Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Chasing waterfalls

Yooper Trip Station 3: Lake Gogebic

I think it could be just the deeply-rooted Aquarian personality in me, but I just love the ocean, lakes, and rivers... anything water-related really. Now, waterfalls - that's another level. I’ll never tire of looking at waterfalls. It's magical, it's moving (haha), it's chaotic, and unpredictable all at once. And the Porcupine Mountains have plenty to offer.

But first, the lake. Lake Gogebic is Michigan's largest inland lake, which lies at the west side of the Upper Peninsula. We rented a lodge that had this view at dusk. What more can I ask for?

And it wasn't too shabby in the morning either. AJ's walleye lodge doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's really comfortable and well-equipped inside. They even had games that kept the kids occupied while Eric and I made dinner. We also enjoyed some fun family games when it was raining hard.


But when the weather is nice, we are outside "explorigating!" as our family say. The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, or "Porkies" was bigger than expected. We had to drive for 25 miles going from one part to another and the time zone changes inside the park depending on where you are. The popular destination for everyone visiting the Porkies is the Lake of the Clouds. It sits in a valley between two ridges in the Porcupine Mountains and an accessible overlook offers view to the stunning vistas. It is perhaps the most photographed feature in the Porkies. I can only imagine how even more stunning the view is in autumn. 

The Porkies also have many wonderful trails. The ranger at the visitor center suggested the ~3 mile East and West River Trail Loop that the kids could find enjoyable. She also said that we can turn back if it's too much for the 4 yo. The scenic loop follows along the banks of the Presque Isle River and showcases 3 major waterfalls: Manabezho, Manido and Nawadaha, and a few other smaller falls and rapids. We started our trail on the west side which had several sections of boardwalks and stairs and a suspension bridge at the end, which gives you a great view of the gorges. 

After crossing the bridge, there is a small path to the beach at the mouth of the Presque Isle river, which makes for a great picnic lunch spot while  enjoying Lake Superior. The kids also enjoyed building rock towers - think Jengga in nature.

After a leisurely lunch break, we started our trek back on the East side.  This trail is a lot more challenging for little kids than the West side.  No wonder the ranger said we could turn back. But Maya did amazing - she even came up with a game to look for what roots look like, and Tamar enjoyed all the root-climbing, of course. The East trail does have some precarious drop as you really walk along the edge, so you have to take great caution when hiking with kids. Don't worry, mom, we held on to those 2 very tightly! You can even see my finger in the picture below.


Manabhezo Falls

We decided to close the day with a last hike to the Summit Peak Observation tower. It is supposed to be one of the most popular attractions in the park, but we saw very few people on our way there and had the tower to ourselves when we got up.  It’s a cool hike, the tower is fun climb, and the view is great too. But since Eric is not fond of heights, we didn't stay long. Also, after seeing the view at Lake of the Clouds, the view from the tower felt anti-climactic. I suggest going here first before visiting the Lake of the Clouds.

On our last day, we decided to head to Ontonagon to see the town and let the rain let up. The town was small and they happened to have a car show during the Labor day weekend, so there was a good size crowd in spite of the weather. We ate breakfast at a packed Syl's cafĂ©. One place I'd suggest visiting if you're every in this area is the Nonesuch gallery. It's a cool local store (yes, owned by Yoopers!) selling handmade quilts, aprons, and even guitars that the artistic couple make!

When the heavy rain finally let up, we went to see Bond Falls. Bond Falls in Paulding MI is perhaps the most impressive waterfall aside from Tahquamenon Falls. In fact, it could give Tahquamenon Falls a run for its money. The main drop is 40 feet high and 100+ feet wide, so it appears different depending on which angle you're looking from. Above the main falls are a series of cascades and rapids, which you can see up close if you climb up the sides. On the right side, there's a slippery cement stairs; on the left, an even more treacherous dirt trail. One can literally walk right into the waterfalls. But the best view, is still from the bottom, which is accessible by a boardwalk. So, no need to go James Bond for this one. Haha.

Bond falls was breathtaking and it was a great cap to our wonderful summer family trip.

Monday, September 11, 2017

What lies beyond the fog

Yooper Trip Station 2: Marquette

Um...Maya, honey, we said pout.
After our 3 days in Mackinaw city, it was time for us to move westward and headed to our 2nd home base in Marquette courtesy of Airbnb. On the agenda to Marquette was a trip to Munising to see Pictured Rocks, Miners Castle and Miners Falls. What's interesting about the Pictured Rocks is that these are cliffs made of formations of PreCambrian and Paleozoic age sandstone and the layers represent different periods of time, sources of sediment, and physical characteristics creating colorful patterns, ergo the name.  We took the 2.5 h ferry cruise that was supposed to take us to Pictured Rocks and other sights, but... nada. The fog was so thick, the captain had to blow his horn every 2 minutes and after an hour in the fog, the boat was finally turned around and we got a refund. Oh well, we tried.

We were undeterred to see the other sights, so we drove to the trail that eventually showed us Miners Castle from 2 overlooks instead of a vantage point from Lake Superior. You know what they say - try and try until the fog lifts... or something to that effect. Sadly, the fog didn't lift and there was no trail that could take us to the Pictured Rocks, so that one will have to be chalked up for our next U.P. trip. BUT, technically, Miners Castle is the most famous formation of the Pictured Rocks, so I guess we saw a bit of it, just not its entirety.

We then took a short 1.2 mile hike to Miners Falls. This falls was fairly easily accessed, light foot traffic, and with 2 look out platforms. Some adventurous souls climbed down to the riverbed, but the slope is steep and slippery and definitely not for us. Although Miners Falls was beautiful, it definitely didn't impress after previously seeing the Tahquamenon Falls. However, the trail itself was a great trail which even the littlest one, our Maya, enjoyed.

We had bad weather on our second day at Marquette, which forced us to do some indoor activities.  Thankfully, Marquette had a great Children's museum.  While a lot smaller in size than the Children's museum in Ann Arbor or in St. Paul, the museum at Marquette offered unique features. For one, they had rescued animals - boa constrictor, which you can see is wound on Tamar's shoulders, turtles, geckos, bearded dragons, turtle doves etc. It was exactly what we needed, and the kids were happy! 

When the weather cleared up the following morning, we went to Presque Isle Park, took a short walk, and looked for agates.  Maya found some small ones. We also soaked in a great view of the Marquette lighthouse. You can actually walk to it, but at your own risk. The waves and winds were fairly strong that day and no one dared walk the catwalk to the lighthouse.  The  

The sun eventually came out and we went to get a good long hike at Sugarloaf mountain.  Initially, Maya was not feeling up to hiking so hubby and Tamar went ahead.  I was kind of bummed out, but wasn't going to force it. But after snacking in the car, she decided she wanted to follow dad and big sister. So, up we went the easy trail. There's a difficult trail choice which was steeper, but shorter. The easy trail was longer, but tamer and with stairs for the steep parts, so Maya could manage it.  When I said stairs, I meant many, many stairs. About 4/5 of the way, she had enough of the stairs and didn't want to go anymore. Argggh!!! I can't go this far and not see the peak.... I resorted to cajoling and bribing. She agreed to do it for chocolates. What can I say? She's my daughter through and through.  At the top, what a reward! We got a a stunning view! There are 3 viewing platforms where you can face southward toward Marquette and you can see the Superior Dome,  the "world’s largest wooden dome", on another platform you can get a view of Little Presque Isle island, and on the third, you get a great view of Hogsback Mountain. At the top, you can't miss the monument erected long ago by Boy Scout Troop 1. It commemorates their assistant scoutmaster, Bartlett King, who established the local troop, and later fought and died in World War I. Supposedly, his troop members built the memorial so that King's mother could see it from her home on Marquette. 

But the best part?  Maya didn't give up, and she was so proud of herself!

Then it was time to move on to our 3rd home base near the Porcupine Mountains. Along the way, we stopped at Canyon Falls. It's a really pretty gorge, and lots of great trees, but we couldn't stay long since we had a ways to go and dinnertime was quickly approaching. Still, we're glad we did the side trip and I'm happy to recommend this to those considering this route.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Song of Hiawatha

The Song of Hiawatha
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?
  I should answer, I should tell you,
"From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer."
  Should you ask where Nawadaha
Found these songs so wild and wayward,
Found these legends and traditions,
I should answer, I should tell you,
"In the bird's-nests of the forest,
In the lodges of the beaver,
In the hoof-prints of the bison,
In the eyry of the eagle!
  "All the wild-fowl sang them to him,
In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the melancholy marshes;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!"
  If still further you should ask me,
Saying, "Who was Nawadaha?
Tell us of this Nawadaha,"
I should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow.
  "In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in Summer, white in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.
  "And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.
  "There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!"
  Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;--
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye who love a nation's legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from afar off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and childlike,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken;--
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;--
Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barberry-bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected graveyard,
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter;--
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this Song of Hiawatha!