Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Superior Circle Tour -- Day 21

The very best thing about Grand Marais is breakfast at the West Bay Diner, namely, the French toast and bacon. Despite our early check-out time at the delightful Hilltop Motel and Cabins, we were eager for the world's best breakfast. This was, literally, something we looked forward to for the entire trip.

We arrived at the West Bay Diner to find out that due to the proprietors having car trouble and arriving at the restaurant late, they wouldn't be serving breakfast that day.

THIS was a tragedy! THIS was a serious blow! THIS was devastating.

Needing true breakfast food for breakfast, we hustled over to another restaurant in town, which B.E. said creeped him out. I thought the food was a little sub-par, but truthfully, nothing would've made us happy in the absence of French toast at the West Bay Diner.

After breakfast, we visited the Pickle Barrel House, which was an actual house made like a large-scale barrel, two stories high and with a smaller barrel connected in the rear that served as the kitchen. Weird.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Much to my delight, there was a fruit and vegetable stand in town, and I raced over to get myself a heap of bananas and Michigan peaches. I hadn't had any bananas on the entire trip and my body craved them far worse than the Funyuns. I think I ate three bananas that day alone and B.E. feigned horror at my volume of banana consumption. Oh, I missed bananas.

We didn't hang around in Grand Marais too long, instead we hopped right on H-58 to take the bumpy and scenic route to Munising.

Even in the summer, this road is scenic. The trees often curve over top of the road, creating a canopy and blocking out the light. In the fall, they blaze in yellows, oranges and reds, with an ever-falling drizzle of brilliantly colored leaves. If your car can take the unimproved sections of the dirt road, which is mainly used by the loggers, then by all means, don't skip it!

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

The sand dunes and Sable Lake are a gorgeous area to stop in along the way, and I was struck by the strange sight of the dunes being covered in grass. Still don't know how that came to be, because I haven't ever seen the dunes grassy before.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

One of the best areas to stop if you're a rock hound is Twelve-Mile Beach, which is only accessible from this rough portion of H-58. We spent a good chunk of the afternoon there.

While B.E. was building some boats again, I strolled up and down the beach, intent on finding some more agate for my collection. And then I spotted something curious nearly camouflaged in the colorful rocks.

I screamed for B.E. to come see, and together we acquainted ourselves with the adorable little crayfish, who seemed so far from home. B.E. explained to me that they generally live in rivers and streams, but since the drought dried up most of the smaller rivers and just about every stream, these guys were probably wandering around larger bodies of water looking for food and refuge. Poor thing. He was going to be eaten by one of the many seagulls swooping all around us.

B.E. gave him a boat to sail out to sea on, but he was too wide for the boat to accommodate him.

With some effort, B.E. threw him as far out in the water as he could, hoping he'd sink and find safety away from the birds, and we went back to wandering around, looking for rocks.

Within about a half hour, right where B.E. had stood when he heaved the little guy, a crayfish (SURELY the same one!) washed right back up on shore.

We were amazed.

The afternoon turned into a saga about how to save the crayfish. Cute as he was, B.E. said he didn't seem to be in good health, was weak, and made no attempts to escape our handling of him, nor was he able to grip anything. It was a heart-breaker.

And it broke my heart more and more as time went on. We HAD to save the crayfish!

B.E., always more concerned with saving my feelings than telling the truth, devised a plan to throw him far back out into the water and then quickly leave so that we couldn't spot him being washed ashore, where he would surely be eaten. And that's just what we did. I hope he was okay, but I try not to think about it because no matter how passionately B.E. insisted we saved him, I wasn't convinced.

The rain started to fall lightly and we climbed the tall sand dune to get back to our car. As I was changing shoes and trying to lay blankets down on my car seat to protect it from my wet clothes (yeah, I was playing in the water again), B.E. wandered a bit down the road and made a fine discovery.

On about the second day of our trip, B.E. read something somewhere that said wild wintergreen grew in the woods all over the area, and he'd been looking for it diligently ever since. Well, as luck would have it, right there on the side of the dirt road, a patch of wintergreen called to him. He was so excited!

I guess when you live in the California desert, things like this are special.

He brought some leaves of wintergreen back to the car and crushed one up in his hand to smell. I took a whiff: mmmm, smelled like Trident gum. B.E. pondered the fate of wintergreen, wondering why it wasn't a more propagated plant and just how it came to be that spearmint was the mint of choice. Who knew there was a mint war? Certainly not me. Clearly B.E. was on the side of wintergreen, the underdog.

The remaining drive back to Munising was great. B.E. only dozed briefly in the car, and only made me stop at one garage sale, which was, of course, closed.

In town, we checked into our room at the Sunset Motel on the Bay, and it was like the whole entire trip turned fuzzy. How could we have liked other motels when we had stayed here? How could we ever have said this one or that one was our favorite? We had forgotten just how awesome it is to stay mere feet from the lake, with a view to die for, in our favorite town of all! No matter what we said earlier, NOTHING can beat the Sunset Motel.

We hemmed and hawed about what to do and I presented B.E. with a choice again: stay another day in Munising and drive home in one day on the 26th, or follow the plan, leaving Munising the next day and staying one night in Escanaba before making the remainder of the trip home. Asking him was just a formality. I knew what he'd say. So, I strolled over to the Sunset Motel office and asked if they had another room for the next night, because we really wanted to stay longer. And they did! They had another room for that night! Woohoo!

I took a short nap in our room and when I woke up, I desperately wanted to go see Munising Falls. I was concerned that the drought had dried it up, but much to my surprise, it still flowed!

And the colors in the canyon and at the base were as brilliant as ever.

We stayed for a while as we wondered where to go next, and a clear choice to us was to go to the best beach on the planet: Sand Point Beach!

It was a bit chilly, too chilly to wade, so we decided to walk the Sand Point Marsh Trail, or as we like to call it, The Bog Walk.

What a sight! The drought had dried up the entire bog!

Where once there were channels of water and water lilies, now there was dried, cracked, dead earth. The large pond in the middle was the happy home to some beavers, and this time we could've walked right up the main artery of the pond to the beaver's door.

Knock, knock! Any beavers here? Doubtful.

It was indeed a sad sight.

As we followed the last few yards of trail back out, B.E. snapped this shot of the leaves turning colors. It was far too early for this to start.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

And, once again, B.E. spotted the prized wintergreen plant on the side of the trail.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

As we were leaving the trail, we encountered a woman on her way in and she asked how the conditions were.

B.E. said something about the bog not being a bog anymore and how dry and brittle everything was.

Well, that was the beginning of a really fascinating conversation with a woman who, it turns out, is a naturalist! She teaches at the University of Michigan, Dearborn! What luck! She pointed out the different bird species she heard calling, taught us how to identify certain trees, and then she and B.E. got into an in-depth conversation about trees that left me feeling like a dope. How stupid (and a little bored) the average person feels watching a naturalist and a forestry major trade tree knowledge. Who knew my Schwee knew so much Latin?! I recall hearing him say things like "Caprifoliaceae" as if it was an everyday word that just rolled right off his tongue. It was like a alternate universe. Then she taught us how to do a Cornus test on a leaf, to determine if a tree/bush was in the Cornus family. Way cool! We parted ways as she was off chasing bird calls on the trail and we were greeted with yet another fabulous sunset at Sand Point Beach.

Every time I vacation somewhere other than Munising, I wonder why. Munising has everything, to me. Nature, scenery, water, dramatic sunsets, scary landscapes, gorgeous waterfalls and a distinct lack of pretentiousness as well as a cherished minimal amount of loud and obnoxious tourists.

For dinner B.E. tried to persuade me to give the local pizza place another opportunity to do right by us, but I wasn't having it. He got his pizza and salad dinner from the pizza place (which took about an hour!) while I went to the Navigator Restaurant for take-out. We brought our food back to the room for dinner and enjoyed a peaceful evening in the faraway place where we both feel very at home.

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