We hear of the big parks: Yellowstone, Glacier, Crater Lake, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain—and I had a misguided prejudice that most of the special lands are in the West. And then we began our year-long trailer travel journey east from Washington State, and I saw how each state has its parks, forests, wildernesses, wildlife refuges, national lakeshores, national seashores, national historical and cultural sites, and national battlefields.
We’d started toward the big parks, but forest fires, smoke, and heat altered those plans—so we diverted north and east. What wonderful sights we’ve seen in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan that that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
As a flavor of what we’ve repeatedly awed over, this is what I wrote while sitting on a cliff at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan:
“Glorious, incredible, sublime—this view from a rocky point jutting out over Lake Superior. More outcroppings to my left, a vast blue-green body of water in front of me (brilliant blue in the shallows), tree and rock-strewn cliffs to my right, a vast blue sky overhead, and all quiet except for an occasional breeze in the trees—and God is all around.
“Lake Superior is big”—that’s what our boat-tour guide glibly told us yesterday. He expounded by saying it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, though there is a deeper lake in Russia that’s larger by volume. During that tour we coasted along multi-colored sandstone cliffs streaked with red iron, green copper, white calcium, and blue and black manganese—hence the name, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Now, sitting on the cliff overlooking the lake, I soaked in the colors, bigness, nature, and solitude.
The walk to Chapel Rock on the Chapel Rock/Mosquito Beach loop occurred on a flat trail through quiet, green-all-around Michigan woods. The comfortable repetition over the miles reminded me of swimming laps in the pool, with the stressless easy sameness that promotes meditation. I thought, so many beautiful moments in life. So many times, places, and experiences to be grateful for. I prayed thanks for the opportunity to explore, and I wrote thanks that our country has set aside lands to explore in and learn in. As John Muir said, we need places to play in and to pray in.”
Some other places we’ve tasted recently during our forays in the Midwest and the East:
– Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Dunes, big Lake Michigan, and lots of wind—which is why there are so many shipwrecks offshore.
– Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Boat tour of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, walk to the lakeshore, sandstone cliffs, big Lake Superior, and quiet, green Michigan woods.
– Sparta (“the biking capital of the world”)
– Leopold Center and Aldo Leopold’s shack at Baraboo (see my posting at https://michaelmaddoxconservation.com/2021/09/22/aldo-leopolds-center-and-shack-for-those-touring-the-history-of-conservation-greats/)
– Apostle Islands
Boat tour of the Apostle Islands.
– Voyageurs National Park.
Boat tour of Voyageurs, canoe paddle along the lakeshore with a dunk in the lake. Lots of natural islands with ducks and bald eagles. We didn’t see any moose, but they’re there.
So much to see. Someday we’ll get to Cuyahoga, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Lincoln’s Home, Cumberland Gap, Mammoth, Great Smoky Mountains, New Orleans Jazz, Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Acadia, Delaware Water Gap, Oyster Point, Thomas Edison . . . the list goes on.