"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door" … "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
~ Bilbo Baggins from The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nahma & Fayette Historical State Park

Our Route: From Nahma to Fayette and back Again

Day trip from Nahma to Fayette Historical State Park on the
Garden Peninsula
Our route and accommodation planning paid off BIG time to take a wonderful day trip to Fayette Historical State Park

Departed:Jun 03, '15, 09:30AM
Starts in:Nahma, MI, US
Distance:52.8 mi
Elevation:1331 / - 1265 ft
Max Grade
4.5 %
Avg. Grade
0.1 %
Total Duration:07:30:11
Moving Time:03:53:36
Max Speed:25.4 mph
Avg. Speed:13.6 mph

The Nahma Inn

The wonderfully lovely historic Nahma Inn
Months ago as Will and I were planning our trip we discovered a sight we thought too important to miss, Fayette Historical State Park three quarters of the way down the Garden Peninsula and really in the middle of NO WHERE. The only way we figured we could actually get there and enjoy the place was to stay over night someplace “close” by and make an extra day trip. But, in the UP what’s simple elsewhere presents all kinds of complications here. Not many places to stay, or at least not many that we could find remotely using travel guides and Google maps. So we settled on staying in the small, remote town of Nahma and riding the 25 each way to visit the park. I remained a bit nervous about this plan, the place, the ride and whether the park would be worth it. Nervous that is until we actually arrived at the wonderfully delightful Nahma Inn in Tuesday night.

A bustling lumber town in its day, Nahma sits in the middle of the Hiawatha National Forest across the Big Bay de Norc from the Garden Peninsula and Fayette. Somehow the folks of Nahma have created a lovely little oasis amongst the trees. The Inn, a former lumber town hotel provides modern conveniences, a GREAT dinning room, and a bar while maintaining a wonderfully quaint historical feel. I would most definitely stay here again whether I was riding or driving.

Our first night there we met John a retired schoolteacher at the Nahma Inn. John comes for the fishing and the camaraderie. He's 
also a licensed "cormorant shooter." Cormorants in this area have multiplied so fast to the 
point that they are decimating the fish population. The State of Michigan has licenses John and 
others to hunt them, or more particularly harass them enough to leave particular fish spanning areas alone. 
Since the havoc of the industrial era, which decimated the beaver, the forests, the minerals, and the fish, keeping something close to a natural balance in Lake Michigan requires constant diligence and an on-going struggle. You can see a nice photo of John on "Lovely People We have Met - Part 2" page located on the right side of this blog. 

Fayette Historical State Park

The Furnace Complex at Fayette Historical State Park
So why did we want to visit Fayette in the first place? As I did my research for this quest / pilgrimage I found Fayette written up in book after book - guide book and history specific. For 12 years or so at the end of the 19th century the company town of Fayette made pig iron for the industrial southern cities like Chicago and Detroit using the local limestone cliff and tons of purchased hardwood to
Former deep water harbor at Fayette - allowed large iron ore
carrying ships to dock
charcoal to purify the iron ore they took out of the mines in the UP.  The thought was to save shipping weight and thus expense by eliminating the slag before sending it south. But, the vast hardwood forests where thereby stripped bare making charcoal to purify iron to build the railroads, and machinery necessary for the industrial south land. With the advent of more advance coal fired plants in the south this operation was no longer profitable. By that time the hardwood forests were gone anyway. Almost in one fell swoop the mine company just closed down. Leaving the 500 or so people, supervisors, skilled and unskilled laborers, and trades people without jobs, the community without economic support, but the buildings in tact. The hotel and a few small retail shops remained open until just after WWII. In 1959 the State of Michigan acquired the land, established an archeological site as well as a beautiful state park. Based on census data and surviving payment records the park's exhibits feature not only the industry, but the people who worked there. 

A reconstructed charcoal kiln, just the right size for
Suzie. These used to be enclosed by wooden buildings.
The furnace owners constantly worried about
running out of the native hardwoods necessary for
creating charcoal.

The Garden Peninsula

Dioramas, strategically placed placards, informative exhibits and a very congenial guide, Luke, helped us get a sense of the place and what life might have been like for the folks 120 years ago. A windy but sunny day helped us visualize a pleasant but hardworking life. But, what did we ask would it be like in the middle of winter here at the edge of this peninsula jutting out into the ever changing Lake Michigan?

In my judgement, this little park is certainly one of the gems of anyone's tour of Lake Michigan - a MUST see despite being so out of the way. 

Sticking out into Lake Michigan the Garden Peninsula is one of two along this stretch from St. Ignace to Escanaba. Both are remote, rural and support a rather thin population. Denuded of the ancient trees, no longer sporting any significant industry, Garden is in the process of trying to recharge its economy though WIND POWER, not without significant controversy however. All along the way from Manistique down the peninsula, over to Nahma we see signs against the "fans" as our family calls them. On the peninsula itself we see supportive signs. What, we asked the locals, is the source of this division? Don't really get much of an answer but we suspect some is just the natural resistance to change, some is being cut out of the economic pie, some is the reluctance of the power company to be straight forward. Hate to see such division. It strikes close to home however, as our small village was just torn asunder over a plan to repair and modernize our lakefront park. Change is hard everywhere. Communication is difficult. Trust can be hard to come by.  We wish Garden the best of luck as they try to bring themselves into the 21st century.

Back to Highway 2

A STRONG headwind going south, blew us almost all the way back to Nahma. The ever challenging Route 2 however, did not let up but sported a most brutal cross wind. Suzie DOES NOT LIKE WIND!!  Much thanks are do to Robb and Will for shepherding me through this most enjoyable of days. Beers all around!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you enjoyed Fayette State Park. It's a beautiful site and has an interesting history, as you recount. I remember some short nasty hills getting there, so props to all of you for riding down AND back!