Once upon a time I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where snow arrives early and stays late. You learn how to enjoy it or it will beat you down.
Of course I was younger then.
I learned how to use a U-per Scooper to clear my parking place, and how to snowshoe and cross country ski. It was all self defense, of course, but I learned to love most of it. Maybe not the U-per Scooper so much.
I’ve lived in lower Michigan for 37 years now, my bones have become more brittle and I’m more careful when choosing my adventures. Lucky for me we don’t usually get snow in the amounts I remember from up north.
Even luckier for me I’m retired.
Yesterday, during our all day gentle snow I didn’t have to be anywhere. Husband cleared the driveway multiple times.
My only responsibilities involved keeping the birdfeeders full. In return I got to watch dozens of beautiful birds all vying for a spot to grab a snack.
At one point I counted 8 male cardinals in my shrubs, on the deck railing, and on the feeders at the same time. There were lots of females as well, they’re just harder to see. I couldn’t count all the blue jays, titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, starlings, nuthatches, ravens and woodpeckers.
Today looks like more of the same, in the bird world anyway. It’s stopped snowing, but it’s still wildly beautiful.
I even took a walk down the road, wearing grippers on my boots, for a little look see.
Yep…beautiful down there too.
I wish you all could experience it from a lazy-boy chair inside a nice warm house with big windows and a lot of birds to entertain you.
Winters in Michigan. Be careful, or they’ll get the upper hand.
But if you can learn to enjoy them…well…then you win.
Here it is already a week since we drove home from our UP adventure and I still have more to show you. Maybe I should stop talking and just let you look.
On our third and last day in the UP we got headed west toward Grand Marais where I assured my friend we’d find more stones.
But along the way we drove up to Deer Park, north of Newberry, and then along Lake Superior’s coast and stopped at a delightful little beach with the prettiest stones!
I don’t think I found any flat white ones, but my friend found quite a few beautiful souvenirs.
And we left a souvenir for someone else to find too.
And then we headed over to Grand Marais.
Many people searching this beach are looking for agates. I wouldn’t know an agate from a rubber duck, so I just looked for flat white stones to paint. I didn’t find many of those either.
But the weather was beautiful with big fluffs of white clouds dressing up the sky and we had a great time wandering.
We didn’t stay long, we were hungry and still had miles to go to get to Munising, our next stop. But we left a painted treasure for someone to find before we left.
It’s kind of a long way to go for a sandwich, but we enjoyed the glimpses of Lake Superior that we found along the way. We were hoping to stop at a couple of waterfalls in Munising before heading back to Whitefish Point for the sunset.
We ate at Subway, noting exotic, but filling. And of course we stopped for a visit with Munising’s Bigfoot, where we left another treasure.
The traffic was terrible in Munising, backed up for miles coming into town from 3 directions. We decided to nix the idea of getting in line to get out to one of the waterfalls, and headed to one that was on the way out of town, Wagner Falls.
There’s a short mostly flat boardwalk back to the falls, and we were lucky that there weren’t many people stopping for a visit.
We took a few pictures…
…and then hid our treasure and were on our way back toward Whitefish Point.
We had a long drive to get there before sunset, but we arrived early enough to appreciate the golden light on all the driftwood, and the clouds streaking the sky. This could turn out to be a stunning sunset!
We wandered the beach, noticing how pretty everything was in the evening light…
… and how the beach moves and changes every day.
We found a couple of places to hide more treasure and then waited for the sun to settle down and set.
Most people left the beach once the sun was below the horizon, but we were out there for the long haul (and to find Yooper Lights) so we waited in the cooling air to see what would happen next.
And we were rewarded by intense color and beautiful shapes. It just kept getting better until it finally died into grey. The sun was done for the day, but we weren’t.
After the sun was down we looked for Yooper Lights (stones that glow in inferred light) along with a few other late night stone addicts.
Though we didn’t find any that night, the night before, on a cold windy evening, we witnessed a young boy and his dad find a stone that glowed. The boy was soooo excited, jumping up and down in the cold Superior waves. We got him and his dad to show us what the stone looked like, and in the midst of the conversation the boy turned and looked at us, his eyes wide and said:
“I really wish I was wearing long pants!”
We roared in laughter, in all the excitement he’d been running in and out of the water of the coldest lake around without a care. Until he stopped to talk to us.
And that’s kind of the way our whole trip was. We didn’t always find what we set out to see, the perfect rock, the perfect view, the perfect sunset.
But the excitement of the whole experience kept us motivated to continue the adventure regardless. And though there were moments we wished we were wearing long pants, on the whole, it was a perfect summer trip. Mosquitoes and all.
And just think, there are all those treasures out there just waiting to be found.
Let’s see, before Katie decided you needed a Katie fix I was about to take you over the Mackinaw Bridge and on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My friend, who was in the passenger seat, got some really cool shots of the bridge as we drove over it. I should ask her to share them here…but meanwhile let’s go see what we saw once we left downstate behind.
You might think that the UP (short for Upper Peninsula) is nothing but trees and lakes and mosquitos. You would, of course, be wrong. Thought not far wrong…there’s plenty of all that too.
For example there’s the lighthouses. Did you know Michigan has more lighthouses than Maine? Yea…I forgot, I told you that factoid a few years ago when we were traveling in Maine.
We visited one of them on our first full day in the UP. It’s a lighthouse that’s not easy to get to, and they tell you on their website and in their literature not to try to find it using GPS.
Trust me, they know what they’re talking about.
There’s no GPS or any kind of service out there, and you get dropped while you’re still miles away in the middle of the middle of nowhere. You need to follow sandy, sometimes two track roads. But the route is mostly well-marked (except for one very important corner where I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right but went left) so if you pay attention and follow the signs you will eventually get to Crisp Point Lighthouse.
It’s definitely worth the multi-mile drive through the woods on roads filled with deep holes and standing water. Actually, the roads are one of the reasons I love it so. There are fewer people (but not NO people!) out there. You definitely won’t want to take your RV on those roads, and there’s nowhere to turn around, but if you have a car with a bit of clearance you’ll be fine.
Anyway, once you’re finally there, and have breathed your sigh of relief, you’ll be able to climb the tower if volunteers are on duty to open it up. We were lucky and got to enjoy the view from the top.
And then, since my friend is into rock picking, we walked the beach looking for perfect stones. Though to be honest they all looked like perfect stones to me.
She’s a rock painter, someone who paints rocks with cute colors and pictures and than hides them for people, often kids, to find. It’s a thing. And I found out how fun it is to hide her painted stones as we left more than a dozen behind during the three days we were out exploring, tucked into crevices across the UP.
So I looked for smooth, white rocks that would be good for painting, and she looked for specific types of stones, like quartz (we both found some of that) and granite (lots of it!) and pudding stones (maybe!) and all sorts of others. I don’t remember most of it, but I was pretty good at finding smooth white stones.
Eventually we had to leave this perfect place and find our way back to the world of paved roads. We intended to spend the evening at Whitefish Point, several miles up the Lake Superior shoreline. Maybe there would be a sunset. Maybe there would be stars.
Maybe…just maybe we’d get to see the last super moon rise up from Lake Superior. And, of course, there’s a lighthouse there too.
Well, it turns out there wasn’t much sunset, though it was still beautiful.
And the moon obliterated most of the stars…so we didn’t stay real late, and we made it back to the hotel in Sault Ste. Marie shortly before midnight.
Just in time to get a good night’s sleep in order to get up and do it all over again in the morning!
Yep, I’ve been gone again. Just a few days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which, of course, created a couple hundred images for me to sort through. It’s so beautiful up there that it would be impossible not to take a few hundred images. A day.
A friend and I drove north on Wednesday, our goal to make it to our hotel in Sault Ste. Marie by late afternoon. Since it’s only about a five hour drive to the bridge (that’s the Mackinaw Bridge for those of you not quite up to speed on Michigan geography) and then less than an hour to the Soo (short for Sault Ste Marie) we had lots of time to meander on our way.
Which is, you have to admit, the best way to travel.
So we stopped at one of my favorite parks, about 3 hours into our trip. Hartwick Pines is a place Katie and I have camped many times.
Visiting without her by my side was hard, but it was fun to show it to someone who hadn’t been there before. We ate our lunch under tall white pines and then walked the path back to the logging museum.
Along the way we stopped at the chapel. I remember Katie and I doing that walk early one morning only a couple of years ago.
Everywhere I looked I could see her.
After our walk we headed north again until we came to the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula where we stopped to spend some time admiring the Mackinaw Bridge from the shore.
There’s a lovely little park that allows you to walk right under the bridge. You have to do that, I think it’s some kind of unwritten rule that everyone needs to see the underside of the bridge at least once.
I’ve seen it more times than I can count, starting when I was a kid and my folks took us exploring. I think of them every time I stand under that bridge.
I remember my dad taking us out on the water in his homemade canoe, telling us that we were paddling all the way from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan which turned out to be a short paddle under the bridge that bisects the two Great Lakes.
I still grin over that, all these decades later.
Then it was time to get going, up and over the bridge (where I don’t have images for you because I was driving) and into the Soo. We figured we’d buzz up to the Sault Locks where huge ships traveling the Great Lakes are raised or lowered depending on which direction they’re going.
We were just going to find out the visiting hours, we didn’t intend to stay, but we were pleased to see a giant ore boat in the biggest lock. We hurried up to the visitor gallery and saw that the lock closest to us was filled with a tugboat, a tour boat and a sailboat.
So we stayed and watched both locks lower their boats. We figured that was that, but then we were surprised to see another huge ship maneuver into the lock closest to us just after it was emptied of the original three smaller boats!
So, because the larger ship was just beginning to move out, we were able to watch both locks working at the same time.
The one closest to us was now raising the red ship in preparation of it moving west…and the huge lock behind it was filled with a huge ship being lowered so that it could continue on to the east.
It was fascinating! We couldn’t have timed it better. I’ve been to the locks a couple of times and never saw a big ship in the lock closest to the viewing area.
There was a guy on the close ship who was talking to people near us up in the viewing stand. They were asking questions about how the food was, what his hours were, how his family felt about him being gone for weeks at a time. He answered, with a wonderful accent, maybe Australian, with good humor and honest facts. I couldn’t hear much because it was so windy that day, but the bits I heard were interesting.
So it turns out that one of our main objectives for the trip, visiting the locks, was accomplished before we even had dinner on our first day!
We ate, that evening, at a restaurant called Antlers in the Soo…which is an interesting place filled with…well….antlers. I had a really good burger and decent onion rings and then, stuffed, tired and happy we headed back to the hotel to dream of our next adventure.
While camping midway on M-77 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last week I decided to explore both ends of that road.
I’d been up at the northern end, which terminates at Grand Marais along the coast of Lake Superior, in June, but it’s such a pretty spot I thought I’d go see what the lake was up to again.
As seems to be usual when I visit, it was a stormy day on Lake Superior. Heavy dark clouds made the sky facinating, but made me dash to the car several times as bands of cold rain swept in.
That didn’t deter the rock pickers and there were even a few beach walkers out there even during the worst of it.
But amazingly, the sun won the weather battle and the sky began to brighten. More people instantly appeared to revel in the beauty that is a beach walk in Grand Marais.
I always enjoy my time on the shores of Lake Superior, and this time I didn’t pick up one single rock! Though that might have been due to the weather and not my willpower.
The next morning I headed south on M-77 down to where it ends at M-2, then a bit west to Manistique. My goal was to visit a spring my husband and a friend had both told me I had to see. But first there was this pretty lighthouse off the shore of Lake Michigan.
Who can resist, right? It was still windy and cold, but this family out there on the rocks was having lots of fun. Four little kids, they reminded me of my family when we were all that young.
But I was really there to see Kitch-iti-kipi.
What is that, you ask? And how do you pronounce it? Well, maybe I better let you read about it first.
It’s a deep, beautiful spring that maintains a 45 F temperature all year around, even in the cold upper Michigan winters. There’s a barge like flotation that runs on a cable out over the top of the spring.
The barge is moved by turning a wheel near the back. Anyone on the barge can turn the wheel and be captain for awhile.
The center of the barge was open so you could see straight down into the water.
The water was so beautiful, it was mesmerizing. Everywhere I looked people were smiling and happy and chatting and exclaiming over how beautiful it all was.
So, that’s what there is to see at the north and south ends of M-77 in the UP. Since you can’t all get there this fall, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I shared.
Hope you’re smiling now too!
Note: You really should look at these images on something bigger than a phone. You’ll smile wider I promise.
While I was camping in the Upper Peninsula last week I got to roam around several waterfalls. I’d been to all of them in years past, and if you’re a long time reader you’ve probably seen them all. But come along with me anyway, you deserve a short break and waterfalls are fun.
The biggest waterfalls in Michigan are near Newberry in the Upper Peninsula. Tahquamen Falls are a big tourist attraction, there’s a state park campground there, and a few hotels in neighboring towns. I just drove over from my campsite down at St. Ignance.
The upper falls are the highest. Notice the red tint to some of the water? That’s tannin from the cedar trees growing along the banks of the river. Sometimes the whole thing looks like frothy rootbeer. You can walk down a lot of stairs to see it from river level.
Of course I did.
On the way back up I stopped to take this picture of the rocky walls the river has cut away over hundreds of years. Don’t tell anyone, but taking pictures is a good way to rest when you’re having trouble breathing on your way up a whole lot of stairs.
Then you can take more stairs down to the brink of the falls.
It’s important to take these stairs down so you can get a good, closeup look.
Even if your knees and back are protesting.
Then you can walk the four miles through the woods to the lower falls. Not many people do that, as the trail is quite rustic. I drove. Those stairs were plenty of exercise for me.
When you get to the lower falls you walk along a boardwalk back to get a good view of the falls.
Some years, when there’s less water kids play in them. But not this year! The noise and spray were pretty intense.
You can rent a rowboat and paddle over to an island where it’s safe to play in the water. As I was taking pictures I heard the thunder of a storm coming in. The people working at the rowboat station were calling everyone to come back, to get off the water. Everyone did but one young lady who was having trouble paddling in a straight line.
I enjoyed Tahquamen Falls, though I lost my phone somewhere there. I don’t remember putting it down anywhere, the last thing I remember doing was taking a picture at the bottom of the first set of stairs. Once back at the car I realized I didn’t have it and I traced my path again, all those stairs included, but never found it.
I learned there are ways to survive without a phone, and continued on my trip, heading north and camping at Hurricane River. From there I explored a few waterfalls, the first being Sable Falls, just a few miles from the campground.
Guess what? There were stairs, even more stairs than at Tahquamen!
But it was worth it! No one was there but a fisherman who was further down the river. I set up the tripod and had fun working on smoothing out that flowing water.
But I forgot to carry down my remote shutter release. So after I shot a few images by physically touching the shutter, and worried that I might have moved the camera doing that, I climbed back up the stairs to my car, grabbed the shutter release and clomped back down.
To be honest, I don’t know which of these pictures used the shutter release and which might have been just me and my finger. It didn’t make any difference, but you never know. It was worth the extra steps to me.
Then I drove over to Munising which has several falls. I visited Wagner Falls which has a small parking lot and a short walk back to the falls along a boardwalk…
..where along the way you can hear the water flowing over the falls hidden by the trees.
I can’t decide which image I like better of this falls, so I’ll show you both.
Then I drove into town and visited Munising Falls. There’s a visitor center there with information about the area, and a very short level walk back to the falls.
Both Wagner and Munising falls are easy walks from the parking lots. I recommend you visit them yourselves if you’re ever up there!
Last time I was up in that part of the woods (literally woods!) my husband and I walked the mile back to Miners Falls in the snow.
This year it was getting dark and the bugs were bad, so I didn’t. Plus, have I mentioned tourists? I hadn’t been in the UP (Upper Peninsalia) in tourist season in years. I’d forgotten about all those darn tourists everywhere!
I did drive out to see Miner’s Castle, a rock formation that you shouldn’t miss, and you get this vantage point from very near the parking lot. You can also walk down to see it closer. But did I mention tourists?
So those are the waterfalls I had the opportunity to visit this trip. I hope you enjoyed them, it was nice to have company on all those stairs…and while I was running from the black flies!
Next up, maybe I’ll show you lighthouses….or maybe it will just be other pretty things. I have to hurry up or I’ll be talking about this camping trip the rest of the summer!
I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the last installment of vacation photos. Those of you on Facebook have already seen where we were on Monday, our last day of vacation, but to keep my blog complete I’ll show you again!
Monday we were still in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so we stopped by Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We were only going to take a quick look, but it was so beautiful we couldn’t keep our visit brief.
Early in the morning there was still a mist over the water down by the lower falls.
Of course we had to stop and enjoy that view…then we wandered down the boardwalk to get up close and personal with the river. If any of you have been here in the summer you know that people row boats over to the island in the middle of the river and play on the big flat rocks. Last Monday the roar of the water made even the thought of playing in the river impossible.
No playing on these rocks!
Like every waterfall we saw last week the water flow was much more than normal for this time of year. We stood there mesmerized for a long time.
Eventually we headed over to the upper falls, where you can stand on a platform right at the edge and watch the water rush by your feet.
Falling into fall.
Isn’t it beautiful? You can also go down 116 steps to the river…
…and get another stunning view.
Now we were really behind schedule, but we wanted to see one more lighthouse in the UP…and it wasn’t that far away, so after we climbed back up the stairs we popped over to the Point Iroquis lighthouse. Meet the man lucky enough to live in this one…
Telling us the history.
…and his cat Ziggy.
Ziggy the mouser!
It’s a beautiful lighthouse sitting right on the shore of Lake Superior, built in 1870. Part of it is a private residence, and part of it is a museum.
It’s a wonderful location.
You can go up in the tower for free; here’s one of the many beautiful views:
Commercial fisherman out there.
Then, reluctantly, we headed south for home. That included a foggy trip across the Mackinac Bridge, always a thrill regardless of the weather….
5 miles of bridge.
…and a stop in Mackinaw City which has the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse…
Lighthouse and bridge combo.
…and believe it or not, just two miles up the road the McGullpin lighthouse, built in 1868 and privately owned from 1913 to 2008.
It’s a beautiful little lighthouse with a view from the tower of the bridge. Don’t miss this one if you’re ever up in the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula! I didn’t know it was there, and it’s only been open for a few years. They take donations, but you can go up in the tower for free.
By now it was late in the day and we still had hours of drive ahead of us to get home. No more dawdling, I had to be at work in the morning. So we headed for the freeway and hurried home. We’ve been home all week and I’m still missing ‘up north.’
Till the next trip I’ll just have to enjoy the memories.
Some of you remember when we traveled to Maine last July and took you along to see some of the lighthouses there. Well, this past Tuesday we explored Door County, that long peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan off the eastern edge of Wisconsin. There are several lighthouses along the coast and we found a few of them. Want to see a couple?
Below is Bailey’s Harbor lights. Ship captains lined up the red marker with the lights behind it (see the third structure way in the back?) to know they were in the deepest water of the harbor.
Bailey’s Harbor Range Lights
And here’s Cana Island Lighthouse, built in 1869.
You can go up to the top of this one and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake.
Lighthouse keeper (aka lighthouse docent)
That’s always the best part of lighthouses, at least for me. Going up the stairs and out into the fresh air with a stunning view. I like to imagine what it was like to live there every day.
Window on the world
Of course I imagine the beautiful sunny days like the day we were there, and don’t think too much about those long days in January and February. And March.
Then there’s Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, built in 1868. This one has a tour, but we had to be back in Green Bay for meetings and didn’t have time.
It’s a stunning lighthouse, brick just glowing in the late afternoon sun, beautiful colors, the red roof, green shutters and golden walls. It looked like the quintessential lighthouse, sitting high above the lake, and it just glowed.
We spent the day Wednesday in important meetings surrounding truck safety, then Thursday morning we headed north, through stunning farm country in northern Wisconsin…
We saw these cement silos everywhere
…and on into the western Upper Peninsula where we stopped at an iron mine tourist attraction. Do you think this giant mining guy…
….looks a lot like the giant lobster guy we saw in Maine?
Tomorrow we’re going to explore a little bit of the Porcupine Mountains. It’s just past peak color here, still very beautiful. I’m hoping for sunny weather. Maybe with puffy clouds just for good measure.
I have a more serious, more contemplative blog to write about our meetings. It’s churning around in my mind and will spew out sooner or later. Tonight’s not the night. Tonight just enjoy the beautiful scenery.