Great Locations, great weather–happy times!

17 Sep

It was hard to believe we could be so lucky twice over. Our stay at Munising Tourist Park in June 2010 had been in lovely weather which was repeated for the three nights we stayed this time around. We strolled the beach, watched the sunsets relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Time to move on came around, we perhaps had been a little too laid P1190082back and neither of us felt very lively that morning, fortunately we were not going far, just about 60 miles to Marquette. Some of the road runs alongside the lake where Michigan DOT have thoughtfully placed some nice pull outs to enable access to the beach. We had travelled for about 45 minutes so a coffee stop was in order we felt!

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Can you blame us for loving this place?

On our previous visit to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan we had driven past Marquette and on to Haughton to make our way up to the Keweenaw peninsular and Copper Harbour. This time we intended to make a stop at Marquette and use their Municipal Park as a base. When we arrived the large campground was fairly quiet and we were delighted to be able to choose from a number of nice hard topped sites with 50amp power, water and sewer hook up all for $32 per night.

The town has extensive multi use trails which we hoped to make use of to explore both on foot and cycle. We also spoke with the staff and discovered a local public transport service ran into the downtown area every half hour from a stop just 10 minutes walk away. Great!

After setting up we walked to the lake shore, perhaps a mile away using one of the multi use paths, partly to determine what they would be like for cycling. I was encouraged to find them very kind for novice cyclists like me, mostly flat and separate from the road.

We set off on our bikes, Friday morning, to ride to Presque Isle Park north of the town. Within the park itself the road climbs to give a view out to one of the two lighthouses.

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From here it climbs further (novice cyclist rode most of the way up…) and turns around the headland where the view is of a lovely unspoiled stretch of Lake Superior shoreline.

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The water was crystal clear in the tiny bay and after a warm ride quite inviting for a paddle, I resisted however as I am all too aware how cold the water is, I have been brave before. From this point it was downhill back to the entrance of the park and our route back to the camp ground. A great ride which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am sure there must be more places like this we could ride, we just have to find them.

Saturday we were intending to catch the bus into Marquette to investigate the town. We arrived at the stop, or what we thought was the stop, in good time. Waited 10 minutes and then saw the bus turn a corner just along the road and drive off away from us in the direction of town, hummmfffff! We were in the wrong place. So do we wait half an hour or walk…. Robert does not do waiting well so we set off to walk. It was rather a hot morning but as we were able to walk beside the lake some of the time it was enjoyable.

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The local farmers market was set out in the square, we looked around the various stalls with fresh vegetables, tomatoes, some fruit, local honey, bread and crafts, then found a cafe on Washington Street to have some lunch. We were both tempted by the roast garlic soup, even though it was a hot day it appealed. Accompanied by some lovely homemade bread and coffee we enjoyed our treat, not realising we were going to enjoy the taste for the rest of the day and for me, have a full tummy for the rest of the day too – but it was very good soup.

We did manage to find the bus stop for the return journey and our 80 cents was well worth the 20 minute ride to get us back to base. The disappointment of the day was that the UP beer festival was being held on the park above the harbour, we had intended to take a look around but the entrance fee of $35 per person stopped us. I don’t like beer and would still have had to pay even though not drinking, Robert would have sampled but certainly not $35 worth – let alone the $70 it would have cost for us both.

From Marquette we had decided to visit Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park before heading out of Michigan. This was another area we had missed out on our previous visit but looked well worth investigating. En route we stopped off at another roadside park for lunch. This one was beside Agate Falls, a short walk from the parking area. Just a small fall but pretty all the same.

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Before we arrived at the State park we decided to follow the signs in Ontonagon to their town park, the other two had been so enjoyable we were encouraged this one might also be of interest. Just a mile out of town alongside the lake shore we found the small park, quickly spotting a site right beside the beach, could we be so lucky? It seems we could, it was vacant for us to occupy, so we did!

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The forecast was for rain to come but we just could not resist one more night beside the lake. With the temperature at around 75 degrees the cooling breeze was very welcome. We strolled the beach and sat in the shade. I fear it sounds like we are becoming a pair of beach bums, it won’t last as Robert is far too fidgety to sit still for long.

 

 

P1190111Looking along the beach we could see the Porcupine Mountains where we were heading in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

Once more Lake Superior treated us to picturesque skies as the sun began to set. We knew however the beauty was added to by the cloud which should be bringing the rain.P1190119

Monday morning and off to the Porcupine Mountains. No rain arrived and the temperature started the day at a heady 66 degrees, thunder storms forecast later not surprisingly. We stopped off at the Visitor Centre to get some information on hikes and access for parking haRVey, the visitor centre also had Wi Fi and as our Mifi from Virgin has no coverage here in the UP we took the opportunity to read our emails.

The best news we received was to know our friends Debbie and Ed from Plymouth, Vermont (we stayed with them on the campground they managed back in June) were safe and had moved away from the awful storm damage which hurricane Irene and later the rain of tropical storm Lee has caused in Vermont, washing out the P1170701campground and many roads in the area.

 

 Hi guys – glad your safe and well!

We had such a lovely time visiting  Vermont and feel for the people there who have lost so much. I wrote at the time how we had been impressed with the small business working so hard to make a living. Disasters like this will make it so much harder. Tourism in the area is at a peak in the Fall season with visitors looking for the best foliage colour, this year they will loose out on a lot of that business, visitors will not be able to reach the destinations with roads washed out.

Back in Michigan it was hot hot hot we found a site in the Union Bay camping area and along with fellow campers tried to keep cool in the almost 90 degree temperatures of the afternoon. We managed to stroll to the shady side of the lake shore and wander amongst the rocks to attempt to cool down a little. Inevitably the storm loomed upon us at around tea time, the sky blackened and the wind blew up. Thunder rumbled around and as we ate tea we watched the lightening across the sky. Amazingly only a brief heavy shower fell on us the rest went across the lake and we learned next day heavy rain and hail had fallen where we had come from in Ontonagon. The wind blew hard through the night and Tuesday morning we awoke to much cooler temperatures.

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Cool was good, we wanted to take advantage of the hikes the ranger had given us information for. We drove up to the Lake of the Clouds car park, plenty large enough for us to leave haRVey while we explored the trails.

First the view of the lake. A boardwalk to protect the habitat has been constructed for a P1190138short walk to an overlook of the lake which lies in a deep valley beyond Lake Superior. In the early morning light the water shone up at us and reflected the blue sky above. I was amazed to discover that whilst a mile long the lake is only 15 feet deep!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then took the escarpment trail through the woods , high up above the lake it gives views out over the further end, we walked to the highest point above the lake before turning back to have lunch, only about half the trail distance but it gave us a view into the wilderness of the surrounding area.

After lunch we drove to the trailhead of the Lake Superior trail. Through old growth woodland the path took us to look over Lake Superior, this was a rougher trail in parts, either that or my feet were tired as I seemed to continually trip over small stones. Whilst it was much cooler than the previous day (by around 20 degrees F) it was very pleasant for walking and the view amazing!

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The storms of the previous night however seem to have been the division between Summer and Autumn  as suddenly the temperatures really began to fall with overnight frost forecast.. what a change.

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At the west end of the State Park is another campsite, this one with no electricity but beside the Presque Isle River where it joins Lake Superior. We intended to take a site there for one night as it would allow us easy access to the river trails and waterfalls. Before we arrived at the campground we stopped at Summit Peak one of the tallest points in the park and the area.From the car park a short half mile trail takes you to a 40ft tower which has been constructed on top of the 1958ft mountain (for Michigan this is a high mountain). We made it a brisk walk as this morning it was so cold, we had on our thick jeans, coats and I even got out my mittens, the wind was biting.

The view from the tower was a little hazy from smoke drifting over from a Minnesota wild fire but still a great view.

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We arrived at the Presque Isle campground to find very few other campers there. P1190211After some lunch we set off for the 2 mile round trip up one side of the river and down the other. It all started very tamely with a boardwalk overlook of the lower falls. The colour in the trees is now showing in many places, especially reds in the sugar maples and the yellows of the birch trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1190207Moving on along the trail away from the popular area however it became far more of a challenge with some tricky scrambles in places, both up and downhill. Where the path levelled out we were able to look down on the river below as it made it way over the rocky bed. Crossing the road bridge a mile up stream we began our route on the east bank of the river to follow it back to the lake, hoping for an easier passage. We found the trail to be a similar condition however with some ‘interesting’ bits to negotiate!

 

 

 

As we neared the mouth of the river it began its decent over the rocks again, here P1190202 blocks and steps have been created where the layers of sedimentary stone have broken away. We were viewing the river at a time of low water flow, I am sure it would be quite spectacular in the Spring with lots of water gushing over the edge.

 

 

 

 

P1190219We had been following the blue trail markers along the route and were looking for a suspension bridge which should take us from east bank to west bank and back to the campground. We were a bit puzzled by not only the lack of a bridge but lack of markers. Eventually we realised we had to climb down onto the rocks which formed part of the falls, then climb up the other side and on to a portion of land which formed an ‘island’ in the river, the bridge was here and across the main flow of river. I am really not sure where the trail goes when there is water flowing over these first rocks as I am sure it must at times. Looking to our right we could see the Presque Isle River mouth as it joined Lake Superior.

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To our left, upstream, the river was forced into a narrow passage through the rocky gorge, here the soft sandstone had been worn by swirling stones into bowls and flows.P1190230

Some looking like giant natural Jacuzzis.

 

 

From here it was back on to the boardwalk and a flight of steps up to the campground level. I had thought we were out for a nice afternoon stroll along the river bank, instead of which the two mile hike turned into a very good bit of multi muscle exercise especially after our climb up the lookout tower in the morning.

 

 

Despite the weather taking a turn to Autumn, Michigan, UP and  Lake Superior has been a happy place for us, we will long cherish the time we have spent here, grateful for the beautiful weather and locations we have been able to enjoy.

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One Response to “Great Locations, great weather–happy times!”

  1. Susan September 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    I am so jealous! We also stayed in Ontonogan Park. We really enjoyed it. The guys who run it gave us a ton of firewood!
    The day that we went hiking in the Porcupine Mountains was the day we HEARD, but did not see, bears. The first time we heard them, Paul insisted it was a diesel engine starting. The second time, we were no where near any vehicles. we could hear them making noises and knew they were up in the trees, and because bears don’t usually make noises unless they are nervous, we pretty much high-tailed it outta there. I will never forget it, that’s for sure!
    All of the lakes in Michigan are beautiful!

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