Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Irish Hills in photos

On Saturday, EJ and I went with some friends down US 12 to explore the Irish Hills for the afternoon. The above map comes courtesy of the Dairy Bar, home to the Avalanche--Like a DQ Blizzard but with 3x the toppings. As we ate our kiddie-sized avalanches we all reflected, somewhat disappointedly, on how little ice cream we could now consume compared to our salad days. Time has been unkind to our apatite for ice cream just as it has been for some of the attractions in the Irish Hills: the go kart track I visited with my cousins as a kid is now overgrown with grasses and goldenrod; the Irish Hills Towers are crumbling and falling into US 12; the Prehistoric Forest is closed. Other places, like the Dairy Bar and Mystery Hill seem to be weathering the times quite well. Even the long shuttered Stagecoach Stop has reopened, though it seems to be transitioning to a antique store--we were told in no uncertain terms that we could not explore the large back area that was once a thriving old west themed amusement park.

The iconic Irish Hills Towers have become unstable and if the Irish Hills Historic Society can't raise sufficient funds to restore them by Aug. 1st, they will be demolished. The towers used to be two independently owned and competing tourist attractions until they were both bought in 1974.

After visiting the Towers, we walked down the hill to the Prehistoric Forest. The highlight of this roadside attraction was once a train ride through a forest of animatronic fiberglass creatures. Passengers on the train were given toy guns and encouraged to protect the train from the monsters.

Sadly, all the remains today are the deteriorating husks of these creatures.

A surprising highlight of the visit was St. Joseph's Shrine. The 160 year-old Catholic Parish has a pretty cool walkway depicting the Stations of the Cross.

The stations were sculpted with wet cement and mosaics in 1932.

We especially like this one made of pink quartz.

This shrine was made from geodes cemented together.

We ended the day with a trip to the Discovery Center at Waterloo State Park. It was really cool. They have a great exhibit of rocks from around Michigan. They also had some great butterfly milkweed (above).

We saw this cecropia moth at Waterloo too.

On the way back to Ann Arbor we stopped at the Chelsea Alehouse for dinner. Their beer (in particular their rye IPA) was pretty good. So were their soft pretzels from the Dexter Bakery. All in all it was a pretty great field trip. There is a lot of really cool stuff in the more rural areas around Ann Arbor.

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