Upper Peninsula vacation, September 2006
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
We planned to get an early start this morning--about 6 AM--but as plans sometimes do, ours got changed. We were ready to leave around 6:30, but the light check on the boat trailer didn't go well. In fact, they didn't work at all, unless one of us ran behind the truck pressing the plug together. The electrical harness on the truck had corroded, and there was no metal contact left in one socket. Fortunately, our neighbors came to the rescue, one with a spare harness and the other with some wiring assistance. Finally, we rolled down the driveway at 9:00.
Our bad fortune wasn't over. On the way out of Lowell, we caught a rock that left a chip in the truck's windshield! Fortunately, things seemed to settle down after that. The morning fog lifted, and the day turned out to be beautiful, with mostly sunny skies and light breezes. We had lunch in Mackinaw City, then headed to the UP. Grand Marais seemed even smaller than we remembered it (from previous trips for kayak symposia). It certainly was quiet in town. We checked in at the North Shore Lodge, then drove out to view the channel, marina and town. We ate dinner at the lodge, then took a brief walk to the beach. I was able to receive the weather channels much better on my marine radio there than in our room, and we arrived just in time to view a beautiful full moon rise over the bay. With the best of luck, we sail tomorrow along the Grand Sable Dunes of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
As is often the case with Lake Superior, the weather changes quickly. We heard occasional thunder overnight and early in the morning. When the alarm went off at 6:00 AM, we decided to roll over and sleep a little longer. The morning forecast showed a storm over Marquette--it would be moving our way over the next few hours. We canceled the morning sail, opting instead for a trip to Seney Wildlife Refuge. We arrived at the information center just as the storm broke, so were able to wait it out while watching a slide show. Once the rain stopped, we took the driving tour. The State Forest campground at the East Branch of the Fox River served as our lunch site, then we headed back to Grand Marais. The winds were still at 10-15 knots with higher gusts, but had shifed to the WSW. That meant having to tack upwind to get to the Grand Sable Dunes, and a more difficult return in the bay at Grand Marais. We decided to drive into the National Lakeshore and do some short hikes. The weather was clear and sunny. We hiked to Sable Falls, then visited the headquarters before heading to the Logslide overview. After dinner at the motel, we took a bottle of wine down to the beach along with our chairs and watched the sun set. A beautiful full moon rose shortly after. We finished the evening with a moonlit walk out to the breakwater and then to the marina and back. Tomorrow we head to Munising. The weather is forecast to be a bit unsettled for the next couple days, so we have reservations there at a motel.
Grand Sable Dunes
September 8, 2006
It rained pretty hard this morning. We ate breakfast at the hotel, loaded the truck between downpours, hitched the trailer and headed for Munising. It rained until we arrived. Sunset Motel on the Bay is perfect--right on the bay and nice rooms. The owner was very pleasant. We parked the trailer, ate lunch in our room, then did a little exploring.
The boat launch at Sand Point is too shallow for us, but the municiple launch looks just fine. We started exploring Munising--Kathy checked out a couple antique shops--and stopped into the Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore for a cup of tea. I asked about the book Adventure Bound by Carl Behrend. I had discovered his book (about his 1999 circumnavigation of Lake Superior with his daughter on a 16 foot catamaran) when I was researching our vacation on the Internet. The cafe owner informed me she had sold the last of her copies then preceeded to call a couple local places to see if they had a copy for me. Then she called the author, who was just getting ready to head into town on some errands. He stopped by the cafe with a copy of his book! We had a brief visit with him, then ended up buying not only that book, but another book he wrote and two CDs he has made with his ballads about the Great Lakes. He was kind enough to autograph his two books. What great service from the cafe owner and Carl!
We ate dinner at the Brownstone Inn just west of Au Train. The meal was excellent. For the U.P., this is top-end dining. We finished dinner with their apple tart, which included brandy-soaked raisins and vanilla ice cream.
The weather forecast is improving over the one issued this morning. We might be able to get on the water tomorrow afternoon or Sunday. We've decided to extend our stay here through Sunday night.
Saturday, September 9, 2006
It was chilly this morning with a steady NE wind at around 10 knots. We decided to take some short hikes in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore while the temperatures improved a bit for sailing. We went to see Miners Falls and Miners Castle, then returned to town to fuel the truck. The winds had increased to around 15 knots. Waves were one foot or less on the Bay, but the winds were causing whitecaps to form on most of them. Kathy got nervous about heading out on the boat, so we changed plans and went for a longer hike after lunch. We did the loop around Chapel Lake, taking in Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, Chapel Beach and a side trip to Mosquito Falls--7.6 miles in all. It made for a beautiful walk, with plenty of variety. I can certainly see while Chapel Beach is a popular camping destination.
Chapel Rock and Chapel Falls
We've packed for a possible sail to Grand Island tomorrow. The weather prediction calls for temperatures in the low 40's tomorrow morning, but winds of 5-10 knots from the NE, shifting to the SE during the day and waves under two feet. We're planning to dress warmly for the sail, then change clothes to hike the island.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
We had a great sail today! Leaving the ramp around 9:30, we headed out to Grand Island in calm conditions--waves less than one foot and winds probably 2-8 knots from the NE. We traveled up the east side of the island to Trout Bay, crossing the mouth to look into the bay. We spotted an eagle and watched it fly for a while. A crossing to Pictured Rocks would have been easy, but the sun was still shining from the east and would not have contributed to photography. Another choice was to circumnavigate the island. Kathy opted for the third--return south then head to William's Landing at the west mouth of Murray Bay. We arrived at the landing with bladders ready to burst and headed straight to the outhouses. Once we secured the boat, we ate lunch then hiked into Murray Bay to view the campsites, stopping to see the cemetary and the Stone Quarry Cabin, the oldest structure on the island. After enjoying an apple at the fire ring at the campsites, we briefly visited Duck Lake before returning to the landing, a total hike of approximately 4.8 miles. A man in a older SUV stopped us as we were approaching the dock to see if we were in need of assistance. He was worried that the last ferry to the mainland had left almost an hour earlier, and we appeared to be stranded on the island. After reassuring him we had our own transportation, we learned that he was Loren Graham, the author of a book about the history of the island and its Chippewa inhabitants.
Sailing along Grand Island
As we were hiking, we noticed the winds had increased to the 15 knot range, with gusts approaching 20 knots. There were whitecaps blowing up on the water. This change in weather concerned Kathy a bit, and we decided to sit for a while to see if they might slacken. Finally, I checked the marine radio for a forecast: a predicted 15 knots into the evening. So, we prepped the boat for a return trip. I planned a circuitous route back to the launch to try to make the trip as comfortable for Kathy as possible. Sailing relatively close hauled and letting the sail out a bit, I kept our speed down and headed for the east side of Munising Bay. Once there we turned down wind and sailed past our hotel, back across the bay, and turned upwind again to approach the launch. Kathy dropped the main as I got the motor in the water, and we cruised in for a perfect landing. We sailed some 23-25 miles today!
Monday, September 11, 2006
Just a short distance from our motel is a trailhead that could be easily missed, being marked only by a small sign and wooden staircase going into the woods along the road. The trail is narrow and a little rugged, but leads into a pretty gorge with Tannery Falls at its head. Just to the east in the next gorge we discovered Memorial Falls. These falls are much more private than the other two falls we would investigate this morning, Alger and Wagner. We enjoyed photographing and walking behind the two hidden falls.
Kathy inspects Tannery Falls
Our morning got off to a late start as we slept in a little, ate a light breakfast in our room, then moved our belongings to the adjacent room. I opened up the trimaran to air out and hung up our mooring and anchor lines to dry, then we went off to hunt down the local waterfalls. We returned to the motel for lunch. We had purchased tickets for the 4:30 Pictured Rocks Boat Tour.
The boat tour was nice, even though we tend to avoid the typical tourist attractions. It wasn't crowded like we had seen it over the weekend. It was a bit chilly, but we had dressed appropriately, fortunately wearing rain gear as an outer layer to protect us from the spray. We shot a lot of pictures of the passing cliffs and rock formations. We had another eagle siting. The return trip had one exciting moment when the boat hit something underwater, possibly a submerged log. A diver met the boat at the docks to inspect the hull and screw for damage.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
We seem to be able to time the weather pretty well to allow us to travel on rainy days. It misted most of the day as we traveled from Munising to Marquette, then on to Big Bay. Just outside Munising, near Christmas, lies Bay Furnace, the remains of an old iron processing furnace. We briefly toured the site before heading west. We stopped at a couple shops in Marquette; an employee at Getz, a large clothing store, recommended Upfront & Company for lunch. What a neat place! They had an interesting menu in an interesting setting. It looks like they have quite the party on weekends, with a stage and dance floor. We may return there for another meal. We found a Walmart Supercenter just outside Marquette where we stocked up on groceries, then headed to Big Bay. Kathy had arranged for us to stay at the Big Bay Depot Motel, but once we arrived and surveyed the grounds, we quickly changed our plans. The place was in need of painting, and the front yard was strewn with dilapidated furniture. Jumping back into the truck, we drove into town and stopped at the Thunder Bay Inn. This old inn was the site of the filming for Anatomy of a Murder, based on a book by the same name about a murder that happened at the Lumberjack Tavern in town. The rain stopped just before we had to unload the truck. After getting settled in and touring the various rooms, we drove around to locate the lighthouse, where we have reservations for Thursday night, and the launch sites for Big Bay and Lake Independence.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
After sleeping in a little and a casual breakfast in the room, we strolled downstairs to extend our stay here another night. Our plan today was to sail on either the Bay or Lake Independence, and with the marine forecast calling for 10-15 knot winds out of the north, we opted for the smaller lake. Aside from a few fisherman, Lake Independence was deserted. It's rimmed with cottages, and I'm sure it's buzzing with activity in the summer, but for now all was quiet. We launched from the boat ramp, which was a little shallow. We really had to get the trailer in quite a way before the boat could be floated off. With almost no waves, our sailing was smooth. We sailed by the old Henry Ford lumber mill, its giant smokestack dominating the horizon. As the afternoon progressed, the winds subsided, and by evening, it was very casual sailing. The day turned out to be quite sunny and the temperatures must have been in the low 70's. It's nice to be able to blow a whole day putzing around a lake on a sailboat--very relaxing. Dinner tonight was downstairs in the Inn. They served good food in large quantities at a reasonable cost. We discussed how we could get use to this life, but would need to have more exercise. Kathy suggested a walk after dinner, so that's what we did. First, though, we explored the third floor of the inn, which is in the midst of remodeling. They have one great room, with a large semicircular window that overlooks the old Ford lumber mill and Lake Independence. Our walk took us down to the street to the grocery and gas station, then into the park we used earlier to launch the boat. We walked their short nature trail and around their campground then headed back to the inn for the night.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Today's activities had to be scheduled around our check-in time at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse. The inn-keepers requested that we be there between 4-6, and were planning an introduction and tour at 5. So we didn't want to do any sailing or extensive hiking (even though the weather was ideal for either with light winds and temperatures in the low 70's), because we wouldn't really be presentable. We headed to Marquette to investigate the town further. We walked around down by the marina and the small shopping district. Lunch was at Upfront & Company again, since we had such a good meal there two days ago. While we were eating, we noticed their bar, which had a stone front, something we hadn't seen before. I snapped a picture in case we decide to do something like that in the basement. After lunch we took in two waterfalls (Reany Creek Falls and Dead River Falls), then drove around Presque Isle park. A lady we met at Dead River Falls suggested we hike further up river to find additional falls, but we were under a time limit.
Dead River Falls
We had left the boat at Thunder Bay Inn so as not to have to drag it around Marquette. We picked it up on our way through town then headed to the lighthouse, where we were greeted by the inn-keeper and owner. He showed us around the establishment and to our rooms. Kathy and I climbed the tower to see the view, then returned downstairs just in time for the presentation by his wife on the history of the inn.
Big Bay Point Lighthouse
We ate dinner at the Thunder Bay Inn again, then headed back to the lighthouse for sunset. We were joined at the top of the tower by a couple from North Carolina and Ann from Chicago. We watched the sun set, visited for a bit, then headed inside for tea by the fireplace.
Friday, September 15, 2006
The weather was fantastic again today, with temperatures in the upper 70's and plenty of sunshine. We had a good breakfast at the lighthouse, then packed up to head back to Munising. As we arrived in Marquette, the freighter Michipicoten was entering the ore docks, so we stopped and watched it dock. We made a stop at the Walmart to get some ice and groceries, then headed back to the Sunset Motel on the Bay for another few nights. After unloading and unhitching the trailer, we went to see Laughing Whitefish Falls. Dinner was a return trip to the Brownstone Inn, where we had another great meal. They offered an orchard pie for desert that contained cherries, apricots and peaches--they served it warm with ice cream on top (and two spoons). It was awesome! We also picked up Loren Graham's book, A Face in the Rock.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
The alarm went off at 7:00 this morning--I wasn't ready to get up. We tuned in the weather radio to find them forecasting 15 knot south winds increasing to 20 knots toward noon. I think a sail along the coast would have been fine, but Kathy was looking doubtful, so we settled on taking the ferry over to Grand Island for some hiking. We caught the 9:00 departure. Expecting to find a "ferry", we were amused to see a regular pontoon boat in service. They could only take seven passengers at a time, so they made multiple trips across the short crossing.
We started up the West Perimeter Trail to Mather Beach, then took connecting trails across to Trout Bay, where we ate lunch. Our pace became more leisurely as we turned south to Murray Bay, because we still had plenty of time before the 3:30 ferry departure. A camper approached us as we were taking a break at Murray Bay asking about the forecast. He was in a canoe and looking to cross back to the mainland. The waves coming down the bay were too imposing for him to cross. We gave him the news about the winds staying up for the rest of the afternoon. He would hold up until evening hoping for better conditions. We arrived back at Williams Landing with about 45 minutes to spare, so we tried to keep out of the wind and donned our long underwear tops.
Grand Island views
Tea and a shower felt good when we returned to the motel. We watched part of the demolition of Notre Dame by Michigan on TV before turning it off in disgust and heading for dinner. We haven't been overly impressed by any of the Munising restraunts with their emphasis on fried foods; we made reservations for tomorrow night at the Brownstone Inn again.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The forecast this morning called for south winds 10-15 knots becoming 15-20 knots with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. We headed to Hurricane River Campground in Pictured Rocks to hike out to AuSable Lighthouse. The stable flies were a bit of a problem, so we headed out to the beach to complete the hike--it was prettier out there anyway. We investigated the lighthouse and associated buildings, then meandered back along the beach to the truck. It started raining just as we reached it.
The rain didn't last long; in fact, it got quite nice shortly after. We stopped to see Munising Falls, then returned to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner. Kathy suggested we change plans, cancel the dinner reservations and go sailing instead. I, of course, immediately agreed. We hitched the boat and headed for the launch. The winds had increased by the time we got to the launch, running about 12 knots with gusts in the 15-17 knot range. We launched and headed out along the west shore of the harbor. Just as we turned west around the point to sail in the shelter of the shore, a wide band of clouds appeared to the south. A strong gusting wind accompanied the cloud. We decided to turn around and head for home. Rounding the point, I found a gusting headwind in the 15-20 knot range. Kathy dropped the mainsail on cue and we motored back into building waves. Unfortunately, the halyard got loose on Kathy and ended up flailing high above our heads, finally tangling itself around the mast head, so we became entirely dependent on the motor for propulsion. On a good note, the little electric motor was able to maintain headway in those winds and waves, and we made our way slowly back to the launch (some 2-3 miles). It took us maybe 45 minutes to make it back with the motor set at 100%. The battery was reading just under 2/3 capacity when we made it back, so I was pretty pleased with its performance.
Another beautiful sunset from our hotel
Monday, September 18, 2006
It was sunny but windy today. We got up in good time and started packing for the return trip. After hitching the trailer and fueling up in town (it's good to see the price of gas slowly coming down since we've been on vacation), we headed south. Our trip home would bring us by way of Fayette, an old iron smelting town and Manistique. Fayette was very interesting. The park service is doing a good job of restoring the old ghost town and erecting educational displays around the old buildings.
Manistique was fairly uninteresting except for a very nice board walk along the shore. It was too windy to take advantage of it, but it looked nice. We ate a good lunch at the Upper Crust Deli and Cafe by the marina.
The trip home was long, but uneventful until we got into Ionia County. I had just taken over driving for Kathy, and noticed the trailer license plate appeared to be missing. We stopped to inspect it, and found it hanging twisted from one chain. The other chain had worn through the cheap metal of the plate. We made a temporary fix with duct tape and finished our trip. It was a great vacation!