Hangin’ out in “Da U.P.” – pt. 2

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Pictured Rocks

This is a continuation of my previous U.P. post, part 1.  Click here if you’d like to read it first.

Whitefish Point

We continued northward from Paradise (#3 on the map) to visit the graveyard of Lake Superior, Whitefish Point (#4).

Upper Peninsula Map

1) Newberry – our home base.  2) Tahquamenon Falls.  3) The town of Paradise.  4) Whitefish Point.  5) Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We had previously stopped at 6) Sault Ste Marie, and 7) Mackinac Island.

Steve was fascinated by the stories he read about the hundreds of ships sitting on the bottom of Lake Superior, many of them quite near Whitefish Point.  It turns out Whitefish Point is a relatively narrow and high-traffic area where many ships passed through in opposite directions.  A surprising number of wrecks occurred as ships simply crashed into each other due to navigation errors or bad weather.  Although small, the Shipwreck Museum contains many maritime artifacts and interesting displays that tell the stories of the ships and sailors who braved the waters of lake Superior – and of those who were lost there.

Whitefish Point Light

Whitefish Point Light

The loss of life on the Great Lakes was unbelievable – especially along this stretch of Lake Superior’s shoreline. One display mentioned that of the 6000 ships lost, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald remains the most famous and mysterious.  It is a featured exhibit in the museum. Every man on her crew perished, on Nov 10, 1975 and today the vessel remains twisted and broken at the bottom of the lake just 17 miles from Whitefish Point, at a depth of 535 ft.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Edmund Fitzgerald Freighter replica

At the urging of the crew member’s families, the ship’s bell was raised from the depths to honor the 29 men lost.  It also serves as a reminder of the 30,000 men, women and children lost to shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.  That is a staggering number!

Edmund Fitzgerald Bell

Edmund Fitzgerald’s 200 lb bronze bell

We took a stroll along Lake Superior’s pristine shoreline after visiting the museum, and marveled at its clear water which reminded us of the aquamarine waters in Barbados.

Lake Superior

The beach looked like a graveyard of driftwoods

Whitefish Point, Lake Superior

Everyone seemed to be looking for unique stones or other goodies

Although Steve wasn’t sure if he would enjoy this museum, he had seen plaques at other places and the stories of the wrecks fascinated him – so he decided to give it a try.  He’s glad he did, and he recommends it to anyone coming into this area.

Pasty or Pastie – that is the question

Pasty or Pastie

As we quickly learned back in Mackinaw City, a Pastie (pronounced pass-tee) is a baked pastry consisting of a crust filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions and ground beef (or other meat), and seasoned to perfection.  It is one of the staples of the Upper Peninsula, brought here by the copper and iron miners from Cornwall , England.  We could not resist giving them a try, and we enjoyed them so much that we ended up buying a half dozen more to keep in the freezer for future meals!


Yummy pastie

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

wpid29070-2014-08-13-MI-1510789-.jpgOn another day we drove to the attraction furthest from our home base, the first national lakeshore designated in 1966 – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (#5 on the map above). We learned that the best way to view the cliffs is by water, so we made reservations far in advance for the popular Sunset Cruise, which is authorized by the National Park Service.  Since the park is quite a drive from Newberry, we made use of our limited time there by arriving early and tackling one of the many hiking trails, before leaving on our 7:15pm boat cruise.

Sand Point, Norh Country Trail

We followed a short segment of the 42-mile North Country Trail, which follows the lakeshore.  It ran 3.7 miles from Visitor’s Point up to Sand Point.  The map made it look like the trail would take us on a scenic route at the top of the sand cliffs, but it actually ended up running more inland through forested areas with lots of vegetation, before ending at the lakeshore.

Sand Point, Lake Superior

First half of our hike ended up here at Sand Point

Since it wasn’t a loop and we prefer not to follow the same trail twice, we ended up walking along the road from the Park Headquarters back to the parking lot.  Fortunately there were no mosquitoes, but I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t hear any birds at all. It was just a moderate hike, and we enjoyed being the only people on the trail. We saw very few flowers during our 8+ mile trek, but I was able to capture these along the road back:

We arrived back in town just in time to pick up our tickets for the cruise, and we were informed there would be high swells and white caps during the trip.  We were offered a chance to cancel with a refund or reschedule, but as this was only our day here we opted to take some Dramamine and go for it.  We were unable to get a seat outside on top of the boat, so we went into the enclosed lower area.  That turned out to be a good move, as it got very chilly and windy later in the trip.  After the captain gave folks one last chance to cancel or reschedule their trip (nobody did), we were off.

Pictured Rocks Cruises

The lake was angry that day!

The cruise lasted about 2.5 hours and covered 15 miles of the colorful sandstone cliffs known as Pictured Rocks.  This is only a small section of the 42-mile long Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  These cliffs rose up to 200 feet above lake level and were sculpted by water and time.  Our tour guide and captain did the narration, as he pointed out what to look for on the cliffs, and informational tidbits about each one.

Painted Coves, Pictured Rocks

Painted Coves

Indian Head, Pictured Rocks

Indian Head – can you see it at the end on the left?

Battleship Rock, Pictured Rocks

Battleship Rocks – how many can you count?

The cliffs have been sculpted for over a million years, being battered by crushing ice and the lake’s water, which have carved the bedrock into cliffs.  The same forces continue today, constantly changing the shallow caves, arches and formations.

Lovers Leap, Pictured Rocks

This one is called Lovers Leap, but don’t try it – the water is only 2 feet deep there!

Pictured Rocks

Rainbow Caves

Chapel Rock, Pictured Rocks

Incredibly, those are roots stretching across what used to be an arch but eroded away over time.  The tree on top is still alive!

Pictured Rocks

What creates the colors?

The name Pictured Rocks comes from the streaks of various minerals staining the face of the sculpted cliffs.  Streaks on the cliffs occur when groundwater oozes out of cracks in the rock, each mineral (iron, manganese, limonite, copper and others) leaving its own unique color.

Pictured Rocks

I’ll just let the pictures show you how colorful and amazing the rocks are.

Indian Drum, Pictured Rocks

Doesn’t this look like a water color splashed on the wall?

Pictured Rocks

Gull Rockery, Pictured Rocks

This is where the gulls take their breaks

Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks

Can you make out the three shapes and forms on the wall?

Are they amazing or what?  This place of beauty makes me think there’s a busy artist painting the rocks, leaving a mesmerizing palette of nature’s colors, shapes, textures and forms.

If you are in the U.P. and able to pick only one natural attraction, this is the one not to be missed.  I just hope you have a little smoother ride than we did – several people spent their trip hanging over the back rail doing you-know-what!

With 84% of the U.P. covered by forest, we felt like we were in the wilderness most of the time – with the exception of the busy Tahquamenon Falls.  But we wrapped up our visit thinking that we got a good feel for the place, and very happy that we came!


Hangin’ out in “Da U.P.” – Newberry, Michigan pt. 1

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Upper Peninsula

As Don and Lisa headed southeast back to Ohio, we drove Betsy the farthest north we’ll be this year – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The state of Michigan is made up of two peninsulas, the upper and lower.  The northern, Upper Peninsula is commonly referred to as Upper Michigan or “Da U.P”.  It’s separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Strait of Mackinac, a five-mile channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, and connected by the Mackinac Bridge.

Michigans, Upper Peninsula

Want to drive across the Mackinaw Bridge into the Upper Peninsula?  Get your wallet out!

Mackinac Bridge

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge northbound puts you on the Upper Peninsula

Although we had already crossed into the Upper Peninsula while exploring Mackinac Island and Sault Ste Marie with our friends, this time we were heading deeper into the northwest U.P.  We selected Newberry, Michigan as our home base, as it was well-located at the south end of the “Great Waters” (aka Lake Superior) for our planned activities.  The Upper Peninsula consists of 29% of the land area of Michigan, but just 3% of its total population. Residents are frequently called Yoopers (derived from “U.P.-ers”), and they have a strong regional identity with living in almost one-third of the state’s land area.  Indeed, driving the wide-open roads and seeing few other cars reminded us of some of the highways in Alaska!

Along M28

There is a lot of natural beauty and several attractions to explore in the U.P., but we could do only so much during our one-week stay at the quiet Clementz’s Northcountry Campground (see Steve’s review here).  We ventured out to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, just 20 miles away, then made it to the Wild Blueberry Festival in the town of Paradise.  In my next post I’ll detail our explorations of Whitefish Point, with its museum featuring amazing stories of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

We visited Tahquamenon Falls twice, the first time driving with the hordes of tourists to admire the heavily-developed Upper and Lower falls.  On our second visit we hiked both directions on the 4-mile River Trail that connects the Upper and Lower Falls, plus another loop near the Lower Falls.  That visit ended at the Camp 33 Pub and Brewery, located within the state park – never seen that before!  Enjoying a micro-brewed beer after a 11.25 mile hike was a sweet reward, and their Falls Tannin brew was so good that we dug our growler out of the back of the car and had them fill it up!

Luckily, the mosquitos that this area is famous for seemed to have taken the day off during our hike between the falls.  The River Trail was rated moderately difficult, not for elevation gain but for the exposed roots and series of stairs that we had to traverse.  The fairly long hike was the best way to get away from the crowds, who mostly stayed near the viewing platforms.  And the best part was that the trail ends were at the Upper and Lower Falls, both nice destinations.

For those folks who wanted to hike only one way, there was a shuttle that would take them back to the other falls – but at $20 for two people we thought the price was pretty steep. So after a rest and snack at the Lower Falls, we added another 3 miles to our trek by hiking the loop there before heading back to the brewery and our car. Now that I think about it, ending our hike at a brewery doesn’t sound quite right.  Oh well, it was fun!

Tahquamenon River

Colorful Tahquamenon River

There were some flowers still blooming, but these purple leaves were plentiful.  I just don’t know what they’re called – anyone know?

Purple Leaves

There were several bunches of these purple leaves along the trail

Tahquamenon River

Tahquamenon River

Tahquamenon Falls is actually two separate falls located along the Tahquamenon River – the Upper and Lower falls.  According to Indian lore, the origin of the name Tahquamenon (it rhymes with Phenomenon) is attributed to the water’s amber color – the result of the leaching of tannic acid from cedar and hemlock swamps feeding the river.  After Niagara, it’s the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.  The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is over 200′ wide and 48′ high, on a  sandstone precipice.  Over 50,000 gallons of water per second has been recorded spilling over this beautiful waterfall!

Upper Tahquamenon

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahaquamenon Falls

Another angle of Upper Tahaquamenon Falls

The Lower Tahquamenon Falls is located 4 miles downstream of the Upper Falls, and consists of several small waterfalls that cascade around an island.  On this warm day we observed a few folks wading in the water, or paddling small boats that can be rented there.


Lower Tahaquamenon

Lower Falls, Tahquamenon River

Paddling around near the Lower Falls

We could tell Tahquamenon Falls is a very popular destination, with the parking lots getting jam-packed fairly early in the day.  We never get tired of waterfalls, even after seeing so many – each has its own beauty and story to tell.

Wild Blueberry Festival

On another beautiful day we took a drive to the Wild Blueberry Festival in Paradise – yes, there is a town called Paradise in the U.P.!  Since I’m a sucker for wild blueberries, I dragged Steve along to check it out.  I was expecting bushels or baskets of wild blueberries to be displayed for sale.  Instead, the long line was for blueberry pies, muffins and a pancake bake – no actual blueberries were to be had.  I was a bit disappointed, as I was looking forward to baking some blueberry scones and maybe a blueberry pie 😦

Paradise, MI

Wild blueberry festivalAnyhow, I learned that wild blueberries are part of the local heritage here, and they’ve been celebrating blueberries since 1984.  Long before cultivated blueberries were around, Paradise’s wild berries were in great demand.  During the summers of the 1920’s and 1930’s, up to 1500 laborers moved here to pick berries. The local blueberry industry peaked during  the Great Depression, but declined with the advent of WWII when labor was scarce.  Then the natural succession of vegetation and forest reduced the availability of blueberries.  Today, wild blueberries thrive and there is still commercial picking – but not like the old days.

After a taste of the delicious blueberry pie we checked out various local arts and crafts, but left Paradise blueberry-less.

Wild blueberry festival, Paradise

Look – I’m a blueberry…something!!!

Considering the festival was located on the shore of Lake Superior on a gorgeous day, I guess this stop wasn’t so bad after all!

Paradise Wild Blueberry Festival

A band playing with Lake Superior in the background

On a technical note, we’re in the process of copying our campground reviews from rvparkreviews back to our own site, for more timely access and better content control – although we like rvparkreviews and will probably keep posting there as well.  So far, we’ve updated our 2014 map so you can click on any of our stops and visually see where we stayed, in the hope that our reviews will be helpful to folks going into those areas.  We think the new format of our upcoming reviews will be more useful to RVer’s in our situation.  Steve started reviewing every campground where we stayed in March of 2013, and we plan to have that year’s map updated shortly.  Let us know if it’s helpful or if we can make it more useful!


 Next up:  Part 2 of hanging out with the Yoopers!