815

 

[N.B. (whatever that means):  Don’t believe the conclusion to this post.  Rebecca bravely decided she was good to go two weeks after surgery, so the next post after this one picks up our journey as we re-depart Holly Springs. – FLS, 2/25/2016.]

That’s how many miles I drove on the latest, and unfortunately last, leg of this journey.

In Albert Lea, Minnesota, Rebecca crashed her bike and broke her elbow.  She’s going to need surgery.

I put her on a plane for home in Des Moines and drove to Moraine View State Park in Illinois for the night, then drove on home yesterday.

So that closes out this edition of this travelblog.

We’ll resume the trek to Alaska next spring.

Rebecca's elbow.

Rebecca’s elbow.

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U.P. UP

Destination: Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park
Miles Driven: 184

Rebecca atop Summit Peak.

Rebecca atop Summit Peak.

June 16

Bloomsday. I was pondering the quote “U.P. Up” since we were on the U.P., and wondering if I didn’t recall it from Ulysses. Sure enough, Google found it for me. It also reminded me that today is Bloomsday.

How’s that for coincidence.

The Porcupine Mountains rise out of Lake Superior pretty close to the farthest northwest you can go in Michigan. It’s getting close to the summer solstice, and it doesn’t get dark much before midnight. It helps that we’re close to 600 miles west of Maine, the easternmost segment of the Eastern time zone.

The campground at Union Bay has ten prime sites located right on the shore of Lake Superior. Ours isn’t oneFLS_5751 of them.

We got in our best hiking of the trip so far in this park.

First we drove to the Summit Peak loop trail. (I didn’t name it.) The trail starts from a parking lot, rises to the highest point in the park, and third highest in Michigan, about 800 feet above the Lake Superior shoreline. There’s a long stretch of steps, leading to a small, wooden observation tower.

The loop trail descends rapidly from the summit, bottoming at Mirror Lake. It was too windy for there to be any mirroring effect.

FLS_5685The park has had more than normal rainfall this year (eat your heart out, N.C.), and we had our first encounter with swarms of mosquitoes. Yea, Deet.

Surprisingly, the ascent back to the parking area was not nearly as strenuous as the trek down would have suggested

Next we drove to the Lake in the Clouds area. This is the crown jewel of the park.

FLS_5726The Porkies were formed by volcanic lava flows. The Lake in the Clouds area provides a dramatic overlook of a lake, from a walkeway perched along the edge of a sheer cliff that drops a couple hundred feet. TheFLS_5702 scenery is breathtaking.

We hadn’t had enough hiking, so we took the trail down to the lake’s edge and back.

FLS_5722I should mention that Rebecca has been perfecting her recipe for S’mores whenever we build a campfired. Tonight she got pretty close.

The next two days will be driving-intensive as we approach the Badlands of South Dakota, where the temperatures are apparently more South-like. It didn’t get out of the 50’s here today.

FLS_5686

What’s That?

FLS_5617

We strayed from the highway to drive through the town of Marquette (Michigan).

We stopped by the harbor to puzzle over a large metal structure that stuck out into the water.

FLS_5642A kindly couple of Yoopers explained to us that the structure was a retired railroad tressle. The train would pull ore cars out over the water, where a cargo ship would dock beneath, to collect the ore.

“If you stay on this road for a few miles, you can see one that’s still in use.”

So we drove around the shoreline and came to another of the behemoths, just as a ship was pulling in to be loaded.FLS_5655

We parked and watched the process for awhile. We never did see the part where they lowered the chutes and dropped the ore into the hold of the ship.

We also saw a 28-ton hunk of copper (the largest glacial copper in the world) along the drive.

FLS_5659

Yoopers and Pasties

June 14
Miles: 189
Destination: Munising
Wildlife: Bald Eagle, Loons

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

When we crossed over the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, we were confronted by strange signs advertising “Pasties.”

They weren’t for topless lunch counters, but rather meat turnovers. We decided we should try them out.

After a beautiful drive along the coast of Lake Michigan, we turned north, crossed through a long stretch of woodlands and a few farms (and innumerable lakes), and reached the outskirts of Munising. There we saw a restaurant featuring home-made pasties.

It wasn’t our best decision. Service was slow, the pasties were chicken, not the traditional beef, and they were served lukewarm. It was kind of like a chicken pot pie calzone (no cheese). When Rebecca protested, they said they’d make her a new one.FLS_5551 We didn’t have another hour to kill, but inside of five minutes a hot pasty appeared on our table.

Better, but not great, but the left-over half-turnover was a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.

We went to Munising to take the boat trip to Pictured Rocks, a strentch of national seashore on Lake Superior featuring steep, colorful cliffs rising a hundred feet or more from the water.

It turned out it was “Yooper Day” at the boat dock. Anyone from the U.P. got to ride free.

FLS_5390We were standing in line with a family from Fayetteville, N.C., and fog was rollling in.

The ride out to the cliffs was pretty foggy, and the first views of the rocks were partially obscured. It had the makings of a FLS_5499disappointing day.

But the boat hove close to the rocks, and on the return trip the fog lifted in several places and the sun actually shone. It turned out to be worth the trip.

Our camp site was in a city campground just around the bend from the boatdock. We got to camp right on the water, which provided a clear view out into Lake Superior even though there was a big fog bank just down the bay.

FLS_5610

 

Yoopers, incidentally, if you didn’t figure it out, are people from the U.P.  Oh, we saw a sign for a brewpub in Munising, but we forewent it.

FLS_5612

Petoskey walks

We did the park hikes today, and I’d be remiss not to report.

There are two trails, Old Baldy and Portage.  Both are surprisingly strenuous hikes up steep forested dunes and along Blue-Ridge style razor ridges.  It’s hard to believe a ridge made out of sand could hold its shape, but they do.

Old Baldy actually sticks up at least 200 feet. Spoiler alert:  It isn’t bald at the top.  Portage is more of the ridge hike, with very steep sides down both sides from the trail.

Rebecca spotted two lady slippers, and there were  bushels of trilia at the tops of both hikes. Save one, the trilia were past their prime.

Later we biked into town, had a really fancy dinner at Palette Bistro.  We also acquired a Petoskey Stone refrigerator magnet.

Oh, and another brew pub, Beard’s.

Petoskey Rocks

Miles traveled: 170

Campground:  Petoskey State Park

June 13

We did not take the scenic route from Ludington to Petoskey.  It was a dreary ride with a splattering of rain, and road construction in the middle of the bigger towns.

The landscape changed from strip malls to flat farmland in a hurry.  As we got closer to Traverse City, it became much hillier

View as we attained our thousandth mile, just outside Ludington.

View as we attained our thousandth mile, just outside Ludington.

.  Once we reached Traverse City we got a good view of Grand Traverse Bay.  Our campground is on Little Travers Bay, which is just a little bit of a protected dip in from Lake Michigan.

bikeThis campground is very nice.  It’s right behind a row of dunes on the beach, with quick access via a wooden walkway.  Our campsite is well-wooded (which makes for rather chilly late afternoons), and reasonably separated from the others.

Since it’s all very level around a lake, it makes for easy biking.  And there’s a bike trail that leads all the way from Petoskey to Traverse City.

Since we’re right next to the lake, and the section of the lake here is protected, it is an ideal location to go boating, which is what we did.  We paddled the Sea Eagle around the shore for about an hour.  Then we beached and started looking for Petoskey Stones.

The beach is covered in little rounded rocks, mostly pebbles but some as large as doughnuts.  Among these stones one is supposed to find little stones unique to the area with little geometric patterns on them.  I found some interesting candidates, but apparently they were just fossils.beach

Our neighbor, who was sitting in a beach chair, suddenly piped up, “Oh, look, your boat is drifting out to sea.”  Sure enough, we hadn’t properly moored the boat and it had set out on its own to Milwaukee.

Fortunately I’m traveling with an able-bodied seawoman.  Rebecca waded out in the rather chilly waters of Lake Michigan and retrieved our kayak, which fortunately was not using its paddles to escape.

After our paddle, we biked over to the Petoskey Brewing Company to sample the local brew, where we struck up a conversation with a couple from Kalamazoo.

sunset

Pedal, Paddle and Trudge

June 10
Ludington State Park
Miles traveled: 187
Wildlife: Deer, turkey, otter, chipmunk, ground squirrel

Ludington State Park is pitched among a long stretch of sand dunes that shields it from Lake Michigan, which the park borders.

FLS_5332Dunes here are a little different from those on the North Carolina coast. The first row of dunes, the equivalent of the “berm” on the N.C. island beaches, are mostly sand with some grass cover. They’re taller than the dunes at our coast.

Behind the first row of dunes are large, wooded hills, which, it turns out, are also dunes. There’s a thin layer of what you might call soil, which supports abundant plant life. But underneath that is a big hill of sand.

Our first encounter with these dunes was at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The inland dunes there were probably close to a hundred feet tall. We saw the word “Dunes” on the sign, so we decided to check it out. We went for a hike of a couple of miles that led us through the dunes to Lake Michigan.

Our next stop on the way to Ludington was Holland, Michigan. The drive into townFLS_5326 was through a neighborhood of elaborate houses on some kind of inlet. Once we got to town, the first thing we encountered was road construction closing the main intersection of the “quaint” part of Holland. We did find our way to the New Holland Brewing Company.

The road out of Holland was brutal. It was suggestive of the source of the strip shopping centers that have taken over the Triangle. The same stores, even the same “smart” street designs that have befouled the bypass around Holly Springs. The traffic rivaled that of that bypass.

FLS_5320

We arrived at Ludington State Park a couple of hours behind schedule, in part due to a grocery shopping venture where we left a bag of potato chips and the night’s dinner steaks on the grocery conveyor.

The park turned out to be just another awesome example of Bunky’s planning prowess. There are probably 500 “camp” sites (virtually all RVs) tucked amid the trees.

FLS_5368There’s an intricate trail system that circles through the inner dunes, with one trail leading tto Big Sable Point lighthouse on the shore of Lake Michigan. That’s a difficult trail (Rebecca labeled it moderate; there were a couple she passed on the way to the light house who, when we caught up with Rebecca, admired her perspicacity). The last mile to the light house was via a sand path; the ups and downs were not dramatic, not more than 30 or 40 feet, but trudging through deep sand for a mile is a challenge.

Our bikes came in quite handy. We were able to ride through all three campgrounds, as well as along a path that took us beside a lake and across a dam.

The paddling was today’s final event. We inflated the “Sea Eagle” and drove it to one of the inland lakes bordering the park, Hamlin Lake, and paddled about for an hour or so.

FLS_5363

We actually have another Class B camper (a Mercedes) in the spot next to ours. Camper vans are exceedingly rare so far on this journey.