The Great Lakes

Interlochen, Michigan is about 15-20 miles from the shore of Lake Michigan on Traverse Bay. The school itself, however, shares a boundary with Green Lake, a small, round lake bordered by residential houses on one shore and campus housing on the other. When I look across the ice a night, there is only one light disrupting the deep, dark expanse.
Although most Americans understand that the Great Lakes are a noteworthy natural feature of our country’s landscape, most are just as likely to admit ignorance about how the lakes were formed and exactly which states they border. I found this basic map quite useful:
[Courtsey Google Images]
According to John Bartlow Martin, author of Call it North Country:
“Ages ago, the first land that thrust up out of the primordial seas to form the North American continent was the Laurentian Mountain Range, with its low weather-scarred head in the Canadian highlands and its foot on the Keweenaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It remains today, a scarred welt across the level face of the northern Midwest. The Great Lakes slowly formed and settled in their troughs and the earth heaved fearfully and then slowly relapsed into sullen quiet, leaving deposits of iron and copper and gold and lead and silver in the pitted rocks.” (13)
The fearful heaving and sullen quiet need a little more explanation. In short, “glaciers flowed down from the Arctic and ice-locked the Upper Peninsula and all the United States down to the Ohio River,” (25). The mountain ranges that pushed out of the sea were made primarily of igneous rock and slowly eroded away to what is known today as the Laurentian Range. Granite, gneiss (metamorphic rock containing feldspar, mica, and quartz), and schists formed, lava flowed and cooled, and the glaciers receded to form the Great Lakes.
These lakes are, by all accounts, dominate personas overlooking the neighboring lands. They have swallowed men and ships and have enough lore to fill a thousand-page book. “The freshwater seas,” as they are sometimes called, are often more dangerous than the open saltwater seas where land, sandbars, and tributaries are of little threat.
In a few days, my friend and mentor—a faculty member from Pacific University who lives in Interlochen—promises to take me snowshoeing and explore. Green Lake isn’t frozen enough for the precautious, but certainly there are miles of forest waiting to be explored and I intend to make that a subject of an upcoming blog post.

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