Trolling the U.P.

Hold onto your lederhosen; it’s about to get photo-happy in here! (All of which you can click to embiggen :) )

Last week, Tony and I took Friday off of work and went gallivanting in the Upper Peninsula. We got a bit of a late start, on account of having double-booked ourselves Thursday evening. We arrived at our hotel around 2am, but were happily eating pasties (pass-tees) for breakfast the next morning. (As long as it’s before noon, it counts as morning, right?)


On previous trips to the Yoop ( = U.P. … Upper Peninsula), we’ve both hiked and driven like banshees. This time, we determined we’d have a more sensible trip. We picked out a few waterfalls scattered throughout Alger County to visit. We stopped at Alger Falls (not pictured), Wagner Falls (above on right), Au Train Falls (below on left), Laughing Whitefish Falls (the big set that follows), Scott Falls (no water…not pictured), and Tannery Falls (last one before the star shot).

The super-bright skies made for harsh lighting, but that’s the last you’ll hear me complain. Fall color was very pretty, though not quite peak, and the weather was to-die-for. Okay, I exaggerate. But seriously, it was in the 70’s and 80’s all last week. It was 45, windy, and rainy today.

We stopped at various places along our waterfall route, basking in the summer-in-fall, and simply enjoyed the trip. One of us gets a bit goal-oriented, especially when it comes to tracking down the perfect photo. Ahem.

Just for fun, before calling it a night, we dropped by the famous Miners Castle overlook. It’s stunningly beautiful, but almost a mundane sight as it is the Pictured Rocks shot. Still, it’s always worth a visit. Two in our case, as the aurora came out to dance after the sun went to bed.

Content with our gallery of waterfalls, we opted for a longer hike on Saturday along the Pictured Rocks escarpment. Going in a touch better informed than the first time (when we hiked around 12 miles instead of what we thought was less than half that), we headed to Grand Portal Point. I had a spot in my head that I wanted to revisit, which was somewhere near there.


Some other hikers shared the trails, but we still enjoyed mostly empty wilderness.

We walked along the cliffs perched above Lake Superior for about 5.5 miles, occasionally stopping for photos, before we arrived at my remembered destination. We chowed down on the pasties we packed for lunch, and then began the journey back.
Pictured Rocks escarpment pano

Even though we were closing in on 11 miles, we were still feeling great, and the sun was still high in the sky. We spoke to a ranger at Chapel Rock, who told us Spray Falls was about a mile-and-a-half away (but to tack on another half mile for the best view). We decided to go for it.
Pictured Rocks Chapel Beach

The falls – 2.2 miles away – fall thunderously over a 40-ft drop directly into the lake. Next time we’ll aim for a morning arrival for better viewing, but how impressive is that? And did I stand in the river/creek near where it dropped off the edge? I’ll never tell.

Somehow, even though we knew we’d get back before dark, we ended up hiking the trail out with a swiftly sinking sun. No worries – we had dinner in hand shortly after dusk :)

Sunday morning, we awoke before the birds in hopes of some awesome sunrise shots over nearby inland lakes. Again, clear skies didn’t bring much interest, but the absolute stillness of the lakes was awe-inspiring.
Mocassin Lake pano
After our last excursion, we popped one last time into Muldoon’s for pumpkin pie pasties. Well, I got pumpkin pie. Tony probably got veggie or something reasonable. And then we were off to cross back under the bridge to rejoin our “troll” compatriots in the Lower Peninsula.

Trail Time

The arrival of fall brings a touch of melancholy – we hardly had summer, I’m not ready for the cold, and I’m going to miss the long days – but it also brings the blessing of fewer biting bugs, which means more trail time.

dog watching

Last weekend we had Tony’s entire family stay with us. Okay, not his entire family, but his grandparents, mom, niece, aunt, and cousin. Before that – last time we chatted – we had visited the Sand Lakes. Last time we were there was in May; the place looks remarkably different now.

Click to embiggen:

Sand Lakes marl pano

Sand Lakes - clear water and marl

Note the swimming pine trees and soggy trails. If you click for a larger view, you can see minnows schooling on the formerly dry path.

Even with all the rain (I tried to track down the numbers…to no avail. If you know of a reliable resource, please share :) ), the high ground stays pretty dry. This means places like Hickory Meadows in Traverse City are open for a visit after dinner. Or before. Cooler temps make it pleasant just about any time with the right layers.

And tonight we even ventured back into the Skegemog Swamp. Last time – in June? – we high-tailed it outta there because of marauding mosquitoes. Tonight only a couple chased and chewed.

We made it most of the way to the viewing platform before abandoning the trek. Excess water builds up in the wetlands, too, overtaking the boardwalk. :-/

Petey looks for whatever’s making the squishing sound each time we step

Happy to have made it as far as we did, we turned around with no complaints. Except maybe one: Where’s my apple cider? ;)

{Unrelated} – Petey at “camp,” because I’ve been promising Graham I’d share the love. :)

Mushroom Monday

It’s Monday here for about another hour, and I have a lot of mushroom photos to share – so you get Mushroom Monday. ;)

In between yet more storms and dressed for fall (all the layers: jacket, hat, light gloves…), we did lots of hiking this weekend. Seems like the weather hasn’t been very cooperative for much else – too windy for kayaking, and far too cold for diving. But, at least we have lots of beautiful places to explore on foot. I’ll check back in soon with some hiking images/stories. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite mushrooms from along the trails.

Have a great week! (I’ll be checking into all the blogs I’ve missed just as soon as I get my feed-reader working again!)

Lost in a Small Woods

Remember a few years ago when Tony and I accidentally hiked a dozen miles in the UP? The mistake two years ago rests firmly on our shoulders: we didn’t consult the map at the trail-head that had distances clearly marked (unlike our paper trail map).

Unintentionally long hikes seem to be a bit of a theme for us. This Saturday, I feel like we were victims of badly marked trails instead of just being lazily uninformed. We settled on a two-mile route in the trails behind the old Traverse City State Hospital – after consulting the trail map. We even took a phone picture of it so we’d have it nearby. We set off, taking the first left as indicated on the map.


That was the last time, for two hours, that we knew where we were. The map indicates a few different trails, neatly marked in distinct colors. The woods, however, is a spiderweb of unlabeled intersecting paths. At each (frequent) crossing, we’d decide whether to fork left or right. Or continue ahead versus turning.

bridge in the woods

We never feared actually being lost. The entire system is sandwiched between some main roads, and we could often hear TC traffic if we just listened for it. Eventually we meandered back to some marked trails, though we never did make sense of where we had gone or how we had ended up where we did.


“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Summer Lovin’

Despite the weather being cooler than we’d like, our summer has progressed so smoothly, so easily this year that I can hardly believe we’re over halfway through August. By this point, we’ve usually had so many visitors that we feel like we run a bed-and-breakfast. This year, although we scheduled the normal full summer of visitors, we had a few cancellations so that the recent visit from my sister, mom, and nephews counts as the sum of our guests.

My sister and her boys – taken on our last trip to Ohio, because I wasn’t so quick with the camera while they were here, apparently!
Steph and boys

As we near the end of our fifth northern Michigan summer, we’re pretty good at playing tour guides. I think every trip the boys have come we’ve taken them to new places. Not all new places, but at least one new place each time. And this trip, we even found ourselves in a new place.

We spent the afternoon everyone arrived at the conservancy Tony and I recently discovered north of Elk Rapids. After a long day driving, it was nice to unwind on an empty beach. The boys – all three of them (I’m counting Petey) – splashed heartily in the water, while us sensible adults stayed nearer the shore, with gentle waves lapping at our ankles. On second thought, I think the boys had it right.

Again, slacking with the camera. This one is from our last trip there, though conditions were much the same.
Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Preserve beach

Friday afternoon we headed for the open water on Lake Michigan, along with everyone else in northern Michigan. The beach we had initially chosen was busier than we had ever seen it, so we relocated to another beach. It too was far busier than we’d seen it, so we decided just to park and walk in. Even when the parking lots are full, the expanse of beach available offers more than enough space to spread out. We strolled along the sand, built sand castles that washed away in errant waves, and played frisbee – all on a mostly isolated stretch of coast.


When the heat finally began to ebb out of the day, we headed to the dune climb, where I did actually take my camera out and play photographer for a bit.

The boys wanted to climb the 150-foot tall pile of sand, so I invited Petey to join us, and on the off-chance asked Mom if she wanted to give it a go. In short:

Three cheers for Mom! Your hard work is paying dividends!

Saturday morning, we all woke early to catch the ferry over to South Manitou Island. When Tony and I went last year, the ride was bumpy and splashy. This trip could not have been much different.

After the incredibly smooth boat ride to the island, we claimed a picnic table for a bite of lunch. Then, we set out for the four-mile round-trip hike to the Francisco Morazan shipwreck.


Only, the signpost about a tenth of a mile in said that the shipwreck was 2.8-miles away. I covered the sign, and we didn’t tell the boys that we had just added 1.6-miles to their legs ;)

The hungry mosquitoes (have you gathered that this a theme this year?) were about the only complaint on the entire journey. Well, aside from some tired feet. But we arrived back in plenty of time to play in the cool lake, which is the best antidote I’ve found for poor, sore paws.

South Manitou Island Lighthouse from water

We rounded out their trip with more beach time, ice cream, and pizza – the perfect Michigan vacation trio. The only thing I don’t understand is why the adults don’t want to join the boys for their visit in the winter…