Sunday, September 19, 2021

Moving Along to Munising

Munising, MI  High: 64  Low: 54.  AT&T service excellent  Site: 49 back in

It only took us an hour and a half to drive from Grand Marais to Munising, to the Munising Tourist Park Campground. Eldo likes those short drives! We are in a very nice site, but not on the water. That's ok. You'd have everyone walking in front of your rig walking up and down the beach. We are here for four days. There is so much to do in this area, that four days is not enough for sure. This is our second time here, so we thought we could get 'er done in the time we were here. Nope!

Tons of waterfalls, more than ten, visiting the beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area, kayaking the Pictured Rocks area, which the true amazing beauty of the rock formations are best seen from a  boat tour, or a glass bottom boat shipwreck tour, hikes through the Hiawatha Forest, visiting the Grand Island National Recreational area by ferry, seven lighthouses, short hikes, long hikes, art murals downtown Munising, mountain biking trails, ATV adventures, the scenic drive along Highway 58 from Munising to Grand Marais, and Kitch-iti-kipi and Manistique. It's all here and no way can we begin to do justice to the area in four days. So Sparky has listed the highlights, and we are just going to have to come back to the area again! Be sure to get the 2021 Guide to the Wild Places, Munising, Home of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 

 Our site is off to the side in the park and is VERY spacious. We have water and electric but no sewer. It appears to be a newer site as it has a brand new electric post with 50 amp service. Many of the sites at the Munising Tourist RV park do not have sewer, they are just water and electric, but some of the sites do have sewer. You just have to pay careful attention when booking. This is a park that you have to book WA-A-A-Y out in advance to get a site on Lake Superior. We booked in May and couldn't get a waterfront site then. There's more driftwood here, and somebody built a teepee! Sparky is in there somewhere...

There is a LOT to do here, lots of hiking trails, mountain biking trails (Sparky doesn't have the right kind of bike for that) and anywhere from 10-13 waterfalls, (Sparky keeps seeing a difference in the number) most of which we've seen years ago, but of course, Sparky wants to revisit! Tomorrow it's going to rain all day, so Sparky has her work cut out for her, time for planning!

We ate at the Dogpatch Restaurant in Munising this evening....VERY old and quaint restaurant, great burgers....There's an old jalopy out in front of the restaurant...missed a photo of it! The inside of the restaurant is all about Lil Abner and Daisy and characters (cartoon strip from many many years ago) and a very folksy menu tops out the theme. Sparky barely remembers Lil Abner! That was a cartoon strip that ran from 1934 to 1977.
On our rainy day, we explored some back roads where Eldy used to go snowmobiling over 30 years ago. Some places had really changed, some had not. We ate supper at a place called the Buckhorn Resort, an updated restaurant that dates back to the 1930's. The food was all right, nothing amazing...They have bird feeders in front of the glass windows overlooking Hovey Lake, a beautiful lake. Woodpeckers and finches visited the feeders while we were there. Sparky wished she had had her nice point and shoot camera, which she didn't. This big chair reminds Sparky of Lily Tomlin playing Edith Ann, talking in that funny nasal voice, was that the Laugh In show? 

If you are in Munising, be sure to check out the art/mural displays all over town. Interesting snippets of history and representations of life in the Lake Superior/UP area.
Time for some waterfalls (there are FOURTEEN? of them in the Munising area!)....and a hike. Sparky tried to drive to the  Chapel Rock/Falls Basin loop hike. It's 15 miles east along H-58 to Chapel Hill Road, then a sandy dirt county road for 5 miles to park at the trailhead. The road disintegrated very rapidly from heavy rains the day before, especially after the county road responsibility ends. After a bone jarring, tooth shaking severe bumpy ride with deep hidden water filled potholes, with 2.8 miles still to go and the road getting worse, Sparky bailed and turned around. The potholes were HUGE and even with a 4 wheel drive big Ram truck, the amount of bouncing around in the truck was concerning. Sparky was also worried about being able to 
park in usually small trailhead parking lots with the big dually. On the way back, was Miner's Castle Overlook and two trails--Sand Point and North Country Trail. Sparky stopped there and got a couple of photos and did a short hike on Sand Point. The photo at the left is Miner's Castle. 

Sand Point is mostly just a pretty walk thru the forest, a little on the boring side. Sparky likes uphill and down, tree roots, boulders, stuff like that! (Until she takes her first spill, which I hope never happens, explains E. She's a trooper, that's for sure!) North Country Trail might have been the better choice. Then she tried to stop by Miner's Falls parking lot to see the falls and couldn't find a spot for the big truck to park. It was noon and very crowded.

Rainbow Cave
Back to the rig to reassess other possible hikes and let's take a Pictured Rocks boat tour! About two hours for 48.00 a person if you want to go all the way to Spray Falls, and 40.00 for a slightly shorter ride. Great boat cruise, you learn a lot about the geology of the rocks and learn some of the names of the rock formations--Chapel Rock, Battleship Row, Indian Point, Lover's Leap and more. Our guide was interesting and humorous. But we feel the extra 8.00 for the slightly longer trip just to see Spray Falls was not worth it, and the shorter, cheaper one would be just as cool. 

The best time of the day to go for the lighting and photos is the later times of the day offered. We took the 5:00 cruise. It was a wavy, choppy day, so sit in the front of the boat for less rockin' and rollin'. BUT--wear a raincoat because the front of the catamaran boat front seats gets spray from the bow plowing through the water! We got pretty wet! It was a lot colder on the water this time of year (mid September) so wear warm layers as well. 
On our last day at Munising....We drove back to Miner's Falls and managed to get in the parking lot. That was THE most beautiful walk, .6 of a mile one way through the most beautiful forest to see the falls. They did not disappoint!

The Miner's Falls are pictured below....
We also hit Au Train Falls which wasn't much of a falls at all this time of year...rather, cascading water down a series of shale rock shelves.
Then, we decided to go find Kitch-Iti-Kipi, (an Ojibwa word) also known as the famous Big Spring in Manistique, MI, about an hour from Munising, and off we went. What a great choice that was!

The Big Spring, is located at Palm Book State Park in Manistique. It is an amazingly beautiful spring that is constantly being fed to the pond water which is the coolest teal green you have ever seen. 
Sparky's photos do not do it justice. The reflections of the pines bouncing off the water just add to its beauty. The views below the glass bottom of the raft are incredible, with the fish swimming below.

It is right inside the park and a short distance from the parking lot by the gift 
shop. There is a glass bottom raft that is people propelled across the short spring. It is so rudimentary, that the park doesn't man it with anybody who works for the park, at least they didn't at this time of day or year--5:00 PM, mid September. A bunch of people show up, walk down to the raft entrance, get on, (the maximum is about 35 people), then someone offers to turn the ship wheel which starts the pulley moving the raft very slowly across the spring, which takes about 10-15 minutes depending on how steady the wheel gets turned. 

You know there are people waiting back at the start to get on, so you don't dilly dally so everybody gets a turn at the wheel if they want to, or stand and take in the views at the railing in the middle of the raft. It's really a very efficient sharing process. Everybody sort of takes turns turning the wheel, at least they did when we went. It is not easy to turn it! Then the rest of us gawk at the amazing greenish blue beauty of the 45 foot spring and as soon as we reach the other side, we head back again, each of us taking turns turning the wheel. Look at the color of the water! WOWZA!

No park ranger telling you to keep your arms and elbows inside the raft, nobody warning you not to drop your phone in the spring, etc. etc. It's really pretty amazing that the park just expects you to do the right thing and take turns helping each other enjoy the little trip and a brief moment of spectacular views. Sparky couldn't decide which views were the most spectacular, so she put lots of them in the blog.

You can see about 40 feet down, and a variety of fish (trout, perch) swimming underneath. The water temperature is a constant 45 degrees year round.
There are bubbling springs underneath on the bottom that you can see as well. The spring flows at a rate of more than 10,000 gallons A MINUTE! So cool. We saw herons in the spring area, a duck who meandered close by for quite awhile, who just kept watching us, probably amused at this funny looking craft that keeps going back and forth all day long. "Don't they get tired doing that?"

And with the day drawing to a close, we headed back home to our RV park in Munising, to pack things up and get ready to leave tomorrow for some more hop, skips, and a jump-(she means short driving trips, explains Eldo) to get back closer to Indiana. The next time you hear from us, we will be in "crack donut" country--Howe, Indiana and home of Sparky's favorite fabric stores...Yoder's and Lolly's, and the Rise and Roll Bakery which has the most amazing caramel cinnamon donuts. (Uh-oh, and here I thought we were going to get rid of some of our extra weight, worries E.) Hey, all's fair in love and war. Eldo just bought his 4th rocking chair from Camping World, as the three previous ones all broke in the same place. And this new chair, is a HEAVY one! We are trying to watch our weight with the items inside the RV as well as on our physical persons, haha, but it's a losing battle all the way around....See you next time!
Another Pictured Rocks boat tour

Monday, September 13, 2021

Lakefront Property? Our First

Grand Marais, MI   Woodland RV Park.  High: 64.  Low: 55. Site: 10, back in, lake front view   AT&T cell service excellent

We booked this park in May, having never seen it before, but it had good reviews. We've had to book VERY far ahead for both private and membership Thousand Trails parks because of all the people out on the roads now, many newbies and the already seasoned travelers out in full force. So far, we have been doing pretty well with our reservations. It's not easy picking out campgrounds and making travel plans that far in advance but Eldo does a whiz bang job of it. He uses RV Parky, the app, and also Trip Wizard to figure out how far from one destination to the next and spends a LOT of time working out all the details. (Sparky is too ADD to do the research, unless it's a craft project, haha.)

So here we are in the Woodland RV Park in Grand Marais. It's a city owned park, it's beautiful, AND we scored a lakefront site with a terrific view of Lake Superior!

Grand Marais is a VERY small town that has been hit hard by the fallout from Covid. There is a very small grocery store in town (which is excellent for its size) and a couple of small taverns and that's about it. We ate a simple meal at the Dunes Saloon, the Lake Superior Brewing Company. It was just ok, (Just ok? asks E. Yep, just ok.) But it had a cool vibe inside. Check out that ceiling just above the sign!

No restaurants that serve breakfast, one of our favorite things to do on a Sunday, but Sparky has discovered a couple of food trucks that have breakfast burritos, so she's ok with that! No hiking or biking trails, but hey--there's Lake Superior and the beach right outside your front door. Gotta love walking the beach here with these cool structures people have built out of the existing driftwood.

The beach is VERY rocky right at the park's front edge. It's not easy to walk the beach. The sand shifts's loose, not packed. If you are a rock hound, THIS IS THE PLACE TO BE! People assume the rockhound stance, and can be found zealously searching for Petosky stones and agates all along the water's edge. Sparky saw a lot of butts and buckets today, haha. Too hard for her aching back. Besides, she wouldn't have a clue what to look for, other than a "pretty rock" souvenir. (Whew! We absolutely do NOT need any more weight in the rig! says a relieved Eldo.)

BUT--Sparky could become a rock hound easily if she had more time to learn about it. (Uh-oh! Sparky, we have a weight limit in the rig, and we are already exceeding it due to--your crafts supplies? warns E.) Geesh, she was only thinking about it....haha.

Sparky went to a rock hound show next door this weekend, and it was really interesting. To the novice, it just looks like a bunch of rocks. Can you really tell the difference between a 2.00 rock and a 3.00 rock? A rockhound aficionado can!

Sparky learned that this is an Omar...a rock with an indentation made from another rock which was previously embedded in it. A vendor gave her a little souvenir of one from the show for free!

It was very interesting to see all the different locations around the world and variations of agates and rocks that had been collected at the show. There was something called a pudding rock, vendors were describing how the rocks were formed and the differences between them. It was just a completely foreign world to Sparky! She just can't get her head wrapped around paying 3.00 on up for rocks that you can find at the beach up here in the U.P.! They ARE beautiful in the water when they are wet.

The birches and/or aspens that had fallen into the sand and water were still beautiful.....
People love to stack rocks and make fake cairns....Cairns are supposed to be indicators or landmarks on a hiking trail, but at the beach, people are just enjoying the childlike side of themselves by stacking rocks. 
Here's another one....
And here is some of Mother Nature's artwork.....
This is part of the shoreline...VERY unstable walking and many more rocks than what is shown here, but there is a nice beach with a lot more sand down the road just a bit.
Here is a better view of all the rocks....
Even if you dig a tunnel down into the sand, the rocks are still there!
Watch out for sharks! NOT!
We really enjoyed our short stay here in Grand Marais....We hope to come back again some day...the temps were Sparky's idea of terrific! Sixties during the day, fifties at night...She is in 7th heaven.....Bye for now!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Here We Are at Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, MI

Paradise, MI, the U.P.    High: 64.    Low: 53.   Site 32, pull thru, electric only

It was only about an hour and a half drive from Sault St. Marie to Paradise, MI to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Those kind of drives are fun and easy, when the roads are good, (which they were), except for when error messages or service messages on the driving vehicle crop up. Our truck started saying "service ABS brake system". We had brake fluid, but the system computer insisted we have it looked at by chiming every so often and then more frequently while we were driving, so we are going to have to check it out. Always something either with the truck or the RV, that is the way of an RVer's life and you just have to go with the flow and expect things to happen. We ARE putting a lot of traveling miles on our road trips this year, so things are going to crop up. 

We were watching the weather carefully, as a fairly big storm with hail was imminent for the Sault St. Marie area, so we got on the road mid morning after the first rain came through the campground, and got to Paradise about noonish. We hooked up in great time, and the weather stayed clear for awhile. Check in time for the park is 3:00 PM so we were early, but if nobody is on your site, you may go in earlier. After getting settled into our site, which is electric only, (NO water or sewer), Sparky decided to go see the Lower Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. (Wish the spell checker would finish that out every time instead of making Sparky spell it each and every time!) Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the second largest state park in Michigan.

Our site was wonderful! It was a corner lot with lots of room. The electrical hookups are weird for this site. You share an electrical post with the next door camper, instead of having your own box to plug into and it's 30 amp only. So we will have to watch our usage with big appliances, mainly the AC. With temperatures in the sixties during the day, and low 50's at night, we probably won't even turn on the AC at all. There is no water hookup here, (common at state parks not to have sewer or water hookups) so we had to fill our 38 gallon freshwater tank at the last campground before we came here. We only filled it part way full, because water is a VERY heavy load to be carrying while driving down the highway. There are nice campground showers and restrooms at the park close to our site, so we will use their facilities to save water usage from our rig while we are here. We don't mind that at all.

The lower falls are right close by to the campground. It's about a half mile walk to the boardwalk to see them. On the way there, Sparky was just thinking about nothing in particular, walking along the boardwalk, when all of a sudden, RIGHT NEXT TO THE BOARDWALK, there was a BIG BLACK LUMP--IT WAS A BLACK BEAR! It was startled, Sparky was startled, and it boogied out into the forest brush before she even had a chance to raise her camera or click the phone camera! Apparently, it had been spotted earlier in the day, and the word had spread that yes, there was a black bear in the area, a young one. It looked plenty BIG to Sparky! 

Sparky was so excited to have seen a bear that close (there was a wooden slatted fence along the boardwalk, the bear was not on the boardwalk,) that she called Eldy right away. He was like, nah, no you didn't! Oh, yes, she did! It was very very cool! He then realized, by the excitement in her voice, that she really did see a black bear! He wasn't very big, but guess black bears are not as large as other bear species?

Back to the lower falls....very pretty...You can rent a rowboat for 7.00 a person or just 20.00 a boat and take it out and row around the bottom of several of the falls as long as you like. Sparky wants to do that! She loves to row! But by the time she thought doing it, it was late in the day and thunder was announcing a storm coming. She hurried home and all the fury of the storm let loose by the time she came in the door. Lots of hail and a torrential downpour. It lasted about a half an hour. We always worry about hail damage to the RV roof. It's not fiberglass, but can be easily punctured with tree branches or storm damage, like hail.

We will be here for three days....probably not long enough judging by all the hiking trails in the park. There's one 4 mile hike to the upper falls, but after seeing a bear today in the very same area that the trail to the upper falls starts, Sparky is not sure she should do that one by herself. Eldy's knees aren't up for something that, so maybe Sparky will find another one to do instead. We will check out the Upper Falls tomorrow, as the lower falls are going to be closed for bridge construction. Cancel that...we ended up at the dealership in Newberry. Remember that ABS brake light warning chime? We decided to stop by the dealership the next day and just schedule a time for them to look at it. Newberry is a VERY small town, but they did have a Dodge Ram dealership along with other makes of cars, and the dealership was Newberry Motors. They said they would like to run codes to see what the problem was and if they would need to order parts. Come to find out, the ABS motor was bad and not getting enough voltage, AND they DID have the part needed to fix it, AND we could have it done that very same day!!! What are the chances of that? Unfortunately, we spent the entire beautiful sunshiny day inside the dealership because it took all day to get to it and get it done. With the parts shortages out there, and problems with getting workers to fill jobs, we were so blessed that it happened all in one day. AND--the service manager drove us to a nearby restaurant so we could get some breakfast, and then drove back to pick us up when we were finished.

On the rainy day we went to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. We have been there before, but for anyone who hasn't, it's a must see. The museum was a 14.00 fee to view a beautiful museum filled with historic shipwrecks of Lake Superior, scale models of the vessels, stories of their demises, artifacts from all of them, and from the Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the most famous Lake Superior shipwrecks. It was VERY crowded the day we went, so we did not stay long. Many people were masked, but about as many were not. The lighthouse itself was closed to the public, but you could tour the different rooms of a keeper's house and learn about the lifestyles and stories of the lighthouse keepers and their families. We loved seeing it again.

Love this sign on the way to the lower falls

Having lost two days one to weather and   one to truck repairs, we made the most of the last day there. Sparky went hiking on the strenuous River Trail, a 4.8 hike from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls (the ones that was right near the recent bear sighting). Locals say black bears are the norm in the area and aren't too concerned about a sighting. They are more fearful of humans than other bear species, so they say. Even the ranger station wasn't worried about the sighting. What? They don't close the trail when one has been spotted? Nope. Sparky didn't have enough time to complete the trail, only enough time to know that this trail was indeed strenuous, and she would LOVE to come back again and try to complete it. 

On to the Upper Falls! WOWZA! They were beautiful! Tahquamenon Falls is known for its root beer color from tannins leached from nearby trees and groundwater, but it didn't look very rootbeerish today. There are many amazing photos of these beautiful falls on the internet when they appear more brownish in color, but Sparky and Eldo thought they were just as beautiful today.

If you come to Tahquemenon Falls, we recommend more than just a couple of days. There is a lot to see in the park and a lot of nature to explore and experience if you are outdoorsy.

With that visit out of the way, we packed up at noon and headed out for a short drive (74 miles) to our next destination, Woodland RV Park, a city park in Grand Marais.....We are going to have a lake front site, which will be wonderful! See you there!

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Big Boys in Sault Ste. Marie

 Sault St. Marie        High:  68   Low: 52   Aune Osborn Campground

Site: 72 pull through

We've had an amazing 4.5 days here at this campground that sits on the St. Mary's River, just minutes away from the Soo Locks. The average price for a night's stay here is 32.00, which is very reasonable, as campgrounds are now increasing their rates all over the place to make up for revenue loss last year. The campground has water and electric,  but no sewer. They do have a dumping station, so dump when you come, or before you come in. The sites are roomy and big rig friendly, almost no trees. Many of the sites have a view of the river even if you are not a waterfront site. The freighters are so big you can see them anywhere on the grounds, passing by!

When you check in, the campground map has a diagram of the freighters you'll be seeing, and what the horn blasts mean. It's a great place to freighter watch, that's for sure. The big boys (the 1,000+ footer freighters), there are thirteen of them, pass by within yards of the campground, well, maybe a little bit more than that. There's a couple of parks right next to the campground, Rotary Park for one, that gives you an even closer "drive by" view of the freighters as they come around the bend in the river, coming even closer to shore.

Eldy downloaded an app called "Marine Traffic". It's full of information, but you have to pay extra if you want to know what kind of load the freighter is carrying. It's funny, everybody must be using some sort of app, because everybody comes pouring out of their RVs when one is scheduled to pass by within minutes of the campground, and they all stand by the river's edge, even in the rain with their umbrellas, to see the freighters go by. The app shows the location of the vessel, shows the speed and estimated time of arrival to the locks.

We remember some of the freighters from our stay over ten years ago, and they are still in operation, of course. Many of them launched in the seventies and eighties, so they are aging, just like we are! One of our favorites is the Paul Tregurtha, the "Queen of the Lakers"...Sparky's brother, Rich, shared that the Tregurtha actually got grounded in the St. Mary's River, August 12, 2012. The stern pivoted and grounded on the opposite side of the river, completely blocking the channel. It took two tugs to move the stern of the ship back into the channel. Then the salvage experts raised the bow by filling the empty stern parts of the vessel, re-floating it and setting it free. That would have happened very close to the campground if we understand the location correctly! This episode sounds a LOT like the Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for five days!

We spent one day at the locks and saw two freighters pass thru the locks. You can find all kinds of information all over the internet about the locks and at the viewing station in Sault St. Marie. Sparky says it's really fun and there are cool exhibits at the viewing station. One is a simulator where you pretend to be operating the lock switches as you get commands. In front of you is a series of panels showing the freighter in the locks moving as you dial the controls and the water "fills" the locks then drains.

Sparky has chosen to share some highlights from "walking the bow to the stern" portion of the viewing platform. They have placards on the viewing platform to equate the distance of a typical 1,000 foot freighter. Sparky read all of them but the last three which were fenced off due to some construction. One thousand feet is a LONG distance and really helps you get the idea of how massively long these freighters are!

Some great information on these placards...Do the freighters rub the walls of the locks? Sparky can say unequivocally yes! Judging from the severe scrapes of the sides of some of the vessels! The Poe lock is 110 feet wide. The freighters are all 105 feet wide. You do the math..there is not much room for error! The captains like to come in tight to the north wall to allow as much room on the other side for water to flow past. The Ojibway has had its share of close encounters, don't you think?

The freighters cycle thru the locks about every three days. We started to see some repeaters during our stay. We never got tired of watching them come through and hearing their awesome horn blasts.

Sparky's favorite (one of several) was a Canadian ship with beautiful graphics on the pilot house.

The freighters carry as much cargo as 3,000 semis or 700 rail cars, so it's a much cheaper way to move cargo and amounts to huge savings every year for industries.

The Mesabi Miner passed by our campground and went into the locks, one of about 20 freighters (some of the same making the return journey) during our 4 day stay at the campground. How many crew members work these ships? About 15-22....mostly men, but more women are coming on board...The crew get great meals, a private cabin for each member, have air conditioning and access to exercise equipment and wi-fi, barring the occasional dead spots out on the Great Lakes, just like we encounter sometimes while traveling!

Some more miscellaneous facts: it takes 22 million gallons of water to lift a ship. They are building a new lock which won't be in service till approximately 2030 and deepening the old locks. The locks close on January 15th, the ships head to ports for maintenance, and they reopen on March 25. During this time, the crew goes ashore and spends time with family.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here at Aune Osborn Campground and the Soo Locks.

We are headed next to Tahquamenon Falls State Park for a few days. Hey, Sparky spelled that without spell check! Not bad.....(That took a few tries, laughs Eldo.) Oh! Almost forgot--a couple of recommended eating spots in Sault St. Marie--The Antlers for the decor...and a good steak.

And Penny's Kitchen for breakfast and a neat cafe vibe....Bye for now!