Monday, February 1, 2016

Michigan Aug 2015 Tahquamennon Falls State Park, Paradise, MI Pasties and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

After what I felt was too brief a stay at Brimley-I would have liked another chance to visit Sault Ste Marie and paddle at the beach-we moved over (I say moved over because 1 hour+ doesn't feel like a real drive) to the Rivermouth campground at Tahquamennon Falls State Park.  There are two campgrounds (one is closer to the falls) and our was right alongside the river and smaller so it was supposed to be quieter.  It was for the most part, once the weekend-one of the last of summer- was over. Don would kayak the river once but for the most part our visit was spent hiking around the falls and visiting Paradise.

Our first day the weather was overcast and cold and we decided it was better for going to a museum than hiking at the falls, so we headed up to Paradise (thus completing a full circuit from Hell to Paradise and all while in Michigan) and then to Whitefish Point which juts into Lake Superior.  It is home to the Whitefish Point Light Station as well as the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum which was  our destination. Many people, at least of our vintage in North America, remember the Gordon Lightfoot song the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was Great Lakes freighter that sank in 1975 only 17 miles off shore from Whitefish Point. She was the largest freighter to ply those waters when she was launched in 1958 and remains the largest ever sunk. All 29 men onboard lost their lives and none have been recovered.  Some years ago a group of families after recovery efforts had failed had the bell from the freighter brought up to stand as a memorial to those who were lost.  There are controversies that surround the entire incident but what became clear at the museum was how many ships have gone down (over 350) and in a number of tragic circumstances.  The stories of many ships told and artifacts recovered from many of them are on display.  Lake Superior is a huge lake-the country of Austria could fit in it. At its deepest, the lake is 1,332 ft. / 406 m. deep and the shoreline is 2,726 miles / 4,385 km. The northern shore of Lake Superior is in Canada and the southern in the US.  The dangerous storms-nor'easters-tend to come in the fall months but the day we were there the wind was up and so were the waves.  After touring the museum we took a walk on the beach which was made up of smooth pebbles and to watch the waves.  We then traveled back into Paradise to have lunch at the Berry Patch Bakery and Restaurant.  Don went for the Lumberjack Breakfast but I opted for the local pasty which is pronounced PASS-tee and is much the same as the pasties from Cornwall in England.  In fact, it is the Cornish miners who came to the UP to mine copper who brought the recipe with them however, many ethnic groups adopted the pasty as it was reminiscent of similar items in their cuisine.

Tahquamennon Falls has two falls-the Upper Falls which are larger- and the Lower Falls in which one can paddle in boats for hire and cross to the area where climbing on the rocks and playing in the water is possible.  Having gotten a late start we ate lunch first at the Brew Pub at the Falls site.  The food was good, and the beer excellent.  After lunch we gathered Phoenix from the car and took her with us on the hike.  We walked along the Upper Falls trail first, which gave us several opportunities to look out at the Falls as well as two to walk down stairs (272 at the longer one) to the level of the falls, and then back up again.  Phoenix is not fond of the metal stairs with grates but she was a trooper and climbed all the way down and back.  Of course, the attention she got-especially from a group of teens from Detroit- made it worthwhile.  There are several informative signs along the path telling about the falls as well as identifying the various specimens of trees.   We then went over to the Lower Falls which looked more like a series of cataracts rather than falls.  In the stream above them people had built multiple cairns of balanced rocks and the path alongside was quite different.  As we were leaving the Falls I became engrossed in watching a chipmunk clean himself.  He had stopped on the side of the path and as I pulled out my camera he stopped for an instant, looked up at me and I swear shrugged his shoulders and went back to cleaning.  He scratched and he licked, he lifted each leg and licked it just as Cadbury does, stopping to scratch little itches with his teeth.  He turned and scratched his back and bent all the way over to clean every area he could reach and then he grabbed his tail and licked it from one end to the other.  Such entertainment!

Our visit to Tahquamennon was over the next day so we got ready to head west along the lake shore to our tour of Pictured Rocks..

Ohio Aug 2015 Cuyahoga National Park OH

When we started planning our trip west I read about the most underrated National Parks and one of them was Cuyahoga.   I knew nothing about it and since we would be going through OH we decided to visit.  However, while the park stretches from Akron to Cleveland there is no camping within the park and the campgrounds I found were either expensive or a long-ish drive.  We really didn't want to spend a long time driving there.  So, that was how we stayed at Maize Valley Winery over night and then the next day drove to the Boston Store Visitor's Center in the park and used the overflow parking lot.  We got there early enough to nab a place at the edge of the lot under the trees so Cadbury would not swelter.  We took Phoenix with us and went individually into the Visitor's Center which as small so doable in short time.

Now, a few things.  
One, having visited a fair number of National Parks we have become accustomed to excellent signage and information.  While hunting and pecking led to being able to retrieve a few items of interest I was underwhelmed with that which I found at the Boston Visitor Center which was one of the main areas in the park.
Two, while the park staff was very helpful in showing me the map of how to get to Blue Hen Falls, our first destination, we would find out they were not quite explicit enough.  
Three, we shortly determined that the main attraction to the park is the bicycle trail that runs along the canal.  Had we planned to spend a day or two riding the trail I think it would have been great. There are a number of sites scattered throughout the park but if you are not going to take a long bike ride to get to them you will need to drive or take the train that goes to each stop. However, with a dog in tow only the driving-our-own-car option was available.
Four, LOOMING overhead on huge concrete stanchions is the elevated I-80 highway and that certainly affected how we felt about the park.
Finally, five, when it has been dry for awhile and you plan to go see a waterfall it is worth ASKING if it is worth a long hike.  Ultimately, it was but because of the cool water in the pool not the glory of the falls.

The flowers were popular with like colored butterflies and a bee

Train station at Boston Mills

Walking under a major interstate highway whilst in a National Park was a new experience


So, with our handy dandy map and Phoenix on a leash, we set off.  We started walking but could not tell where to go.  This had a lot to do with a main road that we had to cross that didn't really look like one on the map and no clear signage ahead.  Luckily, we stopped and asked.  The guy who helped us had just returned and warned us that not only did we need to walk along the road for a short bit but that the sign was small, slightly obscured and easy to miss.   Forewarned, we found the turnoff with no trouble and proceeded up the path, and up and up and up.  It was great exercise and we had to stop frequently to take drinks of water.  We passed a few hikers who said "it goes back down don't worry" and we kept on.  There was another section that went along the road again but the path did go down and then relatively flat until we got to the stream and the falls.  The falls were more of a water coming-off-the-rocks-above-into-a-pool-below, but they were pretty, the water was cool, we could climb down and wade and Phoenix, who has always been resistant to even walking through mud puddles, happily went in and got soaked.  A young father came along with his 2 and 4 year old sons who were jumping off the rocks into the pool and scrambling under the falls and having a wonderful time.

 Rock at Blue Hen Falls

The lack of rain was evident in the lack of flow in the falls...

it was a virtual trickle but the pool below was cool and refreshing and Phoenix made her way into it

How little rainfall they had had was in evidence in this dried up pond on the walk to the falls

We ate our picnic lunch on the rocks and then, after some more water time, set back off to return. It was really hot and the walk tired us out so we happily got in the car with air conditioning and drove south to see if we could find the effigy mound that is not officially marked but which a ranger had told me could be found.  The road goes through residential areas and park land and is quite nice but we really felt a bike ride would have been a better option had we not had a dog.

along the path to the mound

Train station

the mound

We'd planned to find a place to park overnight and return the next day but decided that so much car travel was involved with getting to sites about which we were not excited but mildly interested that we would, instead, head west and see if we could arrive a day early at our next stop.  A quick call to determine we could and we set off west.  And now that time was a consideration we opted for I-80.  

Bad choice.