Part I: July 14th 2016
Wheeling to Houghton Lake
Betsy and I are back in one of our favorite places - The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have made the pilgrimage to the UP many times over the years. In fact we have been coming up here since 1981 during our courtship days. And I still have the pictures to prove it.
Betsy Beal in 1981 at Porcupine Wilderness State Park, Union Bay Campground.
Nearly every other trip up this way we have more or less just wandered around and stayed wherever we ended up. This time is different. We have hotels booked 9 nights in a row. This is a first for us.
But it was out of necessity as we are here in prime time, not off season like usual. So we wanted to be on the safe side and planned ahead for the rooms.
Camping? We have all but given up on it. Finding a quiet place is nearly impossible and dispersed camping in the National Forest can be hit or miss. So this trip it will be all hotels, at least until the 23rd when Betsy will fly to Fort Wayne and take the Greyhound back to Wheeling.
Me? I will stay out until I either get road weary or I miss Betsy so much I can't stand it! Then I will head on home.
Here is what our route will be while we are up here together.
We left Wheeling at 6:00 am and arrived at Houghton Lake at around 3:00. We checked into the motel. We had hoped to arrive early enough to check out North Higgins Lake State Park so we left the motel and headed 15 miles up the road.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
North Higgins Lake State Park had two things we were interested in, a CCC museum and a sandy beach on a lake surround by low wooded hills.
Higgins Lake is a large recreational and fishing lake in Roscommon County, in the U.S. state of Michigan. The 9,900 acre (40 km²) lake is known for its deep, clear waters and is the 10th largest in Michigan with a shoreline of 21 miles (34 km). It is named after Sylvester Higgins, the first chief of the topographical department of the Michigan Geological Survey. It has a maximum width of 4 miles (6.4 km) and a length of 7 miles (11 km) with a maximum depth of 135 feet (41 m). The mean depth is 44 feet (13 m) and the lake contains almost 20 billion cubic feet (570 million m³) of water.
Its retention time is about 12.5 years. The lake's watershed covers 19,000 acres (77 km²). The twin-lobed lake receives half of its water from submerged springs, six percent from incoming streams, and the remainder from direct rainfall and runoff. It drains into Marl Lake by the Cut River which runs into Houghton Lake and eventually to Lake Michigan. A mile north of the lake, water flows into the Lake Huron watershed.
We have been to several CCC Museums over the years and we found this to be the one with the most extensive collection of memorabilia that we can remember. What a treasure. (Click on the image to read the sign.)
The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at North Higgins, documents the efforts to "put Americans back to work" during the Great Depression. The CCC enrolled more than 100,000 young Michigan men to perform a variety of conservation and reforestation efforts. Between 1933 and 1942, the Michigan CCC planted 484 million trees, spent 140,000 days fighting forest fires and constructed 7,000 miles of truck trails, 504 bridges and 222 buildings. The DNR state park system still carries many examples of their work still in use today.
Historical interpretation is provided by the Michigan History Center.
"The CCC Worker". We found out from museum photos not all of the recruits were young. There were also work camps for WWI veterans. In those days, everyone needed some cash.
There was a collection of 100s of photos of "the boys" who were at various camps throughout Michigan.
Another name for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was “Roosevelt's Tree Army”. Read on and you will find out why.
Can you imagine a bunch of smart phone addicted pudgies doing a day's work like this?
I would have loved to have seen the photos in the "Snap Shots" album on the left.
Dawn to dusk manual labor, 5 days a week with primitive living conditions. Yes, those were "Happy Days".
If you are going to plant 500 million seedlings you will need a lot of seeds. You will need many truck loads of bagged cones like the one pictured above.
The "Look Up" refers to the attic area of the building where we were viewing this display.
This tumbler was used to separate the seeds from the pine, spruce and fir cones.
Betsy gives it a turn.
And so ends our tour of the CCC museum. Now, on to the beach!
Our beach front Happy Hour Station. Donna B requested a photo of our HHS so this is for her. Hence forth I will document our HHS's.
Ahh... it was so nice to leave the heat and humidity of Wheeling behind.
I think Betsy thought the water was a tad bit chilly.
But she got used to it pretty quick and had a nice enjoyable float about.
The sun was playing hide and go seek with the clouds and Betsy was not too crazy about standing around while I fiddled with my camera.
After drying off and changing back into street clothes we headed back to the hotel to have our supper.
Our humble meal - a $3.99 Wal Mart Cobb salad eaten while sitting in the van gazing at the distant tree line.
And this wraps up our first day on our much longed for Michigan Road trip. Tomorrow we head north to Manistique via Birch Point. Can't wait!!
Smooches to all,
Mike and Betsy.
PART II: Friday, July 15th 2016
Houghton Lake to Manistique via th Birch Point Beach Hike
Yesterday was a good day. We arose at 5am, had our coffee, packed up and were out the hotel room door at 6:00. A quick stop at the breakfast room revealed the usual - sugar laden cereals, frozen waffles with artificially flavored goop to pour on them, etc. The only thing tolerable for us were small containers of yogurt which we grabbed 4 of. We then stopped at the front desk to let them know the sink faucet dripped constantly, the TV did not work and the back door to the parking area only locked part of the time. Then it was across the street to gas up, eat a yogurt in the back lot of the Burger King next to a big Sugar Maple, then back on US 127 north which shortly reconnected with I-75.
Neither of us could face another egg McMuffin so we decided to look for a breakfast place with better fare. At Gaylord I spotted a sign for The Sugar Bowl Restaurant. However when we got off the exit we were faced with a blocked off main street where the Sugar Bowl was located. We then discovered they were having their annual Alpen Fest and most of main street was closed for the festivities.
I turned around and then Betsy mentioned she had seen a diner on the way in. Sure enough and we ended up at Arlene's Diner, a local place with no Egg Mc Muffins and a pretty good "Fajita Skillet" 3 egg omelet which we split.
Splitting meals is now the norm for us. Several weeks ago after having dined out and both of us feeling stuffed and leaden we vowed to hence forth split our meals and take turns choosing them. This has the effect of half the calories at half the price which is a pretty good combo and good for both our guts and our wallets.
Once again we were back on I-75 north for about 12 miles to the Topinabee Rest Area. We had stopped here back in 2010 when we were just starting up Betsy's retirement kick-off "Three Weeks In Michigan". I think it is safe to say that was our best Michigan trip and one of our Best Trips ever.
The rest area has a short trail up to a look out deck. When we walked it in 2010 it was pretty busy with people and cars. Today, it was very quiet and we saw no one at the top.
We saw lots of the Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis). It is one of my favorite north county plants.
In 2010 I took this picture of Betsy at the top of the Topinabee Rest Area overlook trail.
Here is a repeat shot yesterday (15 July 2016). After the passing of 6 years I dare say Betsy looks none the worse for wear.
We were both wondering what type of rock this was. Perhaps one of you rock hounds out there can tell us.
This hand painted explanation of "The Rock Cycle" is starting to show its age. But, like Betsy it is holding up pretty well.
Betsy especially liked this part of the painting. Perhaps because she is married to a wind bag?
I thought for sure this was going to be in focus. I guess my eyes are getting as decrepit as my brain. What is this critter? I do not know.
About 35 miles north of the Topinabee Rest Area we got our first glimpse of the Mackinac Bridge.
The Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. Opened in 1957, the 26,372-foot (8.038 km) bridge (familiarly known as "Big Mac" and "Mighty Mac") is the world's 17th-longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western hemisphere. The Mackinac Bridge carries Interstate 75 and the Lakes Michigan and Huron components of the Great Lakes Circle Tours across the straits and connects the city of St. Ignace on the north end with the village of Mackinaw City on the south.
Envisioned since the 1880s, the bridge was designed by the engineer David B. Steinman and completed in 1957 only after many decades of struggles to begin construction.
I have lost track of how many people have asked us "Have you ever been to Mackinac Island?". The answer is still "No." But it is on our list.
Going north there is a visitors center as soon as you exit the bridge. We decided to stop and look for any maps or info we still did not have. In the process we spotted this access point to the North Country Trail and decided to go for a stroll.
The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) stretches approximately 4,600 miles (7,400 km) from Crown Point in eastern New York to Lake Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota in the United States. Passing through the seven states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, it is the longest of the eleven National Scenic Trails authorized by Congress. Like its sister trails, it was designed to provide outdoor recreational opportunities in some of the America's outstanding landscapes. As of early 2014, 2,730 miles (4,390 km) have been completed.
Betsy and I have been on various segments of the NCT over the years. It goes through some very pretty country side.
Very few stands of virgin White Pine remain in Michigan. Betsy and I visited one such place in 2010 - Estivant Pines in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Unbeknownst to us the trail led to some nice views of the Mackinac Bridge.
A fallen Balsam Fir at one of the view points offered a good opportunity to see all the cones.
I think Betsy would agree when I say the highlight of her 2010 retirement kick-off trip to Michigan was our hike along the North Shore of Lake Michigan to Birch Point. That hike is described here. It had now been 6 years since that hike and we decided it was time to go back.
One of the things we loved about our first hike to Birch Point was all the wild flowers we saw in bloom. That hike was July 2nd. This second hike was on July 16th. Still lots of wild flowers in bloom including the one above. I do not know its name. Unlike the many I have forgotten, this one was new to me.
This shot shows the unopened flowers of the plant above and below.
If you know the name of the plant please let me know.
Another plant new to me. There were many thousands of them. ID?
I am fairly sure this is Variegated Scouring Rush (Equisetum variegatum). It formed a dense ground cover along much of the trail.
Another new plant for me. I am sure I have seen this in a book somewhere but the name escapes me. Quite beautiful!
We saw some nice stands of Milkweed. The fragrance of the flowers was intoxicating.
Yet another plant I "learned" and have now forgotten.
The gorgeous North Shore of Lake Michigan. It was wonderful to see some blue sky but the clouds kept moving back in throughout the hike.
On our 2010 hike we came across this squatters camp. And there was much, much more than this photo shows. The place was covered with all the junky trappings of modern camping.
I was horrified to see so much crap laying around which I knew would be turning to trash at some point. I called Michigan DNR and reported our findings and obviously they took care of the problem.
Check this out. It is all that remains of a squatters camp we came found in 2010. Mission accomplished!
Still more wild flowers! In the fore is Philadelphia lily (Lilium philadelphicum) and the yellow flower in the back is Yarrow. I am not sure if the Yarrow is native or not.
It doesn't get much better than this! Solitude, quiet. No people, no cars. Just nature.
This looked like a species of Viburnum to me but it was one I was not familiar with.
The back of the Viburnum (?) leaves had a whitish indumentum.
We saw many gulls. Mostly ring bill. Also common terns and spotted sandpipers.
This rather non descript orchid is yet another one I have forgotten. I once saw something very similar in a swamp in northern Minnesota.
Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)! And lots of it. It looks like the flower stalks will be maturing in another week or so.
Drosera rotundifolia — the round-leaved sundew or common sundew — is a species of sundew, a carnivorous plant often found in bogs, marshes and fens. One of the most widespread sundew species, it has a circumboreal distribution, being found in all of northern Europe, much of Siberia, large parts of northern North America, Korea and Japan but is also found as far south as California, Mississippi and Alabama in the United States of America and on New Guinea.
The plant feeds on insects, which are attracted to its bright red colour and its glistening drops of mucilage, loaded with a sugary substance, covering its leaves. It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which is usually poor in nutrients or is so acidic, nutrient availability is severely decreased. The plant uses enzymes to dissolve the insects – which become stuck to the glandular tentacles – and extract ammonia (from proteins) and other nutrients from their bodies. The ammonia replaces the nitrogen that other plants absorb from the soil.
We didn't see a lot of Pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) but the ones we did see were real beauties.
Fab flowers on this Pitcher Plant!
I had not seen a white admiral, AKA red-spotted purple in long time.
The white admiral or red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis) is a polytypic species of North American brush-footed butterfly, common throughout much of the eastern United States. L. a. astyanax has red spots on its underside and the top of the wings are notable for their iridescent blue markings. L. a. arthemis on the other hand has a large white band traversing both the forewings and hindwings.
Distribution map of Limenitis arthemis. The red shows the range of L. a. arthemis; the orange L. a. astyanax; the green L. a. arizonensis; and the yellow shows where the ranges of L. a arthemis and L. a. astyanax overlap.
The red-spotted purple is a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) and is typically found in open woodlands and along forest edges.
The water on Lake Michigan was much higher than on our visit in 2010. Apparently it is at levels not seen since the record high of 1986. When we were last here you could walk out about 20-30 feet before hitting water.
Lake Michigan water levels have risen more than four feet since January 2013, an unprecedented increase since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began keeping records in 1918, says Thomas O'Bryan, area engineer for the US Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Michigan office.
"This is an historic event," O'Bryan said, noting that the high water levels have caused dramatic changes along the shoreline.
According to the agency's data, the lake has risen from 576.02 feet in January 2013 to 580.09 feet this May. It is still more then two feet below the record high of 582.35 set in October 1986.
Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette
In 2010 the boulders out in the water were all exposed.
Betsy the Water Sprite! Nothing like a refreshing skinny-dip in the clear, cool waters of Lake Michigan.
The last shot on our hike before we headed back to the trail head. This is Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja).
As it was rapidly approaching the Happy Hour we high tailed it to Manistique stopping only to make sure the beer was well chilled.
Yet another beautiful spot for our Happy Hour Station. This time it is Manistique Beach near the lighthouse breakwater. We have been here on more than one occasion to enjoy the end of a busy day.
Mmmmm... locally smoked Salmon.
And for a little variety some Menominee.
The Menominee is native to all the Great Lakes except Erie. The Salmon however were introduced. In fact four species were introduced: Chinook or King Salmon, Coho or Silver Salmon, Pink Salmon, and Atlantic Salmon. I have no idea what species we ended up with. But I can tell you it is mighty tasty!
The last shot of the day before we headed back to the hotel room for a quiet evening of personal interaction. ;)
PART III: Saturday, July 16th 2016
A Return to East Lake, Manistique Beach Happy Hour
and a Colorful Start to a New Day
Yesterday morning broke clear and cool. When I got up at 5:00 and stepped out the door I knew a front had come through - it was a bracing 41 degrees here in Manistique. And there was a reported 36 degrees in Marquette where we will be for the next four nights. This will be fine as long as we actually get the predicted sunshine and highs in the low 70s.
A few details I left out about the beach hike to Birch Point. The distance is 5.2 miles round trip and there is at least a half mile section of beach cobble which requires careful footing and rock hopping. I had my concerns about this section because of my healing ankle injury. But I am happy to report I experienced no pain or weakness from the hike. Add to this a 4.5 mile "hill and holler" hike we went on about a week ago and it gives me hope I am back up to my old hiking level. We shall see...
Ever since 1981 when we first started coming up to the UP we have had to do battle with all manner of biting insects - mainly mosquitos and black flies. The latter can be really pesky. Not much works as a repellent and they have the habit of landing on your clothing and then wandering around until they find an opening. Then they bite repeatedly until you can manage to get them out from under your clothing. And unlike mosquito bites they itch like crazy for several days. Daggone things!
Then there are the ticks. Even if one "suits up" they always seem to find a way in. And if they don't they just hang on and then you end up taking them home with you where they can wander freely around your tent or hotel room until they find a nice morsel of skin to latch onto.
So far this trip we have had only a few mosquitoes and ticks. But man! - the deer flies! On our Birch Point beach hike they pestered us mercilessly. And any place where there was thin material that was tight against the skin - like a shoulder, they could bite right through the fabric. Fortunately I had a hat and Betsy has her nice head of hair and we were able to keep them off. But our ankles, shoulders and other areas got hit hard.
Oh well, a small price to pay for the enjoyment of such natural beauty.
Much of yesterday I spent doing web work. I did take a break around 7:30 am and Betsy and I went out for brisk two mile walk along the shoreline. The city of Manistique had built a really nice boardwalk trail that we can get to with a 5 minute walk from here at the Star Motel.
When we got back I continued the web work for a while longer. Then another break. We drove to downtown Manistique which is just a few minutes drive from the Star Motel. We wanted to check out the latest inventory at a couple of thrift shops we have been to before. Betsy found a floppy hat for herself and a pair of shorts for me and I found a coffee mug, kitchen knife and mini USB cable for a grand total of 7 bucks.
Then it was back to the hotel where Betsy continued work on her journal and I continued mine. At about 1:00 we made the decision to head north to East Lake in hope of getting a little piddle paddle in with the kayaks. We drove about 23 miles north west on RT 94 and after a couple of mis-steps found the forest service access road to the lake.
With boats unloaded it was not long before we hit the water.
East Lake is a small 53 acre lake in an area where you have your choice of many.
We paddled the eastern shoreline and then swung around to put in at the camping spot where we had spent 3 nights on our 2010 trip. That was heaven. Your own private beach on a quiet and secluded lake. We were very surprised to see no one at the camp site - especially on a weekend.
It didn't take Betsy long to get down to business!
I decided to join in the fun as it was a good way to escape the pesky deer flies..
After our refreshing cool dip we took the boats down to the next camp site which we found empty as well. If only I had brought the tent! We never would have guessed that 2 out of the only three sites on East Lake would be empty.
One last shot and then we were back loading up the boats. And none too soon as the skies darkened and we heard a rumble of thunder. Time to get moving. As we left East Lake we talked about where we should set up our Happy Hour Station. We thought about Indian Lake which was nearby but decided it would probably have just as many deer flies as we encountered here so we decided to head back to Manistique Beach.
We took some rural roads instead of RT 94 and the drive was very scenic. We passed by the trailhead parking area for the Pine Martin Run trail system and stopped to get a map. This will be on our list for the next time.
Look familiar? Here we are back at Manistique Beach to finish off fillet #1 of the smoked lake Salmon and the Menominee. Luckily the weather cleared on our way back from East Lake and we had a nice sunny happy hour. We got back to the room around 7:30 and spent a leisurely and uneventful evening.
Sunday, 17 July 2016
Around 5:30 am I stepped out the hotel room door. I checked the thermometer - 61 degrees. Twenty degrees warmer than the previous morning. I stepped back into the hotel room and looked out the back window which faces east. I could see long bands of clouds. I knew it was going to be a good one. I pulled on a few clothes and walked down to the shoreline. The warm breeze was delightful as was the beginning of the new day.
That's it for now. See you in Marquette!
Mike and Betsy.