The simple concept of a single drop of water linked together more than 23 stops on this year's Michigan State University Extension Fall Color Tour throughout Alcona County.
Despite a light rain, more than 50 participants rode in a school bus Friday, stopping at sites such as an illicit midnight swimming hole, a gray-water treatment lagoon, a renovated restaurant, a timber bridge across a and a state park where new bathroom facilities are being built.
The same event also was held Thursday.
By tradition, the theme and itinerary are kept secret until the bus takes off from Alcona High School in Lincoln. Then scientists, foresters, teachers, MSUE staff and county officials make presentations along the route.
The annual event was started by George Byelich and has continued since his death in 2004, tour coordinator Marlena Mac Neill said.
This year's tour began with a stop at a gravel pit owned by the Alcona County Road Commission. In the middle of the pit was an inviting midnight swimming hole created by the area's high water table. However, the site is off limits and trespassers tear down signs and cut holes in the fence to get in, creating a conflict.
"You don't drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying in it," said tour host Bonnie Wichtner-Zoia, quoting a well-known author.
Another stop took the group by the Harrisville Harbor of Refuge, where officials are trying to find solutions to red tape and political opposition so it can be dredged for boaters.
The group filed out of the bus and walked through the City of Harrisville's water pumping station and water tower, before heading to what is humorously known as the brown trout farm. There, gray water from the city's sewage system is pumped in stages through three large, clay-lined lagoons, until the water is clean enough to release into Lake Huron, public works employee Louis Campbell said.
During a stop at the Alcona County Health Center in Lincoln, physician's assistant KiAnn Kruttlin reminded the group that water is important to health and anti-aging. In a single day people lose a cup of water through their feet, three cups through perspiration and breathing and another three cups by going to the bathroom, so drinking eight glasses of liquid a day is meaningful.
At the Mountain Bar and Grill, participants ate sandwiches made out of fresh white fish caught just off the Black River as Brandon Schroeder talked about efforts to promote it as a Lake Huron specialty. They also visited the Cedarbrook Trout Farm, where owner Jerry Kahn talked about the importance of protecting the region's water quality from fracking.
After a snack on grapes, cheese and artesian spring water from an Alcona company at the Haynes Township Hall, the tour stopped at the Old Bailey School house where volunteers put on a skit about a school of fish, reiterating water's importance to tourism, commerce and health.
"All the water that we have is all the water that we have," Wichtner-Zoia said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.