Friday, June 14, 2013

Michigan 2013 Trip - Day 3

A new day, a new adventure, this time along the Northern Upper Peninsula coast and parks.  Or in another light, how we were eaten alive!  Don't let the cold weather up here fool you, they make mosquitoes quite hardy up here!  Our overnight was at Curley's Motel in Paradise, MI.  As a motel, Curley's was ok but had none of the charm that Pointe North from the previous night did.  The room was large with two beds and a small sitting room, in addition to the small bathroom.  I would call it mostly clean, but definitely very worn and dingy looking.  If you walked around to the back of the building there was a spectacular view of Lake Superior, but the beach was very much eroded away and the weeds and grass unkempt everywhere. But at least they had wifi and the room was reasonable at around $70 a night with AAA.  I've also heard that pets are welcome there.   In summary, it was a good thing our party was mostly tired enough to sleep anywhere.

Our next stop was the Yukon Inn, a place advertising breakfast Fri-Tue.  The outside was rustic looking and the inside was just as rustic, with taxidermy (somewhat poorly done), a large bar, and some very nice people running it.  Three of our party opted for the traditional breakfast of hashbrowns, bacon, eggs and toast and weren't too pleased with it, with mom saying that the hashbrowns were the worst she'd ever had.  I actually was very pleased with my meal, biscuits and gravy.  They gave me a huge portion saying it was made freshly that morning and it gigantic chunks of sausage in it, nice seasoning, and soft biscuits.  The only downside for me was slapping away all the mosquitoes inside the building and trying to keep from being eaten alive while I was trying to eat.  And I may have ate a mosquito in the process.  Not sure where they were coming in at, but they were thick in there.
Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Beach near the lighthouse.
And then we were off!  The first thing on the agenda was Whitefish Point with the Shipwreck Museum, Lighthouse, and beach.  While Jan and Grandma went to the museum (and thoroughly enjoyed it), Mom and I explored the hiking trails that the Michigan Audubon Society runs for its bird watching and banding activities.  We also went into the bird watching gift shop and the extremely helpful lady there explained the banding of owls and the different types and then gave us several ideas for stops along the way on our trip.  The beach was just as spectacular, with a nice wooden walkway leading out onto it and the Lighthouse right behind.  It was also a prime spot to hunt for agates.

Grandma admiring the coast.

Mom by a rudder retrieved by a wrecked ship.
Sand dunes from the bird-watching boardwalk.

Display at the gift store.
Gravestones on the beach.
Whitefish Bay is known as the Graveyard of Ships and for good reason.  Many ships have met their end along this stretch of the lake, including the Fitzgerald.  Grave stones dedicated to some of the lost sailors can be found on the beach.  After finally talking Jan and Grandma out of jobs as lighthouse keepers, we were off to Tahquamenon Falls.

One of the Lower Tahquamenon falls.
Tahquamenon Falls is actually the name for several different waterfalls.  There are two parks (and you can pay one entry fee for both) and they are known as Upper and Lower.  The Upper is the large one, and it is further west from Whitefish Point than the Lower.  At the Lower there are five separate falls.  Three can be observed from a wooden walkway that spans clear around the basin (and it wheelchair accessible).  The other two can be observed by renting a rowboat and rowing out to an island where more walkways are available.  There are also several hiking trails available to the more adventurous traveler.

Lower Tahquamenon Falls.

Mom and Grandma stayed behind to check out the gift shop and snack bar and enjoy the warm sun on one of the benches with a view of the falls.  Jan and I hiked the 3/4 mile trek back to the observation area above one of the falls along the boardwalk.  It was a beautiful walk, with little streams and fragrant pine woods the main scenery until you arrived at the falls.  Just watch out for those shady areas by the water, I didn't say we were eaten alive today for nothing!
Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Flowers along the trail.
Upper Tahquamenon Falls, the color in the water is from the tannic acids that leak from different types of trees surrounding the river.

Up the road a little way (or by a four mile hike) was the Upper Tahquamenon Falls state park and this one was just as accessible by anyone for seeing the falls.  The trails are mostly paved and you can see the falls from several vantage points.  They let us borrow a wheelchair for Grandma so I could get my exercise pushing her (or at least that's the excuse we'll use) and she was able to see everything without worry excepting the boardwalks and stairs that offered the very close vantage points (over 100 stairs to see the basin up close and about 80 stairs to see the top of the falls).  Again the boardwalks were well taken care of and offered room for multiple tourists to get their tourist shoots.
At the top near the parking lot was a Brew Pub with the standard fare offered and a couple of large distillers.  There was also a snack bar and a gift shop but I was actually very taken with the Naturalist running a small covered area filled with information about the wildlife in the area, taxidermied animals, and a tank filled with invasive lamprey that were as creepy as they were intriguing.
The only male that hasn't run away from me lately.

Our stop for the night was to be Newberry and we made it with a lot of evening left.  After settling into our motel (review to come later) we headed to the owner's suggestion of a restaurant; Timber Charlie's.  This place was an upgraded version of Yukon Inn.  The building was in better repair, the taxidermy not as moth-eaten, and best of all, there weren't any mosquitoes.  I got the Chicken Fritters (which were not actually fritters but nuggets, I was a little disappointed) and the Beer Cheese with crackers (which was very good but served in several little containers instead of one big one which would have been easier for scoopage).  Mom and Grandma shared a pastie which they were just lukewarm about, but said was much improved with the added gravy, and each had a bowl of wonderful vegetable soup.  Jan had the fired whitefish, which she enjoyed and scarfed down quickly and came with a basket of fries that was innovatively served in a mini-fryer basket.  The server was friendly and the atmosphere relaxed and it filled us up enough to make us go back to the motel for the night to relax and ready ourselves for another day full of adventure.

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