Traveling in a Another Direction

By Michael Carignan

In this article I’m going to do a little different kind of travel; this time I’ll travel into the past.

In December the Village of North Freedom released a revised edition of its local history book: They Led Us to Today, A History of North Freedom, Wisconsin. The book begins with the first permanent residents, Samuel and Dency Hackett, who settled in the Town of Freedom in a portion that later became North Freedom.

The history of this small community is rich with highs and lows in the business community and in the people that lived there. At one time the village was a bustling community that thrived on making itself self-sufficient. Nearly every type of business could be found in the village – three grocery stores, taverns, churches, lumber yards, hardware stores, bank, gas stations, and even a funeral director at one time made a living in the village.

They Led Us To Today Front Cove smallr

They Led Us to Today takes the reader through the years from the 1840s up to the fall of 2018. It’s worth a read if you’re in to history or the village itself. Copies of the book are still available through the village office and library, some local and regional businesses and of course the publisher, In the Folds Books LLC at Check it out.

Exploring the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Part 3

By Michael Carignan

Another good night’s sleep and it was time to leave the Sault and begin the trek home. The plan was to drive to John and Cathy Ann Anderson’s cabin on the Escanaba River. Cathy is my niece. We had four more places we wanted to check out before we got too serious about taking the three hour drive for their place. Fortunately all four attractions were kind of on the way to Cornell.

Breakfast was a combination of the continental breakfast at the motel and some snacks that we like to carry with us. One of our favorites is a trail mix we discovered at the Olympia Farmer’s Market in Washington. It is a mix of beef stick pieces, small jerky pieces and small half-inch cubes of different cheeses, whatever you have on hand. It adds a good protein boost as a snack or even a meal.

The first two attractions happened to be at the same locations outside of Paradise, Michigan. The attractions are the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Lighthouse.

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The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

The main collection of the museum features artifacts from many of the more famous shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. Over the many years there have been thousands of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. Whitefish Point has claimed a large number of them. Since 1975 there has been in the neighborhood of 240 wrecks off Whitefish Point.

Included in the many displays is one of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank on November 10, 1975. Twenty-nine men died in the wreck. The Edmund Fitzgerald was just 17 miles out into Lake Superior from Whitefish Point when it sank. In 1995 the bell from the ship was raised and is part of the display at the museum.

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The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

All of the exhibits were quite interesting and told of each ship’s fate and the location of where they sank.

Other museum buildings and attractions included a lighthouse keeper’s house set up as it was in the early 1900s. The old station crew quarters is being renovated into overnight lodging but wasn’t open to be toured.

The Whitefish Point Lighthouse had some restriction as to who could climb the structure and hear the history of the oldest operating light on Lake Superior. The light was first lit in 1849. The light helps guide ships through the graveyard of the Great Lakes as they enter or leave the St. Mary’s River and Lake Superior.

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The Whitefish Point Lighthouse and keeper’s house.

Also on the grounds is an overlook of the lake and stairs that allow visitors down onto the beach to walk the sand. Dawn, of course, didn’t turn down a walk on the beach.

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The Lake Superior beach at Whitefish Point.

From there we took the road back onto Paradise and got back on M-123 W headed for Tahquamenon Falls. First we went to the lower falls about 15 miles west and then to the upper falls another four miles west. Tahquamenon Falls’ upper falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River – Niagara Falls being the largest.

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The upper falls of Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

It was a Saturday with sunshine and 80 degree temps so both locations were extremely busy. In both locations the closest viewing areas were quite a hike, but the path was paved and quite wide allowing even larger groups to pass in both directions without much problem. I took my time and was able to get some good pictures. The falls were exhilarating and well worth the hike.

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The lower Tahquamenon Falls.

It was time to head for Cornell so we got back on M-123 west. As we were tooling along out in the middle of nowhere we past a sign for North Star Brick Oven Bakery. Baked goods… you bet! We shot past it before realizing it might be worth a stop. We turned around and as we got out of our car a woman came from the house to open the shop. Inside it was rather dark but there was enough natural light so we could see the products. The woman informed us they were off the grid so there was no light to turn on. She had a selection of four kinds of sourdough breads left.

We chose a whole wheat bread made from wheat that had been used in the brewing process and then recaptured. We also chose a chocolate-cherry bread.

Back on the road, M-123 to M-28 outside of Newberry, then a few miles west to M-117 south to U.S. 2 then west to Gladstone.

We arrived at the Anderson’s cabin around 5:30 p.m. eastern. We got in on a couple of games of ladder ball. Dawn and I won the first, lost the second. After a couple of beers and lots of catching up, Cathy and John served up a wonderful supper of grilled chicken, potato salad and veggies from the garden.

The next morning Dawn and Cathy cooked up some French toast made out of the chocolate-cherry bread and some sausages. John brought out some of his homemade maple syrup. The bread had nice chunks of chocolate as well as real Michigan cherry pieces. It was delicious.

After breakfast we walked down to the bottom of John and Cathy’s front yard to the banks of the Escanaba River. The Andersons bought up an acre of land along the river from my uncle. This was the most southern part of the old Carignan homestead which included, I would guess, a mile or more of riverfront. It is very scenic with lots of deer, turkeys, bear and wolf in the woods and good fishing spots in the river.

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The Escanaba River in front of the Anderson residence.
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Five of the seven members of a family of wild turkeys that frequently visit the Anderson residence.

Alas, it was time to get back on the road. Home was about a five-hour drive away and we intended to make a couple of stops along the way. From the cabin we went into Escanaba to make a stop at Sayklly’s. They have been making chocolate candies for the public since 1906. Excellent candies even though they’re a little pricy.

Our next stop was in Menominee, Michigan just before we crossed back into Wisconsin. Our stop was Colonel K’s Pasties Shop. Here again is a place that’s been in business for as long as I can remember. I was born in Escanaba and moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin before I was one-year old. We never made a trip to Michigan without a stop at Colonel K’s Pasties. They are consistently top quality with little change over the years. We did notice a change this time though. The crust has gotten much thinner. They are still quite tasty but not quite as filling. Our favorite is the cabbage and beef.

Four hours later we were back home and unpacking.

Last butt knot leased: Stand up to the bully

By Michael Carignan

A couple of years ago, when I was still working for the newspaper, a young high school girl in Sauk Prairie took her life. It seems someone who knew her was constantly bullying her. The bully successfully convinced the girl she was not wanted in this world. Unfortunately, before getting help, she gave in.

The parents were devastated. He friends were also. Her softball team missed her terribly. The entire community felt the loss of this beautiful, vibrant young lady who had been destroyed by a bully.

The community launched a campaign to address the problem of bullying and try to stop its horrible effects from ever taking away any other community members.

Bullying is a terrible thing that never produces good results. The bully may think it’s fun and they have the upper hand if they find someone to prey on. The one being bullied, though, can laugh it off for only so long before it starts to get to them.

Fast forward to six months ago as our country was heading into the presidential primary season. As the multitude of Republican candidates lined up to vie for their party’s endorsement, one candidate used bullying as his main campaign tactics. He called his opponents stupid. He called them ugly. He belittled them on race and gender. He called them liars but would not be forthcoming with details about his own business practices.

The American people, instead of standing against this bully, bought into his bullying. One by one his opposition left the presidential race. At the Republican National Convention this bully was selected as the candidate to represent the party.

What a sad day.

Now he continues his campaign of bullying without seriously addressing the problems at hand. He would rather blame the world’s problems on his opponent than be addressing those problems.

Last fall, Great Britain’s parliament passed a law banning this man from ever laying foot in their country because of his practices. His answer to Great Britain is to threaten to drop our alliance with them and take up an alliance with some other countries such as Russia. Can we afford to wait until after this bully has made enemies of all of our allies before we stand up to him?

We have one opportunity to do just that. It’s the November presidential election. Tell this bully there is no place for him in a nation that is the greatest in the world.

Exploring the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Part 2

After the Soo Locks boat tour we went downtown to find a place to eat and have a beer. We checked on Freighters Restaurant and passed on it being a little too fancy and much more expensive than what we wanted to pay for supper. Across Portage St. we found the Soo Brewing Co. and Moloney’s Alley.

We stepped into the Soo Brewing Co. and learned they didn’t serve food. They did have a variety of their own beers. We tried one of the lighter ones and it was good. Neither of us are into dark or IPA beers and the one we tried fit the bill quite nicely. Some of the other customers at this establishment were very friendly and made us feel at home. Still we only stayed for one beer.

Next door was Moloney’s Alley. This was an Irish pub and eatery, just what we were looking for.

The beer menu featured Guiness and 20 Michigan craft beers (none from next door). I asked if they had Smithwick’s, an Irish red ale made by Guiness. They didn’t, but the waiter offered a choice he said was comparable to Smithwick’s. We took him up on the choice. What he brought wasn’t terrible but it was nowhere near the taste of Smithwick’s.

For supper we decided on appetizers and Dawn got a bowl of tomato bisque. The bisque was delicious and the appetizers were slightly above average. We left satisfied.

We capped off the evening by spending an hour or so at Kewadin Casino. The slots weren’t too hungry, at least as far as I was concerned. Dawn didn’t fare as well.

We weren’t in any hurry the next morning so when we finally got going, we sampled a little of the continental breakfast at the motel but then chose to look elsewhere for breakfast. Dawn suggested the Antlers Restaurant but it wasn’t open yet so we chose the Superior Café to get us going. This was basically a coffee shop that served a small selection of baked goods to go with the coffee drinks. We both got scones, one blueberry and one cranberry, and chocolate frappes. All was pretty good but the bill was a little pricey for what we got.

From there we went to the Tower of History. This is a small museum featuring artifacts from the area’s early history located in the basement portion of the three towers that were built by an area priest to represent the three crosses on Calvary. The towers are 210 feet high with three viewing platforms that offer some wonderful photo ops. Fear not, there is an elevator that takes visitors to the top. The view includes a birds-eye view of the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the St. Mary’s River and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

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A view of the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan from the observation deck at the Tower of History. In the distant right is the bridge to Canada.
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From the Tower of History, the Soo Locks are in the foreground and the steel mill is in the background. The bridge to Canada lies between the two.
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Sault Ste. Marie, Canada from the Tower of History.

Once we had all the photos we wanted from the top of the Tower of History we went back to our list of things we wanted to see and the next logical choice was to go visit Lake Huron. Both of us have seen Lakes Erie, Michigan and Superior and being just 50 miles from a fourth of the five Great Lakes sounded appealing, so we headed out of the Sault, south on Riverside Drive.

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Riverside Drive leaves Sault Ste. Marie and follows the St. Mary’s River.

As we typically do, we avoided highways and stuck to the back roads, trying our best to stay as close to the river as we could. We drove south and east as far as we could until we were forced to go west. Then we would take the first turn south we could and try to get back to the river.

At one spot we were on a dirt road and had to choose to stay on it and go north or turn off onto another dirt road going west. As it turned out the road we chose went into Dunbar Park. The road followed a small river that eventually emptied into a lake.  Along the road there were nice little turnouts with picnic tables and a grill. At one turnout an older man and a young boy were fishing in the river.

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Dunbar Park where the river empties into the lake.
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Another view from Dunbar Park.

We followed the road into the main park area and stopped at the boat landing with the intent of getting out. We no more than stopped and mosquitoes swarmed into the car. We quickly rolled up the windows. Only one pesky insect survived inside the car, and that wasn’t for long. Outside, the windows were covered with mosquitoes. So much for getting out there. We drove to a different area and there seemed to be fewer bugs so we braved it and had a nice walk along the water.

After a short stay we were back on the road. Eventually we made it to another boat launch on Munuscong Lake. Not Lake Huron yet. Finally we ended up in DeTour Village where the river empties into Lake Huron.

A flock of Canadian Geese in a bay with Lake Heron in the background.

DeTour Village was originally named by the French as De Tour or “the turn” because this is where ships of all sizes needed to make the turn out of Lake Huron and into the St. Mary’s River to proceed to Lake Superior. The village, although small, has a long history of service to the area.

We stopped at the boat launch for a few minutes. We could have taken the ferry to Drummond Island but we decided not to and instead visited the small DeTour Village Museum near the ferry landing. It was informative and interesting.

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Drummond Island threw the mist.

The return trip to the Sault was much quicker as we opted for highway travel this time.

Back at the motel we had an hour to kill before the supper hour so we just kicked back. We attempted the Antler’s Restaurant again but without reservations the wait time was 35 minutes or more. We opted to go back to the casino and try its restaurant. Dawn chose the salad, soup and dessert bar while I ordered the fried chicken dinner.

For the salad part of the meal I was allowed one trip to the salad bar. That was just what the doctor ordered with lots of fresh cut veggies to choose from. The fried chicken was plentiful but just slightly above average as far as casino food goes. Along with it came a mound of real mashed potatoes with gravy and a generous side of fresh green beans. All in all the meal was in the 6.5 out of 10 range.

Dawn was thoroughly satisfied with her meal. It too hit the spot.

We played the slots for an hour and the management was not nice to either of us. We left a little disappointed but that’s what casinos can be.

Living with my thoughts: Thoughts on the deity


By Michael Carignan

I’ve been contemplating a new view of the deity. No, it really is not a new view. I should say, rather, it is a new look at the old view of the deity.

I’ve been reading a book titled “Where the Lightning Strikes” by Peter Nabokov. This book takes a close look at the sacred places and things of the Native Americans.

Religiously Native Americans were condemned by whites for having multiple gods and while they did they all believed in one Great Spirit. They were thought to be crazy because they believed everything has a spirit. Mountains, lakes, rivers, plants, rocks, animals, birds, clouds and even lightning were considered sentient beings by Native Americans. A number of tribes went so far as to believe that even the things that man made had a spirit; i.e. houses, pots, baskets, blankets, chairs, etc. To them all things should be venerated, never abused or wasted.

Some pretty absurd ideas, aren’t they? Or are they?

This makes me think back to second grade, when I attended St. Joseph’s School. We were preparing to make our First Communion and we had to learn all of the basic Catholic doctrine before we could do so. One of the first questions we had to answer was “What is God?” The answer we were taught was “God is everything.” The second question was “Where is God?” The answer we were taught, “God is everywhere.”

“God is everything. God is everywhere.”

We then learned about the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: One God.

God the Father is the creator in whose hands all of creation lies. God the Son is Jesus Christ who came into the world to instruct and save mankind. God the Holy Spirit is the essence of God that lives in everything, living and non-living, known and unknown, seen or unseen.

Is there really a difference in the Catholic belief and the Native American belief? I don’t see one. God is everything. God is everywhere. If so shouldn’t all things be venerated?

This part of the logic was not really imparted to us when we were young. We were given the ideas but not really given the mechanism to realize what it meant. We weren’t taught to respect everything we encounter on earth. We lived in a world of racism and sexism, in a land of plenty where you took what you wanted without thought to circumstance or consequence. We were simply given the doctrine and expected to live it without guidance. We were never really shown how to practice it.

Native Americans did understand the doctrine and they were taught to practice it from a very early age. They saw everything as God and they venerated it.

No way, right? How could these heathens have any knowledge of God? Maybe it is because God makes Himself known to all people in ways that each of us can understand. We are all children of God. God does not just rest in the lap of Catholics or Lutherans, or Muslims or Buddhists, Taoists or Hindu, or in any other obscure religion. God makes Himself known… to everyone. We simply have to recognize him.

DIY: Homemade yogurt

By Michael Carignan

When it comes to yogurt, people seem to fall into one of three categories: 1) Those who love it and eat it regularly; 2) Those who despise it and couldn’t be paid to eat it; and 3) Those who don’t really care for it all that much but eat it now and then because they know it is good  them. If you are one of those in category 2 this article is not for you. To all the others, you may find this of value.

Go to any grocery store with a dairy section and you will find yogurt in one form or another. Greek yogurts are extremely popular these days and are rapidly overtaking standard yogurt and kefir. Really, the only difference between these three types is the amount of whey left in the final product. Greek yogurt has the least amount of whey and is a dryer yogurt. Kefir is a liquid yogurt made for drinking rather than eating with a spoon. Standard yogurt is somewhere between the two.

Over recent years the price of all types of yogurt has risen. True, the price is based on the price of milk, but it is also based on demand. Yogurt companies have sold the idea that yogurt is good for you, and it is. Yogurt contains acidophilus, a culture that has been proven to be extremely beneficial to a person’s digestive tract. If you want to keep regular, eat yogurt.

A gallon of milk can cost half as much as a quart container of Greek yogurt or kefir. It is also less than a quart of standard yogurt. That being the case, why not make your own yogurt? It’s easy. While the process may take 10-12 hours, the person making it is really only engaged in the process for maybe 30 minutes of the process.

Equipment needed to make yogurt include either a microwave or a range. If the choice is to make it on a range you will need a double boiler or a saucepan with a heat-tolerable bowl. If you choose the microwave then just the heat-tolerable bowl is required.

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Everything you need for making yogurt includes milk, yogurt maker, culture, glass bowl, whisk and an instant-read thermometer.

Other equipment needed includes an instant read thermometer, a whisk, a yogurt maker and either cheesecloth or a close-mess strainer. Ingredients needed are simply milk (cows’ milk in any form, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk) and some live acidophilus culture, which can be bought in dried form or may be obtained from an already made plain yogurt that contains live culture.

The trick to successfully making yogurt is being able to keep the milk at around 100 degrees F for 8 to 10 hours while the culture does its magic. There are a variety of very good yogurt makers on the market that range in price for $25-$50. I bought a DASH Greek yogurt maker on the internet and had it delivered to my house for less than $35. Once you own one, they last for a very long time.

The process of making yogurt starts with preparing the milk. The amount of milk you use will depend on the size of the yogurt maker. Mine uses 40 ounces of milk at a time.

Heat the milk in a double boiler or in the microwave until it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees F. Stir often to keep the milk from curdling. I’ve made it both ways and prefer using the microwave. I start by heating the milk on high for two minute intervals and then checking the temperature and stirring with the whisk. Once my milk reaches about 170 degrees F, I reduce to time to one minute intervals until I finally reach 185 degrees F. Do not sell the temperature short and also be sure not to boil the milk. Either one will have an effect on the outcome of the yogurt.

Let the milk cool on the counter until it reaches a temperature between 100-110 degrees. Next, stir in the culture. If using a yogurt containing a live culture that would mean about one ounce of yogurt for 10 ounces of milk. Set the yogurt out so it reaches room temperature before using.  Using a larger ratio will not hurt the outcome. Use the whisk to make sure the yogurt culture is thoroughly dissolved in the milk.

At that point the mixture needs to be put in the yogurt maker. It will take a minimum of eight hours to get yogurt, or it may take as long as 12 hours. The length of time in the yogurt maker depends on your personal taste and the type of milk used. The longer it is in the yogurt maker to more sour the yogurt will be. I prefer my yogurt at around 8.5 hours. Just set the timer and forget it. The yogurt maker will shut off when it is done.

When you open the yogurt maker you will see the milk solids have coagulated and are surrounded by a yellow liquid. This liquid is the left over whey. You will need to drain off some of that liquid. How much you want to keep will determine the texture of your final product. If you desire a thick Greek yogurt you will want to put the mixture in a cheese cloth or a strainer. The longer you leave it to strain will determine the thickness. I’ve discovered I prefer to not use the strainer but just pour off as much of the whey as I can. (I collect the whey and water my vegetables with it. They love it.)

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Strainer for making Greek yogurt is at right. It fits neatly into the container on the left so whey can drain off.

Once you have the desired final product put in the refrigerator to cool. Add fruit, nuts, sweetener, or eat it as is, however you prefer.

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A bowl with a small portion of the final results: a nice thick yogurt.

I end up with about 28 ounces of yogurt out of the 40 ounces of milk I started with, at a cost of about $1.25, a third of the cost in the stores.

Last butt knot leased: Farewell to the newspaper

Previously published in the Sauk Prairie STAR Jan. 2016

By Michael Carignan

I have served as editor of the Sauk Prairie STAR for the last 10 years and 10 months and now it is time to move on to something else. My intension is to continue writing and taking photographs but in a different genre. There are books and plays I’d like to write and more artistic photos I’d like to take.

Cheryl Sherman, Prairie du Sac village president, asked me when she heard I was retiring if I was leaving because of something someone did or said. The answer to that is an emphatic “no.” From day one, the Sauk Prairie community welcomed me as one of them and it doesn’t get any better than that. I have lived and worked in my share of communities where I was never thought of as a member of the community even if I was living there, let alone living somewhere else and commuting to work there. That acceptance has made my job so much easier. Thank you!

Because of everyone’s acceptance of me I have been able to develop many meaningful friendships and acquaintances that I will always cherish.

I published my first article and photos 41 years ago under the tutelage of my good friend Michael Irwin. I knew from that point on what I wanted to do with my life, although I was never really sold on journalism. I worked in a couple of publishing jobs and did some freelance before I finally found my way back to publishing and journalism full time some 18 years ago. If it hadn’t been for the wonderful reception by the Sauk Prairie community I probably would have moved on to something else much sooner.

Shortly before this past Christmas a met a person for the first time and during our conversation, when he discovered what I do and that I was retiring, he asked me what was the most memorable story or stories I had written during my career. I had never really given that question much thought because I’ve always felt the next stories will be the most memorable. Needless to say I gave him a somewhat lame answer.

But now that I am actually retiring I’ve given that question some serious thought. It’s funny when I think back all those years what stands out. In writing stories I’ve interacted with numerous high-profile elected officials, athletes, professors and entertainers, but it is not any of those that are truly memorable. What I remember are the stories about everyday people and how they have handled both the good and the bad times.

There was the early story I wrote about Uncle Max. He wasn’t my uncle, but the uncle of some very good friends. Max had lived and worked the land along Lake Wisconsin for his entire life. Max is still here in my heart.

Then there was the story of a young man I never met but who brought the entire Sauk Prairie community together in a tragic story. Marine Lance Corporal Nicholas Anderson’s death and the community’s reaction will always be, as sad as it was, a story I am proud to have been able to report.

And there were stories that failed as well. I once wrote a story for a sports magazine about being an equipment manager for the Rose Bowl bound Washington Huskies. I learned a lot from not getting that story published.

Being able to cover all of the growth in the Sauk Prairie community has also been memorable. The building of the new hospital, the remodeling of the Culver’s building into the Ruth Culver Community Library, the rise of the phoenix named McFarlanes’, and of course the building of Bridges Elementary and the remodel and addition to Tower Rock School all stand out.

Add in the list of all the wonderful students and teachers I’ve dealt with, and the many veterans that have served this country. Add in those that are making this world better through the promotion of renewable energy and those who do Christ’s work by spreading God’s word, and it has been an inspiring career.

One story though sticks out as the one that really affected me the most. It was a story I had to do over a couple of months while I worked in Reedsburg for the Times Press. It was a tragic, senseless story of a young teenage girl named Lydia. Lydia was a friend of my daughter. She had been to our house in North Freedom a few times. I admit I didn’t really know her well but what I did know of her was she was a pretty girl with a friendly, good nature. Lydia went to western Washington State to spend the summer with relatives. She went out for a walk one day and was never seen alive again. After searching for her for a few weeks she was found in a garbage bag, dumped in a remote area like she was garbage. I had a hard time reporting her story. I lived in western Washington for three years and return there often. The people there are much like the people in Sauk Prairie, friendly and welcoming. It’s difficult for me to think that somewhere in their midst is a monster who could do such a thing.

My list of stories could go on and on.

It’s funny how life is so circular. A thousand years ago, when I was young and still played guitar, I wrote a song titled “Tuesday.” All I remember of the lyrics are as follows:

“Tuesday and it’s time for me to go.

Tuesday, I just wanted you to know.

The feeling in my heart is strong.

How I wish you could come along.

I say goodbye to friends I’ll never see again.

And those I will, I hope they understand.

It’s just time to be movin’ on.”

Thank you everyone and may God bless. And now it’s good to be back!

Exploring the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Part 1

By Michael Carignan

Recently my wife, Dawn, and I took a four-day mini-vacation with the primary destination of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the third oldest city in the U.S. Dawn had never been there before and I have just traveled through the area as I entered and returned from Canada.

As with any other trip we take, we spent some time investigating what the area had to offer for attractions, food and lodging. Since we were only planning to be in town for a day and a half, that eliminated a couple of our top choices which were all day side trips on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and The Toonerville Trolley Riverboat Tour’s Tahquamenon Falls Wilderness Excursion. We decided instead to take in some of the less time consuming attractions and leave the all-day trips for another visit.

The Sault is an eight-hour drive from home so we decided to leave on Wednesday after work and drive to Neenah where our daughter, Heidi, and her family live. After a good supper and a good night’s sleep we went for breakfast at the Queen Bee Restaurant on College Ave. in downtown Appleton. The restaurant is owned by a man from Afghanistan. Although the menu includes traditional American breakfast foods, on this day the special was either an Afghanistan omelet or an Afghanistan skillet. I ordered the skillet with hash browns on the bottom, ground beef, two eggs, Feta cheese and a cucumber sauce on top. It was delicious. Dawn ordered the omelet, which was similar but without the hash browns. She liked it a lot as well.

By 8 a.m. we were on the road. Our route began on US 41 north to Menominee, Michigan, then M-35 along the northeast shore of Lake Michigan to Escanaba. In Escanaba, my birthplace, we got on US 2, which travels along the top of Lake Michigan through Manistique to Engadine. In Engadine we turned on to H-40, which angles to the northeast toward the Sault.

H-40 was a pretty decent road with straight stretches that went on for miles. At one point, as we topped a knoll, I looked in my rear view mirror and I could see the straightest line of road I have seen since traveling the plains. The view had to go on for at least 15 miles, straight as an arrow. To finish the trip we got on I-75 and took that to Sault Ste. Marie.

Once in town we immediately headed for our motel, Budget Host/Crestview Inn. This mom-and-pop style motel lived up to the 4.1 rating it was given online. We got the deal through Expedia for a very reasonable price. We weren’t looking for anything fancy, just a place to call home long enough to sleep and maybe relax for a couple of hours. The room was basic, clean and well kept. There’s a television with cable, a reasonably comfortable double-bed, a refrigerator, continental breakfast, and a bathroom with a shower.

We checked in around 3 p.m. eastern time. Being a sunny, warm day we decided to find something we could take in yet that afternoon. First on our list was the Soo Locks Boat Tour and luckily the motel office had a flyer featuring its schedule of runs. The last excursion of the day was to leave Dock #2 at 4:30 p.m. There was a dinner cruise at 5:30 p.m. By the time we were moved in to our room it was past 3:30 p.m. The office lady gave me simple direction and off we went looking for Dock #2. Our intent was to get a seat on the dinner tour at 5:30 p.m. and kill two birds with one stone.

At the ticket window we learned we were too late to get reservations on the dinner tour. The last excursion boat was due at Dock 2 in about 10 minutes. We bought our tickets, two for $54. Dawn left to go park the car properly. She no more than left me, still getting tickets, and I realized a needed something in the car.

I hurried to catch up to her but to me the word “hurry” is at best half fast or slower so when I caught up she was already beginning to move the car. I caught her eye and she stopped so I could get a backup battery for my camera. As I dug for it the tour boat showed up. We were still quite a ways from the actual dock so by the time we got there we were, I think, the last ones to board.

As the name suggests the Soo Locks Boat Tour takes passengers through the U.S. locks in one direction and after exploring a few other attractions from the water returns through the Canadian lock back to its starting point.

The nearly 75-mile long St. Mary’s River connects Lake Superior to the north with Lake Huron to the southeast. At Sault Ste. Marie the river drops 21 feet over a rapids. Ships in earlier times would need to portage the rapids in order continue their trip between lakes. Depending on the size of the ship that portage could take as long as three weeks. Very large ships were unable to make to portage at all.

The first Soo Lock was completed in 1855 allowing ships of all sizes to easily make the portage in just 15 minutes. Three more locks were added over the years on the U.S. side but only one small lock was built on the Canadian side.

soo locks approach
As we approached the locks we were instructed that our tour boat should use the first lock on the far left. Two of the other three locks can be seen to the right. 


On our tour we waited for two small boats to exit the lock before we could enter. Once in the lock, the huge gate closed behind us and the water began to flow in to the lock. Filling of the lock is done by a series of huge pipes and the water flows by the use of gravity. It took nearly 15 minutes for the lock to fill, raising our boat 21 feet to the level of the upper river.

soo lock closing
Once in the lock, the huge doors closed behind us.
soo lock fill 1
The water level in the lock is shown before it began to fill.
soo locksfills 2
The water entering through the huge pipes made large circles in the water.
soo locks full
With the locks full, our boat was nearly level with the land surrounding the lock.

While we were making our way north through one lock, a freighter named Federal Biscay was making its way south through the next lock over. The Federal Biscay is roughly 700 feet long and 60 feet wide, but was not the largest ship we saw using the lock that day. Another freighter was about 815 feet long and 70 feet wide.

soo federal biscay
The ship Federal Biscay passed us as it headed south through lock 2.

The locks are closed during the months of January through March. During the remainder of the year over 7,000 ships pass through the 1.6 mile long locks.

After exiting the lock we cruised north for a stretch before swinging over to the Canadian side of the river where we were treated to a riverside look at the workings of a steel plant. From there we proceeded to the Canadian lock on the river.

As the gate closed behind us on this lock, the water level quickly began to drop. Our decent took only about 10 minutes to drop the 21 feet to the lower river level. Once out of the lock we proceeded down river to Dock #1 where half of our crew departed the boat. On the way back to Dock #2 we passed the hydroelectric plant built in 1902. At nearly a quarter-mile long it is the world’s longest hydroelectric dam.

soo hydro dam
The world’s largest hydroelectric plant is nearly a quarter mile long and lies on the St. Mary’s River just south of the locks.

Redirection brings rebirth


Trails of a Traveler has lain dormant for the last year. But, now is the time for its resurrection. With its return readers will notice some changes. And hopefully, they will find it for the better.

In the past Trails of a Traveler has simply featured travel articles. The new blog will not only share travel articles but articles on other topics of interest to the editorial/writing/photography staff. Readers will soon be able to read about latest trends in renewable energy, organic gardening, nature, DIY, history, travel and more. There may even be an occasional fiction pieces, photo collages or thoughtful moments. Also new will be an opinion column titled “Last Butt Knot Leased,” a column I introduced when I left Sauk Prairie STAR.

Why the change? Because the trail of every traveler takes them to many more places than just vacation destinations. The world doesn’t come knocking on your door. You have to go looking for it and in looking for it you find what interests you.

Since retiring six months ago, I haven’t done much writing. I am ready to get back to writing, and, without a publishing outlet at the newspaper anymore, my first choice to publish them is Trails of a Traveler.

I am still doing some traveling, which I will continue to write about. And I may republish some of the stories written for Sauk Prairie STAR. But I will also write new stuff. It will be fresh stuff, informative stuff, and most of all stuff that I am interested in and hopefully so are my readers. I plan to post more often than before as well.

I hope my readership will grow and that readers will find the new direction to their liking. I will take suggests as to story topics, without guarantees, of course.

One thing I do ask of my readers is to tell everyone they know to check out the site. The site will remain free to readers as long as I can keep it going but in order to cover costs associated with writing, I need to find advertisers. Advertising rates are based on the number of readers, so the more the merrier. I’m counting on everyone to help me out. It’s simple, just get friends and relatives to go to the site and like it. Tell them to do the same with their friends and relatives. If everyone helps out the writing can continue.

Send comments, suggestions and opinions via email:

Thank you all! It’s good to get back to what I love.

Michael J. Carignan

Insightful travel tips #2

By Michael Carignan

When planning a trip don’t forget to do the research. Look for new and exciting things to do where you are visiting but also don’t ignore the fun things you do at home that may be fun things to incorporate into the stay away from home.

You know your own interests but also consider those of your travel companion(s).

Ruby Beach on Washington's Pacific coast is one of my favorite places to visit.
Ruby Beach on Washington’s Pacific coast is one of my favorite places to visit.

Ask yourself the questions, “What do I want to do most? What does this place offer that unique, exciting, different? Especially consider those things you enjoy but don’t get to do as much as you would like to at home. It could be simple stuff like a hot tub, massage, fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, antiquing, photography, dune buggies, cooking, music, birding, museums… the list can go on forever,

When at home what is it you enjoy doing the most?” If you don’t include at least some of those things into the trip it won’t be as fun as it could be. Whatever it everyone enjoys incorporate it into the trip. Don’t forget the “me time.”

If you do the research before you go you’ll be able to get more into a trip and more out of it as well. Know your limits however.

We discovered these mounds in Ireland by watching a travel show. Their history is fascinating.
We discovered these mounds in Ireland by watching a travel show. Their history is fascinating.

The best place to start researching is with friends and relatives that may have visited the place you are going to. Ask them what they did there. What they liked and didn’t like. What the weather was like, where they ate, anything that may be of value.

The second best place to start researching these days is online. Wikepedia will tell you about the city, state or country. This will be just general information but it will be helpful none-the-less.

Another place I like to begin my research is with travel shows. Experienced travel programs like Rick Steves’ Europe, Burt Wolf, Rudy Maxa, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolf and Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope, Equitrekking, Globe Trekker, Where in the West Are We and Grannies on Safari can pretty much take you around the world. Go to their websites and see what different episodes they have and if there is one about where you plan to go. These are invaluable. Your local library may be able to get the episodes you want without paying anything.

While we’re on the subject of libraries don’t overlook the selection of travel books available.

Another great source of information are tourism websites for states, regions or countries. These will highlight what the locals consider their main attractions as well as schedules of events for while you are visiting. Some states have regular newsletters they will send you via email or downloadable tourist booklets or e-zines as well as hardcopies they will send you for the cost of postage. For the latter be sure to order them with enough time for them to send them out and for you to peruse them.

Chambers of Commerce are also a great source of information. They can tell you business in the area but also often have schedules of events as well.

When you find a spot you like in a particular area find a way to make it your home base when visiting the next time.
When you find a spot you like in a particular area find a way to make it your home base when visiting the next time.

Ask friends that like to travel if they’ve been where you are going. If they have, let them fill you in on what they experienced and enjoyed the most.

Finally, travel agents will charge you a fee but they can be great resources as well as far as getting information for you.

Do the research. You won’t regret it.