Monday, July 30, 2012

The Soo Flu

IMG_5925We spent six days at the Sault Ste Marie Locks between Lake Superior and Lake Huron and all I have are these three lousy boat pictures…IMG_5927


The PLAN was to see the sights at the Soo and use it as a base to explore the Eastern UP. ( A little Olympic coverage was guaranteed.)  Instead the Bacteria won the gold and sidelined Al for the duration.
The boats, some up to 1000 feet long, slipped by silently just 75 yards from our bedroom window, day and night.  Al would rise up on one elbow, whimper piteously and doze off.  Nurse Patty was steadfast, as ever, and kept sane watching the Volleyball.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Our New Perfected Travel Scheme

We're liking our new travel  scheme:
1.  IF you absolutely must tow somewhere, make it around a hundred miles.
2.  Plan a nice interlude along the way.

IMG_5911Today it was the Seney National Wildlife Refuge -- a big one, well worth more than a short visit.  This is where Trumpeter Swans got their boost  up after threatened with extinction.

 "There is nothing in nature more beautiful or more thrilling than watching two Trumpeters tucked into close formation passing sixty feet away like eight foot long arrows."

OK , I  said that, but I don't apologize.  We had just parked the Airstream at  the far end of the lot, sorted out our gear and looked up to watch an Osprey nest across the lake when....WOW!

We took the quiet nature trail and there were lots more Swans nesting and feeding.
"FLY AGAIN!  FLY!"  (Parents have a little more on their minds; no demonstration flights today.)


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The REAL Pictured Rocks

After several days of watching the whitecaps offshore some days and just enjoying ourselves seeing other sights, we headed purposefully for Munising (50 miles distant) with a full agenda – Farmer’s Market, BOAT CRUISE, and Free Concert.
But first, Breakfast with Carole, and Carole and Bob at their cottage on the point. The house was everything we might have expected from this thoughtful couple -–simple elegance, efficiency, with windows to let nature influence every angle.  Al is in love with the glowing wooden floors, repurposed industrial flooring with a rich patina. Pat admired Bob’s beach stone lamp bases. And the Food, Ahhh yes, the food!  The conversation was even better, but as we left, nearly four hours later, we were reminded of a UP saying we heard from Bruce.
“Visitors from New England leave without even saying goodbye; Midwesterners say goodbye but they never leave.”
Thanks guys.  We enjoyed your hospitality and your insights.

IMG_5746The Farmers Market was really nice, a mix of quality crafts, fresh veggies, Fresh baked breads, and packaged items like local honey and preserves. They were, however, not open to sell before our cruise departure and sold out to the tabletops by our return. The local girls softball team bakes pizza in  a brick oven right on the park grounds at the foot of the pier –- sold out.  But the lakeside concert drew a big crowd, a local singer returning to release her first CD. We waited and enjoyed until pizza deprivation led us downtown.
Two and half hours of high cliffs, broken by ice and weather, stained by minerals dripping down the face, caves, and open portals, Kayakers along the shoreline.



It was glorious!  Here are more pictures courtesy of Patty.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Pictured Rocks, We Begin to Explore

We would not have had half the fun or learned nearly as much if we hadn’t met Carole and Bob IMG_5712and their friend Carole at the first Overlook. We were marveling at the 300 foot sand dunes and  wondering if it really would take two hours to climb back up after a wild slide to surfside.
“Trust me.  At Least that much.” 
Bob filled in lots more useful information and we traded the usual biographies and cool places to visit. We were all having a nice time, so we drove to the Lighthouse trailhead and formed up again.IMG_5727
But for our local guides, we might have taken the boring dirt service road trail, but we followed Bob along the water’s edge for an ever changing view of rocks, and forested points, shipwrecks in the surf line and tiny miniature forests of plants.
The Lighthouse put a stony exclamation point on the hike.  We walked back along the trail switching partners and learning even more about each other. IMG_5737

We wandered some more side roads and picnicked at Twelve Mile Beach, but the highly recommended boat tour will have to wait.  In the evening, Patty pursued the evasive Agate, but Pam and Martin came by to show us theirs. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Perfect Picture Beach

We might never have found Canyon Falls without Jerry’s IMG_5695advice.  The Trail starts in one of Michigan's lovely Roadside Parks and joins the Sturgeon River along an easy boardwalk/path. The rock here fractures horizontally in brick size pieces so the whole gorge appears to be built of grey Legos.



Passing through Munising, we drove the whole length of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  The now fully paved road is nearly fifty miles long but seldom comes close to the main features of the Park. We arrived at the little village of Grand Marias without a glimpse of the spectacular cliffs and waterfalls that define the park. The Woodland Hills Township Campground here triples the population of this 300 person town.
The beach down a staircase from our cliff top camp site crosses a broad sand beach, a narrow swath of amazing multi colored stones into emerald tinted water.  It is as clear and beautiful as any beach we have seen on Superior.  In one direction is the light for the Grand Marias Harbor and in the other a huge 300 foot sand dunes at Grand Sable. We walked the rocky wave line looking for the elusive Agate and finding a quantity of “nice rocks”. I lured Patty into town in search of ice cream where we again caught up with Pam and Martin, our rock collecting friends. 






Friday, July 20, 2012

Copper Country–The Keweenaw

Armed with a little mining history from Bruce and big appetites, we headed up the Keweenaw Peninsula  through the heart of the copper mining country. We scratched the surface of what’s to learn  about mining, but we did put a dent in the Whitefish supply.
From 1840’s to the 1960’s copper mining wrote the history here. After the last mines closed, the economy crashed, but many strong people love this place and are finding a way to live here as the scars heal. One focal point is the Keweenaw National Historical Park which partners with many existing mining sites to tell the story.
After a quick survey of the big BIG Quincy Mine dominating the hill overlooking Houghton, we zeroed in on the most lively enterprise we have seen in the UP –Patterson’s Fish Market!




At Park HQ, we spent most of the afternoon in the beautifully restored Masonic building which focuses on the everyday lives of the community of miners. 


IMG_5652IMG_5651We walked the town of Calumet with its many churches and solid civic buildings of locally quarried brown stone. There are no shortage of these, some abandoned and a few repurposed.  Around them, some homes are being maintained, others are in tatters, vacant lots and buildings evidence of a shrinking population.  The Park Service underlines the positive, stressing in video interviews the deep love of place which the townspeople share and the pride they feel in the park celebrating the town, its past and its future.


We met wonderful folks –- the young daughter of a volunteer fireman gave us a tour of old fire equipment, and agreed that the Fire Museum is actually larger than today’s fire department. A park employee gave us a “bones” tour of the renovation of the Masonic building and we agreed that without this influx of federal funds, the place would have fallen further into ruins like the Italian Hall. There scores of miners and their children perished during the strike of 1913. Now all that remains of the Italian Hall is the front portico and the Woody Guthrie song.

Northward we drove along the coast through Eagle Harbor and other Marina locations – no boats?? At Copper Harbor, there were a few, but reports are that  tourists of all kinds are staying away?? 




Touring reconstructed Fort Wilkins after Reveille we found the presentations of daily life in a frontier fort extremely well done.  We were sorry  it was too late in the day to interact with the costumed interpreters, but the tranquility in the late afternoon was a blessing.  A tip from the Park store manager let us to the treat of the day – the Harbor Haus.  This German-American restaurant was Packed. Excellent food, great service and every table has a view of the lake.  What’s not to like? They ask for your dessert choice First – my kind of place.  We chose the Raspberry Cobbler and (after more Whitefish), it arrived straight from the oven.  Wonderful!!  We savored its memory on the long road home to Lotti.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Porcupine Mountains

IMG_5643The Ontonagon Indians thought the rounded silhouette of these mountains along Lake Superior looked like Porcupines and the name stuck, so to speak.
    … moans…

We arrived at the pretty Ontonagon Township Park after a short ride in the rain.
 IMG_5526It was clearing as we picked our a site in the nearly deserted back tier; the lake view sites were filled, of course, but the sunset was shared by all. We did a few household chores and rested some more.  Patty is feeling better as time passes, so we took a short walk and noticed that the sun sets here at 10PM!!! We will be getting a late start tomorrow.


It’s a short 20 miles to the park Visitor Center from here, mostly along the shoreline.  Local businesses of all kinds are shuttered and for sale. Only a couple of Motels and one food place are open near the park.
The center was well done and we got our directions to the highlights –- the Lake in the Clouds, Summit Observation Tower and the waterfalls where the Presque Isle River drops into the Lake.
Still taking it easy, we explored by auto and caught two naturalist programs. We now know most of the secrets of Beavers – from brand new ranger Lynette Score.  (yea, we know “Rangers SCORE!”) IMG_5547
She did a great job -- had the kids waddling like beavers, dressing up in flippers, goggles, waterproofs, insulation layers and earplugs, etc.,etc. .

The Lake of the Clouds drains out into a beaver flowage and it is easy to see from the high Escarpment trail.
Best hidden “find” was a Interpretive Trail to the old Union River mine.  It was a short hike and the signs of the early mining efforts would be had to see without  help, but the trail followed the Gorge of the upper Union River. a tiny wonderland of waterfalls, and curving drops all carved from solid Basalt.

In a windy cove near 7PM, we assembled to hear Ranger Bob brief us on the art of Agate hunting. As he was getting underway, a lone Bald Eagle coasted into view and hovered overhead.
“Never follow an animal act, Bob.” 
We weren’t blessed with any Agates, but we had fun.


Have I mentioned we LOVE this place?  Today we had our picnic packed and were ready for adventure.  Well, if our talking doesn’t  take too much time…
We climbed the Summit Overlook and saw oceans of green with a big lake beyond, ho hum.  But we did chat with a couple from last night’s Agate hunt.  He was a real rock hound and both were generous with suggestions for our Michigan travels. While at Presque Isle, we found another friend from last night. Not surprisingly Pam had  pockets full of rocks.  She is working on a fifteen acre “park” at home and needs rather significant numbers of rocks.
Is that Fog out there?, I asked Bruce and a conversation that spanned continents and decades ensued.  He is a fascinating guy and a treasure trove of information on mining in the area, shipping on the lakes and much, much more.  Like the others, he freely shared his knowledge and friendship.  We know that the best part of our travels are these conversations and we never hurry away. 

When the Presque Isle River reaches Lake SuperiorIMG_5599 it crashes over a series of awesome waterfalls and down a gorge carved into solid rock.  The Park has provided a sturdy boardwalk along the way which allows close examination of the swirls and whirlpools.IMG_5617



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

They Promised Us Eagles

…and they delivered. Just shortly after we snugged the Airstream in alongside the cottage, a shadow zipped along the shore at screened porch level.

“Eagle!”, and it WAS.

“Sometimes they land right in this tree.”  Dan has an iconic photo of an Eagle pair preening on the breakwater with the lighthouse in the background.

In a day or so we would motor the boat up under a huge mature Bald Eagle , and count two nests now empty as the young have joined the fishing fleet.

Rene and Dan paid dividends in Ravens along the beach, Goldfinches at the feeder, endangered Terns nesting on an artificial platform in the bay and a chance to see a Peregrine Falcon nesting on the HUGE abandoned ore loading dock ( and feeding quite distressingly on the endangered terns.) No such carnage was witnessed in the writing of this blog.

In the meantime, we visited and deepened our friendship born on the road in the Everglades.  We traded travel stories and gossiped unashamedly about some of you, tender readers.  We ate and visited the local Farmers Market for replenishment.

 IMG_5460 IMG_5461

There were beers with local pedigrees, and Brats that snap when you crunch their sheep casings, bakery bread, Lake trout and sweet corn, locally called “candy corn.” 

One afternoon we hiked around the gorge of the Bad River and enjoyed views of waterfalls and lots of old CCC construction, still impressive after thousands of hikers have passed by.
One of us was a little puny and quarantined  herself  a day while the rest visited the lovely village of Bayfield with a huge sailing fleet, shops, restaurants and Victorian homes on the hills above.

We left today with promises to do this again.  The weather kept us off “The Elixir”, but Al got to fondle her Teaky goodness and ask way too many questions of  Captain Dan.  There are an excess of available Kayaks and sea caves to explore in quieter weather.

We planned a short day to insure Patty was feeling OK and landed on the shore of Lake Superior at Ontonagon Township Park.  It is peaceful here and we plan to chart our next few days with the kind help of Airforums folks who are already pointing us to the next adventure. Sunset will be late here on the edge of the time zone and we can hope that the Northern Lights which were visible a couple days ago will reappear.

This just in from Captain Dan:

‘I told you that you were leaving too early

About 3 hours after you left, I saw an eagle scoop up a fish in front of the cottage and take it to the breakwater for lunch.  He was shortly joined by his sibling (or spouse?) but didn't want to share.  Here are some pix.”
image  .