Monday, August 28, 2006

Intrepid Travelers in the UP

So I'm finally posting about our trip to the UP (that's the Upper Penninsula, in Michigan, on Lake Superior). It was lovely. Here's how it went:

Friday: Left around 9 am, with a stuffed car. Stopped in Merrill at the Council Grounds and a dammed up river for lunch. We made "roadside" guacamole & sandwiches. On the way out, got some corn & a watermelon off the back of a farm truck parked at a gas station. Freshest ever.

Along the 6 hour drive (yes, 6 hours), we stopped at Bond Falls to stretch our legs. Lucky accident that we happened to choose that freeway exit. Beautiful rounded waterfall, with a boardwalk to get views from either side.

Back on the road, we stopped to look at a dead porcupine (Tim would be proud!) We saw a bald eagle flying over the road, and later a mysterious bird of prey flying out from a tree. Andrew saw a deer.

Finally arrived at our destination: Peterson's Chalet Cottages. Cute, rustic little cottages close to their Lake Superior beach. The sand, waves, and driftwood made me feel like we were at the beach. I moved us in, and Andrew grilled dinner -- tofu dogs & roasted corn. Read on our screened in porch for awhile, and made it down to the beach. Also roasted marshmallows over the grill (we could probably have done it over the gas rangetop, but for some reason Andrew finds it more authentic to do it over charcoals).

Saturday: Pancakes for breakfast. Because even when pseudo-camping, you need pancakes. We set off for the Porcupine Mountains park, and sat puzzling over the trail map at the Ranger's Station. Had some trouble deciding what hike to do. Eventually we decided to check out the Lake of the Clouds (beautiful, quite a view from the bluff of the lake and sky) and then hike into Mirror Lake. It was a looong hike. 4 miles in, with a pitstop for lunch (tuna sandwiches again). Mirror Lake was lovely... very quiet and tranquil since you can only get to it by hiking. I waded a bit.

Back at the cabin... We went swimming in Lake Superior, much warmer than you'd expect. We had our inflatable creatures: My "magic dragon" Nessie (or Puff), and Andrew's beluga whale (ok, it's a killer whale, but whatev). We ended up staying out on the water till late... And then Andrew unsuccessfully wrassled with the grill until he decided to finish cooking on the stove inside (at which point the charcoals lit up -- apparently they just wanted time and oxygen). Finally, around 10 pm, we had our shish-kabobs & more roasted corn. And it was good.

After dinner, I wanted to take a drive. Both to look out for wild creatures, and to explore country roads. We went down one a ways, without seeing much... Got out to listen to the crickets and look at the stars. Very beautiful. I love being out in the quiet at night.

We then went to the beach, as Andrew had hopes of seeing northern lights. We sat there for about 30 minutes without seeing more than a faint light blue glow over the lake. Around I think 12:30 to 1 am, the lights started to... change. This light blue/green pattern would fluctuate, sometimes spreading a rainbow arc, then moving in columns from right to left. It was hard to leave, but it was getting quite late.

Sunday: Cereal for breakfast, as the pancakes put a cramp in our plans to get out early. We went back to the Porkies to see the various waterfalls along the Presque Isle River. This turned into an impromptu hike, as we went up the east and west sides of the river to make a loop, ending at the "island" of layers of I think shale. Saw a view of Lake Superior, went over a suspension bridge (over yet another great view of the river), and headed home.

Back at the cabin, we had lunch, and then went kayaking. Definitely had trouble getting in at first. But then it was lovely -- bright, clear, sunny day. I leaned back and was ready to go to sleep on the water. Then we decided to go swimming, with Nessie/Puff.

For dinner we again imitated our camping fare, with rice & beans & string beans.

For dessert, we headed over to this fried-food & ice cream only sort of place. Amazing ice cream. And, our real motive: to see them feed the bears. Yes, Merrie is probably groaning and planning a lecture on why-not-to-feed-wild-bears. But we wanted to see some, and as it turns out, our hiking didn't lead us into any bears' path. Unfortunately, this restaurant isn't very picky about what they feed these animals. We watched one young woman feed Fred, an old man bear, a Little Debi oatmeal pie. In other words, corn syrup & trans fat. Sorry, Fred. Also saw a couple of younger, leaner looking bears. Terrific red sunset.

After the bear adventure, we made a campfire down on the beach. Roasted marshmallows and drank beer. No northern lights, as it was a bit cloudy.

Monday: Decided to add an extra night.

So we had the chance to linger over breakfast, eat pancakes, and then head out to the Summit Mt. viewpoint in the Porkies. Short hike in, and then up a watchtower... view of the whole national park, Lake Superior, and the surrounding area. Gorgeous. And sunny. Watched a hawk dive.

On the way back, we had to search for food. Backtracked a bit, as it was hard to remember where things were along this long and nearly deserted road. Finally put together a taco meal. I had a fit over the little bit of lard added to the refried beans. I of course didn't suspect anything, as who the hell would add lard to beans? Why contaminate a vegetarian's source of protein with pig fat? Why make it not kosher just for like a teaspoon of lard? F*#@ you, Old El Paso brand.

Anyways. We also made it to the gift store. It was ridiculous. The crazy woman was obsessed with bears. She was playing a children's CD of corny songs about bears sung by a cartoonish voice. "When a little bear loses his teddy bear, he gives you a bear hug..." OVER AND OVER. Needless to say, we just bought a couple of postcards and got the hell out of there.

After dinner, we took a walk along the beach... And went back to the bear restaurant. More ice cream (my only regret is not getting their cherry flavor), more bears eating sunflowers & "food scraps." Watched the sunset at a pretty beach with driftwood and tons of perfect stones for skipping.

Tuesday: We packed up, talked with Chuck (one of the hosts), and headed to Black River Harbor. This was quite the round about way to go home, but provided us with one more adventure. Went along the river, stopping at a series of waterfalls... we ended up visiting 3 out of the 5. Nearly deserted. And very pretty. Reminded me of Oregon. On our way up the steps from one falls (which was highly reminiscent of Wahtum Lake's steps), we spotted a deer with two fawns. We froze, and watched. The doe approached us, circularly, and stopped at a little mound about 10 feet away. She was watching us VERY closely. She'd stamp her foot, and then duck, watching us. Stamp, repeat. Stamp, repeat. I started laughing. It was amazing how clearly you could read her... She was approaching us alone, checking us out, testing us to see if we'd move, if we'd try to go after her, etc., doing all this at a distance from the fawns. Eventually she decided we were harmless, and headed back. Then the little family trooped across the parking lot and toward the neighboring park areas. Saw another deer in the next parking lot. The place is crawling with them.

The harbor itself was pretty, we climbed on the rocks and tried to see where we'd been hiking, as we could see the ski jump on one of the local hills from our Summit Mt. hike.

Andrew got lunch along the way at a "pasty" place. Pasties are basically potpies in the shape of a hot pocket. It was like walking into a bakery from 1950. Cafeteria tables and chairs, women in flowery dresses, men sitting around with coffee and pastries... the town was rustic, with an old Sprite sign (truly old, like '50s style), and a dead downtown. Unfortunately they didn't have any veggie pasties warmed up. I later ate at Subway.

Stopped at a few places on the way back... Rib Mt., pretty closed up off-season... and then Devil's Lake for a swim with Nessie.

At home, we had a quick dinner of ordering pizza.

It was a wonderful trip!

I was reading the end of Women in Love, Ros & Guil are Dead, and starting the American section...mainly Wieland. While driving, we finished The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test on CD... Intrepid Travelers!

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