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.