Beach of Choice
Bird Creek is a seven-acre day use park and beach located in the small town of Port Austin at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb. Bird Creek features a 350-foot boardwalk along its one-acre beach with roofed picnic shelters overlooking the beach and the water. The boardwalk includes picnic spots, benches, restrooms, a large shelter and connections to play areas and shore fishing. The park features a large picnic Pavilion adjacent a playground, restrooms and shower facility. A concession stand with pop, ice cream & snacks is available on weekends.
Located in the village of Port Austin, this park is walking distance to the village. It is a favorite spot for sailors and boaters who dock at the State harbor and marina. There are nearby kayak rentals and the park is prime stop on the Heritage Water Trail.
Image from huroncounty.com
There have been two deaths and one rescue on the Saginaw Bay ice in the Upper Thumb these past several weeks. We found a short video that describes the steps to survive an ice break though even if you can’t get yourself out of the water. It’s a fight for survival and one only has minutes before hypothermia, unconsciousness and death.
Ice Safety Guidelines
The Minnesota DNR provides the following guidelines.
For new, clear ice only
- Under 4″ – STAY OFF
- 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
- 5″ – 7″ – Snowmobile or ATV
- 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
- 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck
Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe. Currents from nearby rivers or debris in the ice can create thin areas.White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.