Bridge Walking in Michigan

Aune Oswald Campground in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is one really nice place to stay if you want to set up camp, watch freighters steam up and down the St. Mary's River and just plain hang out in a nice town. From there we saw fifteen freighters just from our campsite.

Like the days of old at the Mackinac Bridge Walk, school buses are prime people movers. I used to ride something like this to school, but they seem to have shrunk them these days!

We also used it as home base to attend the “Annual International Bridgewalk, Bike Ride and Parade” which runs on the International Bridge between the “Twin Soos.”

Sault Ste. (Soo Saint) Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. (Soo Saint) Marie, Ontario, Canada sit on opposite sides fo the Saint Mary's River between the U.S. and Canada. They are the home of the “Soo Locks,” and share much more than their names.

(Both cities are full fledged in their offerings as cities, with all the things you'd expect of a city. The Michigan Sault offers events found here  and the Canadian Sault events can be found here.)

Not our Betsy the Beloved, this Hymer Aktiv 2.0 was a loaner while Betsy was in the shop. Nice and new, and lots of cool stuff!

We heard about the walk to Canada and added it to a week-long a family outing which was already in the works. The walk is to our favorite foreign country and we needed to grab passports before heading out. (There was a bit more to it than that. Our 210 is in the shop for some serious body work and after a longer delay than everyone expected, we were given a loaner for the trek…a Hymer Aktiv 2.0…thank you kind folks at Kitchener!)

(More about the Hymer Aktiv 2.0 at another time.)

Can you find Rhonda? (hint: purple coat and sexy shades.)

From a foreign relations stand-point, the crossing of the Soo Bridges is far more serious than say walking across the Mackinac Bridge. Entering the USA is covered by a LOT of laws, even if you just came over to get on a bus again and leave. The International Bridge walk at the Twin Soos walk has from 1,000 to 1,200 people. The Might Mac crossing an hour south on the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas has from 40,000 to 65,000. Logistics were similar for both. You walk across and take a bus back, or vice-versa.

THERE ARE CHANGES THIS YEAR FOR THE MACKINAC BRIDGE WALK
— From the Bridge Authority Website:

“This Labor Day, walkers will begin from both the St. Ignace and Mackinaw City ends of the bridge in one outside lane to the halfway point, then cross the center lanes of the bridge and head back to their starting point in the other outside lane. Those who wish to, and if they begin the walk early enough, will have the option to continue across the entire bridge. Those who do walk the full length of the bridge will need to walk back across the bridge – for a 10-mile hike round trip – or make their own transportation arrangements to get back to the side they started from after the bridge reopens to public traffic. The center two lanes will remain open to emergency.”

Many highly accomplished hikers walk the bridge every year.

Back to the Soo Bridge Walk–The whole reason for the International Bridge in the first place is to cross the St. Mary's River which connects Lake Superior with Lake Michigan. This is not a simple canal. There is a difference in water level of twenty feet. Canoeists and kyakers have fun with this kind of rapids, but large Great Lakes Freighters hauling grain and taglite (iron ore pellets from Duluth Minnesota) meh–not-so-much.

All three American locks are shown here. Note the twenty foot difference in water level showing on the last lock to the right.

The Soo Locks were first built in 1855 to allow water traffic from lake to another without requiring aquatic acrobatics. More history can be found here.

The folks at the International Bridge Walk have a smaller crowd and they have it all figured out. But you still need to bring your passport or enhanced driver's license or NEXUS card if you are a frequent crosser and have one, or INAC if you are Native American or the Canadian equivalent member of The First Nation.

Yup. All traffic stops. The blue pickup pulling the boat was right there when we came back by bus!

The walk starts exactly at 9:30 and goes until 11:00. No starting late, no ending late. The whole bridge is closed down the whole time there are walkers on it. Much safer for the bridge walkers so a similar strategy will be used on the Mackinac Bridge walk this year.

The smaller size gives the International Bridge Walk a friendly feel. There are no National Guard troops watching over the crowds–volunteers in chuks and snowmobile helmets do the policing. Lake Superior State University hosts the starting and finishing line and easily provides all the parking needed.

Happy Hiker! When you are among the first four busloads of walkers you can go directly to the bus and forgoe Canadian customs. (They're rough but very polite!)

All in all, the walk is fun, cool and not so long as to bend your bunions. We had a great time and will go back next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.