Divide and Conquer

We awake to sunny blue skies and plenty of heat. By mid-morning temperatures approach 80 degrees. Our jaunt through customs proves to be brief and unadventurous. I cannot complain. We stop at the tourist information center to pick up a map. After Steve struggled to find Lake Superior on the Ontario map, I question whether we’ll ever make it back to the states. A helpful volunteer points him in the right direction (or in this case, the correct side of the map).

After a brief drive thru the urban sprawl of Sault Ste.Marie, Ontario we enter the woods. It quickly becomes apparent that today will be one of the most isolated, undeveloped and in many respects, scenic stretches of the trip to date.

As we approach Lake Superior Provincial Park we make several stops along the coastline. The lake looms large here, dotted by a rocky coastline and endless horizons of towering pines. Our first major stop of the day is Chippewa Falls. This falls divides the Trans Canada Highway at its halfway point. The highway, which is the world’s largest national highway, extends lengthwise across Canada and is the only road we’ll travel today. During our stop we meet a couple from Germany that is making the Trans Canada trek over a course of 3-months. Our 8-day journey suddenly seems short.

After several more stops along the scenic coastline, we enter Lake Superior Provincial Park. It is here that my heart begins to race. We pull off at Agawa Rock. Here, we descend down a steep, unstable, and undeveloped quarter-mile drop through jagged rock. The trail alone is a heart stopper.

We finally reach the lake, where a steep drop-off with a tiny ledge awaits. After removing our shoes and socks, Steve slowly tiptoes out on the ledge. A rusty old chain is his only support. Beneath him, slippery rocks fade into the icy cold waters ofLake Superior, daring him to make one misstep. My heart is pounding through my chest.

He soon returns and questions whether I have the courage to walk out. This is something I must do. Why, you might ask?

The answer is simple. I am a photographer. And, along the rock ledge are multi-century old paintings created by native people. As I make my way down the slippery rock, my husband provides these words of encouragement, “if you fall into the lake, I can’t come get you. Just don’t panic and if possible, don’t smack your head. Once in the water, just make your way over to that point and pull yourself out.” As he’s shouting these words of advice I see the life vest attached to a 10-foot pull along the ridge, just in case.

Snap, snap, snap. I focus on balancing and trying to take a good snapshot of the faded caribou etched in the crimson stone. My adrenaline is pumping. On the way back, my legs seem weak but I somehow muster the courage to grab the rusty chain and make my way back to Steve. He grabs my camera and snaps a quick shot before I pull myself to safety. Another couple watches, patiently waiting their turn. Within moments, they strut their way to the rocky edge. They make it look so easy… Despite this, Steve says he’s proud of me. The coward in me is conquered. In this moment, I feel fearless.

Our next stop isn’t quite as adventurous. We decide to enjoy an afternoon beer on the beach at Katherine’s Cove. Under the sunny afternoon sun, I sip away at one of the last Keweenah brews we have left, enjoying an entirely deserted beach. Joey frolics by the water, barking uncontrollably at a rock. Suddenly I hear my husband chuckle. It appears the sun has taken a toll on our lounge chair, leaving him anchored in the sand.

From here, we head to Wawa. We check into a questionable motel at best. But somehow, the turquoise toilet seems appropriate here. We look forward to our free muffins in the morning, which marks the start to another day on our adventure.

Working Port

Our pace is considerably slower today. In addition to sleeping in, we came back to the hotel this afternoon to relax before heading over to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for an authentic Italian dinner.

Our day was spent learning about and experience the Soo Locks. We had the opportunity to watch two boats go through the locks. This in itself is quite impressive and reminded me of the working docks in Duluth.

We also went to Clyde’s Drive-Inn, which is located on the outskirts of town along on the water. Their burgers are delicious but extremely greasy. (This might be partially to blame for why we’re taking an afternoon rest). Sitting at the old school counter, watching the ships come in, it quickly became apparent this is a working town that hasn’t seen the tourism boom (and financial benefit) Duluth gets. If anything, this part of Sault Ste. Marie is authentic.

The downside to today is the shopping in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. The street of “gift shops” could also be called t-shirt and tacky tourism central. This alone would not be entirely irritating. What is, though, is the fact that every shop has the same set of hoodies, t-shirts, and random knick knacks that have absolutely nothing to do with Canada. The one exception to this rule is Fudge Du Locks. The complimentary Rocky Road Fudge was still warm when handed to us. I’m usually not a huge fudge person but this was exceptionally delicious, as was the fresh made saltwater taffy I ended up buying before leaving. One cheesy shop did catch my attention by having dog hats on display. It was $5 well spent 🙂

  

Photography wise I don’t have much to post today so I thought I’d take a few minutes to download photos from my other camera. This one tends to focus on the “candids” my husband is quickly growing tired of. To me, it is these photos that memories are made of. Tomorrow we begin the “rustic” end of our journey. I hope to keep posting but if not, expect some updates when I return to internet coverage.

 

 

Moose Capital of the World…

The sun is in full force today. With it, the bugs. More specifically, lots of hungry mosquitoes. Despite this, we forge ahead. Our first stop is the Seney National Wildlife Refuge where we encounter a variety of animals floating about the marsh. Eagle nests, baby geese, swans, and plenty of unidentified birds flutter around us as we wind along the unpaved road. At one point we let our puppy out to run full speed ahead. She loves the warm weather and open trail. All is well as long as we are moving. We pause to soak in the view and the infamous buzzing instantly becomes like a bad surround sound system. It is time to move on.

Our second stop for the day takes us to Newberry, Michigan where we enjoy a self-guided tour of an old CCC Logging Camp. In addition, the camp now features a variety of artifacts from that time period, including a museum of chainsaws. Suddenly, Steve thinks the $5 entry fee is the steal of the decade!

It is here we learn two things—first off,  Newberry is the Moose Capital of the World. Second, the main route to our next stop is under road construction. It turns out the road construction isn’t an issue. And, even though we never actually see a moose in the Moose Capital of the World, it makes for some fun souvenirs… including a sledding moose for our Christmas tree.

The drive to Tahquemenon Falls takes us down a windy, deserted paved road filled with garage sales that clearly are a weekly affair. Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. What a contrast. It is like the Disneyworld of northern Michigan. The packed parking lot reminds me of  Gooseberry Falls on on a fall weekend. Better yet, (or worse if you are going for an authentic hiking experience) a brewery sits within the park along with multiple cheesy gift shops. I cannot help but smile. A cold brew sounds good about now and I love a good, funny t-shirt.

It turns out staff isn’t expecting such a large crowd this Memorial Day weekend. The waitress apologizes at least a half dozen times for the obnoxiously long wait. It is after 2 pm and the lunch crowd is massive. The Lumberjack Lager settles our stomach until the fresh whitefish arrives. It is worth the wait. Then, a short ¾ of a mile hike to the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi (minus Niagara Falls of course). It is a spectacular view.

For those wondering how a brewery ends up in a state park, it turns out long ago a man used to canoe upstream to see the falls. A time came when he was finally able to buy all of the land around the falls. Eventually, he sold the land to the state with the condition that there always be at least a short hike to the falls so that its beauty is maintained. I’m guessing he somehow worked the brewery into the deal as well… I’m not minding this arrangement today at all.

After hiking the lower falls, we continue heading north for our last major stop of the day—the Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point. It doesn’t disappoint. The artifacts are authentic, including the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. Growing up in Duluth, I always heard about the great ship and the “lake that never gives up her dead.” After touring the museum and outbuildings, we go by the lighthouse and over to the lake so Joey can get a drink from the big lake and stretch her legs.

As we climb over the observation deck, we are met with a graveyard of driftwood, endless calm blue water, abandoned pilings, a great lakes vessel, and an infinite number of skipping rocks. This is the Lake  Superior I love.

The tour book hinted at multiple moose sightings in the Moose Capital of the World. What it overlooked was the great sighting of all—A little slice of Heaven, right here on Earth.

Day Two – Picture Perfect

The weather is not cooperating. We awoke just after 7 am to gray skies and a solid drizzle with no end in site. Such is life. We load up our car and begin the drive out of Copper Harbor.

The road hugs the lake and is lined with ancient cedar trees that stand ready to enclose the road should civilization ever cease to exist. Then again, it really does feel as though we are in the middle of nowhere. We stop at one of several lakeshore stops and look out on the big lake. Her glasslike features fade into the gray sky, creating a neutral backdrop against the deep green cedars. After wandering around the shore for a while and stumbling across the impressive Jacob’s Falls, it is time to make our way south towards Marquette.

On the way, we make a stop in Alberta, Michigan. Here, Henry Ford remains a legend. You see, back in the day Henry Ford was spending some time in the UP when he fell in love. He loved the area so much that he created a “Utopia” of sorts along with a saw mill. Today, the town is abandoned and owned by Michigan Tech. While visiting the abandoned town, we ran into a local who creates spectacular Birds Eye Maple woodworking pieces. After much discussion, I purchased my first Lake Superior Circle Tour souvenir—a Walnut and Birds Eye Maple candle.

The afternoon was spent exploring beaches and taking a hiking in the woods to give our puppy some off-leash time. By the time our hike was over, the skies had cleared making way for a picture perfect backdrop in Christmas, Michigan.

After one more cheesy photograph, we made our way into Munising where we ordered in some fabulous pizza from Main Street with some Keweenaw Brewing Company Pick Axe Blonde Ale. Then, it was time for a sunset cruise along the Picture Rocks. Standing in line with people from all over the Midwest, and well the world, it became clear some “colored rocks along the lake” were more than an afternoon adventure. As our boat pulls out of the harbor, I gaze into the horizon. It is hard to imagine in just a few days, I’ll be staring back from the other side. The tour is quite good. The photography options are endless.

 

Perhaps the most inspirational shot was this majestic white pine that despite all odds, it still alive. It is literally hanging on by a thread—on in its case roots. Despite its struggles, it still stands strong.

As the sun sets over the lake, I can’t help but smile. A day that started out a little lackluster, is literally ending picture perfect. I cannot wait to see what Day 3 brings.

Back in Civilization

Day one equaled no internet access so I’m already delayed in my posts but I did manage to write a quick recap last night of our first day adventures which I can post now, along with hopefully some photos from yesterday and today. In about 30-minutes, we’re headed out for a Sunset Cruise on Lake Superior around the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. It is 70, sunny, and absolutely gorgeous! This is good since the first half of our day was solid drizzle. I’ve discovered that I have way too many photos to post (over 200 in the first 24 hours) but I’ll post a few at least. Enjoy!

Day One

Our morning starts out simple. After loading our car (and making one last trip to the house for that must have thing we “almost” forgot), we head east. Soon, we find ourselves inMichiganfor our first roadside attraction of Hiawatha – the world’s largest wooden Native American statue. After figuring out the self-timer, we snap a few shots and hop back in the car for the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park. There, we hike some trails and enjoy a cooler lunch under a bright green canopy.

Our focus for the afternoon is historic sites along theKeenewahPeninsula. Our first stop—Old Victoria. The mini-village is impressive from the parking lot. Unfortunately, the caretaker is nowhere to be found. This doesn’t prevent some great photos from happening, though.

As we role into Calumet, my guide book casually mentions Schute’s as the oldest known tavern inMichigan. I figure the bar is one more thing I can check off the list. Plus, my husband looks like he could stand a beer. Walking in, it is readily apparent this isn’t just any old bar.

Schute’s dates back to 1890. On tap, Keenewah Brewing Company’s favorite brews. (I highly recommend the Pick Axe Blond). What’s more intriguing, though, is what’s behind the taps. “Pretty cool glass,” my husband casually says to the man behind the bar. The bartender’s eyes immediately light up. He soon dives into a story about the Tiffany stain glass backdrop that 10-years ago sold for $1.3 million to a tourist. Unfortunately, (or fortunately forCalumet,MI), not a single insurance company would insure dismantling and shipping the piece so the piece remains. It is now owned by the town and is registered with the historical society. As the bartender wipes down the counter, he takes us back toCalumet’s mining boom. Stories about the original bar owner and the Speak Easy during prohibition role off his tongue, bringing me back more than 100 years.

Our historical trip continues at the Old Delaware Mine where a self-guided tour gives me a glimpse into mining life. Despite being in the 60s above ground, the weather is cold and damp in the mine. Our dog runs ahead, indifferent of the chill. I find myself grateful that my life is easier. On the way out, we meet Snickers and Oreo—two pet skunks who are an unexpected touch and attraction for an old copper mine.

Soon we arrive in Copper Harbor. The town itself takes mere minutes to explore. We’ve arrived too late to hit any of the shops. But, after chatting with the owner of the local bookstore in-town, we find ourselves driving down an unmarked (and unpaved) road to a hidden cove called Horseshoe Bay. The bay, which is now owned the Nature Conservancy, is speckled with skipping rocks and an expansive horizon of blue water. The million dollar view is preserved in perpetuity.

Our day comes to a close in front of a bright orange fireplace fire in a private cabin at the Keenewah Lodge. The lodge, which dates back to the 1930s, was built entire off the sweat and tears of the Great Depression. Following the Mining Boom, unemployment sat at 70-80 percent. Rather than sit, the men joined the CCC and built an impressive series of cabins, a lodge and an endless brick wall. Today, the lodge and golf course are owned and managed by the county ensuring many of the historical aspects remain.

Four Days and Counting Until My Superior Adventure!

Fact: Did you know Lake Superior is the coldest, deepest, and highest in elevation of any of the Great Lakes? It is, in fact, the largest freshwater lake in the world with one inch of surface water totaling 553 billion gallons of water. It covers 31,700 square miles, roughly the same size of Maine or the combined provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In simpler terms, it is BIG. But, the true draw to Lake Superior isn’t just sheer size. It is inspiration.

Lake Superior inspires greatness. It is not just a lake; it is THE lake. It is the lake where with just a simple glance, you can be inspired and transpired to a simpler life. A life where the present matters and everything else is just details. A time where doing nothing is everything.

In just four days, I will set out on an eight day adventure to rediscover why I’m drawn to this place I’m lucky enough to call home. In tow, my husband Steve and my dog Joey. Together, the three of us will leave behind our daily lives to explore and experience this 1,200 mile journey around Gitche Gumee I’ve dreamed of completing for decades.

Who ever knew a trip around your backyard could be so exciting! My hope is to document it all. Should internet connections allow, I’ll post throughout the trip. If not, I’ll share my journey upon my trip’s completion. And, after eight days of traveling full circle I have a hunch I’ll be reminded why there’s no place like home… especially in the “Superior” place I call home!