austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

To gather leaves and flowers to line our winter pockets

Ages ago bunny_hugger's parents owned land on the Leelanau Peninsula, somewhere north of Traverse City and near all these towns we were visiting. Not much land, and not developed, but still: somewhere they could go to and, if they really felt up to it, set up a tent and camp or something. They sold it, if not their biggest then their most frequently-expressed regret. bunny_hugger speaks still of longing to get some plot of land and even found a decommissioned lighthouse up for public sale (I think) this month. That's a real pipe-dream, though.

But we were driving from Northport to Leland, along a route that would take us on a confusingly-signed section of state road M-22. It's confusing because the road runs along the edge of the peninsula, and coming from the northern end, both the eastern and western limbs are signed ``M-22 South'' and everyone just pretends this isn't intentionally confusing. Anyway along this path bunny_hugger realized we were going close to where their land had been, and her father knew just where to go to find it, and we took the diversion up a long, hilly path. And when we got to this spot of land I'd heard about for years without seeing ... well, it was the side of a pretty steep hill, obscured by grass and trees, with the suggestion of a driveway in it somewhere. It seemed pleasant enough.

Leland, on the western side of the peninsula, was a small port town. It stands out among the many small port towns in the area by the attraction which brought us there, Fishtown. This was the commercial fishing district which thrived for a century-plus, until all the edible fish were eaten out of the Great Lakes, at which point the industry declined. The dock area has mostly been turned over to tourist attraction, shops and galleries and historical museums and the like. But there are still a couple of commercial fishers still working the lake and still tending the boats and sailing out from it. So it has that interesting blend of historical importance and actual current economic value and cheese shops.

Also other miscellaneous oddities. For example we parked near a garage that had about a half-dozen vintage cars being worked on. One or two is understandable, and I get that vintage car owners would go to a shop that other vintage car owners use for obvious reasons. But how many classic and antique cars can there even be in one small northwestern-Michigan town at once? More than you think: there were several beautiful 50s cars and trucks puttering around town too, never mind waiting for service. I don't fully understand the town.

It's a neat area, right on the edge of the lake of course. We didn't take any boat tours, although bunny_hugger did look into what might be needed to take a boat to the Manitou Islands. The islands have a couple lighthouses which she hasn't visited yet. We didn't happen to get over to them, though. I think we'd have had to devote more of a full day to the project than we were ready for. We did pick up some lovely little ceramic tiles which we'll figure out a decorative spot for at some point.

The area also has, again fascinating to my kind, a big lump of iron. The plaque states it marks the site of the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company, which had a blast furnace around that spot from 1870 to sometime before 1958 when the plaque was put up. Also the tall stump of the Leland Champion Cottonwood Tree, which ``stood 100 feet tall, with a 20 foot circumference and a 76 inch diameter''. It was planted sometime around 1901, and was taken down for reasons its plaque doesn't state in 2011. Clones were budded off of it in 2008, although I don't know what became of them. The tree stump --- which is still maybe twenty feet tall --- marks the path between the main drag of Leland and the Fishtown area. It is a good striking marker as long as you don't look too far up.

Trivia: In 1872 the Leland Iron Company paid its Native American employees 25 cents per day for ore unloading. Source: Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State, Bruce A Rubenstein, Lawrence E Ziewacz.

Currently Reading: Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, Alex Raymond, Don Moore. Editor Dean Mullaney.

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