Jul 22, 2007

Ottawa Beach Memoirs

Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, 2007

Consistent westerly winds over thousands of years created the massive sand dunes that run along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The water is churned and waves driven toward shore, grinding rock into smaller and smaller bits which eventually become grains of fine sand. This sand is washed ashore and driven by the wind into snowdrift-like piles that grow into bigger piles and eventually into 150 foot high sand dunes that line the eastern shore of the big lake. Michigan ends up with most of the lake's sand, while Wisconsin is left with a lot of rock. Over the years various proposals have been floated to move some of the sand back to Wisconsin -- mostly by property owners along the Wisconsin side of the lake who'd like all state residents to pay for their new beaches. But reason prevailed and the sand is still in Michigan.

On Friday, we visited the Lake Michigan beach at Holland State Park and walked barefoot for miles along the waters edge. The wind was hard out of the northwest and only the most tan-desperate were baring much skin. On a detour back to the car we found an area called the Ottawa Beach Historic District. Between the 1880's and the 1920's, this area flourished as a resort destination for wealthy people from around the Midwest. Built along the original canal between Lake Michigan and nearby Lake Macatawa, there was a large hotel and many Victorian-style cottages with huge screened verandas. It was possible to imagine stately people relaxing in style while enjoying the cool breezes from the lake. The big resort hotel burned to the ground in November 1923 and was not rebuilt. It ended the Golden Age of Ottawa Beach.

Alas, Ottawa Beach is now hidden behind a sand dune that was created by man or nature when a new channel between the lakes was dug and the old abandoned. There are efforts at revival and restoration of some of the Victorian cottages, but some sad relics of that classic period remain. I hope the area survives to flourish again.

Later that afternoon we visited Grand Haven, a few miles to the north of Holland. We walked from downtown, along the Grand River, on a nicely developed public walkway all the way to the end of the jetty that juts into the lake and guards the channel -- a distance of more than a mile. A monument to those who lost their lives by being blown or washed from the jetty reminded us to proceed carefully in the near gale-force winds that day.

On Saturday, we helped Dar's sister and brother-in-law, Cher and Jack, with some yardwork and just hung out at their house much of the day. They treated us to dinner at a restaurant in Paw Paw that had a great outdoor deck dining area overlooking a woodsy area and a quick-flowing stream. Cher even spotted a deer in the woods as we ate dinner and toasted the end of a productive day.

Sunday, we're staying home and get ready, leisurely, for our moving day on Monday. At this writing, I still don't know where we're going from here, but that should be resolved by Sunday night.

T

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