Monday, October 15, 2012

Da UP

We took a break from our normal day-to-day last week to visit Michigan's glorious Upper Peninsula.  If you live in Michigan and haven't been, you have no idea how gorgeous Michigan can really be.  It's the true meaning of the phrase "Up North", especially in the fall.  We hit right at the peak color season, so every trail, every drive and every waking hour was just amazing.

Let's meet our players. We went with our long-time friends Adam & Jess (on the left) - I've known both of them for about 15 years at least.  About 10 years ago, I felt like I'd lost touch with all of my old friends, and that I'd probably never be hanging out with them again.  But things have a way of working themselves out, and I'm grateful to still be seeing many of them on a regular basis.

Adam & I bought these vests at a Goodwill in the middle of our trip, as a result of not preparing for how cold it was going to be

We started our journey on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at about 12noon.  We drove 9 hours straight (maybe closer to 10 with stops) to Ontonagon, MI, where my aunt & uncle live, in a house right on Lake Superior.  Though it was dark when we arrived, this is what we woke to the next morning:

Imagine living just 200 feet from this shoreline.

Our first day, Thursday, we dove right in.  There was a promise of high winds and rain starting on Friday, so in order to catch the leaves before they all blew off the trees, we had to cram a lot of hiking into the first day.  My uncle's place is just a 10-minute drive to the Porcupine Mountains State Park, which has the largest old growth hardwood forest west of the Adirondacks.  A sprawling park filled with rivers, lakes, waterfalls, springs and miles and miles of hiking trails, we couldn't ask for a better vacation.  This is our third time, and our third season, in the UP since we've been married.  Winter is the only remaining season we haven't visited during, and I'm not sure that'll ever happen, but we'll see!

Our first stop was the Lake of the Clouds.  One of the peaks of the park, it's not much of a hike - you drive right up to the overlook basically, and there's a short boardwalk loop up to a rocky scenic area.  Though there's not much work involved, the view is breathtaking.

Lake of the Clouds

From there, we hiked up the Summit Peak trail, which offers a 360 degree view of the park via a wooden tower.  It's only a 1/2 mile trail, so again, a nice easy start to the trip.

Summit Peak Tower

Summit Peak - view from the tower - some of the trees were unfortunately bare.

From there, we continued on, with about a 40-minute drive through the park, to Presque Isle Falls, which continues to be my favorite part of the park.  This trail is maybe a couple miles long, but again, not too bad.  Plenty of places to stop and take it in, so the time spent is much greater than the distance traveled.

The suspension bridge to Presque Isle

Part of the falls - the layers of shale have been carved out by years of swirling water & sand.

It was here that I started, with the help of Jess' experience with manual settings, experimenting with the exposure on my new Nikon J1.  With the right shutter speed setting, I was able to capture that soft water look in many of the shots on our trip.

Presque Isle Falls - using manual exposure settings

The water was low enough at the falls to allow for us to walk out on different sections of rock that we hadn't been able to in the spring or summer.

Becky & Adam on Presque Isle

Becky on Presque Isle

On Friday, with the threat of rain and wind, we decided to take a trip up the Keweenaw Peninsula.  This would take us through Houghton, where we purchased the vests (and Jess got a houndstooth coat, and Becky tried to buy a purple furry unicorn costume with a foil horn.  I shot it down.  I know - buzzkillington - "who wants to hear a story about a bridge?"), Eagle River & Eagle Harbor, Calumet The Brockway Mountain drive and Copper Harbor.  We did quite a bit of shopping and sight seeing, including picking up some Stormy Kromers at a local shop.  On the way back, since it was my birthday, we stopped at the Keweenaw Brewing Company for a few beers, and brought some Pickaxe Blonde and Widowmaker Black cans back with us to finish at the house.



Eagle River Bridge - interesting design - it's on hinges at different points

Eagle River Falls - doesn't really give a good scale, but it's a lot bigger than it looks here.

Brockway Mountain drive - this is on the way up to the peak.  It was INCREDIBLE color up there.  Because of the valley, the wind hadn't touched these trees yet.

Brockway Mountain Drive - again, on the way up to the peak.


Here's the peak.

And again, the peak.  It was so cold & windy we could barely get more than a couple shots before booking it back to the car.

On Saturday, we went up to Union Spring Trail, which if you plan it right, is a 4 mile loop.  If you don't, you repeat the same trip as when we went last year and end up hiking 10+ miles, with a lot of that along the highway.  Whoops.  Little did we know how true this photo at the head of the trail would end up being.

The beginning of our journey along Union Spring Trail - Becky & Jess in their matching Kromers

A nice little stream along Union Spring Trail

Moss was everywhere - and Adam was convinced it grew on the North side, because of something he read about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman - the dude is a wealth of info.  There was some skepticism to his claim, but my uncle confirmed it in the end!

Union Spring - the water is ridiculously clear.  I couldn't get any shots of the water bubbling up due to the reflection of the clouds.

After some rain and snow early on, the sun came out to warm us up a little bit

All sorts of weird stuff grows on trees...like these purple fungi

Because we didn't loop around on Union Spring, here we are at Trap Falls - worth it.

More Trap Falls - these giant rock formations have a nice mossy overcoat that looks like a well-manicured putting green

On the way back to the car, we FINALLY saw some wildlife.

After the hike, we were all super beat, so we ate some soup and lied around watching Pawn Stars.  Now, in the UP, everyone's got a sauna (pronounced "sow-nuh" for all you trolls, like us, who used to say "saw-nuh"), and we'd been putting that off all weekend, but tonight we needed some serious rehab, and a hothouse sounded like the best thing for us.  So, we took turns, Jess & Adam first (Jess is preggers, so the heat had to be a little tempered, at about 150), Becky & I next and aunt & uncle last.  We had it at about 160/170, and although it was really relaxing, it was too much to last for too long, so we were done within 15 minutes or so.    We all felt much better, and were all ready to sleep before our 8am departure the next morning.

On Sunday, we got up early and were on the road by our expected time of 8am.  This, we expected, would allow us some short excursions on the way back.

Michigan's first snow of the year!

Our first stop was the Pictured Rocks pulloff in Munising.  It's really best to see these by boat, but this vantage point suited us just fine.  We couldn't believe the aqua blue of the water - it didn't feel like Michigan.

Pictured Rocks - Munising

Our next and last stop was to Big Spring in Manistique.  A little detour, but worth it.  There's a floating deck, essentially a small wooden pontoon boat, on a rope, that you wheel yourself out on.  The deck also has a cutout in the middle so you can look straight down to see the water flowing in from the cracks under the spring, as well as the Brown, Brook and Lake Trout that inhabit the spring.

The cable across the spring

The lake attached to the spring

The Trout.  The spring is roughly 45 feet deep, and stays 45 degrees year round.

And that's it!  We got home around 9pm, after dropping Jess & Adam off. It was a great way to spend my birthday weekend, and we'll definitely be back sooner than later.  I'm sure there are quite a few details I missed about the trip, but you're just here for the photos anyway, right?!

Now back to the projects!
 

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