Category Archives: Michigan Travel

A Dozen Must See Thumb Sites


We encountered many folks who have come up to the Upper Thumb for their entire lives but never have seen these interesting sites. How many have you been to?  Check these out and let us know if you have a “must-see” from the tip of the Thumb.


1_turnipTurnip Rock – Is a small geological formation in Michigan. It is a limestone stack located in Lake Huron, in shallow water a few meters offshore, near the rock called the Thumbnail which is the extreme tip of Pointe Aux Barques, a small peninsula in Pointe Aux Barques Township which in turn is the extreme tip of The Thumb.

Turnip Rock has been severely undercut by wave action,so that its top has a significantly larger cross-section than its base. Its consequent unusual form, reminiscent of a turnip, has made it an attraction for viewing by canoe and kayak. It’s only accessible from the water as it’s privately owned and not open to the public. Port Austin, the nearest large community, is the usual base for kayaking trips to Turnip Rock.


The Arc – A dilapidated barn from the late 1800s, carefully taken apart piece by piece, has IMG_0475[1]been rebuilt by Detroit artist Scott Hocking as a huge wooden ark.

Originally conceived as an “Emergency Ark,” the project plays into the Hocking’s fascination with mythic forms and structures from the ancient world.

“Many of Scott’s projects are in hidden spaces, where you can’t necessarily see them,” one enthusiast noted. “But this is enormous — and so visible. I drove in from the east, and could see right away the great presence it will have in that landscape.”


1_caseville_breakwallCaseville Break Wall – Its one of the few break walls anywhere that encourages you to walk out and take a look at the bay up close. You can fish, walk and catch a cool breeze on this 1/4 mile sprig of concrete and stone out into Saginaw Bay.

Watch the boats come in and out in the early morning and late afternoon. However ifs its stormy be prepared to get wet.


Charity Island – Also called Big Charity Island, is the largest island in Saginaw Bay, in the1_charity Island Michigan waters of Lake Huron. The island is 222 acres in area and has about 3 miles  shoreline. The island was named by lake mariners for its location, placed ‘through the charity of God’ at the entrance to Saginaw Bay midway between the city of Au Gres, Michigan and “The Thumb”.

Geologically, the island contains pockets of chert that are believed to have been quarried by Native Americans. Offshore, the gravel reefs to the south creates a shallow-water channel separating Charity Island from its smaller neighbor, Little Charity Island. The area between the two islands is a favorite spot for fishing. On the northeast end of the island, a small bay is lined with limestone bedrock, offering good holding ground as a place to anchor during storms. The harbor of refuge is accessible by small boat, though access is controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The island also contains an 11-acre  pond, literally a ‘lake within a lake’, fed by springs.


1_portaustinPort Austin LighthouseIs a lighthouse off the shore of Lake Huron, about 2.5 miles north of Port Austin, Huron County Michigan sitting on a rocky reef,  which is just north of the tip of the Thumb and a real hazard to navigation. The light was first lit in 1878, and its pier was modified in 1899. It is still operational and is automated. The foundation materials are a pier, and the tower is constructed of yellow brick, with buff markings. It is an octagonal, 60-foot tall tower, with an attached keeper house. In 1985 the lens was replaced by a 12-volt solar-powered Tideland Signal 300 mm acrylic optic, which eliminated the need to maintain the submarine cable


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Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse – The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse ranks among the oldest lighthouses in Michigan. It is an active lighthouse maintained by the US Coast Guard remotely, located in Lighthouse County Park on Lake Huron near Port Hope, Michigan in Huron County. “Pointe aux Barques” means ‘Point of Little Boats’, a descriptor of the shallow shoals and reefs that lurk beneath these waves, presenting a hazard to boats as they round Michigan’s Thumb.


Port Austin Farmer’s Market – One of that states largest on-going farmer’s market in Michigan. Every Saturday farmers, local artists and craftsman offer a unique blend of  local Wagon Rides at Port Austin Market.flare for each weekend. Be ready to walk as parking is at a premium in this small town. Enjoy a early Bloody Mary at the” Bank”and proceed to get your weekend stock of fresh corn, vegetables,  local fruit and an amazing assortment of local craftsmen offering clothing, rugs, collectibles to  to furniture. The market is open each Saturday though mid-October.

 


Octagonal Barn – The Thumb Octagon Barn is an historic and unique barn located outside 1_octGagetown, Michigan. It was built in 1924 by local businessman James Purdy. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources bought the property from the bank in 1991 to be incorporated into the adjacent Gagetown State Game Area. The farm buildings including the octagon barn had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of demolition. Local citizens banded together and organized the first Octagon Barn Festival in 1994 to raise funds to repair the barn. The Friends of the Thumb Octagon Barn was formed that year.

After the barn, historic farmhouse, garage and electric power plant were restored, other buildings were moved or built on the old Purdy farm. Moved to the site were a one-room schoolhouse and grain elevator. New construction included a schoolhouse museum, a large multipurpose building, a covered bridge and a sawmill. A blacksmith shop is planned.


1_petroSanilac Petroglyphs – The Sanilac Petroglyphs historic site is located near Cass City. Take M-53 to Bay City-Forestville Road and proceed east to Germania Road. Head south one-half mile on Germania; the site is on the west side of the road. The carvings, known as petroglyphs, were discovered by residents after a fire swept through the area in 1881 and revealed rocks bearing the designs. Because they are made in relatively friable sandstone, geologists have been able to determine that the carvings were made 300 to 1,000 years ago, dating back to the Late Woodland Period. The Bow Man, believed to represent a hunter, is the most well-known of the Sanilac Petroglyphs, rock carvings etched into a sandstone outcrop.


Sand Point – The Sand Point Nature Preserve is one of the most critical protected coastal 1_sand pontlands in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, and probably one of the most important in the Great Lakes. Through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act the Saginaw Bay Herpetological Survey found Sand Point Nature Preserve to be the most biologically diverse site along the Saginaw Bay shoreline.

 


Bay Port – This is one of the Upper Thumb’s tiniest lake shore Bayport Fish Companyvillages but it overflows with history and sites unique only to Michigan. Home of the Bay Port Fish Company, operates between spring and fall, depending upon the weather and has four boats: the Osprey, the Argo, the Patsy, and the Sunflower. You can see the Osprey and the Argo tied up in Caseville harbor at the fish house just south of the break wall. Fresh, smoked, and frozen fish can be bought from the retail store in Bay Port. They also can be found at several Farmers Markets in Michigan. Look for booths at the Port Austin Farmer’s Market, Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, and the Eastern Market in Detroit.


Huron Co Nature CenterHuron County Nature Center – Located midway between Caseville and Port Austin the wilderness arboretum offers over 120 acres of woods, dunes, marsh connected by a intensive trail system. This offers a glimpse of the upper thumb has it appeared 100 years ago. Alternating sand dune ridges, (now with mature growth), and wide areas of pine, oak, fern and huckleberry.

There is no charge to visit and walk the trails. Donations are welcomed.


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M25: the Ribbon around the Thumb


M25_SignA favorite tour for motorcyclist is the State Highway M-25. It’s a 147 mile road running from Port Huron to Bay City Michigan. With waters of Lake Huron or Saginaw Bay on one side and rolling pasture and farmland on the other it’s one of the more interesting drives in southern Michigan.

Officially M-25 is a state trunk line highway in the US state of Michigan. M-25 is part of the Lake Huron Circle Tour for its entire length. Starting at a junction with Business Loop I-69/Business Loop I-94 in Port Huron M25_Maprunning north along the coast the highway passes through Lexington, Port Sanilac, Harbor Beach and Port Hope. At Port Austin is the northern most point of M-25. From here the road turns west and south running through Caseville, Bay Port, Bay, Unionville and ending in Bay City. The section of M-25 in Bay City was named what is now called a Pure Michigan Historic Byway by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Originally called the Bay City Historic Heritage Route you can see historical neighborhoods and large Victorian homes constructed by the lumber barons of the 1800s.


Do you love Michigan’s Thumb? So do we. However we were frustrated on not seeing cool T-shirts that M25reflect our favorite spots. So we created ThumbWind-Mercantile. This on-line shop offers T’s unique to Michigan’s Thumb and can’t be found anywhere else. Check it out.

Roadside Parks and Scenic Turnouts

One aspect that is truly unique to M-25 is the number of places to stop, rest or take in the view. There are a number of interesting turn–offs provided by MDOT to get off the highway. Most are right on the beach.

77_LkHuron_sm_263618_7Lake Huron – Located South of Port Sanilac in Sanilac County. This stop has great views of Lake Huron, with stairs from the park to the beach. Historical Marker for “Great Lake Storm of 1913” when sudden tragedy took 235 lives and 10 ships sank.

Four Mile Scenic Turnout – Location is south of Forestville in Sanilac County. Offers some of the best views of Lake Huron, with stairs from the park on the bluff down to the beach.

White Rock – Located south of Atwater Road, Sherman Twp in Huron County. Great views of Lake Huron and White Rock. Steps to beach, observation deck, walking trails connecting to non-motorized path on M-25. White Rock is a large, white, off-shore boulder used as a boundary marker to define the territory released by the Native American tribes of Michigan to the United States under the Treaty of Detroit in 1807.

Jenks – location is 2 miles west of Port Austin in Huron County. Features a spectacular view of Saginaw Bay, with beach access, restroom and picnic facilities.

Thompson Scenic Turnout – located 10 miles southwest of Port Austin in Huron County. Thompson Park features 2 large grindstones and access to sandy beach on Saginaw Bay, picnic tables and benches.

Brown – located 3 miles south of Bay Port in Huron County. Contains the historical Marker for “The Great Fire of 1881.” A million acres were devastated in Sanilac and Huron counties.


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What to Include in Your Emergency Car Kit


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Planning on taking a drive to visit some of the must-see sites in Michigan’s Upper Thumb? When it comes to safety on the road, we should all have an emergency kit in our cars. In order to decide what to put in your kit, you need to take into account the weather in your area (here in Michigan, we know it will often be cold and snowy!) and what items will suit your family’s needs.

Your kit should be divided into three separate areas. These include (1) items you keep accessible in your car, (2) emergency items for an auto breakdown—I keep these in the compartment with my spare tire, and (3) emergency items to take with you in the event that you have to abandon your vehicle on the road. I suggest packing the third group of items in a backpack with multiple compartments to make it easy to carry.

Aside from your emergency kit, you should always travel with a fully-charged cell phone and keep a car charger in your vehicle at all times. If you don’t have a smartphone with GPS (or a GPS system integrated into your vehicle), consider buying a stand-alone unit. And, when you live in Michigan (or any other cold, snowy climate), make sure that you have snow tires (or chains) to put on your car in the autumn.

Items to Keep Accessible

  • Small tool kit. This can include a multi-bit screwdriver, scissors, pliers, box cutter, tape, and Allen wrench.
  • $50 or $100 in small bills, hidden in your center console. If you’re stuck and need food or a hotel room, this stash could be a lifesaver!
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Several bottles of water
  • Ice scraper and snowbrush
  • Adhesive bandages and antibiotic cream
  • Flashlight with extra batteries or a hand-crank model
  • Umbrella and rain poncho
  • Extra medication if you have a medical condition and rely on prescriptions.
  • Extra hats, gloves, scarves, and earmuffs (or 180s)
  • Car safety hammer and seatbelt cutter. This item is one you’ll want to have within arm’s reach. Some models feature velcro strips for easy attachment.

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Car Breakdown Items

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Three reflective warning triangles. Most kits come with one, but you should have three of them to place at 50-foot intervals to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Emergency flares
  • Foam tire sealant
  • Spare tire, tire iron, and jack
  • Jumper cables (the longer the better)
  • Tow strap rated to tow 6,000 pounds
  • 550 Paracord. It can be used for just about anything.
  • Assorted bungee cords. These are great for a loose bumper, muffler, or for tying your trunk down.
  • Shovel
  • Cat litter. If you’re stuck, cat litter works as well as sand to give you traction in icy conditions, but it’s much lighter.
  • Ice fishing supplies. If you get stuck near a lake in the winter, what better way to take your mind off the fact that you’re lost! (That’s a joke, although you certainly could bring them along if you’re so inclined.)

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Mobile Emergency Kit

  • Hand crank flashlight with NOAA radio and USB port. This is a great multi-use tool that will allow you to hear emergency broadcasts, weather forecasts, and to charge your cell phone in the event that your car charger won’t work.
  • First aid kit and first aid manual
  • Duct tape. Astronauts take it into space as a multi-use tool, so you should take a roll on the road!
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Space blankets. These are compact and lightweight, so you might as well pack a few.
  • Non-perishable snacks. I keep protein bars in my pack and check them every 6 months or so to see if they need to be replaced. The chocolate-coated ones are fine in cold weather months, but avoid having these in your car in the summer!
  • Waterproof matches/lighter/long burning emergency candles. These are staples in any emergency kit and can be used to start a fire, provide light, and even boil water.
  • Maps and a compass. Of course, you’ll need to know how to use them. There are a number of online tutorials available if you need to brush up on your map and compass skills. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to read a map, and one on how to use a compass.
  • Loud whistle or air-horn. These can act as a beacon to help emergency workers find you if you’re lost or injured. Keep several whistles on lanyards in your pack, one for every family member.
  • Glowsticks. Not only will these amuse the kids, they can also help you to keep track of your family in low-light situations.
  • A pack of cards, travel-size games, or a paperback book. If you’re in a situation that you have to wait out, this can alleviate the boredom.

Specialty Items

These are things that you may need, depending on your family composition. If you have a baby, you might want to keep some extra diapers, diaper rash ointment, baby wipes, and canned or powdered formula stashed in your car. If you regularly travel with a family pet, have an extra leash, some sealed dog (or cat) food, and a collapsible pet bowl in your car.

Be Prepared for Any Contingency

A well-stocked car will save you a lot of hassle down the road! You can learn more about preparing an emergency kit tailored to your specific needs from the Department of Homeland Security and the DMV websites.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Highways Agency and Mike P.

How to Prepare for a Cold Weather Emergency


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Cold weather storms this time of year can be mild (lasting several hours), or severe (lasting several days, with strong winds and very low temperatures). Knowing how to prepare for these events is important for your safety and the safety of your family. Here are a few things you can do to be ready for inclement weather if you live in a cold climate like Michigan.

According to FEMA, there are three phases to coping with a cold weather disaster. These are Prepare, Survive, and Recover.

Preparing for a Cold Weather Emergency

In preparation for a storm or extreme cold, the first thing you can do is gather supplies. The following are some essential (and a couple non-essential) items you might want to stock up on before the next cold front hits.

  • First aid kit. A first aid kit is absolutely essential, especially if the roads are bad and emergency help cannot reach you. Have a first aid manual available, and consider taking a first aid certification course, such as the one offered by the American Red Cross.
  • Hand crank flashlight with NOAA radio and USB port. The great thing about these devices is that you will be able to get emergency notifications and, if the power goes out, it will provide you with light and a way to charge your cell phone. It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of extra LED flashlights with 5 year batteries.
  • Water. Keep at least a 3 day supply of water, 1 gallon per person per day. A water filter or purification method can be substituted if you have a source of water near by, and a way to melt it if it’s frozen.
  • Prepared food. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) were originally developed for the military, but are now available in many varieties designed for civilian use. They come dehydrated in pouches—just add hot water. If you cannot boil water, you can also make them with cold water. Although this isn’t particularly appealing, at least you won’t go hungry!
  • Candles/Cans of Sterno fuel. – These provide light and enough heat to boil water or warm up some food. Also be sure to have a box of dry matches or a couple of lighters.

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  • Fuel. If you have a fireplace, wood stove or pellet stove, make sure that you have plenty of fuel to burn. If the electricity goes out, this is a great way to stay warm.
  • Medication. You should always have at least a week’s supply of any prescription medication you use.
  • Extra diapers and formula if you have a baby.
  • Extra pet food if you have a pet.
  • Adequate cold weather gear and bedding. We’re from Michigan, so we should already have this covered!
  • Salt or other some other product to melt ice. It’s useful to have road salt in order to keep from slipping on your walkways or driveways when it’s time to dig out.
  • Snow shovel. Go for one of the more expensive ergonomic shovels. Trust me, it’s a good investment and your lower back will thank you for it later!

Comfort Items

  • Craft beer. What better to accompany your MREs when the storm is raging outside!
  • Games and books. If the power goes out, you’ll need something to do besides sleep.

It’s best to supply yourself adequately so you will not have to drive. In addition to stocking up on essential items, you should develop a communications plan with your family, including those who do not live in your area. If you have a household generator, make sure it’s in working order and ensure the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are fresh. Finally, bring pets indoors to protect them from the storm.

During the Emergency

FEMA recommends that you stay inside during the storm and stay off the roads. Limit your outdoor exposure as much as you can. If you really do need to go outdoors, make sure you’re properly clothed, layering and covering as much of your skin as possible.

In order to avoid freezing pipes, do not lower your thermostat at night during extreme cold snaps and keep your taps dripping. Although it may cost a little more to keep your home warmer, it’s a lot less expensive than repairing frozen pipes and the water damage that can accompany them.

If the heat goes out, close off unused rooms and turn on all of your taps so that they drip. If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, camp out in that room to stay warm. In addition, never heat your home with a grill, propane heater, camp stove, or your kitchen range. If you do so, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

After the Emergency

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If your heat or electricity has gone out for an extended period of time, consider going to a friend’s or relative’s house (who has power), a hotel, or a community shelter. If the temperature is consistently well below freezing, move the contents of your refrigerator and freezer to a garage or unheated service porch to keep the food from going bad.

Use extra caution when shoveling snow. Push rather than lift the snow, take frequent breaks (go inside and warm up), and make sure that you are properly clothed. Also, take careful note of symptoms of frostbite.

Stay Safe!

Keep these preparedness steps in mind when the next cold front hits. Doing so will help ensure you and your loved ones stay safe and comfortable, even when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You can find additional information about preparing for winter storms from the Department of Homeland Security and RedCross.org.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: photojo2005, Simon L. and jmannm8400