Monday, September 26, 2016

Travel and shipping on the Great Lakes

For longer than people have been recording Great Lakes history, men, women and children have paddled, sailed, steamed, and motored over Lake Erie, Lake

Great Lakes Art
Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior.

Chippewa, Cree, Mesquakie/Fox, Huron, Iroquois, Menominee, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Dakota/Sioux were some of the Native American Indians who lived in the Great Lakes regions. These Indian nations used canoes to fish, travel and migrate from one area to another. The Lakes were a source of livelihood to ancient indigenous tribes.

Though highly disputed, evidence that Norsemen longboats traveled and possibly camped along the shores of the Great Lakes was “discovered” in the 1930’s. The Beardmore Relics are Viking Age artifacts, supposedly found near Beardmore, Ontario, Canada. 

The Beardmore Relics

The objects consist of an ax head, a Viking Age sword, and a bar that could have been part of a Viking shield. While the legitimacy of the fragments is not usually argued, the "discovery" is commonly considered to be a hoax. Did Viking longboats travel around the Great Lakes? That’s yet to be proven, but hey, Vikings were explorers and conquerors, so why wouldn’t they?

By the early Seventeenth Century, European explorers were traveling on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior in canoes and boats powered by sails
Lake Huron
or paddles. We know French explorers were more aggressive in their pursuit to map and explore the shoreline due in part to cartography. A British map published in 1626 showed no sign of the Great Lakes existence, and though more accurate maps were available in 1701, at least one British map issued was drawn showing with a single large lake at the end of the St. Lawrence River. In comparison, as early as 1650, the Frenchman Nicolas Sanson d'Abbeville had documented all five Great Lakes. Though not accurate, especially Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Superior, all of the Great Lakes were accounted for.

During the late 1700’s and all through the 1800’s, as more Americans moved west, shipping on the Great Lakes became increasingly important to the growth of our new nation’s economy. During this time barges, sloops, brigantines, schooners, and clippers traversed the freshwater of the Great Lakes. After the War of 1812, schooners were the chief vessels on the Lakes. Most of the merchant ships between 1800 and 1830 were 100 tons register, approximately 70 foot long, two-masted schooners. These ships could carry about 150 tons or 1,500 barrels of cargo. A crew of three or four men could run the schooner. Brigantines became popular in the 1830's and 1840's. Crews of eight to ten

people were required, and the ships were not as maneuverable as schooners. After 1850 few brigs or brigantines were built mostly because they were too expensive. The most useful and lucrative rig was the topsail schooner, intended for quick trips with heavy cargo the ship had excellent maneuverability and required a limited crew.

Today, shipping on the Great Lakes is still going strong. We visited Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this summer and saw two massive freighters in the few hours we were there. Alpena, Michigan has recently expanded a cruise ship line that travels the Great Lakes. Everyday, pleasure boats and fishing vessels travel the lake shores and beyond.

The Great Lakes’ long history of shipping doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.


Award winning author, Michele Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and six grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Grand Canyon National Park

by Jennifer Uhlarik

So…I had the great fortune to take a two-week road trip with my family this summer. We were able to see a lot of great things on our cross-country travels, stopping in several states along the way, but our big destination was Arizona’s Grand Canyon. I’d been to see it when I was roughly 10 years old, but neither my husband nor my 18-year-old son had been. So that was the anchor location that we built our trip around, and while we didn’t attempt going down into the canyon, we were each awed by the splendor and beauty we saw from the South Rim. If you have never been, let me just say it is so worth the trip.

Grand Canyon At Sunset

© Jennifer Uhlarik
Another view of Grand Canyon
© Jennifer Uhlarik

Here’s a few facts. Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. At its widest point, it is eighteen miles wide, and at its narrowest, it is four miles wide. It is approximately one mile deep. Temperatures at the South Rim can range from 30-40 degrees in winter, with a good chance of snow at times…to 100 degrees or above during summer, though the nighttime temperatures can fall quite a bit, causing a big discrepancy. Inside the canyon, temperatures are known to reach 120 degrees easily.

Ancestral Puebloan granaries high above the Colorado  River at Nankoweap Creek, Grand Canyon.
(Photo: Drenaline, Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)
Grand Canyon was the seventeenth national park to be established within the United States, and was granted that honor in 1919. But long before it was discovered by white men, Grand Canyon and the surrounding area was home to various tribes of Indians. Ancient Puebloan Indians, the ancestors of the modern Pueblo people, were thought to be some of the earliest settlers to Grand Canyon. Like I said, my family didn’t hike into the canyon, so we didn’t see them in person, but this photo of Ancient Puebloan granaries found within Grand Canyon indicate the Indians’ presence from long ago. In addition to the Ancient Puebloans, the Cohonina, the Sinagua, the Hualapai, and Havasupai—among many others—lived around or in the canyon long before the white man came along.

With that in mind, it was a real pleasure for us to see an authentic display of Native American dances
put on by a group of very talented folks. We had a truly amazing time watching the various dancers in their colorful regalia as they performed a traditional grass dance, hoop dance, and others for the park goers.
A Young Native American man performs a dance
honoring the Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.
© Jennifer Uhlarik

A young girl and her grandmother perform a traditional women's dance.
© Jennifer Uhlarik

A Native American Man performs the Grass Dance
© Jennifer Uhlarik

A young woman performs the Butterfly Dance
© Jennifer Uhlarik

A Native American man performs a traditional
Hoop Dance.
© Jennifer Uhlarik

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado
So how did the white or European settlers come across Grand Canyon? In the mid-1500’s, the Spanish found their way to the area as they searched for the Seven Cities of Cibola under orders from Conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. The small band of Spanish soldiers followed a Hopi guide about a third of the way into the canyon, but were forced to turn back because they lacked water. In their notes on the foray, they expressed concern that their guide purposely didn’t show them watering holes along the way for fear that the newcomers would stay. In 1776, Spanish priests returned, this time to the North Rim, as they searched for a way to reach California from Santa Fe, while others spent time attempting (unsuccessfully) to convert the Havasupai Indians to Christianity.

In 1826, a group of American trappers and mountain men traipsed into the area and “discovered” Grand Canyon. By the mid 1800’s, Lieutenant Joseph Ives led a military survey party into the canyon, only to deem the area “altogether valueless” and a “profitless locality.” (Doesn’t that make you laugh when you consider that five million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year?)

Grand Canyon at Morning
© Jennifer Uhlarik

John Wesley Powell
In 1869, John Wesley Powell, who later founded and ran the U.S. Geological Society, explored the Colorado River with a team of men using wooden boats, and went back to explore the river again in 1871. Soon after, lead, zinc, asbestos, and copper deposits were found in the canyon, which led many to stake mining claims across the next two decades. Unfortunately for them, the process of mining in such inhospitable conditions proved to be difficult, if not deadly, and Grand Canyon finally shifted from a miner’s playground to one of the most sought-out tourist attractions within the United States.

There are lots of great things to do at Grand Canyon today. Both the North and South Rim areas are run by the National Park Service today. You can hike or ride a mule into the canyon, or white-water raft down the Colorado River. Helicopters rides are available for a price to those who want to see an up-closer view of the canyon floor without the hike or mule ride to get there. Hiking along the rim provides many scenic and beautiful views, and there are many historic buildings with interesting stories to be explored along the South Rim. The North Rim is much more rugged with fewer services than the South Rim. And the Western Rim, which is run by the Haulapai Indian Tribe rather than the National Park Service, is where tourists can go to experience the “Skywalk”—where they can walk out over the Grand Canyon on a crystal-clear pathway that provides a view into the canyon like no other. (Unfortunately, as one who has a very healthy fear of heights, I doubt I’d be able to experience the Skywalk or a hike/mule ride into the canyon).
Rugged terrain at Grand Canyon
© Jennifer Uhlarik

It’s your turn: Have you ever been to Grand Canyon? Did you stay on the rim or did you hike into the canyon? If you haven’t been, would you hike down? Why or why not?

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.