the u.p.

for years now we have been saying we are going to make it to the u.p. and finally after years we have.  the plan was to go camping in pictured rocks and then head over to the porkies, but what a ton of rain we got, so we hunkered down in a cheap motel room in munising.  the price is very fair since it’s off season, and they even have the internet, which is why i’m able to post this, and what a long post it is, but hey i got nothing else to do.

we got to pictured rocks at about 4pm and despite the tons of rain we were getting, we went hiking anyway, checked out the cliffs and a couple of waterfalls.  ma’s parents didn’t take them hiking every chance they got, so she has seen very few waterfalls in her life, and the novelty hasn’t worn off.  i for my part think i will have a serious problem if the novelty of waterfalls wears off.  since it was raining so much we couldn’t take any pictures, and since it was raining i was able to find out that my raincoat’s waterproofing is starting to wear out.  i got pretty soaked.

after a couple walks we checked into our simple hotel, switched up clothes and looked for a place to eat.  we passed a place called the corktown bar – which we couldn’t resist checking out, since corktown is the neighborhood we leave in.  they had no food, but we did stay for a blatz, of the more entertaining items at the bar were individual space heaters at each table.  it wasn’t quite cold enough to justify cranking it up, but nice to know it was there if we needed it.

without any real tempting choices for food we went to the grocery store and picked up some supplies for dinner in the motel room and enjoyed a relaxing evening of watching the food network, snacking on smoked whitefish sandwiches and a couple of beers

dinner of smoked whitefish, cheddar, arugula, and mustard on baguette with bell's octoberfest

dinner of smoked whitefish, cheddar, arugula, and mustard on baguette with bell's octoberfest

the next morning ma was still sleeping by the time i was itching to get out, so i went for a walk on the beach, collecting rocks and briefly enjoying the sun, before the clouds rolled in.  by the time i got back ma was awake and ready to go.

we set out first for miner’s beach for a walk on the beach, quite an impressive beach with the miner river entering into lake superior, and the great big cliffs of painted rocks above.  the river and waves coming in from superior make for some strange mixing of currents.

miner river entering lake superior

miner river entering lake superior

since we had covered the other small hikes on this side of the park, and the central part of the park was closed for construction we decided to go all the way around to the other side of the park so we could see more.  it was over a 120 mile round trip, but after all the driving just to get to the u.p. this seemed like nothing.  from grand marais we could reach a several sites, including more waterfalls and the dunes.

first up was sable falls.  while not as dramatic as some of the other falls in the park, i think they may have been my favorite, perhaps because they are the most stereotypical looking falls, enough so that ma and i took fake high school portraits in front of them.

sable falls

sable falls

next to sable falls are the sable dunes – some really big dunes.  we hiked to the top where we could see far out into lake superior. ma and i being from close to the ocean kept looking at it and saying to ourselves “and it’s all fresh water”, it was hard not to call it the ocean, as it is so big.

on the way back we find an old apple orchard, and being a bit hungry, we figure we figure we ought to take a closer look.

apple tree heavy under the weight of it's fruit

apple tree heavy under the weight of it's fruit

the trees have not been pruned in years, but are heavy with fruit, and most amazing, free of almost any disease or insect problems.  we explore the orchard tasting each fruit we come to and discussing the flavor and quality of the apples.  many of the varieties are ones we have never seen.

little red apples

little red apples

these little red apples are soft, tart, and a little bit pink on the inside.  i love them, munching down about 4 of them in a matter of minutes.

red ones on the outside red on the inside

red ones on the outside red on the inside

these are ma’s favorite ones, small red ones with red throughout.  it’s a little eerie to bite into them at first.  walking though the orchard you are biting into all kinds of apples, but they all  have light colored flesh, and then to bite into this bright red flesh, well it’s shocking, i thought maybe my teeth were bleeding at first.  i even wiped my mouth to make sure that i didn’t have blood all over it.

in addition to these, there we plenty of odd flavors, including some really bitter apples.  based on the variety of apples, we guess that who ever planted this orchard were not using these for fresh eating but for cider.

further down the road we came to the log slide, which at some point functioned to slide big logs down to lake superior, now it functions to cause accidents.  the log slide is a 500 ft drop down from the top of the dunes to the lake, the park service has a laundry list of reasons you shouldn’t run down the slide, and what will happen if you do, but for some reason, they don’t prohibit you.  i of course can’t be dissuaded by the park service and go ahead and run down the slide, i get about 2/3rd of the way, feel my shoes filling up with sand, start realizing just how steep the hill is, how soft the sand is, and how little i care about getting to the bottom, and stop.  i turn back and work my way back up.  it’s tough, though no where near as tough as walking up sleeping bear dunes, which while no where near as steep as the slide is much longer.  back at the top the view – which i’d failed to appreciate in my hurry to hurl myself down a hill – is amazing.

log slide looking to the east

log slide looking to the east

looking to the east the giant dunes expand as almost as far as the eye can see.

log slide looking to the west

log slide looking to the west

to the west the dunes give way to rocks and at the point the lighthouse.  log slide might rank as one of the most amazing vistas i’ve seen.

further down the road we come to the hurricane river, an odd name as i can’t imagine hurricanes forming on the great lakes, maybe there is another reason for the name.  the hurricane river moves swiftly into the lake, and the two meeting makes for a tremendous site, helped out that after an entire day of being without any sun, we finally got some.

hurricane river meets the lake

hurricane river meets the lake

we walk down the river enjoying the rocks and the waves, working our way toward the aforementioned lighthouse.  at this point we are both hungry, and after a brief look at the lighthouse we decide we need to get some food.

in grand marais happens to be a brewery, the lake superior brewery so we make a line for the place.  it feels a lot like a little dive bar stuck somewhere way off the beaten track like some place out west in montana or in alaska, everyone dressed in camo, and seeming a little desperate.  the beers are frankly not very impressive, and the service is terrible, but at least the whitefish sandwich is good.  i’ve eaten so much whitefish in the last few days, i’m starting to feel my mercury level rise.  and i’ve already packed a smoked whitefish sandwich for tomorrow on our journey to the porkies.

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2 responses to “the u.p.

  1. One of my mother’s co-workers had a summer job a few years ago as the person in charge of going and rescuing people who run down sleeping bear dunes and realize they can’t climb back up again.
    There is a pulling system for the truly desperate, but most of the time she just had to bring them bottles of water and walk along side of them encouragingly.

  2. Pingback: best of « little house on the urban prairie

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