It’s very seldom that Ted and I will make plans to leave the island together for more than a couple of hours. Having fur babies at home sometimes curtails trips to other nice spots nearby, but normally we favor the pups over “places” almost without fail. This time was a little different though.
Barb Metting, a long-time blog reader, contacted me a few weeks ago to say she was planning a trip to the island to visit relatives. On the way here, she would be stopping at the Sault Ste. Marie (Soo) Locks for a behind-the-scenes tour a friend had arranged. The friend’s husband, Jim Deemer, is an electrician with the Army Corps of Engineers at the Soo, and he had graciously said she could bring “the blogging lady” and Ted along. When a call to Jill provided doggie daycare for Maddie and Bear, we were set to make the trip . . . and what a trip it was!
Our first stop was lunch at the Embers Restaurant in Mackinaw City. When I spoke about therapy dogs to Chris Ann’s home owner association several weeks ago, they presented me with a gift certificate for two to the Embers for lunch. This was the first time we’d had a chance to use it, but it won’t be the last time we dine there. The Embers has a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet, as well as menu items. I can’t vouch for any meal except lunch, but Ted and I were very pleasantly stuffed with great food when we left!
The only plan we had when we left was to meet Barb and Jim at 4:30 at the main gate to the Locks. Before that we were on our own, so we were hoping to arrive in time to take one of the two hour “tourist” boats which actually travel through the locks. We pulled into the parking lot for that attraction at 2:05 – just as the 2:00 boat was pulling away.
As soon as we parked the car, our eyes were drawn to the 107-year-old Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant.
Adjacent to the same parking lot was the Valley Camp Museum Ship, a 550′ intact freighter. Built in Lorain, Ohio for the Producers Steamship Company, it was launched and christened in 1917 as the Louis W. Hill. Sold in 1936 to the National Steel Company, it carried iron ore and coal throughout the Great Lakes. Bought by the Wilson Marine Transit Company in 1955, it was renamed Valley Camp and carried a wider array of goods, expanding to grains and stone. Sold in 1959 to Republic Steel Corporation, it once again carried iron ore and coal until 1967 when its triple expansion engine, still being fed by coal, doomed it to an early retirement. Burning 50 tons of coal a day, and with coal bunkers holding only 300 tons, the ship could only stay out of port six days before returning to refuel. With newer ships burning more cost effective fuels, the Valley Camp was retired.
In 1968 the ship was purchased by Le Sault Sainte Marie Historical Sites, Inc. for $10,000 and was towed from Wisconsin to Sault St. Marie in July, 1968, during the city’s tri-centennial celebration. The Museum Ship is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as a historic vessel.
Thinking we’d have plenty of time to tour the Valley Camp, we paid for our tickets, and entered the world of an early 1900’s freighter.
These next three shots are from the engine room.
A few of the hundreds of exhibits
After being “below” for almost an hour, we were ready to see the light of day. Climbing to the upper deck, we came out into the sunshine, and the “WOW factor” grew even bigger!
When we looked at our watches and saw we only had a few minutes to get to the Main Gate of the Soo, we couldn’t believe we’d been in the museum almost two hours. If we’d had it, I could have spent even more time exploring this most intact example of the classic Great Lake ore carriers that once numbered in the hundreds.
Tomorrow – the Soo Locks!