Plus, there is the not insignificant issue of mosquitoes and other biting bugs in spring and summer. Given that the state bird of Michigan is the mosquito, and I am a mosquito magnet, I’m wary. Fall, however, is reputed to be bug-free and delightful, so we’re planning a future September/October visit.
Enjoying Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live by all kinds of random best-places-to-live polls. It’s easy to see why. It’s pretty, it’s a university town with lots of cool free things to do, there’s a creative food scene, and the people are warm and welcoming.
We spent a couple of days exploring many of the attractions offered by the university, including the excellent art museum, the trails at the beautiful arboretum, the botanical gardens, and the campus with its Gothic law library that could be a stand-in for Hogwart’s Great Hall in the Harry Potter films.
Click on any photo for a larger image
Making Friends In Michigan
You know how I said people are warm and welcoming in Michigan? We made two new sets of Michigander friends while we were there, all of whom happen to be avid birders. We first met Pam and Dan while birding in Ohio earlier in the month. They live near Ann Arbor and met us at Brighton Recreation Area where we were camping for a fun couple of hours of hiking and birding.
Another day while wandering the trails at the campground, we met Brian, Emily, and their big loveable dog Bear. Brian and Emily invited us to join them for a unique birding adventure at a nearby metro park, where a Sandhill Crane had adopted a Canada Goose gosling to raise along with her baby (called a ‘colt’).
It was hilarious to watch the little goose toddling along after the gangly Sandhill Crane mama and colt. When the birds walked into the pond, the cranes continued to stalk along on their long legs, but the gosling plopped down and paddled furiously to keep up. I wonder when or if it will notice that it’s not like the others.
A Sweet Encounter With Wild Birds
Best of all was when Brian and Emily took us on a trail where small wild birds can be hand-fed. We walked the trail, hands outstretched with offerings of black sunflower seeds, coming to a standstill when birds showed interest. One at a time, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees fluttered down, landed on a finger with a gentle grasping of sharp tiny claws, tilted their heads to make eye contact, and snatched up a seed before speeding off.
It’s thrilling to gain a wild creature’s trust, even for a fraction of a second. (Any reservations I had about hand-feeding these particular birds were assuaged when I read this article in Audubon.)
Visiting The Henry Ford Museum
The Henry Ford Museum is a curious place. It’s filled with cars, of course, from Ford’s first attempt at creating an automobile to presidential limos to Rosa Park’s bus to a VW Camper Van. And full-sized trains. And full-sized neon signs, a retro diner, and Buckminster Fuller’s futuristic aluminum house. There are furniture displays, farming equipment, a Civil Rights display, and a walk-through-time section where you can peruse an array of items chosen to define your generation.
Ford’s Passion For Invention
The somewhat hodgepodge collection is tied together by Ford’s passion for the inventions that forever changed America. He was determined to build a simple and inexpensive car (the Model T, available in any color you wanted as long as it was black) and he came up with the idea of an assembly line to make the cars affordable. Henry Ford was a major force in the Industrial Revolution and played a formidable role in radically transforming the way we think and live.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s not the first time I’ve pondered that question. From a society that valued thrift and craftsmanship, we morphed into a nation of avid consumers and a throw-away society. There have been so many pivotal choice points throughout our history: What would have happened had we chosen to pursue electric instead of gas-powered vehicles? What would have happened had we put more energy into mass transportation instead of cars for individuals? What would happen if we valued artists and craftspeople as much as we value mass production?
A Vast And Random Collection
Despite the nagging philosophical questions, we enjoyed wandering the vast collection, spending time on whatever caught our attention. Again, it was random. I loved the 1970s geodesic dome, a counter-culture revolution to the industrial revolution. It was a perfect slice of history, down to the Mateus bottle with a dripping candle (one of my prized possessions in college), macrame plant hangers (I made many of those), and handmade pottery dishes (still have some of those).
There was also a 1957 classroom, complete with “duck and cover” drill instructions written on the blackboard. I was in third grade in Miami during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. We practiced those ridiculous, terrifying drills often: “1) Duck under your desk, 2) Put your head down, 3) Cover the back of your neck with your hands.” Even in third grade, I thought that was a pretty lame defense against a nuclear attack. I think they forgot number 4: “Kiss your butt goodbye.”
Oh, one more thing—the Henry Ford had a very cool, but temporary Star Trek exhibit. We are not Trekkies, (meaning we don’t dress up and go to conventions) but we love Star Trek and have seen every episode of every series and every movie. Eric got to be a Borg for a moment. It was kind of scary.
A Day At Greenfield Village
Along with amassing thousands of items for his indoor museum celebrating all things industrial, Henry Ford gathered up a random assortment of more than 100 historical structures and created Greenfield Village, the first outdoor living history museum. Located next door to the Henry Ford Museum, we returned for a second day of exploring (don’t try to do both in one day, there’s far too much).
There’s the Wright Brother’s Bicycle Shop, Noah Webster’s family home, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and much, much more. We had lunch at the authentic Eagle Tavern by candlelight. The menu was simple, similar to what we would have been offered at a tavern in the mid-1800s. We enjoyed baked local whitefish, mashed potatoes, and lightly sauteed asparagus. It was truly delicious, and the experience was unique.
Sharing The Experience With Civil War Reenactors
We happened to be there over Memorial Day weekend and were initially dismayed to discover we would be sharing the village with the yearly gathering of Civil War Reenactors. More than 400 reenactors descend to camp at the village and live as though it is the mid-1800s. We anticipated insane crowds, but it’s such an enormous property that it wasn’t a problem. In fact, the reenactors lent an air of authenticity that made our experience even better.
Where We Stayed
To visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, we stayed at Wayne County Fairgrounds, an easy 20-mile drive away. It’s a flat, open campground, but we stayed in the back row in a grassy site, far from everyone else and had plenty of privacy (and good Verizon coverage and a crummy little serviceable laundry). We much preferred the more natural, wooded campground at Brighton State Recreation Area (we stayed there to visit Ann Arbor, but it’s too far for visiting the Henry Ford Museum), but the fairgrounds is also a good location for visiting Ann Arbor. How’s that for a convoluted explanation?
Home, sweet home for me, Laurel! I grew up just a few miles from there, as the crow flies. Our high school choir used to go there to sing Christmas carols in the village. So many memories. :)
We really enjoyed our couple of days in Ann Arbor, Jim. I can see how it would be a wonderful place to live (well, except for the winters…). :-)
We will do the same when heading for the Maritimes, fast and furious, the same way we traveled to Florida this year. Oh my, hand feeding the little birds? What a treat!! Reminded me of a long time ago, I was training a young soil scientist from Wisconsin and we were mapping in the mountains of Idaho. He stopped and said to me, “Watch”. The tiny little mountain chickadees were chee cheeing all around us and he sat quietly with his finger out and one came and landed on his hand, did that cocked head thing and sat there awhile. Wild birds in the mountains, and no food in his hand!! I’ll never forget that, but I never did try it myself. Travel safe and good to have an update of your fun adventures.
What a delightful memory, Sue! Chickadees seem to be one of the most curious and friendliest of bird species. They always come in flocks to check us out when we’re hiking, but this is the first time I’ve hand-fed one. It was so sweet!
We explored the UP a few years back. Such warm and lovely people. Even bought a book from a campground host that was about his rowing across Lake Superior to Isle Royal with a friend in a small boat. Crossed Lake Michigan on the ferry from Manitowoc – been there, done that, really really DON’T need to do that again… Safe travels!
Hmm…I usually love ferries, but maybe we don’t want to cross Lake Michigan on the ferry? We’ll be asking you two for suggestions when we plan our travels to the UP. Hope you’re having a great summer!
How fun that you can hand feed the birds on that trail!
We haven’t made it to Michigan yet but it’s on our list. And yes, it will be in the fall after the mosquito activity slows down :-)
Gayle, we’re thinking fall is the ideal time to visit Michigan. No mosquitoes, no black flies, and the colors should be beautiful. And yes, it was very fun to hand feed those adorable birds!
Michigan is one of our favorite states to visit. We spent a month in one place and really came to know the area around Traverse City and we loved it there. We spent another month making our way to the U.P. and stayed there a couple of weeks. Lots to do and see there! I can’t say I recall any issues with mosquitos or other bugs, but maybe I’ve just forgotten! When you do get there, I know you’ll enjoy it.
Linda, I remember when you guys were in Michigan. It seems you did it right, at a nice leisurely pace. I’ve heard so many horror stories about spring and summer biting bugs that we’ve pretty much decided against Michigan in the summer. Maybe that’s just stories people tell to keep tourists away, LOL?
What an awesome experience to feed the birds right out of your hands…I imagine walking through the museum would cause such reflections on the different inventions that changed our lives and society.
You guys were so fortunate to be there during the re-enactment. I am sure it takes a mindset to act and live the weekend as if you were in the 1800’s and not depend on our modern way of life…including the cellphones.
Gerri, I had the same thought talking to the reenactors. They are so committed to authenticity and obviously love what they’re doing. It was very cool being at Greenfield Village while they were there—it added so much to our experience!
Both the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village were fascinating. I found myself reflecting a lot on the radical changes in our lives and society since the Industrial Revolution. Some good, and some obviously not so good.
Hand-feeding those cute little birds! I’d say call me in, I will do it, very cool and better than our experience at Fort Morgan.
We had a grand time at the Henry Fords and the Greenfield Village and we added one more activity while there. We toured the Ford Plant where they make F150 and you know who enjoyed the most on that one :)
MonaLiza, I wish you had been there with us! You would have loved feeding those adorable birds. Our experience together at Fort Morgan was still special, though. :-)
Eric did tour the Ford Plant, but I decided I didn’t want to go and spent more time at the Henry Ford instead. I didn’t write about it since I didn’t go, and because he didn’t have photos (they wouldn’t allow photos), it didn’t happen, LOL!!
Aww, a chickadee with The Chickadee of Raven and Chickadee. I’ll have to read the Audubon article when I get a chance. There weren’t any pictures of the state bird, so apparently you didn’t find them.
Sheila, noooo we left before mosquito season!
So sweet you noticed that I was with my little totem animal. I think you will appreciate the Audubon article when you have a chance to read it.
University towns are just so great to visit. Until we started traveling, I never realized how many cool things are attached to universities and are often free to tour/visit. Even paid activities like sports games or student music and theater performances add so much to the vitality of the community, plus there are always plenty of good options for food.
The Ford Museum cracks me up — I guess that what happens when someone with hoarding tendencies becomes unimaginably wealthy.
Haha, I thought exactly the same thing, Shannon—Henry Ford was the quintessential hoarder, and had the resources to hoard expensive stuff and big stuff, and a LOT of it. It’s an astonishing collection.
We love university towns and have been delighted by all of the cool stuff we discover. And almost always free! As you know, it’s a great way to experience the culture of a town.
What a lovely series of stops. We don’t visit Michigan very often because we love to be home during the summer months. The option of visiting in September October sounds like it could be a good plan. Hope your summer is in the Maritimes is progressing well we plan to head to Florida mid to late October this year and then return to Buffalo mid-November. We will be in Florida January February and the beginning of March so hopefully we can arrange a meet up there. I have some questions about camping in and around Ashland Oregon (next April/May)but I’ll give you a call when we can chat.In the meantime happy travels
Pat, we’re thinking a fall visit to Michigan will be perfect in terms of weather, no bugs, and fewer tourists. Maybe we should meet there!
I’ll be happy to offer ideas for Ashland. And yes, our paths will definitely cross in Florida! We’ll be there for several months starting in December.
Thanks for this post Laurel, wink wink. We appreciate it’s timelyness (is that a word?) Lots of useful information for our upcoming visit to that area.
We have a small park near us where you can hand feed the birds, it’s a really neat thing to feel those little feet on your hand!
Sue, how fun that you’ve also experienced the joy of hand-feeding the little birds! I think I’m going to start carrying black sunflower seeds when we hike to see if the chickadees will come down for them. They certainly act interested in us when we’re on the trail.
Glad my post is timely for your upcoming travels. Yes, ‘timeliness’ is most definitely a word. Not something I am known for…
The lilacs and peonies are gorgeous! Makes me miss Lincoln, Nebraska just a little bit (where we had them in abundance). Stunning photo of the Sandhill Crane and how very cool to hand-feed a nuthatch and a chickadee!
Les, we had a glorious spring for months, from Florida to Ann Arbor following the dogwood, redbuds, and then lilacs and peonies.
It was so much fun to watch the Sandhill Crane with her little ones. And I loved hand-feeding the chickadee, nuthatch, and woodpecker!
I love the photo of chickadee holding a chickadee. You are both beautiful. Looks like a lovely experience.
Aww, I’m so happy to hear from you, Cyn! Thanks for your sweet comment. I’ll bet you could hand-feed the chickadees in your beautiful garden!
How special that the sandhill crane adopted that cute little gosling. It would be interesting to be in the area and watch the three as the babies grow. I wonder how long they will stay together. Having the birds eat from your palm is way cool…even for a nonbirder! Love the photos, Eric, of Laurel and her feathered friends. We really enjoyed the Henry Ford Museum, as well. Definitely not to be missed!
Pam, isn’t that the sweetest thing that the crane adopted the gosling? It made headline news all over the country. I wonder what will happen as the babies grow up, too.
I know you would have enjoyed having the birds eat out of your hand. It was so much fun! I’m glad Eric captured those photos—I was having such a great time.
We really liked the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. It was such a random collection, but so interesting!
As always, your timing is impeccable as we are headed that way next. We, too, are planning a visit to the Henry Ford as well as Ann Arbor. We’re looking forward to them since they seem like the kinds of places we enjoy. Like so many things in our travels, these experiences make us consider and reconsider our opinions on various people and practices. Your thoughts on Ford are a perfect example – so much progress, but at what cost? We’ll be interested to see it all for ourselves and it will, undoubtedly, be a thought provoking experience.
Hogwarts looks amazing and I can’t wait to check it out. Those college towns are always favorites in our travels.
I wonder if momma and her adoptive bird-baby will still be hanging around in a couple months. Maybe we’ll check in on them for you!
Laura, I’m glad that once in a while my timing works out for my friends and fellow travelers! I’m looking forward to hearing what you and Kevin think about Ann Arbor and the Henry Ford.
By the way, we really enjoyed Taste Kitchen in Ann Arbor. There’s a little vegan restaurant that has delicious food, too (and we are not vegan). It’s called the Detroit Filling Station. And Satchel’s has tasty barbeque. :-))
I would love to know the outcome of the mixed family!
We were fortunate that our August in Northern Michigan had no mosquitoes as I too am their favorite flavor! Ann Arbor and the Ford are places we didn’t get to during our visit and we will definitely remedy that next time.
I love the Chickadee with the Chickadee – what a fun experience. The adopted gosling story is wonderful – I wonder if anyone from the nearby university is studying them to see if in fact the little one knows its different from “mom”.
Being a Star Trek fan as well (are we the only three who watched Voyager?) I will love that exhibit!!
I’m glad to hear you weren’t bothered by mosquitoes in Michigan, Jodee. They really do seem to love me, and I am REALLY unhappy when I’m being bugged. LOL.
You guys will love the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village when you return to Michigan. If you can, try to go at the end of May when the Civil War reenactors are there—you would love it!
We truly have watched every Star Trek episode. I think The Next Generation was our favorite series, though. We’ll have to compare notes. :-)
Chick chickchickadeedeedee! How exciting to go thru the Ford Museum…my Dad idolized him so it was high on their list! Oh the sweet pace of traveling tho I know there’s another shadow side especially the parent watch…hope that mellows a bit with some systems in place! Can’t begin to say how much you are both missed here but you are wise to be north and near the sea for the August heat and potential fire danger. Oh how John would have loved to see the crane with the Gosling! Glad your photos take us with you!!! Hugs all around.
Sigh, the parent watch is escalating as I write this, Diana. Difficult times. Our travels provide us respite around the challenges. And so many sweet moments to make me happy, like feeding those little birds!
We’re delighted by our eastern adventures and often wish you and John were here to share them with us. Hugs to you guys, we miss you!
Ah Ann Arbor, Michigan! When we lived in Chicago for many years and were looking for a weekend escape, Ann Arbor was one of the places that topped that list. Traverse City is also a treat. Actually all of Michigan seems to have lake beaches that are in my opinion superior to those in Chicago because they are much wilder. Holland Michigan has some wonderful sand dunes! Ann Arbor is such a charming and interesting place and I do remember getting amazingly great pizza there and enjoying the botanic gardens.
Your link to the article about feeding birds was very interesting and informative. How incredible to have the experience of hand feeding the birds in the wild. A chickadee with a chickadee! That’s classic :) Love these pics and reading about this experience. So special. And the baby adoption story is great.
The Henry Ford museum looks like the kind of place one could revisit a bunch of times it seems to have such a variety of offerings. Ben would love the cars.
Thank you, Peta. How fun that you’ve spent time in all of these places! We had such a great time in Ann Arbor. And Traverse City is on our list for when we return to explore the rest of Michigan.
We loved the experience of hand feeding those cute little birds. But I was feeling a bit uncertain about it until I read the Audubon article. Chickadees, in particular, seem so curious about us that hand feeding them isn’t much of a stretch. I always wonder what they’re thinking when they come in flocks to see us while we’re hiking!
What a happy experience to hand-feed the birds! I have had a Gray Jay in my hand (and got the side-eye from a passing hiker who apparently hasn’t ever read up on hand-feeding birds!!) and just this morning, after I filled the hummingbird feeder, I kept my hand on it when I put it back out, and a little one perched on my thumb.
I hope Laura and Kevin find the crane and gosling to see how they’re coming along. That would be a perfect update and blog tie-in!
Joodie, we’ve had Gray Jays come to join us for picnics in the mountains but haven’t hand-fed one. How fun! They’re such smart, curious birds. And that’s amazing that you had a hummingbird perch on your thumb!
It would be interesting if Laura and Kevin find the cranes and gosling (who will be at least a teenager by then). I really do wonder what’s going to happen!
How fabulous to hand feed the birds. Not sure you could have gotten me away from that activity. You do meet great people everywhere you go. Your Ford Museum pictures remind me of my post when we were there. We really enjoyed it too. So envying you these travels up to the Maritimes.
Sherry, I know how much you would love having those little birds perch on your hand! I remember your experience of having the Florida Scrub Jays land on your hat. :-)
We are having a wonderful time in the Maritimes—I hope you’ll plan this into your travels. And yes, we do meet great people wherever we go, including you and David in Florida. We think of you often and are hoping to see you this winter.