Yoopers for life!

What a place! The UP seemed sad to see us leave today, getting all misty-eyed as we pulled in the slides and turned around and left our Hog Island lakeside campsite. The sky shed tears all day as we drove slowly and stopped at every scenic overlook.

Even the usually frivolous seagull sat quietly as we walked past.

We’re not gone yet. Had to stock up on pasties, fill up on fuel, and restock the frig. We’re camped again in the shadow of The Bridge, still on the Yooper side.

This whole trip was originally intended to see and explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but we were so taken with the Upper Penninsula, and burned up so much time there, we may not even get to Sleeping Bear Dunes!

We’ll try to satisfy our curiosity from the northern tip of the lower penninsula downward, until we have to make a run for Dayton. Our deadline is next week, in order to be in town and settled in a spot next to the Greek Festival, ready to start eating when it opens for lunch on Friday! We intend to stay there until it ends on Sunday, then be around town for a couple days, probably at the Moraine Airpark.

But our hearts will still be in the UP….

We’re in hog heaven!

Listen. Can you hear the waves?

We’re parked about a coach-length from Lake Michigan! That’s really the view from our front seat! (including the spots and streaks from our front windshield)

We were headed to The Bridge today, expecting to return to the land of Trolls in the flatlands of lower Michigan, when, on a lark, we stopped at a rustic state forest campground just to see if we would fit.

We don’t really (I think we have some scratches on the upper walls from negotiating the narrow path between campsites), but man oh man, the campsite where we ended up points us straight at the water, facing a sweet little island just off shore!

But that wasn’t all….we shortly observed two Bald Eagles fishing near the island! Robyn set up her binoculars, and eventually snagged a view of a flock of Hooded Merganser ducks headed south for winter.

We’re camped here alone. The windows are wide open to the breeze and sound of waves, and we won’t have to draw the shades on any windows at all tonight. Ahhhhhh.

Did we mention? This place is called Hog Island Point State Forest Campground. Oink.

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder!

We realize Michigan’s UP is more than coastline, but its coasts sure are distracting! So today we decided to pay some attention to the interior (on our way to the other coast!).

HUGE disappointment….but not what you think.

We headed to Au Train Falls….only to find we couldn’t get there. The Big Taxi was the limitation. Gravel road for the last few miles to the site, and the short portion we could see was already getting narrow with trees encroaching overhead.

We can quickly get into trouble on roads like that, because branches not only scratch the paint, they also break expensive stuff on the roof! By the time we realize the impossibility, it’s too late to turn around….because everything’s so narrow. Try backing out half a mile.

Terribly disappointed….because we’d heard your recommendations, read about the falls, and seen a number of pictures. These falls were quite different from those we’ve already encountered.

Made our way to Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a massive inland area with so many little lakes they’ve just named them by letters of the alphabet: A Pool, B Pool, etc. Covered with glorious hiking trails and one driving trail of 7 miles….which was too narrow & twisty for “tour buses”, and one bridge had a weight limit of 10 tons. No go with the Taxi.

Robyn did one of the mile trails on foot.

Still, as you can see, terrific views from the various parking lots and grassy areas around the visitor center and administration building. Not a bad place to work, if you’ve just gotta work!

Ha, we’ve seen just about enough of the interior; tomorrow it’s back to the coast!

At last, a breather

We stayed put today. Really liked our leafy cocoon campsite. Have you noticed under the Wanderings tab that our campground is located in a town named Christmas? Across the street from an Indian casino.

Actually rolled out of camp about 1pm, but stayed around Munising. The city is located at the south end of a horseshoe bay, and where the bay would normally open to Lake Superior, there’s a very large island.

This geography helped establish Munising as a major center in the 1800s. Iron ore from Marquette to the west arrived in boats, vast quantities of wood and limestone used in the smelting of iron were available from the surrounding hills and forests, and the resultant pigs of iron could be shipped out to the east. The large-but-sheltered harbor was significant.

Our pictures today are of the harbor, named South Bay, and of Munising Falls.

Tourism is hard work!

Brother, broke a sweat today from climbing steps. The sign says turn here for some great natural edifice or escarpment (you like that?), and then there’s a nice parking lot (nice because it has a special area for RVs). You can almost smell your destination (just about everything was lake-side today).

But nooooo, you’ve gotta do a whole bunch of steps. Sometimes they even have a sign that tells exactly how many there are. False advertising: they only count in one direction.

Sometimes the steps even go down too far, and so they have to make some steps back up, before more steps down, in order to actually arrive at your quarry. Freudian that I should use that word, since so much today involved sand and rocks.

Still, every single destination today was worth the effort. You guys who have been here know what I’m talking about. We spent the whole day in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which involves 40 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, and untold numbers of coves, beaches, lighthouses, river falls, and points of historical significance.

Pictured here are Sable Falls, some of the woods we drove through (they take the main road and move it waaaay inland in several places to protect some particularly significant and sensitive areas, SO some of the access roads to points of interest are several miles long, AND they’re gravel….so we missed those points in the Taxi), at the Log Slide looking east along Grand Sable Banks (you can just make out the Grand Marais harbor lighthouse, nearly 10 miles away) and then looking west to the Au Sable Light Station.

Check out the photo at Miners Castle, shooting down at the cove with the point of rocks up at the top: waaay down at the water level under the point of rocks there’s a hole in the cliff….it goes all the way through to the other side of the point, and water can swish right through! You can see white explosions of spray from other points along the cove.

We stopped for the day before seeing all there is to see at Pictured Rocks. We’ve made camp just the other side of Munising, at Bay Furnace Campground. So named because there used to be quite an iron smelting industry here. Robyn is pictured walking Ross and Ryan past a somewhat-reconstructed furnace on grounds here. The town where it’s located is named Christmas!

It was a really wonderful day, with just those periodic bouts of effort. When we encounter lots of steps, we know we won’t live long enough to take Ross and Ryan, so I stay with them at the top while Robyn scouts the scene, and when she returns I go down with the camera and tripod. We both hurry, to lessen the wait for the other and for the twins who have to wait for both of us!

I think I’ll wind down with a small bowl of Haagen-Dazs Bananas Foster.

This place is worth the drive!

It’s your fault, you know, that we stayed in the second largest state park in Michigan last night. Just two days ago we couldn’t spell Tahquamenon, and now we’ve slept there! (Tah-KWAH-meh-non).

We’re no longer suffering from heat….awoke to 49 degrees today!

Really short-changed our visit by not seeing the lower falls near our campground, but it’s a fair hike from anywhere we could park the Taxi.

Far enough to the upper falls….the ones that are third-largest by volume east of the Mississippi. Cool forest on the walk to the falls.

On the way out, Ross and Ryan made a new friend. We liked him immediately; although he was quiet, he seemed real steady.

We drove through glorious expanses of nothing, roads laid out with a rifle yet with changes in elevation every mile or so. More patches of maples already showing Fall colors. The few towns were neat, populated with signs for local businesses that were not chains. We resisted the souvenir and Indian relic shops.

Made it to Grand Marais (the s is not pronounced) on the shore of Lake Superior. The beach here is wide with sand and dunes, but at the water’s edge there is a band of smooth rocks.

Ahhhh, the rocks.

Ross and Ryan are both VERY MUCH taken with small blocks. Ross always has more in each hand than you can believe possible to hold. Ryan is more selective and has just a couple. So these small round rocks were like an unlocked pharmacy to a dope fiend!

We walked them along the shore for a ways, then sat them down in the midst and proceeded to help them pile up more than they could possibly imagine. We think Ross won the contest. Ryan managed to sneak a small one into the Taxi.

A very good time was had by all….and the sundown was a smoker!

You twisted my arm!

Okay, okay, we give up.

We’re still Yoopers.

Madeline’s list of places not to miss, and Katie’s continuing love song for the UP….roused our curiosity sufficiently, and we changed course.

First thing we did was buy more fuel, because it looks like we’re going to add 450 miles around the UP!

Second thing we did was buy a bunch of Yooper food: pasties. Got some fresh and hot, and some fresh and not yet cooked so we can have them hot tomorrow (and the next day…they’re real good!).

Drove through the great little port town of St Ignace, admired its curbside flowers and lighthouse, then took off cross-country to Tahquamenon Falls.

Along the way we encountered our first patches of trees beginning to change into their Fall colors. We spotted our first stretch of Lake Superior, but the access to shoot was challenging and the sky was dull (for only that moment in time!). We’ll do it justice tomorrow.

We’re in the state park near the lower falls. They’re cool, and we’ll get some nice shots tomorrow. The upper falls are bigger and down the road a few miles. Hold onto your hats, they’re the third largest falls by volume east of the Mississippi!

It’s great to have good friends to help you get the most out of life! We’re sure getting our money’s worth on this run!

Elvis has left the building

And we have left the lower penninsula of Michigan.

We crossed The Bridge! That means for tonight we’re Yoopers. Yep, this message and these photos come to you from the UP, and yep, I feel fine.

We started our travels this morning with quite a downpour, and were afraid we’d lost the glorious skies. HA, Michigan has plenty more.

Check out The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and one of the jet ferry boats passing in front of it. Afraid that’s as close as we’ll get to them on this trip. As you can tell if you’ve mapped our journey at all on this trip, we’re running the coast from Saginaw up and around to the west.

This foray across The Bridge will end tomorrow when we head south and begin to trace the western coast of lower Michigan. We’ve been sticking to state parks at night, mostly because they’re everywhere and usually lead to glorious lakeshore vistas! Some are a little dear, and when we don’t really need their services (electric for AC or clothes dryer, or water or dump station), we might return to a parking lot.

We want to stay at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but have found all their 68 electric sites are reserved for the next several weeks (and we started looking weeks ago!). However, they have a precious few sites that are not reservable but held each day for first-come, although in recent days people have been lining up the night before! We’ll see. We may stay nearby and day-trip into Sleeping Bear Dunes.

If one tree was removed in front of us tonight, we could see The Mackinac Bridge from our front window! Robyn just checked, and it’s all lit up for the night. I’m not. See you tomorrow.

Blue, blue, my world is blue

We’re singing the blues, alright! Blue sky, blue water, blue railings, blue shiplift….

Check out that tall ship! We’re trying to learn something about it; will report what we find.

Ross and Ryan really enjoyed the walkway along the breakwater. Talk about the blind leading the blind….

Staying for the night at Hoeft State Park, one of the first 14 state parks established in Michigan. Even though our site is sandy, it is almost like a parking lot to drive across. Completely surrounded by very tall trees. Ha, only needed AC for about an hour, then the soft breeze and falling temps brought comfort from open windows! NOW we’re camping.

Well, sort of. This camper still has a granite floor, leather sofas, all the electric lights you could dream of, and a huge refrigerator. Still, we smell pine forest and campfires as we go to sleep.

Pouring rain in the night. Grateful for the Taxi’s tight roof.

Maybe The Bridge tomorrow!