Friday, September 27, 2019

Michigan Upper Peninsula, Visiting with Friends

On Friday we drove from Munising to the Sunset Bay RV park on the Keweenaw Peninsula. It is a very rustic place just south of Eagle River. 

We had a direct view of the lake from the front window of the Alfa, and when we arrived the wind was really blowing and waves were pounding the shore.

There sure was no sand on the beach, just lots of red rocks.

Although the weather had been blustery, Sunday was beautiful and we decided to drive to the tip of the Peninsula and see Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins Historic Park. If you blink when going through Copper Harbor, you will miss it. But Fort Wilkins, just a bit further on, is well worth a stop.

Our walk around the fort was quite interesting. It was built to protect the copper miners and fur traders in the area.

Next we tried to drive out to the furthest point of the peninsula on a rough road, but missed the turn and ended up on an even rockier road more suitable for ATVs. Glad we were in the Jeep!  I was too busy holding on to take pictures, but when we came to the last mud puddle I got out to document the drive.

Later, back at the RV park:

Just to give proof that when it comes to taking care of the Alfa, Craig is on top of it! A tree branch had caused our cell phone antenna to bend down as it is designed to do when something hits it. This may keep it from breaking off, but then it is necessary to manually return it to the upright position. 

Sunset Beach is aptly named. This is one of the sunsets we have enjoyed here.

From there we headed west along the south shore of Lake Superior to our last "planned" stop this summer. We met up with Fred Reinke, a high school friend of Craig's, and his wife Joan at the Union Campground in Porcupine Mountain State Park. 

It rained much of the week, so we spent a lot of our time hanging out in the rigs talking and eating.

We did go over to see the Lake of the Clouds. Fred doesn't get around very well due to serious back problems, so we were limited to a short walk up to the overlook.

I love this picture. It could be a painting or a book cover.

On the next day, Craig and I went for a five mile hike to Trap Falls.

The trail was quite muddy in places.

We noticed many interesting mushrooms.

Craig remembered going mushroom hunting with his stepfather and step-grandmother when he was a kid. Of course neither of us has the kind of knowledge she had, so we left the mushrooms unharvested.

Part of my plan had been to swing over to Door County to see the trees changing color. Unfortunately, when I checked the "Wisconsin Fall Color Report" web site, I discovered they would not peak until the third week of October. We have many things we still need to do this fall and cannot stay in Northern Wisconsin until then this year. Maybe some future year...

But we did get a small taste of fall color in the UP. 

Earlier this month I contacted Karen and Steve to see if they would be home on the days after our time camping in the UP. They were, and we had a wonderful couple of days with them. The image below shows the wonderful old house that they are restoring and expanding.

Too soon it was time to get rolling again. We are headed straight West to La Crosse, Wisconsin and then down the Great River Road along the Mississippi.

So much to see, so many places to go.

RV Life is Fun!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Munising MI, Pictured Rock Boat Trip

A trip through Michigan's Upper Peninsula just has to include a boat trip to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sandstone cliffs.

We took the sunset cruise, but the sky was overcast and we had a bit of rain, so there really wasn't much of a sunset. 

Our boat trip started by passing the Grand Island East Channel Light in Munising Bay. It was in service from 1868 to 1913 when it was replaced. 

We went over 30 miles along the cliffs and back in about two hours. It was very hard to choose which images to include. These are just a few of our favorites.

The sandstone cliffs are colored by mineral loaded water seeping through them. The boat narrator told us what each color was from, but I don't remember it all. I do know the reddish browns are from iron, and the white is from calcium.

Blue is quite rare.

The cliffs are constantly being eroded by the water and wind.

Large chunks and small crumbles can be seen.

The strong waves carve away at the lower part of the cliffs creating deep caves of many sizes.

This large formation looked like a big ship turning to go out into Lake Superior.

But as we passed by we could see that it was still attached to the main cliff by a stone bridge. 

Speaking of stone bridges, at one time there was a bridge between the formation with the single large tree on it and the main cliff. The tree roots grew across it to the soil there. Eventually the stone bridge either collapsed or was eroded away, and the roots still cross the gap. The tree stands tall and healthy.

The 70 foot Spray Falls was as far as we went on our cruise. As I have opined before, a waterfall is often a destination, or in this case the turning point.

I'm glad this is all a protected area. I like to think we are seeing the same untouched bluffs the Indians saw from their fishing canoes before the white man came.

As the daylight faded we motored back to the dock in a light rain. We could have had better conditions, but are OK with knowing that such things are sometimes out of our control. We feel very lucky to have been able to see so many of the wonderful places in this big country of ours, and this is surely one of them. 

I hope our adventure will continue for a long time and we will find more wonders to discover.

RV life includes many colors.

Friday, September 6, 2019

5 Miles, Three Waterfalls

If a tourist-oriented town were to paint all of its sidewalks magenta, to attract more visitors, then another town could do the same thing. (In response to which, the first town could insist "ours are the Original Magenta Sidewalks!") 

But waterfalls and lighthouses are like snowflakes: each one is different. When we stopped at the Munising Visitor Information Center, we were given a map with eighteen waterfalls on it.

The day was bright and sunny so we decided to go on a waterfall hunt.

The first one was Munising Falls, just out of town. The trail from the parking lot is 1/4 mile each way, and quite easy.

The water drops about 50 feet down a limestone cliff.  Limestone cliffs are very common around Lake Superior.

This is the deck from which we took the picture above.

Next was Miners Falls.

We walked the 0.6 mile trail in from the parking area. 

The view of the falls from there was blocked by trees, and it seemed like a wall of water cascading down a sheer rock face. We could not see either the top or the splash pool below.

But from further up the trail we got a pretty good look at it.

It too had about a 50 foot drop.

Our third waterfall was Chapel Falls. 

 The trail to this one is 1.6 miles each way, but the path was wide and didn't have many hills to climb. There were other people there, and everyone seemed to be in good humor.

We take lots of opportunities to sit and rest awhile when we are hiking. When Craig was sitting on this log, I was resting on another just down the path. We really like to see an occasional bench. I seem to recall we were in much better shape in our first year or two.  I guess it's "all about the food!": too much of a good thing.

Chapel Falls has a 60 foot drop and with all of the rain they have had in the area this summer, it was running full and fast.  It is a fine waterfall, but the observation point doesn't provide a good view of it.

As we walk we enjoy looking at the many interesting things nature does. The gall on the tree above was quite large, but didn't seem to bother it at all. From what I read, the bumpy growth is caused by  the tree's reaction to chemicals secreted by insects. It is somewhat like an allergic or a protective reaction.  The rest of the tree is fine.

Sometimes we discuss what kinds of trees and plants we are walking among, but most of the time we just embrace the greenness of it all.

RV life is green!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

First day in Munising Michigan

The 127 mile drive from Sault Sainte Marie to Munising was easy in spite of rainy weather. It was raining as we hooked up, and rained on and off as we drove. We got a bit wet as we set up, but the hard rain didn't start until we were safely tucked in. We tuned into some of the coverge of Hurricane Dorian, and identified with the scenes from the first bands of rain in Florida as we experienced a deluge of rain pouring over the Alfa. 

After a while it let up and stopped enough for us to consider going into town to get some information about the area.

We heard there was a small Farmer's Market down by the dock. We love the very fresh sweet corn we have had in the last few weeks, so made a point to stop there.

We were not disappointed. There weren't many vendors, but we did get some corn and fresh tomatoes.

We are staying at the Munising Tourist Park Campground, which is a city owned RV park right on the shore of Lake Superior. The beach is about 200 feet from our Alfa. 

The color of the water and size of the waves changed from hour to hour with the storm.

I've been watching for leaves that are turning red, but these are not the kind I love to see. Poison Ivy doesn't grow in the West where I have spent so much of my adult life, but I recall many an itchy encounter I had with it as a Wisconsin child! The beach grass was full of it.

We stopped at a scenic overlook not far from our RV park. We will be going on a boat trip either Wednesday or Thursday to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising. Hopefully we will get some better weather.

I think this place promises some great sunsets.  

I'll catch them if I can.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Another Week gone, Mackinac Island

If blogging were my job, I would probably be fired! Good thing this blog is only a personal record of our RV travels. I am committed to keeping it up, but I can do it at my own pace.

On August 23rd we drove all of 40 miles from Cedarville to St. Ignace, which is the small community on the north side of the Mackinac Straits. We could see Lake Huron from our front window.

St. Ignace sunrise from the Alfa door

I am sometimes awake at sunrise, but I rarely actually get up until later. On this morning, I woke to a room that seemed to glow with golden light. I peeked between the blinds and saw a glorious sunrise. Needless to say, I got up and went out to get some pictures. I confess, I did go back to bed for a while when I came in.

On our second day there, we took the 9:30 Shepler's Ferry over to Mackinac Island. It was very convenient because they sent a shuttle to our RV park to pick us up, and we didn't have to fuss with parking. Also that particular run goes out under the Mackinac Bridge before going to the island. It was a gloriously clear and sunny day.

No cars are allowed on the Island so we decided to purchase the Ferry and Carriage Tour package. We boarded our carriage a short distance from the Ferry dock and we off for a tour of the island.

We drove up several streets with historic homes and buildings. No one actually "lives" in this part of town, since they are all either businesses, Hotels, or B&Bs. This little building is the Post Office, but there has never been a letter delivered on the island. If you get mail, you have to pick it up. With no cars, people either walk, bicycle, or take horse-drawn taxies and carriages. You can also rent a horse and buggy, or just a riding horse.

After traveling through town, our tour went past the Grand Hotel, through some state forest and dropped us off at Surrey Hill, where there was a gift shope, a blacksmith demonstration, a Butterfly House,

and the Grand Hotel barn which houses the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum. 

We enjoyed looking at all the beautifully restored carriages and reading about the famous families that had owned them for use on the island. Many very rich people had, and still have, summer homes here.

The next leg of our tour was in a carriage pulled by a team of three large horses. Our driver said we could pet them if we wanted to. I think this one looks like he enjoyed the attention.

I have to post this, our mandatory picture of Arch Rock. It was one of the stops.              

The color of the Lake Huron water was dramatic. Almost turquoise in the shallows and a deep royal blue in the distance.

The tour also stops at the fort overlooking the village and harbor.

If you want to go into the fort, which we did, there is an extra small fee. I had packed a small picnic lunch and we enjoyed the above view while we ate lunch on a veranda. There is also a restaurant.

I loved these buckets so perfectly lined up outside one of the guardhouses. When the fort was active, these were kept full of water to fight fires. I doubt they were  all as new and shiny then.

After our History lesson, we boarded another carriage and were let off a few blocks away from the Grand Hotel.

This picture was taken from our inbound Ferry. The Grand Hotel is so big it is hard to get it in one image from land!

By the time we had walked there from where the Carriage Tour had let us off, we were ready for an Ice Cream break. We had been told that everything was quite expensive on the island, but we found the ice cream about the same as in any tourist town.

The Hotel on the other hand was no Motel Six. A room can cost as much as $1000 per night for a single, or as little as $400 per person for double occupancy in a shared room.  

There is a $10 per person charge to just walk around the Lobby, porch and gardens if you do not hae a room.

The drinks we had up in the 5th-floor Cupola Bar were pricey at $32 for one glass of Chardonnay and one Irish Coffee. But then, no tipping is allowed at the hotel. 

We walked through the Hotel Gardens and back to town past many other beautifully maintained Victorian homes. We spotted a number of huge mansions overlooking the water from our outbound ferry. There is a separate little village, which we did not see, away from the tourist town area, where a few hundred people live year round, but most only stay in the summer months and the island pretty much shuts down for the winter.

The next day we took the Jeep over the bridge to Mackinaw City. The bridge reminded us of the Golden Gate in San Francisco. We have been there before, so did not go to Ft. Michilimacinac.

Instead we went on a Fudge Sampling walk.

There were about eight fudge shops on a three block strip, and they each gave samples. It was hard, but we did choose just one and bought several flavors.

For us, sometimes it is all about the food! We like to try local specialities if we can. 

We had some delicious smoked whitefish, beef pasties, and in keeping with what is trending now, tried the Impossible Wopper at Burger King.

Earlier on this part of our travels I had changed some of our plans, which is why we ended up returning to Sault Ste. Marie for a few days. Being Labor Day weekend, I could not easily find a different reservation, or change our reservation without penalty. 

So, we had a couple more days of relaxing and watching the big lake ships glide by in Sault Ste. Marie.  Life is so hard!

Saturday evening there was a really nice sunset.

Campers gather at the river's edge and either stand or lounge in their lawn chairs, waiting for the ships to go by. 

These two look as if they were going to crash into each other as they moved in opposite directions.

But of course that was just an illusion, and they each went their own way.

I am writing this on Sunday. We might find something to do tomorrow, or we might just hang out at home in the Alfa, at the Aune Osborn Campground, on the St. Marys river in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan.

Full Time RV Life is good!