NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sore Seats

On Tuesday we boarded the boat for Grand Island. We rented mountain bikes and headed out on the History Loop which was 12 miles long. We soon discovered that the interior of the island pretty much looks like this:

We stopped at the Stone Quarry Cabin and took a few pictures behind it at the shoreline. We saw an albino red squirrel on the road, and stopped to talk to some rangers who were stocking wood at the campsites and putting a new coat of paint on the signposts. We asked about the possibility of seeing black bears but they said they've had a dry summer and there isn't a lot of food for them on the island and no one has seen one for a week.

We decided  to cut across the island toward Echo Lake and headed uphill...and uphill...and uphill. I got much farther than I thought I would before having to dismount and push our bikes the rest of the way. We were very happy when we finally started to coast down toward Echo Lake. The lake itself was unimpressive, and we took the next turn toward the west rim of the island. The scenery stayed the same except there seemed to be more mosses and lichens growing around the bases of the trees. We saw a sign for Mather Beach and were thrilled to stop and give our sore seats a break and have our lunch. The beach was small but we had it all to ourselves and I really liked the sandstone patterns just underneath the water at the shoreline.

Mather Beach sandstone at water's edge

We continued on our downhill course toward the dock, the trail getting bumpier and bumpier, and started to pass others for the first time, some loaded up with tenting gear on their backs. We made a brief stop at Water Fall Beach, only to discover there wasn't a waterfall to be found! When we got to the dock we learned we had missed the last boat back by about 25 minutes and there wouldn't be another until 3:30.  

We decided to walk around the shoreline for awhile to pass the time and find a place to rest. It didn't take long before we decided to move along, so we took off our shoes and waded along the west rim of the island.


When we returned to the dock we still had an hour so we sat on a bench to wait. While waiting a hawk flew overhead, then an osprey, and then...a bald eagle! I jumped up, grabbed my camera and ran off in hot pursuit! 

Eventually we made it off the island, and decided we were too tired to make dinner so went back to the Brownstone Inn. Dinner was good, but not great, and we decided we wouldn't go back again because while it was nice, it was a bit overpriced for what we got.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waterfalls and Whitefish

Yesterday we decided to start the day off by driving over to the Miners Castle area. It was late morning when we got to the Miners Castle lookout and the light was all wrong for a shot, so we took the Lakeshore Trail down to Miners Beach. The trail was mostly level, except for one steep section that wasn't that long. As we hiked along Miners River we flushed out a grouse, and flushed one again on our way back. Unfortunately he was way too quick for me to get my camera up in time!

After our hike we went back to the RV for lunch and a rest, then headed back out again, this time to Munising Falls, which was a short, easy stroll from the parking area. We also checked out the boardwalk at the Marsh Trail just down the road, which was supposed to have an active beaver colony, but looked almost completely dried up.

We made our way to Miners Falls, and while admiring them heard someone say that the ranger said swimming was allowed at the base of the falls. Well, that was all the permission I needed to climb under the railing and start making my way down.

I picked my way along the ledge to see if there were any close-ups to be had, but there was too much spray. I got nice and wet when my foot sunk down into the river further than I thought it would...only up to the knees though! I waded my way past the hopping frogs on the edge to get these shots.

And then this one was my favorite one of all!

After clambering back up, we struck up a conversation with another couple from Michigan who were up here on an RV trip also. Kathy and Dennis told us they had taken the kayak trip the day before, and that they weren't experienced kayakers either and found it to be manageable, so we'll definitely get around to that and see the things we can't see from the trails that way instead of taking the cruise, in answer to Judy's question!

For dinner we picked up some whitefish filets from Brey's Fish Market and broiled them in the oven with some butter and pepper - they were delicious! Just before sunset we headed back to Miners Castle to get that photo opportunity we didn't get in the morning. We knew the sunset cruise would be heading by at some time, so we waited a bit and I was able to get the shot that I wanted. The sunset itself wasn't spectacular from that point, but the light was much better at that time of day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bay Furnace

We started our morning yesterday with a phone call to Wayne's mother in Newfoundland to wish her a happy 90th birthday! Special thanks to my cousin, Cheri, for her help delivering something to Mom Leonard! After our communications with the Great White North we decided to start off our day with a drive down to the visitor center for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Hiawatha National Forest. After picking up a handful of literature we decided to take the short drive over to the Bay Furnace Historical site.

Wayne admired the stonework while I scampered around trying to get a shot. This sunny and 75 degree weather we keep having in the UP is excellent, but not a good friend of the photographer! It looks weedy in the photo around the base of the furnace, but there was a sign stating that it was actually a garden of native plants. I enjoyed the bee balm and bumblebees buzzing around.

There was a stairway down to the beach, and I noticed that it didn't seem that far down the shoreline to our RV park.

We drove further down M-28 just past Au Train to scope the area out. (By the way, fantastic looking beach in Au Train! Very white sand and much more shoreline!) We headed back into town for some groceries, and while we were at Glen's Market we purchased some raffle tickets for the Lions Club annual Rubber Duck Race on Saturday. Hope we are winners!

When we returned to our campsite we went for a walk around the campground and chatted with some full-timers who didn't know where they were wintering yet this to love that! Wayne settled in for an afternoon nap, and I took an hour walk down the shoreline toward the Bay Furnace. Of course it was farther than it looked, but I made it a little over halfway to a little lighthouse before turning back. There wasn't much of interest along the way, but the exercise and the sound of the waves was very relaxing.

We made dinner and then headed back down M-28 to the Brownstone Inn in Au Train for dessert. I had the blackberry peach cobbler and Wayne had the chocolate cake with fudge sauce. Both were delicious and after looking over the menu we decided we'd come back another day for a meal. I've got my eye on the brown rice lentil burger! When we got home we watched a few episodes of Just Shoot Me on DVD before heading off to bed. Wayne made a lot of noise the previous day about needing to kick back and rest, but today he seemed restless and said we needed to get out for the full day tomorrow. So, it's just after breakfast now, and we'll be heading out to Miners Falls and Miners Castle. It might rain today, so we'll save biking on Grand Island for Tuesday!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Going Cold Turkey in Munising

I have an addiction. Anyone who has spent time around me knows my "dark" secret.
Lately I have been unable to stop myself from eating 6-8 of these dark beauties a day. I decided the time had come to regain control. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no intention of quitting completely and forever, but I do need to bring myself back down to an acceptable limit, and I've found that the only way I can do that is to go cold turkey for a few days. We left for our 2 week trip to Munising, Michigan on Friday morning and I knew this would be an ideal time. Of course I couldn't go cold turkey on a travel day, the boredom leads to nothing but thoughts of chocolate melting on the tongue. However, once we had arrived and were busy seeing the sights I knew I would have a fighting chance.

So our first full day in Munising went something like this:
Wake up just before sunrise to scope out the early morning light possibilities for photography. While our site had some beautiful views, none of them were lit appropriately with that morning glow. So, bowl of cereal and back to bed for 2 hours. Yes, two hours! Wayne spent the month of July and a good chunk of August working a huge amount of overtime, and for him this trip is all about getting some rest and relaxation.

Eventually we made our way to the truck and motored down to Chapel Road to check out the trail to Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach. It was a six mile round-trip hike, but it was worth it.

 I had a difficult time getting any decent shots due to our afternoon arrival of 2:00, but after multiple tries I finally got a few that weren't too bad. I was able to get this last shot by wading barefoot through the waves across the sandstone shoreline. After I did it, of course others followed!

Another way to forget all about chocolate cravings is to make some new friends...

We stopped at this little bridge to wipe the sand off our feet before heading back the other 3 miles.

By the time we got back to the parking lot we were exhausted! I had to swear I wouldn't push for a hike again the next day. We drove back to downtown Munising to pick up some groceries. Wayne enjoyed the view outside while cooking his steak on the grill, and I enjoyed the view of Wayne from inside the camper!

It's not usually my style, but I pulled up a chair and joined Wayne in taking in the breeze off Lake Superior.

Keeping busy worked and I made it through the whole day without even missing my Dove dark chocolates! And, as we discovered, we have the best view of the sunset from Site #5 at Munising Tourist Park Campground!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore 2008

In September of 2008 we took the Laredo up to the Apostle Island National Lakeshore for a week. We had a reservation at the Buffalo Bay Campground & Marina but took one look at their junkyard motif and voted for finding somewhere else to stay. We stayed the night at the rustic Dalrymple Campground which is owned by the city of Bayfield which also had a view of Lake Superior, but a much nicer one. It had electric hookup, but no flush toilets or showers. When we went out exploring the next day we stumbled upon the Apostle Islands Area Campground and moved there. They had large sites in a wooded area, but also some in an open grassy area near their playground. The facility was very well kept, peaceful, and the owners were very pleasant and helpful with information about the area.

We walked around the downtown/marina area of Bayfield a few times while in the area, just enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the gorgeous lake views, and also visited a few of the local orchards. I brought home 5 different jars of jam! I highly recommend the Bayfield Apple Company's apple raspberry jam, but all of the local fruits, ciders, and jams we picked up were delicious. We also bought a couple of pies at Judy's Gourmet Garage which were out of this world - I swear I can still taste that rhubarb pie!

While we were there the town was getting geared up for their annual Apple Festival so there were a lot of decorations around without the crowds. A hidden gem in the area is the Old Iron Bridge Trail tucked away in the heart of Bayfield. It winds its way through plants along the creek underneath the bridge. The bridge itself is currently closed to even pedestrian traffic, but is on the National Register of Historic Places and we enjoyed our little stroll beneath it.

We took the ferry over to Madeline Island and rented mopeds. While we were on our way out to Big Bay State Park a black bear ran across the road not too far in front of us. We waited a few minutes, hearts pounding, before heading on to the park.

 We did some hiking, went through the museum and had lunch before heading back to Bayfield on the ferry. I would definitely go to Madeline Island again, I felt like there was much more to see.

We  also took the Morning Grand Tour on the Island Princess, which is a 55 mile narrated tour of the Apostle Islands. It was a good tour, but a little long to be stuck on the boat. I wished they had stopped and let us out at one of the islands to walk around for a little bit. We saw picturesque standing rocks, lighthouses, and an abandoned fish camp from the vessel. We learned about the brownstone quarries and the legendary hermit of Hermit Island. Devil's Island is the the northernmost island in the chain and its lighthouse was built in 1894. It's also the site of wave eroded sea caves where the waves thunder and boom in the openings. Local residents claim that the Ojibwe thought this was the sound of evil spirits and that is how the island got its name.

We  stopped at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center between Ashland and Bayfield and were surprised by how nice it was. They have a great little museum inside, and you can climb to the top of the tower and look out at the wetlands. There are signs that explain about the changes that have come about due to human settlement of the land, and they also have a boardwalk trail you can walk that gives information about the different habitats in the area. While on the boardwalk grasshoppers were so plentiful they bounced off our legs.

If you get an opportunity to make a side trip into Ashland, make sure to seek out the murals throughout town. They were painted between 1998 and 2005 and depict historical scenes. Locals dressed in period clothing posed for the storefront mural that took 2 years to complete. My favorite was the Bus Stop Waitresses mural which were modeled from a photo.

We really enjoyed our little getaway and want to go back again and rent kayaks to explore the sea caves along the lakeshore...and to get more of Judy's pie!