5/15/22: Lake Michigan Circle Tour from Green Bay to Mackinaw City

Family and friends,

Our driving tour of the Lake of Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes, began in the football-crazed city of Green Bay, Wisconsin before heading to the northern tip of the state and then crossing over into the state of Michigan at what is called the Upper Peninsula or the UP, pronounced ‘you-p’ and not ‘up.’ It was an area of the country we had long wanted to visit so we were excited to see what the UP was all about! This post describes just part of the 1,100-mile-long drive – I hope you’ll stay tuned for more coming soon!

All the best to you and your loved ones,


Once again, Lady Luck was on our side as we drive into downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, and saw that the city’s Parrot Head Club was having a run. That meant that Lambeau Field, one of professional football’s most famous stadiums in the country, was open as it wouldn’t have been otherwise for us to view where the Green Bay Packers play! By the way, many cities in the US have Parrot Head Clubs which are diehard fans of the musician Jimmy Buffett.

TheWalk of Legends by the Green Bay Packers stadium attested to the team’s prowess. 

Also in Green Bay was the world’s largest hex nut that was 10-feet- tall and weighed 3.5 tons and was built of stainless steel in 2016. The metal fabrication company’s business motto was “We’ve Got The Biggest Nuts In Town!”

A little outside of town was the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary which receives many sick and injured wild animals who are rehabilitated and returned to the wild when possible. Those unable to survive in the wild are given a safe and permanent home in one of the many buildings on the sanctuary’s campus. The sanctuary’s collection included many animals native to Wisconsin, including foxes, bobcats, wolves, and various small mammals and birds.

The sanctuary’s Resch Falls looked a tad too perfect to be real.

The sanctuary’s Prothonotary Warbler Conservation Project was an attempt to protect the birds once called Golden Swamp Warblers who have been a declining species in the eastern US. The warblers nest in lowland forests along slow-moving or still water using abandoned woodpecker nests but will utilize manmade boxes when available.

North of Green Bay, a long line of signs, markers, and memorials stretched along the 45th Parallel or the halfway point between the North Pole and the equator. We turned off on US Highway 141 near the town of  Wilcox to see one of the plaque-on-rocks sponsored by Frank E. Noyes. We knew he sponsored them because he had his name engraved on each one! Noyes was an 82-year-old, faithful Episcopalian, and president, general manager, and editor of The Daily Eagle, a Wisconsin newspaper founded by his father. For reasons now unknown, he became fixated on the intangible world of latitude in 1938 and put up plaques around his hometown of Marinette to mark the halfway line. 

I read that the one south of Peshtigo was diplomatically labeled “Theoretical Halfway Point” because Noyes knew that the 45th Parallel wasn’t, in fact, the halfway line. “That’s because the earth is an oblate spheroid, flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator because of its rotation which shifts the halfway line slightly north.”

Steven and I were traveling north of Chicago and into Wisconsin to drive a good chunk of the 1,100-mile-long Lake Michigan Circle Tour. The lake, one of the five Great Lakes located between the US and Canada, is the only one to lay entirely within the States. 

Another sight on the tour was the Peshtigo Fire Cemetery because it marked the largest loss of life from fire in US history. It took place on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire but the news from that eclipsed the fire in lesser-known Peshtigo, Wisconsin. We were disappointed the church/museum adjacent to the cemetery wouldn’t open for a few more weeks yet.

On the night of October 8, 1871, the booming town of Peshtigo in northeastern Wisconsin had a population of 1,700 before it was wiped out of existence. There was a greater loss of life and property in those same dreadful hours than in Chicago. Peshtigo was centered around the largest woodenware factory in the country. Every building in the community was lost in the fire tornado and it claimed at least 800 lives in the area, many of whom were buried in the cemetery. The memory of 350 unidentified men, women, and children lay buried in a nearby mass grave.

As we were on the drive around the Lake Michigan Circle, it was reassuring to get a few glimpses of one of the five Great Lakes at least!

The view of Lake Michigan had unfortunately been all too brief before countless views of dead trees on both sides of the road. Somewhere along this stretch of road, we passed Wisconsin’s state boundary and entered the state of Michigan but I/we didn’t notice where one state ended and another began.

After seeing so much pretty boring landscape for mile after mile after mile, reaching the town of Escanaba, Michigan was more exciting than it might have been otherwise! It certainly was impressive seeing all the blue and yellow stripes on the poles in support of Ukraine as we came into town.

The city’s Ludington Park:

From 1868 to 1939, the Sand Point Lighthouse warned boaters of the spit of land extending into Little Bay de Noc at the entrance to Escanaba Harbor. The building of the lighthouse was commissioned by the US Congress in 1864 soon after the first railroad started hauling iron ore from the nearby mines to the Escanaba docks. When the newly appointed keeper died just before the opening of the light, his wife served as the keeper until she died in a mysterious accident in 1886. 

Unfortunately, summer hadn’t arrived in the Upper Peninsula yet in the sense that the lighthouse wouldn’t open for another two weeks.

Just after we left Escanaba we reached the northern tip of the Lake Michigan Circle and began driving south.

The devastation of the trees continued for miles upon miles also in Michigan as whatever was destroying the trees knew no political boundary.

Tiny Manistique, Michigan declared it was the Home of Paul Bunyan, a claim made by other historic lumber towns in this part of the country although this version wasn’t the tallest at about 15-feet-high. Though the woodsman brandished a double-sided ax, he certainly still seemed a friendly presence on the main highway at the county chamber of commerce.

The kid in me welcomed the sight of the three moose in Manistique! I wasn’t sure whether ‘moose’ was a singular or plural word so checked it out and learned that the word derived from Algonquian, a Native American language. It kept the same plural ending it had in its original language instead of adopting the normal ‘S’ ending of most English plurals.

Steven with his University of Michigan-themed moose! Sorry, Janina, there was no moose sporting a Michigan State blanket!

I found the Michigan side of the Lake Michigan Circle to be more attractive than the Wisconsin portion because the road took us closer to the lake, and there were lovely sand dunes.

In West Moran Bay, a large 17th-century Ottawa indigenous village was directly connected by trail and water to Michilimackinac located on Lake Huron. The original burial ground now served the local community. 

A gift shop in St. Ignace, Michigan, had a tall wooden observation tower that reminded me of so many lighthouses we’d seen.

A moose painted like an American flag watched over the highway in St.Ignace, serving as a patriotic greeter to any visiting Canadians arriving by the adjacent bridge. 

The Mackinac Bridge, a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas was opened in 1957. Here’s some trivia for you: I read on Wikipedia the 26,372-foot-long bridge is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.

Natives buried the bones of their bravest warriors under the large stones they called Warrior Stones so they wouldn’t be forgotten. This stone was dedicated to “our military, law enforcement, fire rescuers and their families. They, too, will not be forgotten.”

Mackinaw City, our port of call for the night, was known for its famous Weinerlicious Restaurant for obvious reasons! I wonder if the 60-foot-long weiner is the longest hot dog statue in the country?

Next post: Taking the ferry over to Mackinaw Island and stepping back in time!

Posted on July 5th, 2022, from Brooklyn, New York, where we’ve been lucky enough to visit our oldest, Nina, and her husband, Will, for the first time since almost exactly a year ago when we were also on our way to Florida. 


4 thoughts on “5/15/22: Lake Michigan Circle Tour from Green Bay to Mackinaw City

  1. Even I, knowing nothing about American football, have heard of the Green Bay Packers! It’s such a shame about all those dead trees! Did you find out what killed them?


  2. I’m amazed you’d know about the fabled Packers, Sarah, as they are from such a small market or population base. No idea what caused likely millions of trees to die off. What a shame for the environment.


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