T005 Michigan and Lake Superior’s North Shore

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First light arrived at the Ontario Parkway just as we did. We started along the traffic free parkway watching blacks fade to gray and then grays bloom to color as the sky brightened. Occasional glimpses of Lake Ontario brought back pleasant reminders of our water passage along this same shore a month or so earlier.

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The real world of traffic showed up as we crossed into Canada to run the QEW, 401 and 403 to Sarnia. Worries of big back ups to clear customs into the US vanished as we came down the Blue Water Bridge ramp at Port Huron. Ahead only one customs lane was open and it was empty of cars. Clearing customs would have taken seconds if I hadn’t gotten too close to a newly installed post. It knocked out and broke the lower mirror on the passenger side. The customs officer walked around the Trek, handed us our mirror and cleared us except for having us come inside where we convinced them we were not planning of filing a complaint. It did let us learn that the post protects new detectors installed to check cars. They were a bit vague about exactly what the detectors checked for, but it was evident a ton of money had been spent. Minutes later we spotted a billboard for an RV store and had a replacement mirror. One of the easiest RV repairs we’ve had.

We sailed downwind with just the lap of water on the hull and the sails barely drawing. Brother-in-law, Steve treated us to a sailboat ride—a treat we hadn’t enjoyed since we sold Tranquility. As we ghosted along we watched the ore carrier glide by 50 yards to starboard as we cruised just outside the Lake St Clair’s freighter channel. Then we caught up with Sandy and marveled at her ability to evolve her product lines and maintain her store’s success. We’ll have to come back and see Steve’s vision thing finished. He’s exploding of what was once a tight second floor storage area with no headroom into a dormer with beds and bunks for all the grandkids. It will be a unique addition to the house.

Chairs on the dock of a beautiful up north lake on a warm summer afternoon was where we sat and speculated with Rick and Joan about their dreams of maybe living in the area someday. We shared the last day of their two-week stay. We had a lovely tour of the area, also. We also got to meet their cool cat, Leo. Sadly the bubble slowly deflated the next day as we all got ready to travel our separate ways. Rick and Joan headed for home in Dearborn. We headed for Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to enjoy the bear–the mountain of sand that inspired the legend of the sleeping bear.

A year earlier we’d docked Odyssey at Charlevoix’s town dock. Now as guests of Bill and Birute we were aboard B&B a sister ship to Odyssey. We poked around Lake Charlevoix enjoying a perfect day for a boat ride. Our knowledge of Charlevoix expanded as Bill and Birute showed us the location of more of the unique hobbit like homes that make Charlevoix unique. As we walked town a real estate photo caught our eye. For a mere $600,000 we could have one of these tiny unique homes in Charlevoix. On a more practical basis we enjoyed Bill and Birute’s home and finally saw and enjoyed first hand all the improvements and changes they’d been telling us about by e-mail.

On the south side of the Mackinac Bridge is Mackinaw City, a collection of tourist shops, motels and a few homes. On the north side is St. Ignace which is more of a normal city with a few tourist attractions. We made a brief stop in Mackinaw City to get pasties, Finnish meat pies, from a shop that we have never passed up when coming north. Having scored our pasties we crossed the Mackinac Bridge heading for an RV park from which we could walk back into St. Ignace.

Guess it’s not correct to call it a wheelhouse when there’s no wheel. The captain steered using just engine controls and thrusters when docking. We were aboard one of the Arnold Line Catamaran ferryboats heading for Mackinac Island. It was the first in many years that we were not arriving at the island on our own boat. Without our own boat to live aboard we made reservations on the island at the Chippewa Hotel for a couple of nights.

Full racks of bikes waiting for riders served as a gauge of island emptiness. There were just enough of fudgies (locals term for island visitors) to make for good people watching without feeling overwhelmed. Then we headed out to explore the island interior and discovered The Woods a great spot in the woods for lunch or a drink. It pleases us that we are still able to discover new things after all our visits to the Island. We partied into the evening watching the sun set behind the Mackinac Bridge. We finally snuggled in and drifted off listening to the occasional clip clop of horse drawn taxis. Morning found us doing pertinence for our night of partying by walking the eight miles on the road around the Island. Reluctantly we caught the ferry for a return to the mainland. Arnold Line added one last nice touch by having the Trek waiting at the dock when we arrived.

We didn’t have a front row spot at the Sault Sainte Marie RV Park, but we could see the Saint Mary’s River and the occasional ore carrier passing by. Our VHF would come to life as freighters called the Soo Locks alerting us to watch for their passage past the Trek’s front window.

Antlers, a funky restaurant filled with hundreds of racks of antlers and other oddities hanging from the ceiling was a fitting spot for our last U.P. meal. Early the next morning we were the only vehicle at Canadian customs. We aren’t sure if it is the gas prices or homeland security that is keeping the traffic down at border crossings.

In 1997 we’d loved Lake Superior’s north shore as we cruised it aboard Tranquility. Now we started into the north woods wilderness enjoying the dramatic mix of rugged rocks, pines and hardwoods with just a hint of fall colors. We moved along the shore enjoying Canada’s parks and racking up new experiences and repeating some of the great ones we’d had when we’d come ashore by boat.

According to our wrist GPS we had hiked 4 miles along the Coastal Trail when we encountered the rocks and rugged climbing needed to reach the pictographs we’d seen cruising on Tranquility. A bit tired from the rough ground hiking we turned around and trekked back to the Trek at Agawa Bay. We stayed another day then on our way out of the Park we stopped to see the pictographs. Unfortunately, waves prevented us from seeing the actual thing so we settled for a picture of the drawing of pictographs. The hike down to the site was spectacular so we weren’t too sad.

Ontario’s Pukaskwa National Park again blew us away. In ‘97 we’d anchored in Pulpwood Bay and explored the park the first time when it was crowded with people. Now we were one of maybe ten campers in the huge park giving us a feeling of having it to ourselves. The hike around Halfway Lake was just as rough as we’d remembered as it twisted its way over the Canadian Shield rock and forest. The challenges of the trail, with its mix of rocks, forest and views make it one of our favorite walks. Dense hemlocks surrounded our campsite providing privacy but making for an early sunset and late sunrise. A log-strewn beach gave us access to the setting sun and presented a convenient spot for sitting to watch the sun sink into Lake Superior.

Despite a forecast of a lousy day with rain we decided leave and explore another Canadian Park. It was raining lightly as we pulled into Rainbow Falls Park, filled out the self registration and found a site where the view out the Trek’s windshield let us watch the waves rolling onto the rocky shore. We settled in and enjoyed a rainy day.

Neither of us knew the attraction, but we paid the admission fee and walked the two suspension bridges over Eagle Canyon. Their only purpose was to provide a thrill for those willing to walk. It was indeed a thrill to walk the swaying very light bridges high in the air.

The sign said “Amethyst Panorama Mine.” Intrigued and interested in seeing amethyst in the raw we hung a right in the Trek and headed inland over an increasingly rough road. We did shake, rattle and roll until we found the mine site. It wasn’t quite what we expected. The mine is a cut in the ground with one guy working part time to mine out amethyst. The tour was a kick. The mine owner gave the tour. He kept banging on the loud hailer that kept cutting out. The tour was fun, and in spite of the temperamental loud hailer we learned about how chance had revealed the amethyst and the ingenious methods employed to extract the stones. We picked up a few stones for souvenirs from a mound set aside for that purpose.

Views overlooking Lake Superior gave way to raw rock cuts that gave way pines struggling to grow in cracks and hollows in the jumble of rocks making up the Canadian Shield. The ever-changing views made the drive to Thunder Bay completely enjoyable as the road wound, climbed and dipped through the wilderness.

We found the Finnish Bakery serving the local Finnish community in Thunder Bay. We enjoyed unique rolls and a loaf of bread. Another fun stop was a gouda cheese factory where we, of course, indulged in several kinds of gouda we didn’t know existed.

At the boarder going back into the US at Minnesota there were no poles or mysterious detectors to attempt to remove our mirrors. There wasn’t any traffic either. The customs officer didn’t bother to ask for identification, but out of curiosity and boredom, we suspect, he asked to step inside the Trek. Since there wasn’t any traffic we expected him to spend some time looking around but he was quick. We were off to begin checking out Minnesota.

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