Monday, October 19, 2009

Munising, Oct 2009

On Sunday, October 4, 2009, Boyfriend Extraordinaire and I set out on our annual fall trip to Munising, Michigan.

Some of the noteworthy places we would like to share are as follows:
  • Brownstone Inn, Au Train, Michigan -- a fabulous restaurant and essential stop.
  • West Bay Diner, Grand Marais, Michigan -- out-of-this-world good food worthy of the trip itself!
  • D&M Subs, Escanaba, MI -- a great sub to fill you for days.

On to the trip!

I overpacked. As usual.

Part of the reason I bought a Toyota Matrix was because the back seats fold down, as well as the front passenger seat, and they create a flat surface for cargo that smoothly goes from trunk door to glovebox. If not for B.E., I would’ve filled the passenger seat as well. 10 days is a long time, particularly when we were going to have a full kitchen in our motel room at the Sunset Motel on the Bay, and I had to bring groceries. Why not overpack food as well as the other supplies?

On the way up, construction ruled and we were rerouted a few times thanks to Wisconsin’s good use of the stimulus money. Already slow WI drivers were slowed even more, and whenever I began swearing and yelling at someone in front of me, B.E. took a picture of their car to document the road enemies. Somehow, this was comforting.

By the time we made it to Escanaba, we’d stopped only at the rest stop south of Sturgeon Bay and at Seguins for some cheese, so we were ready for food and relaxation. Rain had come and gone a few times when we made it to D&M Subs, which has the best, heaviest, biggest sandwiches that make for two to three meals (or more). When we got to the marina in Escanaba for an in-the-car picnic, there was a beautiful rainbow over the water.

Then I had to poop. I have a thing about having a decent toilet so we departed, hoping to get to Munising, an hour away, quickly.

B.E. took this picture of cows in a pocket of sun, which I love, from the road somewhere around Trenary.

We made it before dark and checked into our room.

Cute room. This was our spectacular view from the front window.

This was our delightful little kitchen, where I’d be cooking multiple meals each day, and then washing dishes each night. Just like home!

The following side-trips are listed alphabetically for my convenience instead of chronologically.

Au Train Falls:

On the way to Au Train Falls we stopped at Forest Lake, which felt very bereft of life to me, though B.E. found it fun. As we left the area to get to the falls, a slowly waddling creature ambled across the dirt road ahead of us. I couldn’t tell immediately what it was, but it was exciting. It turns out it was a porcupine. My first! Very slowly he moseyed into the woods and up a tree. I didn’t know they could climb, but he was slightly quicker climbing than he was at walking. B.E. had jumped out of the car and followed him into the woods, which is probably what propelled him up the tree with speed (well, porcupine speed), and he didn’t slow down until he was near the top. What a cutie!

Au Train Fall is nice, but my favorite part of the visit is the Wall of Ook, which is about a 10-foot tall wall of rock that is oozing and dripping water from above. The constant water feed has turned the rockwall into a living thing, with dangling algae, moss and other plantlife, totally fascinating.

Dripping ook.

The falls themselves were not very dramatic while we were there, despite the large amounts of rainfall in the area lately. There were small segments where the water runs constantly, leaving more green ook all over the rocky bottom.

It appears that the water is green.

Not many leaves had turned yet, but occasionally there were signs of autumn being present.

We walked a little down the river, but there was little water flowing. After revisiting the Wall of Ook, we headed to our next adventure.

Bay Furnace:

The Bay Furnace in Christmas, MI is an old remnant of the times when smelting pig iron took place in this region, and not only is the structure charming, but the beach is strewn with colorful and sharp slag, which I find enthralling.

On the way to the old furnace, we passed a sentinel. A cute one. With a big fuzzy tail.

The building itself has been restored throughout the years, yet there are areas where the decay is winning.

Slag is everywhere on the beach, in crystalline and irregular shapes, in shades of black, purple, green, and rarely, blue.

Someone before us had collected many pieces of slag and left their collection on the stairway leading from the furnace down to the water’s edge.

Green slag.

Purple slag.

Rare, blue slag.

Closeups are always better.
Note the multiple colors that compose the sand in this area.

I would imagine that on a warm day this is a delightful spot. On an unseasonably cold day, it was still nice, but getting back to the warm car was nicer.

Bog Walk:

The Sand Point Marsh Trail is a wonderful walk on a boardwalk through some wetlands where it seems like you would see lots of animals, but we rarely do. The view is quite lovely though.

At the edge of the water is a beaver lodge. I don't think anyone lives there anymore, but we couldn't walk up and knock on the door.

We call these mossburgers. They're everywhere.

Red pine bark: one of my favorite things in the world. The colors are my favorites and these trees are simply magnificent.

As I stood looking for more signs of life, a turtle, a duck, something, B.E. snapped this reflection shot of me in the water.

Again, we only saw a few ducks, but it didn't take away from the fun of the walk. And B.E. is always straggling behind, inspecting fungi and wintergreen. Forestry major, you know.

Enchanted Forest:

At the end of Sand Point, which is a tiny peninsula that juts out into the lake, there is beach we call the Tree Graveyard, and a trail that runs close to the water. This is the Lakeshore Trail, which runs through Pictured Rocks forest from Munising to Grand Marais. Quite a distance! It’s a backpacker’s dream. This particular portion of the trail and the lakeshore are magical. We call it the Enchanted Forest and I would not be surprised to find fairies, gnomes and unicorns running around these woods. Perhaps it’s the occasional open meadows, the way the light peeks through the treetops, or the soft ground underfoot, comprised of fallen pine needles, sand and various lichens and fungi, making each step you take slightly spring-loaded. Perhaps it’s the sound of wind in the branches, waves crashing nearby, or the somewhat unbalanced way the trees lean inland, giving the world a certain slant. Whatever it is, it’s positively enchanting and utterly delightful to explore. So we did.

A view of the east channel leading out of Munising Bay into Lake Superior from Sand Point. Grand Island is in the distance.

Tree Graveyard.

Looking out to Lake Superior, with a sandbar visible in the water not too far out.

Fallen trees that function as speed bumps along the trail.

Areas of the trail lead straight out to the beach, so we walked along the beach for a distance.

I found a particular dead tree I fell in love with. It was a large red pine, probably 100 years old, laying on its side. I sat on a branch and admired the fallen tree, thought about where it might have lived, what it might have seen in its lifetime, and how it came to be here. While I felt kind of sad, it also made me happy that it found its way to this part of the shore, where folks might still find its presence charming. Or maybe just me. I really loved this tree. This shot I took from sitting on small lower branch, looking up the trunk at the twisty pattern in the wood where the beautiful bark had fallen away.

B.E. found the break in the hike a perfect opportunity to make a debris boat. This was a cute one.

It didn't last long, unfortunately. The wind and the waves were simply too much for it.

We walked back into the woods when the frigid temps got to be too harsh and we sought the protection of the forest from the icy wind.

I think some elves live here.

Maybe a dryad peeks at us from these trees.

It pleases me that when a new tree falls, they simply cut a chunk out to keep the trail clear, and disturb as little as possible.

It's hard to walk straight up and down as you venture down the trail.

When you're in the Enchanted Forest, it's easy to get attached and fall in love with things. I found this piece of driftwood, a stick actually, that was so smooth that I carried it with me everywhere and brought it home with me. It's still in my car. It's my magic stick. I love it.

The ferns of the woods turn this fascinating yellow and brown mottled color in the fall.

While walking along, I said, "Look, it's two trees doing it in the woods!"

After a while, we fought our way back to the beach when we found some strange tracks. They had to have been deer, but they looked almost pig-like.

On the beach, we found more tracks. There was some gallivanting on the beach going on. Probably a deer. Tricksy gallivanting beach deer.

Some areas of the beach have insufficient sand to walk on, so I had to jump on this log to avoid the incoming waves.

A view from the edge of the forest, looking down a dead tree to the lake beyond.

The route back to the car was just as fun as we spotted mushrooms hidden under a layer of sand, so many lichens on the ground it looked like grass in the distance, and blueberry bushes, which B.E. delighted in raiding. Absolutely enchanting. Perhaps the best part of Munising is this tract of woods.

At the beginning of the trail, back by the car, is the world's best wild apple tree, and B.E. and I plunder this tree of its delicious apples each year. First we have to find a long stick with a fork on the end, and then we have to force the apples off the upper branches of the tree. That's not even the hardest part. The hard part is catching the apples when they fall, because the entire area below the tree is covered in thorny bushes. Thorns that pierce denim. So, one of us would try to stab the good-looking apples and pull them from the tree with our long branch, and the other person would have to fetch the fallen apples. It was actually much more fun than seems possible, likely because each trophy apple is cherished as a precious treasure we managed to snag. This is a picture B.E. took of me stabbing at the tree for our prizes.

Just down the beach from Sand Point and the Enchanted Forest is Sand Point Beach, which is the swimming hole in the summer. Sunsets here are breathtaking.

B.E. snapped this shot of the strange congregation of photographers shooting the sunset. It puzzled us. It's nice, but the sun sets everywhere. Why was this spot so special?

I nabbed this shot of B.E. spying on me inside the car as he walked around the beach at sunset.

Miners Castle and Miners River:

One of the most popular icons of Pictured Rocks is Miners Castle, but this is a location I visit only on my bravest days. Not only is the distant lookout platform jutting out from a cliff 265 feet above water level, but there's a path with a 200-foot descent onto an unstable, rocky outcrop to get to the second lookout platform at the very tip of Miners Castle itself. Miners Castle used to have two turrets atop the peak, but two years ago one crumbled and fell into the lake. Such is the way of Pictured Rocks. You never know year to year where there will be a cave-in or collapse of eroded cliffs, so I don't much like being on the edge of soft limestone that's capable of giving way at any moment. Call me a sissy if you must. It scares the crap out of me.

From the 265-foot high platform, this is what Miners Castle looks like. I had to put my fear deep in a pocket and walk straight out onto the platform, take the shot, and then walk right back onto the safety of the land to keep from panicking.

This is a picture B.E. took of the lookout platform, as seen on the trail leading down to Miners Castle. It's scarier than it looks!

And this I took later in the trip from the cruise, showing the platform's height and the precarious way it protrudes from the sheer cliff.

There is a cave that goes clear through the bottom of Miners Castle, holed out by waves over time.

The path down to Miners Castle is long and winding, weaving back and forth, zigzagging over this irregularly shaped chunk of rock. And it's always dark. The very tall maple trees that dominate the trail do an excellent job of blocking out the sun.

Yet, when the leaves are changing, it's very pretty.

I can make the descent all the way to the main platform, where there are another series of stairs, and a smaller platform right on the edge of the castle itself. Sometimes I can make it down the stairs to the edge of the small platform. Sometimes not. This time, I did not. However, on the main platform there has always been an enormous pine tree that the platform was built around, and it was comforting to have the tree there in the middle of the platform, not just because it was a magnificent tree, but because I imagined it had deep roots, deeper than the platform's own structure, and I felt safer in its presence. This is what we found this year.

B.E. and I tried to count the rings to see how long this tree had been there, and we figured it was a little over 100 years old. Heartbreaking.

I walked to the edge of the main platform and considered going down the last flight of stairs to the precipice, but the entire structure was being battered violently by brutal waves, and with each wave you could hear the bass-like sound of the impact and feel tremors like an earthquake shake the ground beneath your feet. Not today, my friends. B.E. gave me instructions to stay right where I was while he went down to the final platform, but the longer I stood there feeling the massive chunk of limestone I stood upon rattling and trembling with the beating from the lake, I knew I had to get on more solid ground, so I scurried up the 200-foot path without him.

We decided to skip Miners Falls this year. I just did not feel the courage to walk a mile into the woods on a trail that hugs a humongous drop down a slope that is similar to the lookout platform, only to have to descend a narrow and steep staircase built into the side of a canyon, going down 100 steps to another tiny platform that stands above and opposite the falls. Couldn't do it. So instead we went to Miners Beach, where the river that comprises the falls empties out into Lake Superior, on the backside of Miners Castle.

This is a spot I love. The forest is almost strictly red pines, and on a stormy day like this, the bark showed off its deep purple, rust and crimson colors.

We walked down the beach, admiring the enormous waves breaking well over our heads, crashing onto the beach and beating the rocky shore. Miners River is but a slow gurgle at this point, deep brown with sediment and tannin, and it winds around a large sandbar until its auburn water is absorbed by the greens and blues of Lake Superior. B.E. and I walked out onto this sandbar, mindful of the gigantic waves that were creeping ever closer, but not mindful enough. B.E. made it all the way to the tip of the sandbar, while I dilly-dallied about midway, staring in a trance-like way at the waves cresting at around 8 or 10 feet so near us. It was during this meditative state of awe that a particularly large wave hit the sand nearest me, and before I knew what happened, there was a flood of water heading toward me. If I'd been smart, I would've just taken the inch of water approaching me, but instead I squealed and ran backward to avoid it, finding myself about two feet from the riverbank when the water saturated the sand on which I stood. Once the sand became saturated, it opened up and spread out, swallowing my legs up to my knees. When the water receded, I had to heave my legs out of the quicksand I'd been sucked into, finding the sand to be solid again. Hilarious though it was, the water was frigid, it was raining, and now my shoes, socks and sweat pants were drenched, freezing my body even more. Within seconds, something strange happened and my body shifted from being freezing to suddenly feeling warm. Probably early hypothermia. It was only in the upper 30s that day, with horrendous winds pushing us about, and the lake water I was now wearing didn't help matters. Though I wanted to start stripping off my coat and the many layers I had on, I knew better and kept them on. It was an uncomfortable feeling to know I was freezing, but to interpret that extreme cold as heat and want desperately to take off as much of my clothing as possible. Really bad situation.

Knowing I needed to get warm and change clothes, I headed inland from the sandbar, but didn't make it 20 whole feet before the entire scenario repeated. A wave came up over the peak of the sandbar, chased me to the river's edge, and this time I was sucked into quicksand even deeper. At that point I just started laughing. I was delusional from the cold to think I was warm, and was attacked a second time in the same way. I couldn't even get up, I was laughing so hard. Finally I dragged my legs out of the sand and saw the hole I left behind reseal itself, leaving no evidence -- weird -- and made my way quickly back to the safety of the forest.

B.E. and I visited Miners Beach twice on this trip, and on the second trip it was calm as could be, so the following are photos taken on the second visit.

A view of the beach through the red pine forest shore.

This is the backside of Miners Castle, with the sandbar and Miners River visible in the foreground and far left.

I walked out onto the sandbar again, all the way down to the tip where the river empties into the lake. These almost insignificant waves lapping sweetly on the rocks give no indication of how crazy it had been the previous visit.

These demure, curly waves were quite charismatic, actually.

A view from the end of the sandbar.

The coffee-colored river as it approaches its end.

On most of the trails are signs warning about dangerous cliffs, giving instructions to campers and backpackers, and this one that seems to say that the fish around here don't use VCRs anymore, only DVD players, so don't leave them any VHS tapes. Right?

Leaving these woods was painful. Chipmunks abound, mossburgers are everywhere, and it's delightful walking on the soft layers of years and years of shed pine needles and lichens. But easily the best part of these woods is the red pines.

Keep your polka-dots, animal prints, plaids and tie-dyes. This is the prettiest pattern in the prettiest colors and I don't know why we don't try to recreate it in art and decor everywhere.

Munising Falls:

One of the largest waterfalls in the area is Munising Falls, seldom appreciated for its grandeur due to its easy accessibility and the vast amount of people who visit it. I often save this one for last because I like to be there alone, when the light is right and the colors are peaking. This was not to happen this trip due to weird weather and weirder absence of color in the region, so our visit was brief and not as special as usual.

The falls are still beautiful.

There was some evidence of autumn present, but not nearly what we usually catch at this time of year.

Despite the bitter cold, the huge rains and the multiple days of snow, greenery was still flourishing here.

Old birch logs make for pretty landscaping.

Shriveled and yellowing foliage with bright berries caught my eye everywhere.

In the parking lot, this fellow watched us sadly. We imagined conversations he might have with an officer who pulled him over, giggling the entire time.

Strangely, it seemed that the most color we witnessed were the trees in the parking lot at Munising Falls.

Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise:

One of the highlights of visiting Munising is taking the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise out to see the cliffs that aren't visible otherwise, and though I'd done it twice before, I was as thrilled with the prospect of our third trip as I had been the very first time. The key to my excitement was the prospect of getting the prime seat on the boat, and it was so important to get this seat, I would suffer greatly in order to guarantee it.

For starters, the temperature was in the upper 30s again, with 40 mph winds. Weather forecasts said it would be clear, but I could see from the safety of the building that we'd probably get some rain. The boat would allow folks to board at 1:45, and the ship would leave dock at 2:00, so at 1:25 I decided I couldn't risk waiting to get in line any longer and I announced to B.E. that I was heading out to the dock. He said I was nuts, it was too cold to stand out there for 20 minutes, then sit on the boat for another 15 before it even left, and he refused to join me. Alone, I made my way down the dock to where the line formed, happy that I was the only fool out there which assured me of my favorite seat. However, there was a huge black cloud heading into the bay, and my only hope was that it would be a quick rain and we would be able to leave dock before it hit, possibly cruising around it. No such luck. It began raining as I waited in a line of one, and at about 1:40 other people, including B.E., started making their way down the dock, where I was already waiting, freezing and wet.

As we began boarding the boat, I happily climbed aboard first and ascended the steps to the upper deck, making my way down the center aisle to the very first row, taking the far right seat. I had it! My seat! Only, as I began climbing the stairs, it began to hail. The ping-ping-ping of the little hail balls hitting the big metal ship were loud, and the stinging of it hitting my skin made me want to squeal, but I sat tight in my seat and hoped the hail would quickly pass. It did not. It came down harder. We were pelted with hail for 15 straight minutes! B.E. found a semi-protected spot by squatting down behind the half-wall in front of my seat, and then only his head was hit with hail. I remained in my seat, wrapping my big down coat around myself protectively, trying to hide inside the collar. With only a scarf to protect my face, sunglasses to protect my eyes, and a sweater hood to protect my head, I was beaten wildly by the hail. B.E. asked me to go down to the lower deck, but I refused. My seat! I could lose it! Although there wasn't a single other soul on the upper deck waiting to take my place. B.E. snapped this of me from his squatting position at my legs.

The very idea of sitting through this hail storm willingly, when there was a perfectly safe and more comfortable place to wait it out, seemed so absurd to me that I began to laugh. And the more I thought about it, the funnier it was. At some point I was laughing so hysterically that I couldn't stop, and B.E. kept asking me what was so funny, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't explain. What the hell was I doing? Was this seat so important? This was ridiculous! And that made it even funnier. I was downright delirious for a few minutes there.

I know it hailed for 15 minutes because it stopped as we started to leave the dock, which put the time at 2:00. The captain made a brief announcement as the ship warmed up that the projected waves were 7 - 8 feet out on the lake, though he figured they were more like 5 - 6 feet. If the waves were 5 feet, we likely would have to return to the dock, not because the ship couldn't take it, but because the passengers couldn't. 5-foot waves for three hours means half the riders would be throwing up, so he asked that if any of us had a tendency toward seasickness or nausea, to please depart and get a full refund before we left dock. Instantly I was angry at anyone who would dare to get seasick on my cruise. They better not make us have to turn around!

As the hail stopped and we began to leave dock, I asked B.E. to shoot a pic of the hail on the seats, to document our torture, but the hail was already mostly melted by the time he got this one.

The waves in the safety of the bay weren't so bad, and when we rose up with one and then dove back down when it passed, I shouted, "Wheeeee!" and gleefully bounced in my seat, happy that the highlight of our trip was underway. Even though I was soaked through and through, even though the wind was still whipping us at an increasing speed, even though the water was as rough as the captain would dare to take us out in, I believed it was going to be the best time of my life. And it was. For about an hour. I did mention it's a 3-hour cruise, right?

This is Jasper Falls, which doesn't usually flow at this time of year, but the recent rains had caused it to flow into the lake again.

The waves don't look like much crashing on the cliffs, but we were rising and falling so much that it was impossible to walk at all on the ship.

The first sight on the trip is Miners Castle, which was hard to shoot because of how rocky the boat was. This a view of it, only slightly crooked -- I got lucky.

The following are a series of shots of the cliffs, stained with minerals and organic material that pour over the cliffs, or seeps through the rocks from underground springs, giving Pictured Rocks a reason for the name.

The water also carves into the softer rock at the water level, creating caves, some small, some huge.

These are the Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, where it is believed people were brought out and left in the caves to die.

Rainbow Cave, though hard to see here, has a natural spring that feeds the dome of this cave, causing it to rain all year around inside the structure, and you can hear and see the drops hitting the lake like rainfall.

Some of the Pictured Rocks features aren't the colors, but the shapes of the rocks, which are sometimes artistic and sometimes resemble familiar shapes.

Anthropomorphism: this is Indian Head in the distance. There is also a Pirate Head and a Shepherd, not pictured.

This spring there was a huge collapse among the cliffs. This happens fairly frequently, and the shoreline here is constantly changing. You can see the huge crack still visible at the top where more will soon crumble.

This collapse happened a few years ago.

Many years ago, Grand Portal was an archway that boats could drive through, but it caved in.

This is Lover's Leap and I believe it is the only remaining archway that hasn't caved in along the lakeshore.

Chapel Rock is a rock outcrop at the end of the cruise. A tree grows on the top, with it's long roots crossing the spacial gap onto the mainland, where it receives its nutrients. Chapel Rock was once an archway as well, but the top collapsed leaving this tree clinging for dear life by its own roots.

Sometime before we reached Chapel Rock, I started not feeling so swell. There were no more thrills with each wave, no more yelling, "Wheee!" as my stomach flip-flopped with each rise and fall of the water. I was seasick. Severely seasick. We turned around to head back and the boat follows the shoreline even closer on the return trip, which should be a huge thrill, but I was doubled over, leaning over the railing, clenching my throat closed, jaw pressed hard against the metal of the rail to keep from opening up in case my stomach tried to empty itself into the lake. It took only one hour in the waves to make me sick, and another two hours of fighting it before we got back to the shore. It was two of the worst hours of my life.

B.E. also got nauseated, but he wasn't nearly as sick as me. He described his own discomfort as feeling like he was hungry again. Still he walked on the boat, from one side to the other, front to back, down to the lower deck. He couldn't have been that sick. I, quite literally, couldn't move. Every time he touched me, stroked my head and said, "Poor Schwee," I heaved. Every time he asked me a question and I tried to answer, I heaved. Every time I skipped opening my mouth to answer and nodded, I heaved. Every time I moved my eyeballs in their sockets, I heaved. Fortunately, I kept my throat closed and nothing came out.

As we entered the safety of the bay we passed the East Channel Lighthouse, and by then the waves had died down significantly. I was able to snap off a couple shots of the lighthouse before returning to my doubled-over position hanging over the railing.

A storm was in the sky, though, coming from the west. So much for the clear day we were promised.

Once we got off the boat, I realized how cold I was. I got windburn from being on the dock and boat all afternoon on top of the beating from the hail and the seasickness. The nausea went away fairly quickly. It took 12 full hours for me to finally feel warm again. And it took weeks of lotion to get over the windburn on my face. What a trip!

Scott Falls:

In Au Train, right on the side of the highway is this petite waterfall with a fascinating feature. It tumbles 10 feet over the edge, but there is a cave behind the falls that you can get to by crossing the creek. In order to cross the treacherous creek, you must walk across this narrow log, which seems easy enough, but it's unstable and rocks as soon as you touch it.

Once you cross the creek, the ground you walk on is awesome. It's all tree roots and a little soil, littered with fallen leaves. So very autumn-y.

The water lands right near your footpath, making this the most charming waterfall because you can reach out and touch it, walk all around it, and stand right in it.

When you get around behind the falls, you can stand perfectly upright in the cave and look out at the world through the waterfall. It's incredible.

The cave walls are pretty gross, and there is a leak of water seeping through the back of the cave.

You have to watch your head in the cave or you'll walk out with weird green stuff growing in your hair.

From the front of the waterfall, the cave is visible, looking much smaller than it feels when you're in it.

People don't stop very often to see this waterfall, but they should. It's a total blast to play in.

Seney National Wildlife Reserve:

We have driven through the 7-mile road that encircles a good chunk of Seney quite a few times, and though it's a wildlife reserve, we seldom see much wildlife. This trip we drove through it twice: once in the afternoon and once at sunset, and saw very little.

There were many swans, many Canada geese, and a few ducks. This fellow landed right next to my car with his mate, making it easy to spot him, but I might not have even looked in these weeds otherwise.

We figured out that the darker colored swans must be the immature members of the family, fully grown but not fully grown into their white plumage.

The sunset lit up the lakes and landscape with shades of purple.

In a tall tree there was an old eagle's nest which was absolutely huge. I could've slept in it comfortably, I'm sure.

The most exciting wildlife spotting was this creature swimming in one of the pools. I believe it's a muskrat.

We drove back to Munising in the pitch black, seeing more wildlife on the side of the road than in the wildlife refuge. I suppose if I were a wild animal in these parts, I'd stay well hidden in the refuge, where gawking tourists frequent.

Tannery Falls:

The most glorious waterfall in the Munising area is easily Tannery Falls, which is also one of the least visited, and for good reason. There is no paved parking lot, no well-groomed trail, no comfortable seating when you finally reach the destination. You have to park on the main street, walk up a discreet stairway seeming to lead to nowhere in the woods, hike uphill on a muddy trail, and find your way along the path that has an imposing canyon towering above you to your right and a steep drop tumbling down into the valley to your left. Some areas are frightening as you squeeze between the rock wall and sheer drop. I had to wait until I was feeling very courageous to tackle this adventure, and when I plowed right through it, stomping up the hills, barely acknowledging the terrifying parts of the path, B.E. asked what had gotten into me. I said I was attempting to befriend the enemy, the enemy being heights, and not give it the satisfaction of knowing how much it scared me. It worked! I kicked its ass!

I arrived at the waterfall first, quickly descended the large debris pile that sits in the middle of the canyon, looking back at B.E., who'd just reached the end. Notice the towering canyon walls with trees hanging from the edge. If you manage not to look down into the scary valley, you probably shouldn't look up at the trees about to fall on you either.

The waterfall doesn't see a ton of water, but it's still quite beautiful.

At the bottom of the waterfall is a pile of debris that's fallen over the edge with the water, but it is nothing compared with the mound of debris that's fallen over the canyon walls which I was standing on to take this picture.

Trees, rocks and other forest-dwelling material cling tightly to their sloped soil, trying not to fall in.

The truly amazing thing about this area is how warm it is. Even though it started snowing big fluffy flakes of snow, they all melted on contact with whatever they touched, and I found myself shedding my coat and enjoying the feeling of standing in the woods in just my layers of clothing, looking up to the sky and feeling the snowflakes landing on my face. But I had to avoid looking at the giant trees leaning toward me, threatening to land on my face as well.

As the snowflakes melted on the surroundings, little drops of water sparkled on every surface.

Like Scott Falls, you can climb down the pile of debris and walk around at the base of the falls, which is much taller and more impressive than you'd know. We took turns wandering around the bottom, and I shot this picture of B.E. to illustrate the scale of the waterfall.

Standing at the bottom amongst the debris and looking up, it's quite magnificent.

I took one last shot of the falls from the top of the pile of debris before heading back.

Walking back, since I'd already befriended the enemy, I wasn't nearly as frightened, and this path didn't look very daunting at all.

On the way out, I met this chap. I have no idea what he is, but he seemed happy.

Wagner Falls:

B.E. and I have been here many times and for many hours. As proof, here are our initials in the bench.

How could we not? It's positively serene.

A favorite subject of mine is rocks and rushing water, and at Wagner Falls I am in my element(s).

Focused, smaller segments of the falls area are charming as well.

Another trail leads up and beyond the falls, with tree roots acting like a stairway up the hill. One day I'll go up there.

As we were about to leave, I noticed something big moving around in the falls, and I recognized a great blue heron on the upper tier. Quickly, I had to change lenses and jump on a bench to get this shot.

He started to move to the right, and I leaped off the bench, then had to squish myself onto the floor of the platform to position his head between two large logs, and just as I did, he nabbed himself a fish. Serendipity!

He stood for a bit, watching for more fish, then he took off and went fishing elsewhere.

What an awesome experience!

Another experience we had that didn't so much revolve around a location was an eagle spotting.

We were returning from one trip, turning down the road to our motel room and B.E. said there was a huge bird in a tree nearby, and he thought it was an eagle. I turned the car around and sure enough, there he was. It's very hard to see him in these terrible pictures, but he is perched on a branch in this tree, and we could see him eviscerating and eating a fish.

When he finished his meal, he flew off to another tree nearby, and I tried to catch him in flight, but this picture isn't much better than the previous two.

At the top of a dead tree, the eagle sat for quite some time, and though the picture is blurry, we were able to drive back to the motel, climb the stairs to our room, and we could see the eagle still perched in the tree from not only the top of the stairs to our room, but from the bedroom window itself. Now that's a view!

On October 14 we packed up our stuff and headed home, always sad to leave this area.

We stopped at Rapid River Falls, where the water was merely a trickle, but the colored leaves were abundant. I took about a gazillion pictures of the leaves in the water, and rather than post them all here, below is a link to my Tabblo page where they can be seen.

Tabblo: Autumn Leaves in the Water

Stomping around in the dead leaves made that wonderful crunchy sound that is so unique and delightfully autumn-y. Here B.E. walks and kicks leaves to exemplify the happy feeling of being on a carpet of crispy leaves.

Here is my car as seen from the path near the waterfall, surrounded by spent fall colors.

We walked to the car and headed home from here, stopping only in Escanaba for another sandwich from D&M Subs, more cheese at Seguins in Marinette, WI, and a brief respite at the rest stop on the highway.

So long, Munising. We will miss you.


Unknown said...

You always take such exquisite pictures, what kind of camera do you use?

Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Thanks so much for the compliment. I shoot with a Nikon D80, and I have two lenses I switch between, the Nikkor 28-80 mm, and a 78-300mm. These days, I'm shooting pretty raw, no fancy filters except polarizer and UV, and I don't do much except the occasional crop once the photos are uploaded. I'm of the mind that what I see is what I shoot, and that's how I want the world to see it, too. Thanks again.