Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 16

Friday morning we got up early (sorta) and headed east for Paradise. It was a longer drive than we expected and by the time we got to Newberry, we were overheating, hungry and ready for a nap. It was extremely hot and humid, and there was a haze in the air so dense it looked like fog, but it was not. I could not have been more frustrated with the weather! But there was something really exciting awaiting us.

Oswald's Bear Ranch!

I maintain that I was a polar bear in a past life, so whenever anything bear related comes up, B.E. mentions that they are my kin. In fact, years ago he gave me a bear claw pendant, which I had devoutly worn everyday until my dog broke the chain. Anyway, bears are my kin. So, this visit to the bear ranch was an absolute thrill for me. You really should stop by and see it if you're ever in or near Newberry.

Oswald's Bear Ranch

The bears were awesome. Most lived within gigantic, fenced-in enclosures, males separated from females, but the first thing you see when you walk out to the "bear area" is a cage with two bear cubs. They were lounging around in the stifling heat and I have to admit that I was jealous. Not of living in a cage, but of the cool comfort of being sprawled out on the chilly concrete, with a huge pool to swim in and total shade for protection from the sun. Yeah, I could not get the heat off my mind. It had to be in the 90s with humidity.

One bear found refuge in a tree, which looked surprisingly comfortable.

Tree bear

Other bears found different ways to stay cool.

Cooling off in a pool

Splashing about

Tired from soaking in the sun

They really do scratch their backs this way

By the time we rounded the male bear enclosure, the cubs were up and eating!

Gnawing on the fence with baby teeth

Ouch, my gums hurt watching

I don't know what their meal contained, but they really liked it and it looked a bit gross.


Pool play

The very cutest things that exist on this planet were in abundance at the Oswald's Bear Ranch. Cuter than bears. Cuter than cubs. Cuter than anything I've ever seen before. The pinnacle of cuteness is the bottom of a bear's foot. Those precious pink pads surrounded by fur were the very definition of cute. I just wanted to eat them up!

The cutest things in the world

More cuteness

The female bears were eating too, and I swear they seemed bigger.

Momma Bear

Don't you just want to hug her?

Oswald's was a lot of fun, but the heat was making me weak and we still had to get to Whitefish Point, so we forced ourselves to leave.

Not too far beyond Newberry is Paradise, Michigan and just beyond that, Whitefish Point. This is the home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Whitefish Point Lighthouse and the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Since we'd already gone through the museum and bird observatory in October, we set out right away to explore the beach and rocks, which a trusted patron at the library had told me was the best location on the entire lake for rock hunting. Let me tell you, he was not wrong!

Two hours later, my pockets were so full of rocks that I could hardly keep my shorts up. The heat was unrelenting and I could not stand to be out of the chilly water and on the hot sand, not to mention that the biting flies were probably the worst here than they were anywhere else. The haze is present in this photo. Look at all those rocks!

Hazy view of Whitefish Point and the lighthouse

Boyfriend Extraordinaire's view from the tip of
Whitefish Point
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Lighthouse silhouette

The sun was soon to set and we were debating whether to stay a night in Paradise or drive back in the dark. For some stupid reason, we thought we'd be frugal and drive back rather than pay for another room while we had one already paid for 2 hours away. Ugh. Sometimes $40 is a small price to pay.

On the drive back to Munising, I made a last second decision to go to Tahquamenon Falls. It certainly was beautiful at sunset.

Tahquamenon Falls

The Brink, at Tahquamenon Falls

B.E. wandered off alone on the trail back from the falls as I tried to hurry back to the car where there was water and safety from the flies. The park was closing and the DNR people had already done their final round through the grounds, plus all the businesses were closed and the staff was leaving. What if something happened to him? What if he was hurt? How would I find him and get help? I asked some departing ice cream shop employees where the nearest phone was, in case something happened. They actually couldn't come up with one. The gas stations and stores were all closed, and the only public phone on the park grounds had been removed recently. I was starting to panic. After about a half-hour of pacing and panicking, I decided to go looking for him before it was really dark and I wouldn't be able to see. Suddenly, he appeared on the trail. I was so angry, I went immediately back to my car and didn't say anything to him when he finally go in.

Evidently, he descended over 100 stairs to see the falls from farther away. It did prove to provide a nice photo, but the price of taking 10 years off my life was hardly worth it.

B.E.'s view of Tahq Falls on a different trail
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

We drove in silence in the fading light for a while, until we spotted something on the side of the road. He told me to turn around and go back to see it. I thought it was a dead turtle, but it proved to be very much alive. She was digging on the shoulder of the road and it really looked like she was about to lay eggs. In fact, she didn't budge when we approached her.

Female snapping turtle, laying eggs?
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

The strange encounter with the turtle seemed to melt my anger with B.E. and after that he promised not to leave me worrying about him like that again. Then he scratched my bug bites and I squirmed with pleasure and relief in his arms.

The entire drive home was terribly stressful, as the deer were everywhere and I was petrified of hitting one. It took forever to get back and it was nearly 1 am when we arrived, but I was so happy we were finally back. What a full day!

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