Monday, October 23, 2006

Munising, October 2006

Early on the morning of Friday, October 13, Boyfriend Extraordinaire hit the road on the long trip north to Munising, Michigan. It was a cold day, around 40ยบ, and the forecasters mentioned a big snowstorm due the night before for the entire Upper Peninsula. We wouldn't see any of that snow because the 8" that fell in areas like Ishpeming had all melted when the sun was out for a couple hours that morning. Since this was supposed to be our fall colors trip, snow wasn't really a welcome element. Fortunately, it didn't stick around to see us.

The trip was a bit unnerving because we didn't know how much color to expect. It should've been peaking, but the color came early this year and the storms could easily have stolen the leaves from the trees before our arrival. Most of Wisconsin was peaking and as we drove into Michigan, the trees were looking mighty bare. Our only hope was that the area on the shore had peaked later.

We made very few stops on the way up, even forgoing our usual stop at Hardee's on the Oconto River. With only a wave up to the Oconto Falls area for our transplanted librarian friend in Texas, we bunked tradition and drove straight through. We skipped Seguin's, we skipped Rapid River, and we made it to Munising right at sunset. The Sunset Motel on the Bay is so aptly named, how could we stay anywhere else? We were somewhat disappointed that most of the leaves were gone, but it was still quite beautiful. Room #221 on the second floor was all ours, and snow and sleet were headed our way, so it was difficult to leave the comfort of the room to grab dinner somewhere. We managed to tear ourselves away to get some pizza and salads to bring back to the room. All night we peeked out the window and stood on the balcony watching the hail and sleet fall with vigor, but it was too warm to stick. The storm made it much better to sleep, though. Boy did we pass out!

In the morning, we slept in a bit, then got dressed to go to breakfast. We found a few patches of land where there were some shades of orange still, so we set out to find the colors and the waterfalls!

Grand Island, out in Munising Bay, still had patches of color. The East Channel Lighthouse always looks so gorgeous surrounded by the colors of autumn.
From Sand Point, the view of Pictured Rocks and Grand Island are always gorgeous, but by far, my favorite part of this tract of beach is this very piece of uprooted tree. I call this my favorite piece of driftwood.

There were still traces of snow from the morning before, but only in the coldest, shady places of the forest, and only tiny bits of snow even there. It was interesting to see snow on the colorful leaves.
Wagner Falls is such a pretty area, and the small creek that joins the main creek is just slightly more beautiful because of it's simplistic splendor, in my opinion.
Hidden in Wagner Falls is a tiny cavern where plantlife thrives, and I am always captivated by its survival in this precarious location.

Having already taken about 1,000 pictures of each waterfall in my years visiting the area, I concentrated more on the rocks and water this time, which are actually my favorite things to shoot.

Lots of rocks and water.
Every segment of this falls is pretty and worth individual attention.
Each segment is like a mini falls within a larger one.

And yet, the waterfall is stunning in its entirety.

The only thing more beautiful than rocks and water is rocks covered in colored leaves and water.
Occasionally we came across tiny patches within the forest where the little remaining snow met the few remaining leaves, and it was quite cool.
Someone put this lone red maple leaf on this tree. While Boyfriend Extraordinaire swears it wasn't him, I have my doubts. It's exactly the kind of thing he would do -- put colored leaves on the trees for us.
On the way to Munising Falls, I went a little nuts with more photos of leaves, rocks and water.
And more...You have no idea how many of these I took!

It's nice that even though most of the leaves were gone, the scenery was still breathtaking.
Munising Falls -- always a sight to behold!
Somehow, the fallen leaves always improve the view, too.

Having spent hours and hours at this waterfall on our many trips, Boyfriend Extraordinaire was inspired by my boldness, when I squeezed around the fenced-in platform and walked up the tiny path to the foot of the falls. He went beyond me and climbed up behind the falls! That tiny little figure in the big green coat is Boyfriend Extraordinaire. Kinda puts the height in perspective.
He tried to coax me to follow, but I was too chicken and concentrated on some closeups of the waterfall from my angle nearer to the falls than the path allows. The precipice is even scenic.
With some encouragement, I followed BE up the stairway to the left of the falls, where I snapped this shot.
Then he convinced me to climb the wall, hop the fence, and scale the bottom of the cavern where the water hits land first. It took some time for me to inch my way over, but I managed to squirm behind the falls for this shot. The pathway on the other side looked much safer, but I found my feet slipping, and when I reached to the rock wall behind me for support, the sandstone crumbled in my hands and my feet kept slipping. This was all I needed to turn around and go right back where I came from. Yet, I have photographic evidence that I was momentarily brave enough to climb behind the waterfall.
That night, I wasn't feeling so good. I'd abstained from drinking much to avoid having to go potty in the woods, but it took its toll and I found myself sickly and dehydrated by the end of the day. We had planned to go to our favorite restaurant, the Brownstone Inn, in Au Train, Michigan, which is about 10 miles east of Munising, but I wasn't sure I'd make it. After laying down for a bit, I managed to get the strength up to go, and once I had two large glasses of Sprite down, I was able to really enjoy my delicious fish meal. Though I felt better, I was still quite out of it, and I, for the first time, relinquished the keys to the car and asked Boyfriend Extraordinaire to drive home. It was nice to relax and be driven around, for once. I crashed hard that night, too.

The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the Dogpatch, then returned to our new room, #7, at the Sunset Motel. I took a brief nap, which was awesome, and then we got moving to see more sights.

Our first stop was the scenic overlook, where the leaves were a bit more vibrant, and they looked so pretty against the blue of Lake Superior behind them.
From there we went to the Bay Furnace in Christmas, Michigan. We did not take the paved path to the beach here. No, this was a trip off the beaten path. Instead, we traversed the dense woods, following a creek and dodging plants that looked like poison ivy. We were whipped by branches, hurdled large tree roots, and tried desperately not to fall into the water. It took quite a while to find the beach, but we eventually made it. When we emerged from the woods, we saw that there were a few trees on the edge of the forest with colorful leaves still clinging to a few branches.
I love the look of the many rocks on the beach with the lapping waves. Among the rocks are pieces of slag, which are glass-like chunks of waste in shades of green, grey and purple, left over from the days when the bay furnace was a kiln for smelting iron ore a century ago. The beach is truly special.
Boyfriend Extraordinaire climbed the stone stairs to the Bay Furnace, where he collapsed in exhaustion on the sunny grass. The sun was so warm I was able to take off my down coat and sit on the beach in just a t-shirt. Was it really just below freezing last night?

While BE relaxed on the grassy knoll, I milled around the beach area and discovered about a dozen little birds pecking around the rocks. They were so cute! I just had to snap a couple shots of them.
We took the easy, paved walk back to the car, where we encountered a few more trees with color. Oaks, this time.
Some leaves still had chlorophyll coursing through their veins.

After the Bay Furnace, we visited Sand Point Beach for our coffee break, where BE drank coffee and ate a donut, while I drank Coke and ate chips. The break ended with a burst of energy and we decided to go on the Sand Point Marsh Trail. The walk was getting cold as the sun began setting, but it was still quite pretty. In the distance, the sun was going down behind the pines, lighting the horizon with golden flames.
Deep in the marsh is a pond, where we always look for deer and beaver, but we never see either. However, this trip we did see the humble abode of a beaver (or two).
Again, some sparse color was visible here and there.
There are enormous green ferns that grow like it's a tropical jungle for most of the summer, but in the fall, these huge ferns turn a golden yellow and brown, making them even more feather-like.
Oh, and a few more red maple leaves!

Looking back, the path seemed so serene and autumnal.
Coming out of the woods and finding the tangerine sunset was a splendid sight as well.
I can't remember a sunset so pretty since the last time I was in Michigan.

We spent our last night in Munising by having a good dinner at the Dogpatch, and then burying ourselves in our warm bed back in the room. It was fantastic and I didn't want to go to sleep, because that meant waking up and having to leave.

On Monday we arose with a bit more sadness and regret that the trip was almost over. We grabbed a big, heavy breakfast at the Navigator restaurant, which has the best view, and then we poked around town for as long as we could before heading out. We even attacked the local realty offices for books of property sales. For some reason, we were both compelled to spend those last few, desperate hours looking for a house to buy. With what money, I don't know. The prices were awesome, ranging from $12,000 to $3,000,000, but mostly they hovered around $40,000. I know people who drive cars that cost more than that! I think the dream to move to Munising is contagious.

Finally we departed, but we stopped at all the usual spots on the way home.

Trenery is a must for the sheer delight for shopping in a co-op. This is the only store I know of that sells the local bacon, so thick and delicious that I have to make a special stop whenever the co-op is open. Mmmmm!

Though it was raining pretty hard, we bundled up and visited Rapid River Falls.

We'd noticed that the other falls were flowing with far less water than usual, but no one was talking about a drought, so we didn't pay it much mind. That is, until we came upon Rapid River. This river is usually about 25 feet wide, shallow, but moving fast enough that you really wouldn't wade in the area where the falls are. This time, it was so dry that the water only flowed in little nooks of the riverbed. We actually were able to cross it and stand in the middle of what is usually a riverbed. This was a first for me, seeing Rapid River Falls from this side.
Despite how dry the river was, the forest looked lush, like a forest in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps.
The trees were so inviting, to me.
We found a bizarre trail of large white mushrooms that meandered through the woods like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs. There were some strangely fallen trees in another area, that BE discovered, too. All in all, the area was very eerie that day, and we decided to return to the warm, dry car and keep going.

We stopped at Seguin's Cheese, where BE controlled himself and didn't eat all their samples! I was so proud. We also stopped at a huge gas station, combined with an Arby's, combined with a fireworks store. BE was mesmerized with the fireworks and it took forever to get him out of there. The rest of the drive was pretty much non-stop, and even though it was a long drive, it seemed to fly by and we were home before we knew it.

Some people come home from long car rides with a sense of relief to finally be in their own home, but not me. I would've gotten right back in my car and drove 7 hours right back up if I could have.

Until the next trip, I count the days...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Marquette, 2006

On August 4, 2006, I took my mother on our second trip together to Michigan. The original plan was to search for an apartment, because I was planning my immediate relocation, but the plans changed and the trip turned into a visit for the sheer enjoyment of it.

The first stop is almost always Rapid River Falls, which is a delightful little river with small rapids. It's a gorgeous area where you can walk all around the falls and along the river.
The shelves of rocks lead down to the river, and you can dip your feet in or walk alongside the flowing water.
The water, full of tanic acid, is a golden brown color that glistens like amber in the sunlight.
Down the river a short way, there were children playing, which made the cool water seem all the more inviting on the warm afternoon.
In the fields that surround the river, we met up with some friendly insects. Two monarch butterflies continued to suck nectar from the flowers surrounding us.

Mom found an amicable grasshopper who was content to sit on her wrist as we all checked one another out.

Once we arrived in Marquette, we checked into our rooms and decided to explore a bit while there was still some daylight left. Of course, the obvious place to go was Presque Isle Park.

We weren't the only ones taking advantage of the warm Friday evening and the beautiful scenery. There were many boats on the water, and even this canoe. It certainly lent itself to a mood of days long gone and remniscent of the haunting words of Longfellow. It's almost always an area that conjures up images of timelessness in my mind, and I can imagine how it might have looked hundreds of years ago.

My favorite area of Presque Isle Park is Sunset Point, appropriately named.

I climbed right down the rocks to the water's edge, while Mom snapped pictures from the precipice.

The greenish-blue water and the colorful rocks are always alluring to me.

After we explored the park, we headed to the Marquette Lighthouse for some sunset shots. There was a sign that warned that the area was Coast Guard property, and tresspassers should do so only if they are willing to be searched. I did not interpret this as a definitive order not to tresspass.

I said to my mom, "I've got nothing to hide. They can search me. So, can I go take some lighthouse pictures, then?" Much to my surprise, there were two men from the Coast Guard nearby and they welcomed us to photograph the lighthouse. Though they were quite warm and friendly with us, Buddy the dog, belonging to one of the men, was far more fun to talk to.

The lighthouse was pretty in the fading evening light, as always.

After that, we picked up some food to-go and brought it back to our rooms for the night. We had a big day ahead of us tomorrow.

The next morning, we arose relatively early and headed straight for Munising. Our first stop was the Dogpatch Restaurant for some yummy biscuits and gravy and other heavy breakfast food, and then we drove out to Sand Point, which is my favorite spot in Munising.

My boyfriend and I refer to this as The Tree Graveyard, and I think Mom fell in love with the area too, if just for the abundance of driftwood, which she adores.

The water level was higher than it was in June, when I was last there, and there wasn't much room to walk on the sand beach without being in the water. I assumed the water was going to be frigid, as it usually is, but a quick dip of my feet revealed that the water was not only warmer than I thought, but it was downright wonderful! In I went! I wandered up and down the length of the beach knee-deep in water, without the slightest sensation of being too cold. Imagine that! Lake Superior is a good temperature for wading in the middle of summer!

This is my Picasso-like foot in the water. Funny how water distorts things. My feet aren't really shaped like that.

This piece of driftwood looked an awful lot like a petrified crocodile to me.

From there we went to Munising Falls. It's amazing how much of a difference the right neutral density filter, a polarizer and an overcast day will make with waterfall photos. I was just ecstatic with the conditions, in direct contrast to my feelings about the last set of photos I took at this waterfall in June.

My favorite part of the falls is the base, where the colors of rock are the most vibrant, and the water pours down in veils of white lace.

Next we visited Miners Castle, where, again, there were boats, kayaks and people all around, enjoying the warm, Saturday, summer weather. The water was a gorgeous Caribbean shade of aqua in the small bay.

One day, I'm going get up enough courage and strength to kayak down in that beautiful green water and explore the caves at the base of Miners Castle. One day.

Mom, being a devotee to the gift-shopping-tourist stereotype even made me sick of the gift shops. We hit them all and she spent a small fortune (by my standards), so I tried hard to get her out to see the actual area instead of the T-shirts advertising the area.

The next waterfall on our itinerary was Wagner Falls.

Again, we were not alone exploring the scenery on such a pretty day.

I'm so happy with my waterfall shots, no matter how redundant they are, when the conditions are right and I have the correct filters to do the job.

Wheeeee! Waterfalls!

Wooohooo! More waterfalls!

On the way back to the car, this fern caught my eye. It looked so safe, nestled in the roots of a gigantic tree.

We drove back toward Marquette, with a brief stop for dinner at The Brownstone Inn, easily my favorite place for a dinner meal in the area.

It was still pretty early, so Mom and I decided to do something new. We drove to the top of Mount Marquette, which was not easy to find, and was not an easy drive. I wasn't sure we'd make it, and even if we did, I wasn't sure we'd get back down safely. That road was a nightmare!

The view was incredible, though, with the Huron Mountain Range in the distance!

Needless to say, it scared the living daylights out of me and I had to quickly depart for safer, lower ground. Look how tiny everything seems!

We drove through Presque Isle Park again to watch the sunset and followed some smaller roads around the park. At one point, I spotted five of these gorgeous woodpeckers all pecking away at the trees. The photos I took were mostly a blur, as their heads drilled so quick into the bark like a jackhammer, you really couldn't see the bright red plumage on their heads. There were some Woody Woodpecker laughs, I swear. Okay, fine! They were coming from us, but still...

Another first for me was a visit to the Dead River. What an awesome area! Look how the water looks like molten steel. So cool!

A few years ago, the Dead River basin flooded so badly that this entire bridge was taken out by the rushing water, not to mention the devastating property damage all along the riverbed area up- and downstream. The recovered area is beautiful again, and the reconstruction is very nice and lots of fun to wander around.

With the completion of the day, we settled in for the night and our final day in Michigan ahead of us.

In the morning, we checked out of our motel room and grabbed a quick breakfast at a mediocre restaurant in town. (Nothing like the Dogpatch, that's for sure.) Once we were full to the tippy top, we headed north to Big Bay, to visit another new sight for me, the Big Bay Lighthouse and the town of Big Bay.

Big Bay is a nice little town, trying hard to cash in on its only claim to fame: the town where Anatomy of a Murder took place. The area is very pretty, residing snugly between Lake Independence and the Lake Superior shoreline.

The Big Bay Lighthouse is now a B&B, with rooms to rent overlooking the lake, from high atop a cliff.

It's quite beautiful, and the land juts out into Lake Superior, making it a highly eroded area. It made me uneasy walking the grounds because my footsteps landed with hollow thumps on the ground below. It did not feel solid and I was slightly anxious to get away from the cliff area.

From the solidity of the road, the lighthouse looks just as nice.

On the way back toward Marquette, I took a few side roads, hoping to find something new and interesting. One sideroad took us to Granot Loma, which was a frightening and mysterious area I knew nothing about. We were driving on a dirt road for a long, long time, when suddenly there appeared a gigantic farm area, with multiple barns and buildings, all very luxurious in appearance for a farm. A bit farther up the road was a dead end, where some bizarre sculptures stood, painted bright colors and utterly alien in the environment. I could not wait to get home to find out what the heck Granot Loma was. I was sure it would reveal itself as a UFO-loving cult area. Much to my surprise, it's an exorbitant castle resort. Seriously. In the woods outside Marquette, Michigan is a castle resort where private planes pick up their guests and bring them to the grounds of exclusivity, costing a minimum of $10,000 PER DAY for a group of no more than eight to stay. What a bizarre discovery!

Another of our sideroads took us to Little Presque Isle, which was easily the most pleasant surprise we discovered. On a hot, Sunday afternoon, this beach was nowhere near as crowded as I thought it should be, particularly when you consider the absolute beauty surrounding it. I will surely have to return there again.

Like so many of the beaches along Lake Superior, you walk for many yards through woods and they immediately open up to a soft sandy beach. Being on a beach that's surrounded by forest will never lose its draw for me.

The view from the beach, looking back into the forest reveals this picturesque scene of towering red pines. Such beauty in every direction!

With a long drive ahead of us, we departed for home, with a quick stop at Seguin's for some cheese (and moccasins for Mom), and lunch at a terrible diner in Escanaba, which Mom just loved. Bluck. Back to Illinois we headed. With heavy hearts.