She Said–Postcards from Up in the Michigan U.P.–Day 4

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

You cannot live in Michigan without referencing the Great Lakes.  And you cannot visit Marquette, Michigan without referencing Lake Superior.  It would be like making a carrot cake without carrots.  Or discussing a baseball game without mentioning the pitcher. Or eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the butter–well something like that anyway.

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We decided that a trip to the Marquette Maritime Museum was how we wanted to spend our morning.  We had hoped for a tour of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, but as it is on Coast Guard property, access is only available three times a day for tours. And we had arrived at the wrong time of day.

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The walk from our hotel was about a mile, so we decided to get some exercise and take in the views right along the water front.  The gardens on these new row houses were beautiful; as was the view out across the water.

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The Maritime Museum is small, interesting, and very kid friendly.  There is nothing about the museum that is cold, distant, or purely academic.  It seems more like a conversation about history than just some cold, hard, dates and facts–exactly how I like to learn.

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(Sorry this photo is blurry, but you still just might be able to spot a pirate figure on the shelf.)

Upon entering the museum, the kiddos were given a scavenger hunt sheet.  There were two parts to the sheet.  In one part, they had to find little pirate figures hidden all over the museum.  This really encouraged the kids to look at all the displays instead of just the ones that first caught their attention.

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Here is Eloise studying a display.  The kids initially started looking just for the pirate crew, but then got interested in most of the displays.

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The second part of the Scavenger Hunt was to look for some pirate “pieces o’eight”.  There were four chests hidden around the museum.  Once found, you could take one pirate coin out.  (Not two, or the curse of the pirates would be upon you.)  There were riddles to help the children find the treasure chests.

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When the kids finished the scavenger hunt, they presented their sheet to the museum staff for a certificate and a prize–a free postcard.  All my kids loved the scavenger hunt.

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In addition to the scavenger hunt, there were also several sea chests placed around the museum with about 8 activities in each chest–everything from dressing up like a pirate to knot tying to ship building to worksheets.  The museum was really loaded with kid activities.

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I enjoyed the birch bark canoe display.  I have only seen artist renditions of birch bark canoes, and I was interested in seeing one in person.  It has always been hard for me to understand how some thin bark could support the weight of several people, but seeing an actual canoe helped me understand.

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The bark is just a thin covering over a structurally reinforced frame.  One of our school books (a reading book) for this school year is one of my childhood favorites–Rascal by Sterling North.  ( Rascal (Puffin Modern Classics)

And in Sterling North’s book, he describes how he built a birch bark canoe out of cheese hoops.  (image from here.)  Having seen the inside of  a real birch bark canoe, I now understand what the author was describing.

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I also enjoyed seeing a diorama of the Marquette Harbor when iron ore mining was in its heyday.

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This huge structure dominates the harbor, and I was interested to see how it had worked.

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The huge structure is an iron ore loading dock.  Prior to this, iron ore was shoveled into freighters, and it took 3 – 4 days to load each freighter. This loading dock was built in 1911 and had four railroad tracks running across the top.  Iron ore was dumped into the freighters by chutes, and ships could now be filled in a couple of hours.

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Here is a close up of how the chutes look today.

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In this photo the red arrow shows about where the Tall Ships docked.  The grey arrow shows about where we rented the kayaks.  You can also see the wooden docks as they used to appear.

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Here’s a current photo of the iron ore pier, and . . .

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. . .in this photo, you can see what is left of the old wooden pier–just stumps.

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The rescue techniques display was also interesting.  The torpedo-like-thing was shot to the ship in distress.  The torpedo was attached with a light string that was carefully laced around wooden dowels to unlace when fired without any snags.  Also attached was a “paddle” with rescue instructions to the ship in distress.  The torpedo-like thing was fired back and a stronger line was pulled over.

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Here is the cannon they would use to send the distress torpedo.   (And if you look closely, you might just see a pirate ship from the Kid Scavenger Hunt.)

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Once a strong rope was running between the two ships, different rescue methods could be used–such as the white boat or life ring.

(And if you want to see a section of a Horatio Hornblower movie in which the circled life saving device is used, click on the link and scroll to 1:48.)

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We walked back to the hotel and had a floor picnic with leftover pizza, cherries, grapes, blueberries, and yogurt.

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And then it was time for another baseball practice, followed by another game.

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We camped out under a picnic table.

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We played hard and lost by one in the last inning.  We finished 9th out of 16 teams.  I’m so glad we got to go.  Grosse Point, District 6 won the state title and are headed to Indianapolis for the Regional Tournament.  The winners of the Regional Tournaments then go on the Williamsport, PA for the National Tournament.

The team wanted to a have a spaghetti supper together at the “Baseball House”–the house the team rented for the week.  The house was just outside of Gwinn, Michigan and looked to be about 30 minutes away.  I got directions, picked up some drinks for the meal, then entered the address in my GPA., and set out.

I was surprised just how hilly the roads were, and just how uninhabited the U.P. is.  I started off on a four lane road, the turned onto a two lane road with markings,. . .

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Then my G.P.S. directed me onto a blacktop road without markings, . . .

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. . .and then onto a dirt road.  And here about 45 minutes into the trip, my G.P.S. lost its signal.  I ended up at a campground that was having a dirt bike convention.  After some consulting among the bikers, I got a general idea where I made my wrong turn, and headed out again.

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I turned off the dirt road onto a little lane, and then got lost again.  Thankfully, I got into cell reception again, and called the coach.  I backtracked a few roads and finally saw him standing in the middle of the road waving me in.  I was thankful.  I didn’t want to get lost in the U.P. without good cell reception or a good map.

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I turned down a narrow lane and came out right in front of a cute, summer cottage on a lake.

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The baseball boys were in the front yard playing, . . .yep, you betch-a, . . .baseball.

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Only this wasn’t regular baseball.  This was pick-up ball.   Sand lot ball.  Complete with smack talk, outrageous boasting, name-calling, fun-making, and heroic deeds all done with a wiffle bat and ball.  The boys were having a ball!

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The House Mom cooked up a spaghetti supper for about 25+ people, which we all inhaled.

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The girls swam,572 copy

and kayaked, and fun was had by all.

I decided that I had better follow someone back to Ishpeming instead of wandering around in the dark with four sleepy kids.  Their G.P.S.  took us to a horse trail, but we backtracked and found a main road.  The kids were all dozing when we drove through the town of Gwinn, Michigan at about 10:30 that night.  I couldn’t see well, but the town looked really quaint with every front yard having a picket fence.

File:Gwinn Model Town Historic District 2009c.jpg I have since googled “Gwinn, MI” and discovered that it was built as a model town by a coal company (The high school team’s name remains “The Modeltowners) and is listed on the National Register of Historic places.  (photo and info from Wikipedia)

Baseball was over.  Little League–that has dominated our summers for the last six years–was forever over.  My son had played his last Little League game ever.  (Little League ends at 12 years of age.)  Kinda sad.  I don’t know what is next for us, but I do know that I was very tired.



P.S.  If you are just now joining us, you might want to check out these previous posts.

July 18, 2013–Traveling Up to the U.P.-Day 1

July 19, 2013–First Day of the Tournament–Day 2

July 20, 2013–Kayaking in Lake Superior–Day 3


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5 Responses to She Said–Postcards from Up in the Michigan U.P.–Day 4

  1. trixfred30 says:

    Dioramas! Love them. You’ve reminded me I need to write up a blog of one I (I mean we) made for the oldest’s homework ages ago. I just googled where you went. It takes 6 hrs to get there from my office in Riverwoods, IL (well not MY office but where i go to if i have to go to the States for works – 356 miles by car. I just got back to London from a meeting in Exeter in south west england – 160 miles – and that took 5 1/2 hours! rubbish roads in this country!!!


    • whitsendmom says:

      Would love to see the dioramas! Isn’t your Roman shield from cardboard one of your top posts? Didn’t know you had an office in Chicago–only five hours away from where we live. Chicago is a GREAT city! We do have great roads, but your mass transit system has us beat!


  2. Lisa says:

    Enjoyed this series! It’s hard to believe next year is Trent’s last year in little league. . . and Ty’s first. Four boys playing at one time. It’ll be interesting schedule-wise to say the least!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Slight correction. The ore dock model is of the dock in the lower harbor which was built in 1931. It shipped ore until 1971. The upper harbor dock was built in 1911. It is still in operation today and typically sees about 7-8 million tons get loaded into the boats.


  4. Prominer says:

    Slight correction. The ore dock model is of the dock in the lower harbor which was built in 1931. It shipped ore until 1971. The upper harbor dock was built in 1911. It is still in operation today and typically sees about 7-8 million tons get loaded into the boats.


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