June 12, 2015

6/8/15 - Father Marquette NM

Usually when I type "NM" in the title, it stands for National Monument.  This time it stands for National Memorial, Father Marquette National Memorial, to be exact. It's affiliated with the National Parks Service, but it's maintained by Straits State Park in St. Ignace, MI. (I don't get it either, but they have a National Parks Passport Stamp.)

We're staying just across the Mackinac Bridge on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The weather is beyond lousy, so George vetoed the boat trip to Mackinac Island. I wasn't crazy about riding around in a carriage in the rain anyway, so I didn't really care. The memorial is only 3 miles from the campground, so we went there during a break in the weather.
The memorial itself wasn't difficult to find; I just plugged it into the GPS and this time it took us straight there. There wasn't another soul around. We followed a path that took us to an open building.
HISTORY ALERT!  Skip to bridge picture if you want...
Inside is info about Father Marquette, who was a French Jesuit missionary in the 17th century. Besides learning several Indian languages, he founded missions at Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, and some place not named after a saint in Illinois. That puts Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace as the second and third oldest cities founded by Europeans in the United States. (St. Augustine, Florida is oldest, of course.) Now I understand the sign on the edge of  town that St. Ignace was founded in 1671. That's a long time ago.
In 1673, Father Marquette and trader Louis Jolliet explored the Mississippi River as far as the confluence of the Arkansas River. (Did I study about Jolliet when I was in school? The name is vaguely familiar, and since I'm feeling rather vague today, I'll say I did but misfiled it in my brain. I don't know!) Jolliet was really in charge, but his notes were damaged, so Marquette's journals became the primary record for the trip, which made him famous for years with those who traveled. Lesson to learn: if you're planning to be a famous explorer, don't leave your dog in your tent by himself, and make sure you take a secretary.
There's a really cool map on the floor of Father Marquette's Journeys. Pretty impressive in canoes, don't you think?
Reading this probably took about as much time as we spent in the memorial. There's a trail nearby that we followed. The most interesting thing was a few places where we could get peeks of the Mackinac Bridge. This is a picture George took--he's taller, so the trees don't get in the way as much. My pictures don't show as much bridge.
There was a map of the park that showed the rest of Straits Park--on the other side of I-75.  We weren't quite sure where to go but the info I had about the Passport Stamp location said it was at the Ranger Station. Back to the truck and the GPS. The girls at the Entrance Station thought we were talking about the Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport, but had no idea about stamps. (sigh) A ranger came in and directed us to HQ, back down the road. Found the office, found the stamp. That worked up an appetite so we stopped for lunch at a pastie shop. It's sort of like a beef pot pie you hold in your hand, and dip in catsup (ugh!) or gravy (pretty good).
Since we didn't get to Mackinac (which, by the way, is pronounced as if it ends in "w", not "c"--again, I don't know why), I talked George into stopping at the local harbor and we walked out to the lighthouse. Tiny midges were swarming all around us. George caught on pretty good--here he's doing the bug flap. It doesn't really help, but I found it very entertaining.
The walls of the lighthouse were covered with little black gnatty things. Locals call them midges, lake flies or may flies. (I call them something a lot more descriptive.) Apparently they don't live very long because there are piles of dead ones at the base of the building. It's really gross, but now that I'm thinking about it, I wonder how many there are.
So I don't leave you with this disgusting picture, here's a more interesting one. These life-size plastic dog silhouettes were on stakes in the park.  There's a spring on the stake, so it not only twists, but also bobs in the wind. Apparently they're to keep the geese away. Wonder if it works???
More pictures here:  Father Marquette Natl Memorial 

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