I’ve had a couple of stressful weeks pass by recently, so when the weekend opened up and my stress load dropped quite a bit, I took advantage of the last mild days of fall and headed into the woods. Well, kind of.
My first idea was to go camping in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, but with time and money in mind, I decided to make it a day trip and go somewhere else. Some google-mapping informed me that Lake Huron was actually a little closer, or at least the same distance to Lake Michigan, so I left Lansing and headed towards Bay City. Of course, I just punched it into Jeeves (my GPS) and went on my merry way.
For some reason, Jeeves had the idea to go through the town of Frankenmuth – sometimes he takes weird routes, and when I don’t know the area, I can’t correct it. Ordinarily, I’d be in favor of rural roads as opposed to the interstates, but that’s when I’m thinking about roads that don’t go through Frankenmuth. By now, if you don’t already know, you’ve gotta be wondering what’s going on in this town. If you’ve ever driven through MI, you’ve probably seen signs for “Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland” [Emphasis theirs] which is located here. A huge, year round Christmas store with its share of tourist traps and enough billboards to be compared to Wall-Drug. But that’s not the worst part. No, the worst part is that this town also calls itself, “Little Bavaria”, and has every single German stereotype that you can imagine, all bundled with tourist traps and souvenier shops. And of course, crowded with people. (I thought the economy was bad?)
After leaving Frankenmuth as quickly as possible, I was well on my way towards the thumb. Now I had been under the impression that MI was mostly a forested state, and quite a few of my experiences had enforced that. So I assumed the thumb was going to be about the same. However, I soon found myself in familiar territory; flat, straight roads, surrounded by fields and farm equipment. It’s interesting how rural America can be so similar. This time of the year, trucks parked on the sides of fields either for harvest or hunting. Small towns with run-down shops and cars. Small bars in the middle of nowhere that you know only serve those wearing camo or blaze, and probably both. It’s a depressing thought coming into one of these cities. You look around and wonder, what are the jobs here? What could the opportunities be here? And yet, these struggling communities are all too common across our landscape. Are their voices being heard? Hmm.
I also started to discover something else I didn’t know about Michigan– they grow a shit ton of potatoes. Now I’m from an ag state, but 99% of the time, the crops I see are corn and soybeans. I was immediately interested with these fallow, tilled croplands I was seeing around me — I honestly haven’t seen pure tilled land in years now that no-till is being used. But soon, I started seeing semis full of… could it be? Potatoes? I drove past a co-op that just had MOUNTAINS of potatoes. I’m not exaggerating!! Just piles and piles of potatoes, like dirt at a construction site. Nevertheless I was impressed.
Onwards. Most of the city/county parks I stopped at were closed for the season, but I did spend some time at Sleeper State Park near Caseville. Ate dinner at a roadside park that was in a perfect location to watch the sunset. But these were both looking at Saginaw Bay, and I was hoping to get a look at the actual lake. Unfortunately, darkness came too quickly, so I ended up turning back. However, that still leaves something for next time.
In the end, I got my feet wet in my third Great Lake (!!) and had a relaxing drive with NPR and my own thoughts. Another reason for the trip was to take advantage of the break in between rotations to get back to my own research questions and start developing a thesis project. I can’t say I was too successful at that, but the break was beneficial nevertheless.
How are you spending your last days of fall?