Charlevoix, Northport, Traverse City

We had to stay at Mackinaw City, Michigan until Monday due to bad weather.  We left early Monday and when we go under the Mackinac Bridge we will be navigating on Lake Michigan.  The main strait flows under the Mackinac Bridge and connects two Great Lakes Huron and Michigan.


This is the Mackinac Bridge a 4.995 mile suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan which opened in 1959.  Formally  know as “Big Mac” and “Mighty Mac” is the worlds 19th longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.  The bridge connects the city of St. Ignace on the north end with village of Mackinaw City on the south.  What a beautiful sight with the lake pretty calm,  the sun shinning so brightly, and fog in the distance.


Navigating towards the bridge on our port side (left) when we reached the Straits of Mackinac we could see the McGulpin Point Lighthouse.  In the early 1850s McGulpin Point was seen as a crucial lighthouse site.  Though the Straits’ eastern and western entries were covered by the Bois Blanc and Waugoshance.  Congress appropriated funds for a lighthouse in 1854 and construction began in 1868.  McGulpin Point was one of five on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior that were almost mirror images.  The light at McGulpin was in service until it was rendered obsolete by the construction of the Old Mackinac Point light and fog signal station in 1892.  By 1906 the light was decommissioned and sold into private ownership in 1913 until 2008 when Emmet County purchased it to enhance recreation opportunities.


We have 52 miles to navigate today, Monday, on Lake Michigan with our destination tonight at Charlevoix.  During our travels today we passed the deserted Waugoshance light located in Emmet County Michigan.  In 1832 the first light vessel on the Great Lakes was placed here a wooden lightship the Lois McLain.  In 1851 she was replaced by the Waugoshance Light which remains one of the most hazardous areas near the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan.  This lighthouse was the first light built-in the Great Lakes totally surrounded by water.  The Waugoshance light operated from 1851 until its deactivation in 1912.   Although the light is now gray and looks like it has frosting on it thanks to the birds it was originally painted in four broad horizontal red and White stripes as a Day-Marker.  During World War II the abandoned light was used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice.  The lighthouse keepers house and all the wood framing burnt and the metal shell has fallen away  Today the lighthouse is considered one of the most endanger lighthouse in the world it is amazing that anything remains.


We are now navigating on Lake Michigan one of the five Great lakes and the only one entirely in the United States.   It’s the second largest by volume and third largest by surface area.  Lake Michigan is very deep with a max depth 923 feet and the water is so crystal clear with a blueish green tint.  The word Michigan originally referred to the lake itself and is believed to come from the Ojibwa word Mishigami meaning “great water”.  Some of the earliest human inhabitants of Lake Michigan region were the Hopewell Indians and then the Late Woodland Indians.  In the 19th century the lake played a major role in the development of Chicago and the Midwestern U.S.


As we were approaching Charlevoix, Michigan to our port (left) side were high sand dunes covered with trees called North Point.  The sand dunes located on the east shore of Lake Michigan are the largest freshwater dune system in the world.

To get to our marina we have to enter Pine River channel the entrance marked with the South pier-head light on the starboard (right) side.  The entrance is narrow and may have current so we had to time our entrance right as Bridge Street Bridge which we need to pass through only opens on the hour and half hour.

IMG_8201This narrow entrance can get crowded as we found out and then we heard and saw the Emerald Isle cruise ship coming behind us.  Emerald Isle is a ferry-boat that’s a lifeline to Beaver Island transporting passengers, vehicles, and cargo.  Charlevoix has been the point of travel to Beaver Island since the late 1800s.

Once we passed through the bridge we will be in Round Lake but before we go to our assigned slip we need fuel.  When we headed for the fuel dock on the port side (left) we saw Mark and Becky (Mara Beel) new boat a Ranger Tug on the starboard side (right).  They came over to the fuel dock to stay Hi we had not seen them since Newborn, NC.   They are attending a Ranger Tug rendezvous and staying until Thursday.

We are staying at Charlevoix a beautiful beach front town with the best of all worlds.  Lake Michigan is to the west, Lake Charlevoix to the east, and Round lake on its shorelines.  Charlevoix protected harbor on Round lake is just steps from the five block downtown shopping and dinning.

IMG_8203Charlevoix is named after Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix a french explorer who travelled the Great lakes and was said to have stayed the night on Fishermans island during a harsh storm.  In 1852 settlements of Charlevoix was initially fishermen.  In 1864 settlers built a large dock at the mouth of Pine River on Lake Michigan.  Boats there were exposed to the harsh vicissitudes of the Great Lakes weather, so local entrepreneurs sought to connect Lake Michigan to an inland harbors at Round Lake and Pine River channel was dredged in 1869.  During Prohibition Charlevoix became a popular place for gang members from the Chicago area.

IMG_8256Beginning in 1918 real estate agent regional promoter and self-taught architect Earl Young began to design and build his signature “mushroom houses” and other building out of locally harvested boulders.

Tuesday afternoon with warm and sunny skies Kent and I took a dingy ride around  Round Lake looking at all the homes.  These two homes were Earl Young’s last creations on the north shore of Round lake one was his home and the other his daughters.  These are considered mushroom houses designed and built by Earl Young.  We then ventured out the cut to Charlevoix lake which is 56 miles of shore line and 122 feet deep.   The water is so clear I could see fish swimming, to bad I didn’t bring my pole maybe Kent could catch our supper.

IMG_8313We took the Mushroom Houses Tour riding tour given by Edith Pair the owner.  Edith was great giving us historic information about each home and taking her time so we could take pictures.  Earl Young a Charlevoix resident and builder transformed common stone and boulders into structural masterpieces.   For years Young saved boulders he would dig them up and then hid them underground, deep in the woods or in Lake Michigan until he was ready to use them.  Over a span of 52 years he designed and built 26 whimsical nature homes and four commercial building but he was never a registered architect and never made a blueprint.  He worked mostly in stone, using limestone, field stone, and boulders he found throughout Northern Michigan.  The homes are commonly referred to as gnome homes, mushroom houses, or hobbit houses.  His door, window, roof, and fireplace designs were distant because of his use of curved lines and frosted cement chimneys.   Young’s goal was to show that a small stone house could be as impressive as a castle.  Each of these houses are individually different and was designed to blend in with its surrounding landscape.  Earl Young married Irene Harsha in 1915 and they had four children.  Irene would refine the rough sketch her husband had scribbled so workers had something to look at.  Young never thought about practicality making very short doorways and kitchens like hallways.

Earl Young purchased land he called Boulder Park in 1924.  He partitioned it into 85 irregular shaped lots and sold them for $100 with the stipulation that the first floor of any house built had to be made of stone or stucco.  These are pictures of some of the homes in Boulder Park.  The first picture is the Owl House constructed in 1931 made entirely of granite.  It received its name from the two round windows on its front that resemble eyes.  Next is the half house built for Young’s daughter as a honeymoon cottage.   The Thatch house originally built-in 1945 a large cottage with a thatched roof from Europe, later changed to shingles.  The new owners returned the roof back to thatch as originally constructed.  This reminds me of a home for Snow White and the 7 dwarfs.  The Thatch House exemplifies the storybook magic of the Earl Young mushroom houses.  Next is the house called the Abide built-in 1938 as a rental cottage with its curvy roof line and has a fireplace made of Onaway stone.  The first house in the third row is called Three House as it has three stone stack chimney, three windows in the front, and it cost three million dollars.  Earl Young built this home so you could look straight through to the turquoise water. Next house is called the green home as the mortar is green he also had a red and white mortar home.  This is called Boulder Manor built-in 1939.  The front of the house is dominated by an arched window the home is a jumble of boulders of different sizes and color collected from the surrounding countryside. The eponymous Mushroom house is Young’s most noted creation its rounded shape and undulating roof reminiscent of a button mushroom.  I can just see Hansel and Gretel walking out of this house.   The lead glass windows were originally in a Polish castle.  When the roof was replaced it cost as much to replace the roof keeping with cedar shake shingles as it did to purchase the home.  The bottom two pictures are Earl Young’s home front and back. Originally built as Young’s first home the original house didn’t encompass Young’s developing unique hobbit-home style but today in a dramatic reimagining, is just a few of the homes on the tour.   They are all privately owned and if they are to small for a resident they are rented out to tourist.

In the 1950s Young converted an old grist mill into Staffored Weathervan Restaurant.  The restaurant has fire places, with the main one in the dinning room.  The nine-ton capstone boulder of the fireplaces was discovered almost buried in 1928 during the cutting of a road in Boulder Park.  Young moved the boulder a quarter of a mile from this spot and reburied it where the boulder lay for 26 years before he used it.  Kent and I walked to the Staffored Restaurant  for a drink after the tour.  We saw the one huge rock fire place in the main dinning room and toured the history of Earl Young in the lower level of the Staffored Weathervan Restaurant.

We had to stop at the Taffy shop on our way so I could buy a few piece of taffy.

This is what our marina looks like at night it was amazing with all the lights.  They have a children’s water fountain during the day and colored light show at night.   We were docked close enough to watch it.


Wednesday morning we left at 7:15 to catch the bridge opening at 7:30.  Mark from (Mara Beel) came to say goodby and help us get off the dock.  This will be a short day as only navigating 26 miles to G. Marsten Dame Marina at Northport, Michigan.  The rain had stopped but the sky was still overcast, hope we can get to the marina before it get to windy.  Our plans are to stay here for four days as a bad storm is predicted on Friday and Saturday.

IMG_8356This area is called the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan formed by the Leelanau Peninsula in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The bay is 32 miles long and 10 miles wide and 620 feet deep.  The Grand Traverse Bay includes an East and West arm and several important smaller bays with Northport located at the northwest corner.

We arrived at the marina around 11:00 and stopped at the gas dock for a pump out before we went to our assigned slip.  The sun came out in the afternoon and the day turned out to be beautiful.  Phil and Lynn ( Fins) loopers came in behind us and are only staying one night.

Thursday Kent and I walked down town in Northport, Michigan for lunch at the Garage and sight-seeing.    Johnny (Anchor Down) recommend this restaurant for their smoked pulled pork.  He was right the food was great and our waiter Jordan was very caring and extremely polite.  We stopped at the Museum and found information on the cherry picking, railroad depot, and life in Northport in the early years.


Northport was called Waukazooville until Deacon Joseph Damein and his son Eusebius platted the land north of Waukazooville and change the name in 1859 to Northport .  The cherry industry that is so prevalent in Northport today began in 1853 on Reverend Smith’s farm.  With in the first few years Farmers had an abundance of cherries so they began shipping them to nearby cities for their market.  In 1853 cherries were being harvested by hand or mechanically operated limb shaker by the 1970 most farmers were using mechanical trunk shakers due to the damage that the trees was undertaking.  Northport has gained fame for being an area where the rich and famous can live quietly and anonymously such as Chef Mario Batali, Tim Allen, and Jonathan Luck 2010 Olympic speed skater.

The tracks to Northport were built by the Traverse City, Leelanau, and Manistique a company formed by the Grand Rapids and Indiana and called Traverse City, Leelanau &Manistique.    The first train came into Northport in May of 1903 with a great celebration. In 1940’s it was called “The M&NE Manistee and North Eastern.  The first depot was a small wooden shed which burned and in 1920 was replaced by the present stone depot.   The early train was a steam engine villagers called Maude.  In 1948 passenger service was discounted and Maude was replaced by a diesel engine.  Finally in 1970 the last trip carried a load of steel for the construction of the marina.  The depot was sold and the first business was a restaurant, then an insurance company, and in 2010 the Northport Area Heritage Association opened their museum.  In 2013 Homan bought the depot remodeled it and opened a cigar, wine, and gift shop called “Set in Stone”.  Now in 2015 the depot was transformed inside into a private residence with the train caboose turned into a guest room.   It looked really impressive as we walked by and its for sale.  I got on-line and was able to view the interior pictures they were amazing.  Can you image owning your own train depot and a caboose.

Thursday we had a thunderstorm come through this area with lots of rain and tornado sighting on the other end of the bay.  We are hoping the weather will be nice on Friday as we want to take the bus to Traverse City.  Well we had to postpone our travel to Traverse City until Saturday as it rained all day Friday.  Saturday we woke up to a sunny sky so Kent and I took the bus for $6.00 around trip to Traverse City and Justin was our driver.

Traverse City is the largest city in the 21 county Northern Michigan region.  It is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States.  The surrounding countryside also produces grapes and is one of the centers of wine production in the Midwest.  Traverse City is named after the Grand Traverse Bay which the city heads.  Indian hunters and French traders were the first people to spend time in the Traverse City ares.  French voyageurs who made la grande tracers or “the long crossing” across the mouth of bay. On Old Mission peninsula Rev Peter Dougherty started the first permanent settlement in 1839.  In December 1872 rail service arrived in Traverse City this opened up the area to settlement and industrial development.

We had lunch outside at NorthPeak a Brewing company which inhabits a former candy factory.  Traverse City has 19 craft breweries and brewpubs with more popping up all the time and is nationally recognized as a center of creative brewing.  Then we walked around downtown they have six block of shops.

We found Cherry Republic a veritable mecca for cherry lovers.  You can pretty much sample everything before you decided to purchase their chocolate covered cherries, wines, salsa, sauce, and jellies and the list goes on.  Of course Kent and I had to sample the wine, salsa, and chocolate covered cherries of which we bought all three.  Cherry Republic started in 1989 when Bob started to sell Cherry Republic T-Shirts out of his car to earn money for college tuition.  The shirts were a hit and then he added cherry inspired cookies (Boomchunka) and they were a hit.  Soon Bob needed a store for Bob’s original eight products to a cornucopia of over 200 cherry based products including wine.

We walked by the City Opera House which is not open on weekends.  This Victorian 1,200 seat opera house was built-in 1891 by three Brother-in-laws and the first facility   in Traverse City to use electric lights.  Built as a meeting hall and auditorium the opera house hosted concerts traveling plays, high school graduations dinners, and balls. In 1920 a motion picture firm leased it but they closed it to avoid competition  with its own film theater. The building was used during the depression for a WPA project and in 1980 the opera house was given to Traverse City by the descendants of one of the original owners.

The State Theater was founded and built by Julius H Steinberg in 1916 and named the Lyric Theater and rebuilt in 1923 after a fire.  It showed the first talking movie seen in Northern Michigan in 1929 and closed down in 1991.  The theater underwent  restoration thanks to hundreds of volunteer hours and financial support and re opened as the State Theatre November 17, 2007.

Kilkenny’s Irish Public House specializes in handcrafted Irish ales, porters and stouts.  Kilkenny’s has a snug “man cave” feel with lots of overstuffed chairs and cozy nooks for conversation and contemplation.  We stopped for a drink while we waited for the bus. Our daughter Anita and her husband Patrick would really love this bar with the little nooks and fireplaces.

I thought Traverse City was beautiful with the Boardam River that flows through downtown Traverse City following a hairpin shaped course to Grand Traverse Bay.  This section of the Boardman River is accessible by motorboat from the lakeshore up to a weir upstream from the lakeshore.  Traverse City was hosting the Water Wonderland  Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society 30th Annual Boats On the Boardwalk Show.  Kent and I walked the board walk and looked at all the beautiful well-kept antique boats.

We had a wonderful day at Traverse City looking at the boats, having lunch at North Peak, and sampling cherry everything at the Cherry Republic.  The ride to and from Traverse City was beautiful through the countryside seeing grape, and cheery fields along with the great people we met on the bus.

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