Before I get into my remaining tales from the Upper Peninsula, I have to apologize for the size of these two posts. If they load slowly for you it’s because of the sheer volume of images. I whittled them down as best I could, leaving out many I would love to have shared. Just sit back and relax while it loads… grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while you’re waiting… and then enjoy.
When I left the Keweenaw Peninsula I made my way east to Munising and found a very spacious spot right on the water at their local Tourist Park Campground. Once settled I ran into town for supplies and a stop at the visitors center. The folks at these centers are usually quite helpful in guiding me to the kinds of attractions I enjoy… the adventures and the beauty. Most importantly I wanted to find out the best option for kayaking around the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a stunning place I’d been reading about.
There are a few lookout points where you can see a bit of it from shore, but I knew that would not compare to seeing it from the water. Because the cliffs face northwest the best time to view and photograph them would be evening, but I’d also noticed that the wind seemed to kick up as the day progressed. Kayaking on a rough and unpredictable body of water… especially alone… is a risky thing to do. Add to that the nearest put-in point was a fair distance from much of this long, beautiful shoreline. I may be adventurous, but I’m not foolish. I hoped to find the right opportunity to experience it from my kayak, but in the mean time I booked myself on a boat tour. This was money well spent, as I was able to check it out from the safety and comfort of a large vessel, and the captain who narrated was very informative. It was a lovely evening (one I COULD have kayaked as it turned out) and the setting sun danced brilliantly on the colorful rock walls.
The Munising area also boasts a number of beautiful waterfalls. I’m sure the prime time to see the falls is late spring after the snowmelt, and not at the end of an unusually dry summer, but several of the falls still flowed with fresh clear water. All of these were within short hiking distance from a roadway.
I never had the right break in the weather to make my way to Pictured Rocks in my kayak, but I did launch it from my campsite and got out for a paddle one evening. It was choppy and cold, but I was close to the safety of shore, and within viewing distance of several people. Before loading the kayak back on top my car I took it out one last time my last morning there. Since there was really nothing notable to photograph I left my camera gear behind and focused on the workout. While paddling along the shoreline I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to see how the dogs would do on the kayak… something I’d always wanted to try. Here I had a gentle shoreline where the water was cold, but comfortable enough for me to get wet.
Thinking one dog at a time would be the best approach I grabbed Sadie, and although tentative at first she willingly got aboard and cruised with me for awhile. Next it was Jazzy’s turn, but Sadie did not want to be left behind, so with Jazzy in the back and Sadie between my feet we set out. We stayed close to shore and cruised for a bit. By then the wind was picking up and it did get a little choppy. Not ideal for our first foray on the water together, but they did fine. Sadie bailed when a couple big waves rolled over the bow, but she swam ashore and trotted along with us on the beach… all smiles. I couldn’t help wishing there was someone around to get a picture of us!
After a few enjoyable days in Munising I moved on to the eastern edge of the Upper Peninsula to Paradise, and more specifically the Tahquamenon Falls Rivermouth Campground. After settling into my campsite I set out to explore the area. First stop was Whitefish Point where I hoped to see and photograph the lighthouse and check out the shipwreck museum. Unfortunately the lighthouse was covered with scaffolding while they worked on a fresh coat of paint and much of the grounds were blocked off. I opted not to pay for access since much of what I wanted to see was off limits. Instead I took a walk on the beach.
After my walk I headed back south and then west to see the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. In the image below you can see a streak of color, which I understand is usually much more prominent. The brown tones that typically run through these falls are caused by tannins leached from the cedar swamps that the river drains from.
The following day was filled with rain, which gave me a good excuse to stay inside and work. My campsite was very close to the Tahquamenon River, and right alongside a dense forest. During a break in the rain the girls and I found a lightly used trail through the trees and set out for some fresh air and exercise along the river. When it was clear that we shared the trail with no one else I let them run freely off-leash. I wish I could adequately describe the moments that followed… simple moments… but remarkable to me, and I believe they were to the girls as well.
There is nothing quite like walking through a forest, on a trail softened by decades of decomposing pine needles, especially after a cleansing rain. The greens are greener, the sounds are softer, and the air is fresher… cooler… and more pungent with earthy aroma. When I find myself surrounded by these “ingredients”, I am instantly transported home… and to my childhood. I remember vividly running carefree through the woods with my brothers. So much of our childhood was spent tromping through the woods in the cool, damp, pungent state of Washington. These truly were the very best days of my life, and if asked… I have no doubt my brothers would agree.
So what’s a woman filled with childhood memories and surrounded by a damp forest do?? She RUNS… freely and happily along the soft pine-bed trail, leaping over roots and downed trees like a child. The dogs caught on quickly and were overjoyed at my joy. They joined in, and we shared in a game of catch me if you can until I could hardly breath. It was great fun!!
The following day when the rain let up I made my way to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls in hopes of putting my kayak in the water. I parked my car and hiked a short distance to a beautiful vantage point from the trail.
Then I walked down to the dock where you can rent row boats, to find out how best to launch my kayak. Launching meant dragging my kayak off my car, a fair distance through the park, down a steep hill and into the water near their dock. That of course meant I’d have to do the reverse to get it back on my car again. This would take time and a fair bit of effort, not that the effort would stop me, but it was also starting to sprinkle again. While I was discussing this with the park employee I noticed a sign… $5 per person to rent one of the rowboats that were lined up along the water right next to me. Two minutes later I was rowing across the river toward the island surrounded by (and blocking from view) most of the lower falls. This was the best $5 I’ve spent in a very long time, and I had the entire island to myself!
After leaving the lower falls there was one last place I wanted to see before setting out again the following morning. I knew there was another beautiful lighthouse at a place called Crisp Point, but there were no road signs to direct you there, and everyone I asked was rather vague with directions as well. It was remote, I was told, and best not attempted without all wheel drive. A park ranger told me which way to head down the highway, and which way to turn off on a dirt road. From there I was on my own. I knew the shoreline was no more than 15 miles north so I figured on about 20-25 minutes depending on road conditions.
I watched my progress on my GPS, which showed the shoreline but absolutely no roadways around me. The muddy, bumpy, windy road took me meandering northeast through the woods. Thankfully there were little signs (a sketch of a lighthouse and an arrow) nailed to the trees at most of the forks along the the way. It seemed like I drove forever, and I was glad to be in my trusty CRV as I encountered deep puddles and sloshy mud all along the way. I was not disappointed when I finally arrived at the Crisp Point Lighthouse (45 minute later), but I was amazed that this gem along the shore of Lake Superior was left so remote. There’s no doubt that the effort I made to get there (and slight twinge of fear at the thought of getting stuck where few others dared to tread on such a yucky day) made it all the more special to me that day.
By the time I made my way back to camp that evening Zippy (my Honda) was as dirty as she’s ever been. I was happily greeted by the girls who were more than ready for a walk. While out we took the time to get to know a few of our new neighbors. It’s always a treat for me to meet new people along the way. It’s fun to share stories of our adventures, and fellow travelers are always a great resource on places to see down the road. I especially love it when the same great destination is shared by many. Then I KNOW it’s a must see!
As the breeze died down and the water calmed a bit I decided to drop my kayak in the water and talk one of my neighbors into taking a few pictures of me and the girls “Yakin'” on the Tahquamenon River.
The following morning we were on the road again, and leaving another place on my list of favorites… Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
That’s not the end of Michigan. There’s a bit more to come in my next post. As I write this though, I’m preparing to hop the border into Canada, as I make my way to the northeast corner of this great country. The northeast draped in fall foliage is something I’ve always longed to see. The time has finally come!!
Reminder to those interested… my Journey in Focus 2013 Calendar, which is filled with some of my favorite images from my year long journey around the country, is available for ordering now at a pre-print special price (which includes tax and shipping) of $16. Multiple copies will be discounted since my shipping costs will be less, so be thinking about folks on your gift list who might enjoy it as well! Once I go to press the price will go up to $18 (plus tax and shipping.) I’m working on adding a shopping cart option here, but in the mean time those interested can contact me directly through the contact button at the top of the page.