Explore the Great Lakes, Before It’s Too Late

photo lumbermans monument dunes michigan

How many times have you planned to do something, but never followed through? Think about it. “Oh, I have to go there some day.” Some day may never come if you don’t make real plans, dangit. The Great Lakes are worth exploring, for the memories, the pictures, the awe factor. Which reminds me of a recent trip to Oscoda, Michigan.

I took the family Up North last weekend to hang out with the in-laws. We do it every summer. The weather that weekend was lousy, hot as hell when it wasn’t raining. We managed to grab one great afternoon visiting Iargo Springs and Lumberman’s Monument.

If you’ve never been to either place, you should go. And not just plan to go, but actually go. Each site features a long wooden stairway that descends to the Au Sable River. It’s breathtaking in more ways than one.

And I was out of breath after going up and down the 300 steps at Iargo Springs. That’s 600 steps total. In humid Michigan. And I didn’t really want to go to Lumberman’s Monument and climb down another 280 steps. I’ve been down (and up) both stairways a couple times.

photo iargo lumbermans lookout michigan

So we went to Lumberman’s, and I didn’t take the stairs. But I did take a path to the dunes. Yep. There are sand dunes there. A short path, less than a mile, all flat, took us to the sands. The kids and I, and their cousins and parents, were treated to a spectacular, one-of-a-kind view of the Au Sable River Valley.

Glad I did it. That’s my story for today. I also could relate this to climate change, and vanishing places, but I won’t.

photo dunes michigan kids great lakes


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Getting “Lost” in Hawaii (Waikiki Isn’t My Cup of Tea)

So I’m finally back in the Great Lakes state after a week in Hawaii. I can’t complain. Hawaii was great. The weather is perfect (85), the humidity is (mostly) low, and there are few if any bugs to swat away. But I didn’t like Waikiki, where I stayed. The (man-made) beach and the shopping and entertainment district there is just too busy. Too many people. Too much traffic. Too much noise. Good thing I got “Lost” while I was there.

One of a few excursions my wife and I took while on the island of Oahu was a Hummer tour of the “island of Lost,” where the TV show was filmed. Most of the filming locations, including where the VW bus was rolled down the hill (see the iPhone forced perspective pic above), are located on Kualoa Ranch. Yes, I know Hummers are bad. But this one was used to its full 4×4 potential.

Here’s a sample of what we saw. The tour driver played the creepy “Lost” theme music during our ride. This is the kind of “environment” I like. Natural. Quiet. Pure Hawaii, I guess.

See some of my other observations on TreeHugger:

Huge Banyan Tree Shades Historic Hawaiian Market

and

Wearable Dirt, on a Shirt, Helped Save a Company.

Hawaii’s Version of the Asian Carp Story

photo hawaii snorkel ecotourism fish

Snorkeling in Oahu.

Hawaii is a part of the United States. That’s what my AT&T rep quipped when I asked about iPhone coverage. So I’m covered here for phone and Internet access. And I’m more than covered when it comes to the problem of invasive species. If you think we have it bad in the Great Lakes with the Asian carp situation, think again. We have it easy compared to Hawaii, where invasive species threaten to blot out the eco-tourism economy like a dinosaur-scrubbing asteroid.

On the long flight here, my wife and I had to fill out an agricultural declaration form promising we wouldn’t bring in or take out plants, animals or any agricultural materials. Immediately, I was reminded of trips I’ve taken to foreign countries where similar forms had to be filled out. And I thought of my snide AT&T rep.

It turns out that Hawaii has a huge issue with invasive species, dwarfing our Asian carp problem by comparison (I suppose it depends on your perspective).

As noted by About.com:

“Despite the efforts of more than 20 state, federal, and private agencies, unwanted alien pests are entering Hawai’i at an alarming rate – about 2 million times more rapid than the natural rate. In 1993, the federal Office of Technology Assessment declared Hawaii’s alien pest species problem the worst in the nation.

“Hawaii’s evolutionary isolation from the continents, and its modern role as the commercial hub of the Pacific make these islands particularly vulnerable to destruction by alien pests. Gaps in current pest prevention systems and a lack of public awareness add further to this serious problem.”

Public awareness is right. Among tourists, and apparently some of the folks who live here. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but its isolation makes me wonder about a lot of things:

  • Why isn’t there more recycling here? I haven’t seen a recycling container since I arrived. I can’t imagine they have a lot of extra room for landfilling trash.
  • How much attention is being paid to the importance of maintaining the delicate ecology here and making sure visitors — and residents — don’t screw it up?

The wife and I went snorkeling on Tuesday. We saw dolphins and fish and one sea turtle and had a great time. But they fed hamburger buns to the fish. That’s a no-no, according to the Hawaii Ecotourism Association:

“Avoid feeding fish or other wildlife,” the HEA says in a Green Travel Tips guide.

“Feeding wildlife alters their natural behaviors and can upset the natural balance of the reef or the ocean environment.”

At least the folks aboard the boat we took out for snorkeling used a pre-installed anchor, so as not to damage the reef.

On the invasive species front, stinging Little Fire Ants from South America and birds known as Japanese White-Eyes are two poster children for the islands.

One more thing: I found out this morning that the Alliance for the Great Lakes is teaming up with musician Jack Johnson (who has a solar-powered studio in Hawaii) to raise funds to protect our freshwater seas.

The Alliance will get $1 for everyone who watches this video to the end. The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation also is matching dollar donations up to $2,500 until Oct. 15. See www.greatlakes.org/allatonce for details.

Fried Egg on the Sidewalks of Michigan

photo fried egg

Credit: House of Sims, Flickr.

Back in my MSU days, I was in an acoustic band and we had a song called “Fried Egg.” It was about wanting a fried egg for breakfast. Pretty deep stuff. And with the recent scorching hell-on-Earth temperatures in my part of Michigan, I wonder to myself, “Mr. Great Lakes, is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?”

It was 99 degrees in Bay City yesterday, according to my wife and my truck thermometer. Not hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, or even heat-seeking black asphalt, according to a search of the Internets. It seems the topic of “Is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?” is pretty popular.

This guy tried it in Phoenix, at 112 degrees. No go. Gooey egg.

The crack reporters at The New York Times tried it yesterday, on the hottest day in the city since 2001. Fail.

According to Alberta Egg Producers, “Egg white begins to coagulate at 62°C (144°F) while yolk begins to coagulate at 65°C (149°F).”

Either way, as James Bruggers has observed, it’s not a good day to make fun of global warming.

Happy sweating.

How Saginaw Bay was (probably) created, on Google Earth

I can’t seem to get enough of the Google Earth BlogA recent posting caught my eye, talking about something called the Saginaw Impact Manifold. No, it’s not part of a Michigan-built engine. It’s something that helped create Saginaw Bay, probably.

“The basic idea behind this theory is that a cosmic impact struck the eastern part of what is now known as Michigan, which spread debris across the country and created many of the Carolina bays that are out there,” the GE Blog explains.

“The impact itself carved out Saginaw Bay, creating the mitten shape that the state currently resembles.”

Notice that it didn’t help carve out the Great Lakes Bay.

Just food for thought. Enjoy the weekend, as Chinese-made fireworks light up the sky. America!

— Image credits: Google Earth Blog, AbsoluteMichigan.

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