It's been a busy week since my return from the Michigan UP. A whirlwind weekend doing laundry and removing mud and pine needles from the camper and repacking. This time for a trip to the Lake Darling cabins with three very long-time friends. We were scheduled for this annual sojourn in May but Covid cancelled that. Normally, we eat out several times but decided to take all of our meals and share cooking. The problem was that the parks have removed all dishes and utensils from the cabins--again due to Covid--so we had to take all of that in addition to clothes, bedding, games, puzzles and lawn chairs.
But we had a great time. We have been through a lot together and it's always a great sharing time. We made one short shopping trip on Tuesday but spent the rest of the time hiking and working on a puzzle. We didn't even get any games in. But we had beautiful weather, yummy food, and a couple of nice campfires. Fall color was starting and we spent a lot of pleasant time on the cabin decks.
We returned home Thursday morning and I had 24 hours for more laundry, a much needed haircut, and to return the dishes and clothes to the camper. I arrived at Fishermen's Corners campground in East Moline to join friend and former coworker, Marcia, and her husband Harlan for a few days. Yesterday we visited the Quad Cities Botannical Garden--a place I had never been. It's a beautiful place and currently decorated for Halloween. We also stopped at an apple orchard and picked up some goodies. The afternoon brought a long nap and some reading followed by steak and salmon, grilled potatoes, veggies, pumpkin bars and s'mores. I had no trouble getting to sleep.
Tomorrow I return home, and lest you thing my life is all play and no work, Tuesday I am working a satellite election site and then must dive into yard work before the city condemns my property. And more laundry.
We are on the last leg of our trip. We pulled in to Pulpit Rock, a city campground in Decorah, yesterday afternoon under blustery skies. By the time we set up, the clouds were gone and bright blue skies seemed promising. A half hour later, the clouds were back, the wind picked up, and driving rain commenced. Another half hour later, clear skies were back. As the saying goes, "if you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes..." As we were all tired of our own cooking, we visited Mabe's Pizza in Decorah for supper--excellent choice.
One of the things we noticed here is a lack of leaves on the ground. At Brunet Island because of all the trees, the ground was covered, making it difficult to even differentiate the campground road. By the time we left, after a bit of rain, leaves were plastered to the sides and roofs of our campers. There were leaves on the rugs, the steps, the awnings, the insides, and in our hair. The road trip to Decorah, however was very windy and removed most of the leaves trying to make their escape.
We did make a road trip on Tuesday through the area around Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. We toured the campgrounds at Wissota State Park for future reference and visited the Leinenkugel Brewery but found the only food offered for lunch was pretzels. So we found one of those neighborhood bars where everyone knows your name and they offered good food. We also got in a nice walk back at the park, We spotted what we first thought was a dog near the beach, but then decided it was a coyote. However, our sharp observation powers soon revealed that it was just a little statue. We did spot a young buck for real in the woods.
So we'll do a little exploring of Decorah today. I hope to snag some lefse--a Norwegian treat my mother used to make. And tomorrow it's time to head home. I'm about out of clean clothes and my laundry bag is literally overflowing. And I need a haircut.
...from the muddy clutches of Lake Gogebic campground! All it took was five people pushing, some long metal tracks provided by the ranger, Ken driving, and a couple of hours. The pushers were the ranger, a retired Michigan state cop, a nice couple from across the road, and Harriet. If my little motorhome did this, you can imagine what some of the sites with big motorhomes look like after their departure. And of course it rained, even though there was nothing on the radar. We were mighty glad that we only had a three hour drive ahead of us by the time we left.
Now we are in a lovely campground at Brunet Island State Park in Wisconsin. There are no ruts and the sites are quite level. The park actually is an island in the middle of the Chippewa River near the town of Cornell. The trees posed a bit of a challenge in parking but nothing like our last few campgrounds. We got settled and enjoyed a little cocktail hour in our muddy clothes before retiring to our rigs and supper. I was delighted to find that I have some TV reception after a week without. I know--some of you diehard tent campers are rolling your eyes, but I do enjoy my evening news.
A pretty sunset finished the day. Plans for today are up in the air, especially with the raindrops I hear on the roof right now. But we will think of something.
We spent the last two days checking out nearby waterfalls and exploring the Porkies--the Porcupine Mountains in the northwest part of the UP. Saturday we went to Bond Falls and Agate Falls, both located on the other side of Lake Gogebic. Bond Falls is especially dramatic, consisting of a 50-foot drop over huge boulders on the Ontonagon River and a boardwalk makes viewing easy. Agate Falls is further north on the same river and viewing is not as accessible but still pretty. The walks to each of these falls are splashed with beautiful fall color.
Sunday we drove north to the Porkies along the shore of Lake Superior. We started at the west end and checked out the campgrounds. Then we parked and walked to one of the three falls in the area. Many, many steps led down to the viewing platform but it was worth it.
Finally we took a drive through gorgeous color to the east end of the area and after waiting a while in a long line of vehicles, reached a short walk to the viewing area for the Lake of the Clouds. It also afforded great views of the surrounding hills, or 'mountains.' By this time we needed sustenance and found it in the lakeside town of Ontanagon at Syl's Cafe where we enjoyed black forest sandwiches and turkey, cranberry, and wild rice sandwiches and sweet potato fries. That was a late lunch in the Eastern time zone and we still weren't very hungry when we got back to camp in the Central time zone. So it was a light supper and a few games of Back Up 8.
Today our challenge, hopefully between rain showers, is to get our rigs out of the muddy ruts and back on the road. Our destination is Brunet Island State Park near Cornell, Wisconsin. So we go from being Yoopers to Cheeseheads.
Or several, actually. Wednesday, I opted out of another road trip at the insistence of my hip/leg which tends to lock up on long rides. So Ken and Harriet took off for the Munising area while I guarded our campsites. Actually, I took another trail over to the Falls, more photos, and a short nap in that order. I also did a little writing. When Ken and Harriet returned, we drove to the Upper Falls. They are much larger than the Lower Falls--in fact the second largest falls east of the Mississippi. But the viewing areas are not as good, unless you climb down 94 steps (and back up 94 steps.)
So after our viewing, we returned to the visitor's area and had supper at the Camp 33 restaurant and brew pub. It's an interesting place decorated with both taxidermies of real animals and an assortment of stuffed animals. For example a life-sized moose sits on a plush stump with an arrangement of Beanie Babies on his antlers. People were social distanced and the wait staff were masked. And the food and the beer were good.
Thursday, we all took an R and R day. After all, we're on vacation. Rain was predicted but never materialized, so Harriet and I took one more walk to the Falls. We began packing up for our Friday drive to Lake Gobegic on the western part of the UP. One of the things we have learned is that nothing is pronounced like it looks and second grade phonics is no help. Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw and what else could Sault be but 'Soo'? Tahquamenon is easy if you remember it rhymes with phenomenon but spelling it is always a challenge. I still don't know how to say Gobegic.
But that's where we are. On top of the spelling and pronunciation issues, there's the time question. The line between Central and Eastern time zones wanders around the western part of the UP like a drunk moose. It actually cuts right across the middle of Lake Gobegic and the state park is on Central time but a couple miles north is Eastern. We plan to visit a couple of waterfalls today to the east and maybe some spots to the north so our phones will probably be dizzy by the time we're done.
This campground is a sharp contrast to Tahquamenon Falls. Instead of being surrounded by tall pines, cedars, and hemlocks, here the trees are predominantly deciduous. And the color is spectacular, as it has been all across the peninsula. Our campsites look and are spacious but what you can't see are the deep ruts that make parking and leveling a task worthy of a NASA engineer. Which I'm not. Michigan does not put any kind of gravel or paved parking pads in their campground sites so people park wherever they want and I bet even tenters have trouble getting their heads above their feet. There are two hooks in the showers as opposed to only one at Tahquamenon. Well, it's either 7:00 or 8:00 so time to think about breakfast.
Tuesday on our UP sojourn we took advantage of some sights in our immediate area. There are two Tahquamenon Falls: the Lower Falls located a reasonable walking distance from our campground, and the Upper Falls four miles up the road. There is a beautiful trail through the woods to the boardwalk which leads to the Lower Falls viewing platform. The trail is hilly but hard packed and the worst slopes have almost natural steps formed by tree roots. Fall color is emerging nicely and it was a perfect day for a hike.
The falls are really beautiful, especially this time of year. After our viewing, I suggested we visit the visitor area where I thought there was a restaurant, several shops and an ice cream store. Turns out that is at the Upper Falls. At the Lower Falls, there is a souvenir shop but not very well stocked, and a lunch counter that was closed. The concessions at both locations are owned and maintained by the Barrett family, who donated the rest of the land for a state park. They required that any roads into the park would end 3/4 of a mile from the falls so that visitors would approach on foot and the forest would be preserved as much as possible.
In the afternoon, we drove about thirty minutes north to Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The 80 mile coast from Whitefish west to Munising is called the graveyard of the Great Lakes since over 300 shipwrecks occurred in this area, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. It is impossible to spend time in the museum without having that song run through your head about 50 times. The information about the Lifesaving Service is also pretty incredible.
Today, Ken and Harriet are off to view some of the waterfalls between here and Munising. I opted to forego that much riding and do some hiking, writing, and perhaps napping. When they return, we plan to have supper at the restaurant, now that we know where it is.
Monday, we hit the road sans campers and headed south to St. Ignace where the Mackinac Bridge joins the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Lower. The bridge is amazing to me, almost five miles long. We also explored the campgrounds at Straits State park. Butch and I camped there for one night three years ago and especially enjoyed the views of the bridge lit up at night. Then we walked along the main street at St. Ignace-a fun touristy town-- and of course couldn't resist some fudge made famous at nearby Mackinac Island. We ate lunch at an old diner and then headed north again to Sault Ste. Marie to view the locks there connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Everything about the locks is amazing--the size of the ships, the statistics about the amount of shipping passing through the locks every year, the amount of water displaced and used to fill the locks. We were lucky enough to arrive when one huge ship was leaving one lock and another approaching the biggest lock. The superstructure on this one was six stories tall.
A little souvenir shopping and it was time to head back to the campground. It was a lot of driving so today we will stick closer to the park, explore the falls, and perhaps take in the shipwreck museum about a half hour north.
Saturday I wasn't sure that was going to happen. When I wrote my previous blog that morning, I was hit by the mother of all sinus attacks. The right side of my face was in a vice and I was going through Kleenex like there was no tomorrow. And I thought that might be the case. As the day wore on, my right eye drooped almost shut and I opted out of the grocery run. We discussed options such as calling my son in Illinois to come drive me and my camper home. I Googled Urgent Care facilities in the UP (there aren't many) and whined a lot. I put some chicken soup in my crockpot and about 6:00, sat down with a bowl of it. I could only eat about a third of it and threw the rest out. I borrowed some Ibprofen from Harriet, took two with a glass of milk, and finished the milk with a brownie. By 7:00 the pressure in my face was gone and I was only blowing my nose about once or twice in an hour instead of every three minutes. I watched a couple of mysteries on public TV and went to bed. Sunday morning I was a new woman. Whether it was the soup, the pills, or the brownie, something worked and I lived to see another day. Whew.
So we proceeded with our planned journey and managed to get our rigs out of the craters in our campsites and on the road. It was a beautiful day and the drive along the Green Bay shore and up through the peninsula to Tahquanemon Falls was delightful. We had lunch in a lovely rest area along the way. Our campsites here were a bit of a challenge to get into but not as bad as the last ones. Tall pines are scattered throughout the campground, enough for some shade but not blocking the sun entirely. A small campfire with an adult beverage finished the day.
Today we plan a road trip over to "Big Mac", the Mackinac Bridge, and possibly Sault Ste Marie. We also need to visit the falls. By the way, sunrise here at the western edge of the Eastern time zone isn't until 7:25 but at least I can expect to see it.
Several roads, I should say. Thursday morning we started out and made good time through northeast Iowa to Potosi, Wisconsin where we stopped for lunch at the local brewery. It was a beautiful day and my portobello panini was excellent. But after lunch, things started to go awry. Harriet had loaned me a mount for my phone and Ken had connected the bluetooth so we could communicate on the road. We only needed to go about 100 miles to our planned stop for the night. However, in true Murphy's Law fashion, as soon as the roads got more twisty turny, cell service disappeared and GPS went wacko. I think the Cheeseheads are safe from any invasion by the Canadians. Anyway, instead of arriving at Castle Rock County Park around 3:30 as planned, we got there about 5:00. We also drove about 60 miles farther than necessary. On the plus side, we were treated to some beautiful rolling vistas and emerging fall color in southern Wisconsin.
This was a first come, first served campground but with around 300 sites, so after circling all 300 and asking directions, we finally found water and then easily found sites. We parked and did a minimal setup while Ken went to replenish the gas in his truck. We each did our own (also minimal) suppers and went to bed. Friday morning, Harriet and I took a nice walk around this park located on the shore of Castle Rock Lake, we loaded up, and departed. After the cell phone/GPS debacle of the day before, Harriet and Ken gave me one of their walkie-talkies so that we could tell each other when we were lost.
However, other than one twenty mile detour, we managed to arrive at our present location, Wells State Park in Michigan on the north shore of Green Bay, by 3:30. Cyberspace doesn't know where we are, though, because when I pulled up the weather on my phone, it gave me Gibraltar, Michigan which is south of Detroit. Anyway, it was a good thing we had plenty of daylight left because the sites we had reserved had a couple of holes that could easily swallow Ken's truck. And it's a big truck. Ken maneuvered Agatha, using the holes to actually get her level, and then their fifth wheel to achieve the same result. By then it was 5:00 and also about 51 degrees so we got a nice fire going and relaxed for a bit. Finally we warmed up some leftovers brought from home and I joined them in their camper for supper. The news of RGB's death put a damper on the evening and we all soon retired.
This morning was a lovely sunrise, which I was unable to capture the true colors with my phone. We are looking forward to a day of no travel, except perhaps a trip to the grocery store. It's not that we are out of food; but when Butch and I were here three years ago, we soon learned that there isn't a supermarket on every corner in the Upper Peninsula. Maybe because there aren't many corners in the UP. Tomorrow we will head out to Tahquanemon Falls where we will spend five nights. It looks to be dry most of the week, but chilly. By the way, I solved my furnace problem. The reason it didn't work at Lake Darling was that I didn't have the thermostat set high enough to call for heat. Duh.
Our recent Glampers weekend started out with rain, rain, rain. It was much needed in Iowa but put a 'damper' on Glamper gatherings. I was the first one there on Thursday afternoon, couldn't find the host, and couldn't figure out the water spigot without help. I still had about a third of a tank and there was a spigot right across from my site so I decided to wait for more water until I could get help. I was in the middle of my leftover spaghetti when another Glamper, Carol, arrived in the site next to me. We visited a little and then retreated to our campers when the rain began in earnest.
Lake Darling, as I've mentioned before, is a black hole for Verizon, but I was able to get on a zoom meeting that night. The rest of the weekend was pretty much text only. No possibility of uploading a blog.
It rained all night but midway through Friday morning changed to an intermittent mist so Carol and I got in a nice long walk. Several others who had planned on coming either postponed their arrival or cancelled because of the forecast. After lunch, we made a shopping foray into Washington. We had a lot of fun picking out presents for Lydia's daughter Lena who would be celebrating her tenth birthday. Lena is our Glamper princess and attends and participates in most events. I'm pretty sure it has scarred her for life.
Fog moved in that evening so once again we took refuge in our own rigs. It rained most of the night but Saturday we finally caught a break. Noonish, Lydia and Lena arrived. So did Janet, who took a space with her tiny vintage trailer and wasn't a member of our group but she is now! Saturday afternoon we made another trek to Washington for a craft show in the town square. There were lots of interesting stands and Lena even found a tree to climb. Saturday evening we finally all gathered at my campsite for four kinds of soup, homemade bread, and several desserts, including Cathie's rhubarb-strawberry pie. Unfortunately, flies, bees, and some kind of little brown bug also gathered in droves. Lena enjoyed her gifts--especially the rainbow Slinky, a candy shish kabob, and a paint set. We had a little campfire and enjoyed the sunset before the rain came back for one last gasp.
Home again for a busy few days. Ken and Harriet are letting me tag along for a two week trip to Wisconsin and the Michigan UP starting Thursday. Besides planning food and clothes, Agatha needs some attention. The furnace did not come on Friday night when I tried it and I may need that in the UP. There is a water leak inside that I need to locate. And tomorrow she will go in for an oil change and general checkup. Meanwhile, I did get another set of rope lights up on my deck and these work!
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.