Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Part 7: Going Home Slowly Through The Lower Peninsula

Traverse City, Point Betsie, Frankfurt, Muskegon & Detroit, MI (Map)

Autumn 2012.


Leaving our Big Bay Motel to slowly return home, we started the day with delicious breakfast at Floyd's in Manistique. I then turned down visiting Manistique's Lighthouse for my 3rd time, going ahead with covering the last 2 Yoopee hours of driving while stray snowflakes tried to accumulate. We were leaving the Upper Peninsula right on time.

Once you cross into the Lower Peninsula, even if you were to drive on I-75 straight to Detroit, it would still take you 4 hours time. We weren't doing that though, instead we went southwest through Petoskey & Charlevoix to reach Traverse City, where we were curious about how things were going at the Traverse City State Hospital.

Some of you may remember that I visited this place back in 2007.

I was astonished by the change over the last 5 years.

I realize that we were there on a brisk night back in 2007 & this was a sunny afternoon, but the amount of people wearing colourful clothes and driving nice cars has skyrocketed. No longer was it just one nice restaurant at the one end of the Kirkbride building, it was now a campus where people could park and walk around.

I quite enjoyed seeing people taking pictures and appreciating the history of the various buildings (one group was standing in front of the fire hall, which helpfully has "Fire Dept" engraved in the front facade).

We went over to the Laundry Building, which was the first building Nail had seen back in the day.

It's now a winery.

I walked inside and two men were discussing the pronunciation of various wines from the Burgundy Region of France. Having been in a few state hospital laundry buildings, it was strange to stand there as 30 people stood around a bar for a wine tasting.

I really wanted to take an interior picture, but chickened out. Google has the interior streetview though.

I imagine it's hard enough for The Minervini Group to renovate and occupy the giant Kirkbride building; so I've always tempered my expectations for quick occupancy in the still sizable cottage buildings also on the campus.

The heartwarming thing to see is the small buildings also being made a priority. The aforementioned fire hall is now a bakery. The cheesecake restaurant you see above is in the old potato-peeling shed.

(They needed a brick building with details for potato peeling? Okayy...)

Taking a walk around the large cottages, I noticed the men's dining hall from 2007.

No takers on this one yet, unfortunately.

I remembered the cistern from Nail's old pictures and told him I'd like to go up there.

I crunched over the forest floor covered in a thick layer of leaves, before coming to the water tank which was four to five feet off the ground. I squeezed between a tree and the tank, moving up onto my chest, before rolling atop the cistern.

A look inside the tank.

The better part of going up to Cistern Hill was the view it provided.

It surprised me that the renovation group hadn't yet sent anyone up to paint over the graffiti on the water tower.

Another bonus was that we passed the Carpenter Shop and flexed our exploring muscle.

I'm not sure if you the reader could handle walking up 6 steps, so you might as well present me with a plaque for my accomplishments instead.

The sky would soon start to pour down rain, so Nailhed asked if I wanted to go to Trattoria Stella and have a drink.

Of course I found this comical since I stated in 2007: "I know when I get another girlfriend, I'm surely going here for some Italian food," but whatever, that wasn't meant to be. LOL!

So the two of us had pints of something local & delicious, while observing the brick arches typical of so many state hospital basements. To see pretty waitresses serving enticing Italian food within this environment certainly surpassed the winery on the scale of fascinating sights.

I find it funny that this makes me want to go here for Italian food even more now.

Anyway, what a pleasurable stop in Traverse City!

Altogether much better than demolishing your Kirkbride by neglect and putting up a Wal-Mart (oh hai Dixmont!).

Point Betsie Lighthouse was along the way to our next destination, so Nailhed split the Lake Michigan sand dunes and parked up near the shore. We walked the seawall to the front of the lighthouse, even though people were going inside for tours.

Those people might have had the right idea as they peered down on us from the lantern room, watching the sideways rain slash us, the wind whip us and even some small hail batter us.

Point Betsie is obviously a very beautiful lighthouse from 1858, with a fantastic setting along Lake Michigan and an pleasant gambrel-shaped, red roofed keeper's house. I imagine it might rank higher on my Michigan Lighthouse list if some of that sublime weather from earlier Upper Peninsula days had followed us down here (although getting hit with hail was memorable I suppose).

In a shocking development, the inclement weather followed us 5 miles down the coast to Frankfurt!

Nailhed was comfortable with walking out to the lighthouse under these conditions, but I checked out after we reached the narrow portion of the breakwall. As waves soaked us every 10 seconds and we could barely hold our cameras to take a picture, I let Nailhed know this was good enough.

Obviously it doesn't count because I didn't go out right up to the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, but I'll get it another day. Back at the beach, people looked at us with raised eyebrows from their cars.

Not going out of our way for lighthouses, we were actually headed to these furnace ruins.

Originally built between 1867 and 1870, these buildings were part of the Frankfort Iron Works until 1883. They would be transferred to the Ann Arbor Railroad in 1892, who then converted them to a train repair machine shop and a roundhouse.

Gothic arches, passageways, old stone, history - I had to tip my hat to Nailhed for finding out about this one.

The railroad which took over the foundry buildings would utilize a car ferry that used to go over to Frankfurt until 1990. Parking at the shore, there were ruins of the docks, but it was downright pouring rain by now, so I left them to Nailhed.

The drive south along Lake Michigan was pleasant. Eventually reaching Manistee for the first time in my life, I craned my neck at their impressive buildings from a logging and shingle manufacturing past.

Moving along to Muskegon, we went out of our way to see one of the cities I've longed to see for the better part of a decade. Unfortunately it was nighttime by now, but I still appreciated what I was seeing, even if Muskegon had demolished a lot of buildings, renovated a lot of buildings and generally cleaned up. There was a Muskegon Lumberjacks game going on (the L.C. Walker Arena is above), but I declined Nailhed's offer to pay ticket prices + arena prices for a dinner of pizza while we watched 1 period of hockey.

Instead we ate a nearby sports bar which was good enough. Leaving town, I was happy I finally saw Muskegon.

I was worried with it being so late at night, but Nailhed handled the cross-Michigan driving with ease, taking down the 3+ hour drive with a stop in Grand Rapids to boot.

I appreciated not just this driving, but all of the driving, the wear on the truck and the hospitality at Nail's crib...thanks buddy!

What weather, what a number of sights seen, what success, what a fantastic first Upper Peninsula trip with Nailhed!

Thanks for reading!


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