06 July 2013

June 2013 MICHIGAN Sault Ste. Marie 4 - Walk It Off

Today I'm a lone cat for the morning. I rolled out of bed at 7:30am to prep for the 27th Annual International Bridge Walk. Showered and caught a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Even though it was free, it did not please. Then drove over to Lake Superior State University (LSSU) Norris Physical Education Center parking lot, the gathering spot for the Bridge Walk.

The Bridge Walk is also a once a year event. It is a picturesque 2.8 mile walk across the International Bridge between Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, USA, and Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada. You get a fantastic view of all the canals and locks as you look east down the St. Mary's River. This bridge was open to vehicle traffic starting in 1962. Prior to that time you had to cross the St. Mary's River by ferry to get to or from Canada.

The day started at 8:30am with bicyclers leaving first. At 9am, we heard a few speeches from the mayor and other officials. Then the local Sweet Adelines sang the anthems of both countries. At 9:30am the walkers started their journey. Even though the walk is from the USA side to the Canadian side, many people come cross the bridge from Canada to join in the walk. You can kinda tell who they are. 

Here's a photo of the people in back of me as we started down the hill from the parking lot toward the bridge entrance. And there were maybe half again as many in front of me. My guess, maybe 700 walkers total. Some with dogs, some in wheelchairs or with walkers or baby strollers. Some in funny outfits. Some carrying flags of varying persuasions. There was a large Japanese contingent all in red t-shirts. Even the Wacky Wings chicken guy and his girlfriend joined the walk.

Over the last year, in our extensive road travels through 34 states, Mike and I have seen signs that advised major interstate highways either "begin" or "end here." I-40 comes to mind. Today I saw the end of I-75. Mike and I have taken every portion of that highway many times--from somewhere in Michigan all the way down to Florida. So fun to see the northern end of that one, too. It ends at the south end of the International bridge. You can also see the toll rates, but today it was free for walkers to cross.

Soon after you get on the bridge you see this huge rusted structure to your left. I learned later that this and other nearby structures and rail beds are part of the historic International Railroad Bridge. Its initial construction date is 1887 and it is made of up several sections.

What is particular interesting is that each of the three most common movable bridge types is represented here to make the whole. It was built in various parts to allow it to be temporarily divided to let ships pass through, if they are too high to fit under this bridge. One website I found, said it is still open to rail traffic, but it sure looked abandoned to me. More info at:  www.historicbridges.org/truss/ibrailswing/

To your right you see the American locks and canals and the beautiful greenways between. Unfortunately during the entire event there was not one boat or ship that passed through the locks. Bummer, but still a thrill!

This bridge is a two lane, double "humper" and in the next shot we are approaching the middle between the humps. You can see the border between Canada and the U.S. by the country flags just ahead. Look hard. They are where the green meets the gray area in the background.

After the American locks you come to a rapids area of the river on the right. It must not be too deep as you can see about 4 or 5 tiny fisherman in waders enjoying the day while they are trying to catch their dinner.

The next shot is of a huge bird flying along and carrying a branch. This was a fantastic shot for me. I belong to a photo club and our assignment this month was to photograph something that flies. It did not actually have to be flying, but my personal goal was to get the shot of something in flight. This was Saturday and our meeting was Tuesday. I was a very happy photographer at that moment. I just wish I could have identified the bird, but it was quite a way off (took this with the telephoto lens) and flying away from me. I still love the shot and I was the only one in our club lucky enough to get a photo of a bird in-flight.

This next shot is taken near the peak of the second "hump". Here we overlook wetlands and board walks allowing one to get an up-close look at the nature in the area. After that we come to the Canadian lock. It was completed in 1895 and is smaller than its American sisters. There is a lovely park that runs along both sides the canal. The last shot is of the whole bridge from the Canadian side.

At the end of the bridge you are welcomed by a sign in English and in French. And, of course, you encounter Canadian customs. We all had to bring our passports to "get into" Canada. You could have them place a Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada, stamp in your passport, too, if you wanted. I wanted.

I'm not going to display pictures of the next hour and a half. We had to wait for a bus to carry us back over the bridge to our starting point. This took about a 1/2 hour longer than our casual walk across the whole bridge. The main attraction here was people watching and, if I'd known we had this much time, I would have run over to the casino for a little Poker Slots. It was just across the parking lot. 

On the bus I chatted with three LSSU students about their courses in water ecology, bird conservation, and robotics. We also talked about 3-D printing and they told me about a duck that, due to a birth defect, was outfitted with a 3-D produced artificial foot. An aside: On my fave Sunday Morning program this week, there was a piece about this duck and its foot. Very cool!!

There was a quick off/on the bus stop at U.S. Customs (again showing our passport). The customs building had a state-of-the-art green (and yellow) roof. Not sure what was growing on it, but it was lovely. When I finally got back to the hotel about 1:30pm, I was definitely ready for lunch.

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