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.

Making Lemonade in da U.P.

We booked a hotel room in Munising, just outside the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore several weeks ago – sometime in September. Astute readers will spot the problem right away: what were we going to do in the area if Pictured Rocks was closed thanks to the childish behavior of our elected officials? Head west, that’s what.

Au Train River as it spills into Lake Superior, west of Munising

We spoke to one of the hotel staff ladies, who relayed some secondhand rumors she had heard: park officials were ticketing trespassers. We won’t even discuss why park officials are working during a shutdown, or why we could be considered trespassers. After looking up the potential costs (up to $500 fine, up to six months in jail), we instead headed to the Porcupine Mountains.

The near end of the park is just over three hours away from Munising (Do you like how I measure distance in time units?), so we again broke our journey into segments. We first played around on the vast expanse of unblemished sands at the Au Train River park before continuing through Marquette.

Fall splendor specimens

This is how paper beats rock
paper beats rock

A few miles south of L’anse at the Canyon Falls Roadside Park, we hopped out of car for a hike. Tony and I stopped by this area during our trip North in January. The smell and crunch of fallen leaves, glorious golden light, and lack of waist-deep snow conspired to make the place more welcoming this time.

We traipsed down the trail along the incredibly scenic Sturgeon River until it ended at the falls.
Canyon Falls - Sturgeon River-3
Sturgeon River light rays

And then we followed another trail down the canyon a ways.

At some point, we realized that the trail didn’t actually lead to a destination. On another day, a trail along a beautiful river has all the makings for a perfect day, but this day we were headed for the Lake of the Clouds. So we about-faced and jaunted back to the car to continue ever westward to our state park haven…where I’ll pick you up tomorrow. Or Friday. 😉

Between L’anse and the Porkies, a typical highway view on our trip
UP fall road

The Eben Ice Caves and Blogging Buddies

After we found some measure of frozen waterfall success in Munising, we rolled west toward the Eben (like “Evan” with a “B”…I asked 😉 ) Ice Caves. The journey there proved much less perilous than our previous efforts, and the hike wasn’t too bad either. Continue reading

Taking the U.P. by Storm – Part 3

In general, taking a spontaneous trip Farther North and then going on an 11-mile bonus hike would be enough to call it a trip. But, it was supposed to rain in the eastern half of the UP on Saturday, and well, we were already up there, so we decided to check out the Porcupine Mountains, which are 3 1/2 hours away…if you don’t go through Marquette and then Houghton…which we did. Continue reading

Taking the U.P. by Storm – Part 1

Tony and I had been toying around with a trip to the UP (pronounced you-pee – teehee! – for Upper Peninsula…of Michigan, if you aren’t from these parts) to explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Not having any specific dates in mind, but wanting to scout it out before the end of summer, I thought that last weekend would be a great time to go up. I didn’t have this idea in any kind of timely fashion. Tony made the assessment on Thursday morning that he really was caught up enough on work (I’ll catch up in extra hours in the upcoming days) that we could take Friday off and go. So Thursday morning, I booked hotel reservations – because there were no cabins available on such short notice – for the weekend, and we hit the road at 5pm that afternoon. Continue reading