Michigan’s’ Upper Peninsula

18 Jun

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This very pretty green and cream 5 mile long suspension bridge takes the traveller from  lower Michigan on to the Upper Peninsula across the Mackinac Straits. Mackinaw City on the south side we found to be a tourist town with many t-shirt and fudge shops. It is possible to take a boat from the harbour to visit Mackinac Island, a land locked in time, with historical buildings and no motorised transport. However not so locked in time that it hasn’t seen the opportunity of the captured tourist! We did not take the trip.

On the northern side of the bridge is the quiet but pretty town of St Ignace, again boats to the island are available for those who wish to visit. We parked up on the Marina car park overlooking the harbour and light house to have some lunch and take a stroll.

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We spent the night at Lakeshore RV park just a few miles along the road with a great view of the lake in front of us and a short stroll to a tiny beach where we could view the bridge and another Michigan sunset.

As happens so often with our journey the route  we thought we would travel next day got changed before the day began and instead of heading west along the south side of the peninsula we headed north for Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

We were able to secure a site at the Lower Falls campground in time to stroll out in the late afternoon to view the falls just half a mile or so from where we were camped.

 

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We perhaps should not have been surprised at the volume of water in the falls as, after a fairly dry winter, the last few weeks in the Upper Peninsula have been quite wet we have been told. The water is a golden syrup brown colour due to the tannins it contains and frothy because it is so soft. I feel sure a glass full could pass for a pint of light beer …OK so I am not a beer drinker….

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The water splits around a central island to create two separate areas of falls each one gushing and tumbling its way over the rocks. A well made board walk over the boggy ground takes the visitor around from the lower pool to the upper part of the falls allowing a full view of its cascade. Boats can be hired to paddle out into the calmer lower water and view the falls from the river. There were not many takers on the day we visited, maybe the force of the water was just a little too strong. As we viewed the falls from one of the platforms we were delighted with a flying display from an Osprey, unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see it dive to fish.

Following a night of torrential rain we drove the 4 miles west to view the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The rain was still falling when we arrived so for the first time in a very long while the raincoats came out of the wardrobe to keep us dry as we again took another short walk to view the water. The information booth at the beginning of the trail had a notice informing visitors of the rate of flow that day – 5,637 gallons per second were flowing over the falls – this we learned was one tenth of its maximum flow, maybe it would not be too spectacular.

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Well, if this was one tenth it would be incredible at full volume! Again the amber water frothed and gurgled over the edge of the rocks and gushed away down stream.

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The grey wet morning continued as we drove further west to arrive in the town of Munising, the nearest town to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. A visit to the Interagency (National Park and Forestry Service) Visitor Centre, armed us with a sheaf of information for the local area and a conversation with the ranger gave us advice on which roads were suitable for us to take haRVey’s 36ft along. We had two campgrounds in mind. The first was a Forestry Service campground the second owned and run by the local authority. West of Munising town on highway 2 we were slowed to a halt by construction work but as we stopped the lake view took our eye along with the realisation that beside the sandy beach was the campground. It looked perfect, we pulled in.

A pick of several locations ended with us settling on a site just 100ft off the sandy Lake Superior shore line, a private path to the beach from our picnic area and 180 degree view of the little bay, Grand Isle and two smaller islands beside it. Electricity and water connections were available and BONUS TIME internet access too. Was this all too good to be true? Maybe the road would keep us awake (it didn’t) maybe our fellow campers would be rowdy (they were not) maybe the sun would not shine (it did) !!!!!!!

So, here I am sitting at our picnic bench on day 2.5 of our visit here writing up our adventures. A gentle breeze keeping me cool in the shade of some huge pine trees.

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Within an hour of our arrival the grey sky cleared and by late evening a perfect sunset was developing.

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Robert decided to take the camera outside to capture some shots and fell into conversation with our neighbour doing the same. Before long he called me out, our neighbours (Joe and Doreen) he had discovered were ex pats from Ashington near Newcastle Upon Tyne just a stone throw from our home in England! Now living in Ontario they were on vacation in their RV heading back to Sault St Marie. As the cool of the evening was getting to us all we made arrangements to catch up before they left next morning and pick up some tips for our journey in their direction.

A clear bright morning promised a lovely day to follow. After sitting quite some time chatting to our new friends we decided to drive back into Munising and over to Sand Point then Miners Castle where we could hopefully get a good view of the Pictured Rocks cliffs.

At Sand Point we were able to park next to the Lifeboat building and view the old boat stored there, this seemed a a popular spot for the sandy beach, we had our own at the campground so did not try this one out but drove over to Miners Castle to walk out to the rock there instead.

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The rock itself was a little overshadowed by the wonderful colour of the lake water. Again a boarded walkway and viewing platforms gave good access. Crossing the bay from Munising we watched two packed tour boats come out to take their passengers to view up close the cliffs and waterfalls of Pictured Rocks. It was such a clear day we too had a good view from our vantage point above Miners Rock.

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A short drive along a gravel road and around a mile trail took us to view the Miners Falls. We learned a long while ago not to dismiss water falls as ‘yet another one’ and have been amazed at the difference in formations. The drop may not be very great but the rock formation it flows over can make a small drop quite spectacular, a thundering high waterfall can seem insignificant despite a plummet from a great height if that is all there is to it.

Miners falls did not disappoint.

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The cascade turned the water through 90 degrees dropping 60 feet creating a spray of mist which reached our faces probably 200ft  away. The water over time had carved a cave behind the falls, it also flowed along the back of the rock in the mid bottom of the picture making me wonder about the possibilities for the future as the softer stone would be worn away behind.

After a hot day it was lovely to take a stroll along the sandy shore after tea, we thought we would paddle a little and surprised ourselves by quickly becoming acclimatised to the cold water. Our old pass time from west coast beaches of rock collecting has returned and we have had some interesting finds, and lots to return to the water.

It has been quite a while since we have been able to give haRVey a bath. Many campgrounds do not allow washing down of vehicles and with the recent rain he had become rather dirty. Robert was therefore very pleased to discover yet another plus point for our campground and soon got out the hose to make us spick and span.

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Another overnight thunderstorm on Thursday and a grey start to Friday but before 11am the sun was out once more and the air warm with a little breeze to cool us. A  rest day to catch up on jobs was decided, that is if the view does not stop us too often. A little cooking and cleaning for me along with composing this blog. Completion of the bath for Robert and haRVey then a lazy afternoon looking at the water probably another rock hound and paddle session later too……

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