79. Michigan Upper Peninsula

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I slept in late this morning (trying to sell the message here that I normally don’t sleep late as I’m usually up early enough every morning so I can milk the chickens😂). Then I extended my stay here for another night, climbed into the toad and took off on a 165 mile side trip. After writing in my last post about never, in my real memory, having seen but always hearing about Tahquanamon Falls, I decided to fix that and headed to Paradise. That’s the little town of Paradise, MI and 10 miles from the Falls. I drove the Lake Superior Shoreline Road which does in fact trace the shoreline. Unfortunately also tracing the shoreline is heavy forestation. There are a number of scenic turnoffs from which you can enjoy the views.

I forgot this was northern MI. It was 🥶 cold and I’m in shorts and a T without a jacket. The little outdoor thermometer on the rear view mirror reflected a bone chilling 70 degrees. There also were banks of intermittent fog but none dropped lower than a couple hundred feet. It really was a pretty drive though chilly.

First up on the drive was Port Iroquois Light Station at the western head of the St Marys River/Whitefish Bay. This lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962 after nearly 100 years in service. It was replaced by Gros Cap Reefs Light, an unmanned buoy type (building in the water) beaconIn the St Marys River channel offshore in Canada.

After stopping for a chili dog lunch in Paradise, the Lower Tahquanamon Falls was next on the agenda. Though also a bit closer on the drive, I wanted to go to the Lower Falls in that parking was shown on the DNR site as requiring less walking. I paid my fee, found a parking space in a very crowded lot and joined the folks walking to see the Falls. I will say I was disappointed.

C’mon Michigan. It’s not like you’re trying to preserve nature here. You promote the Falls at every tourist stop, hotel and restaurant. You charge admittance including a surcharge for non residents. You have huge parking lots including large marked spaces for RVs and you have 15’+ wide asphalt paved “hiking trails” to and from formal viewing spots. You also have a trail down to distant water and a concessionaire renting rowboats for a proscribed circle rowing experience (probably 1.5 miles downstream from the falls). And for all that, the gullible tourist isn’t close enough to take decent pictures even with reasonable telephoto lens. Putting it into perspective based on comparison of waterfall height, width and water flow it’s like having to walk, after parking your car, 2 or 3 miles to a Niagara Falls viewing area which gives you a view of Niagara 5 miles away! If it’s a $ making tourist attraction, you can do better, Michigan!

Natural eye view from the viewing station
Just in case you missed it, the arrow marks THE SPOT
And using the best ‘telephoto’ on an iPhone
Or for extra $$, you can descend the wooden walkway in the background and become one of the five non life jacketed people in the rowboat availing themselves of the thrill of a lifetime by getting a better view. BTW, they are constrained from getting anywhere close to even those islands shown in the first picture above and even if they could get close, the tall brush would inhibit their vision. I’m sure it’s really pretty (and even busier) when the colors change in Autumn but then, where isn’t?

I decided I needed to give it another shot so I traveled 4 miles further by car to the Upper Tahquanamon Falls and a parking lot twice the size. The first opening from the parking lot was to another, I presume, concessionaire with the name Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub. I parked and walked…and walked…and walked to the first viewing station. I didn’t have it in me to walk further but the view was certainly better than the Lower Falls and probably would have been even better further down the “trail”. Either way, Longfellow must have seen a different sight when immortalizing Tahquanamon Falls in Hiawatha.

I drove back to Paradise, hung a left (North) and drove 11 miles to the end of the road and Whitefish Point. Whitefish Point, being only 17 miles SSE of where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975, is generally characterized as the land location of the sinking. The lighthouse site is also home to a large shipwreck museum consisting of about 10 buildings. Unlike a couple of years ago when I visited, I did not see ice floating near shore. It IS a worthwhile stop. Plus I got to buy myself some Mackinaw Island chocolate with Traverse City tart cherries fudge!

Part of the Whitefish Point complex
17 miles in this direction is the watery grave of the 29 member crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a Lake Superior gale with reported wave of 18-25’. That would be absolutely terrifying. Her bell was eventually retrieved and now is restored and housed at the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum.
And about 40 miles, as the crow flies, in this direction is where I’m camped.
A view from one of the areas where the dense forest doesn’t obscure the view of Whitefish Bay.

I rewarded myself by going out for dinner ordering a wonderfully prepared Whitefish dinner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A travel day. There’s a nice county campground located high on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MI. The bad part is it is about 30miles off of any normal route and it doesn’t take reservations. So I left heading in that general direction with high hopes. After all it’s mid week high in the Upper Peninsula. I forgot to start my app which tracks my route so I missed about 40 miles. I stopped when I got to the junction where I’d have to turn off towards Grand Marais and phoned the campground. ‘Yes, the campground is full but we can put you in the overflow lot. There’s a number of campers there waiting to be first in line should there be any checkouts.’

I passed and instead headed south about 40miles towards US2 and the northern shores of Lake MI. I had read about a really newer and high rated campground right on the shore in Manistique, Mi. When I neared, I pulled over and called and received news that they too were full. I decided to continue to Escanaba where I did actually find a very nice w/e, well landscaped park with about 25% occupancy or less for $20/nite. That’s more like it.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

As poet Robert Burns wrote: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley… (you had to memorize this poem in school, too. right?). I woke up this morning ready to get back on the road. While eating breakfast, I thought “what’s that noise?” After several repeats I raised the shades to discover darkening shies, thunder and lightning. Pulled up the radar on my iPad and it was a mess. Storms moving closer for a hundred miles. Little triangles indicating wind, possible hail etc etc. No reason to get on the road in this mess so I extended a day. Never saw actual rain here. Within 1.5 hours it was a right sunny sky and remained so for the rest of the day. What do they say about Michigan weather?

I think one of the Marine mottos is “Adapt, Improvise and Overcome”. Flexibility is key to my way of travel.

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6 thoughts on “79. Michigan Upper Peninsula”

    1. I did actually learn “To a Mouse”. I’m pretty sure it was in college though. There was a professor who was really big on memorizing poetry and we had a requirement to memorize a certain number of lines.. “To a Mouse” was a pretty fun one to learn.

      There was also a Poe one where he just repeats the same word for several lines. That was a good one too. 🙂


      1. I can’t remember what school level it was at for me. a mind is a terrible thing…. wish I could remember the rest of that old saw.


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