Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 18, 2014

Exploring the past at local ghost towns

TRAVERSE CITY — Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is dotted with ghost towns that offer a glimpse into the logging villages and farming areas that were once the economic center of activity in the late 1800s.

Kerry Kelly, who chairs the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes board, will lead a group to explore areas of the lakeshore, details of which few people know. His tour, hosted through Northwestern Michigan College, will explore the ghost towns and teach about a long-forgotten way of life.

“Participants will learn how people lived 150 years ago, the obstacles they faced,” Kelly said.

His tales of ghost towns include lessons on the 20-mile hike some faced to pick up their mail, how the locals earned a living, got their food, the games they played, and even a ghostly tale of a double murder in 1871.

The tour will make stops at Good Harbor, Port Oneida, Esch Road Beach, and Empire to explore buildings that normally are closed to the public. Participants will stop at the Inn and General Store in Glen Haven and visit the blacksmith shop to experience an “operating village” of the past.

“This tour helps people reset who they are and understand how the cultural conditions of today are so different than the times of our ancestors,” Kelly said.

Kelly hopes tour participants will realize that the region's natural resources should not be taken for granted as they were in the logging days.

"Loggers once thought their resources were never-ending," he said. "People need to experience what the results are of that kind of attitude."

The guided tour will run June 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $99 and includes transportation and lunch at a Leelanau restaurant. Those interested can register or learn more at

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