Where does Michigan begin?

Perkins + WIll 35
Perkins + WIll 35, photo by orijinal

The headline of Gary Wilson’s editorial at the Great Lakes Echo caught my eye this morning: Great Lakes: A ship with no name in search of a captain. Gary begins:

In the past two weeks Chicago has been the center of a rare commodity in the Great Lakes region: Forward-looking thought. And I mean the future, not just until the next election or fiscal year.

P-17= Steel Mills at mouth of Calumet river Chicago. Fire and boat at left. C.W. Cushman Nedill
Steel Mills at mouth of Calumet river Chicago by IMLS DCC

First, architect and MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” winner Jeanne Gang presented her vision for transforming the Chicago River from that of an “open sewer” and invasive species highway to becoming a model of a 21st century urban waterway.

Gang’s proposal is conceptual, not an engineering plan. It’s meant to generate interest by the public and discussion that has been lacking. And judging by the large crowd that came to hear her speak, that interest exists.

At the same time Chicago Public Radio was also looking to the future.

Its Front & Center series that focuses on the Great Lakes hosted a one hour program about whether the region can truly collaborate for the greater good of the eight Great Lake states. Or will it continue to play in a zero sum economic game by competing with each other while the region’s combined strengths go untapped?

The consensus of the expert commentators is that the region’s governors see no political gain by collaborating. They’re focused on winning the jobs takeaway game that makes for nice press releases and ribbon cutting ceremonies when they win, but does nothing to strengthen the region.

Excellent questions. Read on for his thoughts about where the leadership to protect the amazingly interconnected wonder that are Lakes Michigan, Huron, Superior, Erie and Ontario may (or may not) come from .

There’s no doubt that it will take all the states on the lakes and the governments of the United States and Canada and their citizenry to do it. I’m pretty confident that the character & vision of our leaders and all of us on the Great Lakes will be important to generations yet unborn.

Turning Basin
Turning Basin by mindfrieze, photo by mindfrieze

Editor’s note: this isn’t the first time that Michigan in Pictures has featured multiple photos – more in the Sunday Study section. These also aren’t the first photos from outside of Michigan’s borders to appear on Michigan in Pictures – at least one is the Christmas Ship at the dock in Chicago.

The Cycle of Sweetness: From Sap to Maple Syrup

Spile by Jan Fox

Spile, photo by Jan Fox ©

In an ideal world, I’d be able to lay out the process of making maple syrup using nothing but Michigan photos. Unfortunately, I can’t. I should be able to as my family used to sugar when I was a kid. I can only find a couple of the photos my dad took though. Such is life. I find maple sugaring a fascinating subject, so I’ll try and pull off a whirlwind tour of how it gets made. Bear in mind that we are discussing maple syrup here, Mrs. Butterworth, get outta here!

The roots of maple syrup start with the first Americans, and the fact that somewhere along the line, someone discovered that the sap of maple trees is sweet. If you ever get a chance to taste ice-cold sap in the spring, please do! Be warned that once the trees have budded, sap tastes bitter.
The process of sap collection is relatively simple. A hole is drilled in a maple tree and a spile like the one in the photo above is hammered into the hole. A bucket (or buckets) is then hung on the spile into which sap drips. Cold nights and warm days produce the best sap flow. For a few trees, folk will use a larger bucket while the big sugaring operations use a network of plastic lines.

In any case, the sap is collected and stored until such time as you are ready to boil it down (photo part of a great set of pictures!). This takes hours and hours and it takes 30 or 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Anyone who has ever made this knows that there’s no way sugar and carmel coloring are ever going to equal real maple syrup atop a stack of pancakes.

If all goes well, you will be able to see some or all of the photos featured here at the “sweetcycle” tag on Flickr.

View a Collection from 1940 by Marion Post Wolcott in the Library of Congress

How to Make Maple Syrup from the Michigan Maple Syrup Association

Native American Maple Sugaring: One Drip at a Time on Michigan in Pictures

Great information about Michigan maple syrup and maple syrup events from Absolute Michigan

Sunday Study: Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw

~from The Song of Hiawatha


photo by Allan M

Tahquamenon Falls, U.P. Michigan
Tahquamenon Falls, U.P. Michigan, photo by by Bluejacket.

Blue Jacket, who took the above photo of Michigan’s largest waterfall in May of 2005, writes:
Located in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, these are the upper falls. This is the land of Longfellow’s Hiawatha. Hiawatha built his canoe “by the rushing Tahquamenaw”. The amber color is caused by tanin leached from the Cedar, Spruce & Hemlock in the swamps drained by the river.

Upper Falls
Tahquamenon Falls – Upper Falls, photo by heidigoseek.

Heidi’s pic from September of 2005 seems evocative of the solitary forest.

Upper Falls
Upper Falls, photo by jamierytlewski.

Upper Falls is one of a set of pics of the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls taken in February of 2005 by Jamie Rytlewski.

The DNR has a page for Tahquamenon Falls State Park but Exploring the North’s page seems a lot more welcoming and says:

The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. A maximum flow of more than 50,000 gallons of water per second has been recorded cascading over its precipice.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Upper Tahquamenon Falls, photo by gsgeorge.

In dry times, as Geoffrey George writes, the water can be little more than a trickle.

Here’s a link to more Tahquamenon Falls photos & information from Michigan in Pictures (also see the waterfall tag).