Saturday - August 25th: Piers Gorge of the Menominee River

Betsy's journal entry after our lodging fiasco was: "We wiped the dust from our feet and headed out to Norway..."

I queried her about the use of "wiped the dust from our feet", a phrase I had not heard before. She explained it thus:

"This turns out to be a biblical reference, something like 'if anyplace does not welcome you or heed your words, wipe the dust from your feet as you leave that place.' I didn't realize it was biblical, I just knew the phrase had to do with leaving someplace that was somehow distasteful to you, as Houghton and the Downtowner were to us this visit"

Since the source was biblical this explained why I had not heard it before.

11 "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.
12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.
13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.
14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.
15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."

Source: New Testament - Matthew 10:14

By now we had been on the road for 3 weeks and were getting a little travel weary. But since we were still in the heart of the Upper Peninsula we decided to look for one more good hike before we left the Yooper for home.
So out comes Eric Hansen's Hiking Michigan's Upper Peninsula to help us decide.

We came across a short hike which was more or less on our route east across the UP. It was down near the Wisconsin border near the town of Norway.
The hike was along the Menominee River which is the border between Michigan and Wisconsin. This section of the Menominee had a scenic white water section which was just barely 2 miles long. And it was here we would take our stroll along the Piers Gorge section of the Menominee River. Norway, Michigan and the Piers Gorge section of the Memominee River
Piers Gorge section of the Memominee River.

As you can see, this section of the river is pretty well hemmed in by roads, farms and the not too distant Oak Crest Golf Course. This explains why you can hear traffic noise on some the of trail sections.

We made our way down US 141 then picked up US 2 which is the main east-west artery in the UP. 2.5 hours and 124 miles later we were at the parking area for the Piers Gorge Recreation Area.

As we were about to find out:
Easy access+Sunny/hot August day+weekend+water=many people.

When we got to the parking area the first thing we saw was a truck with a trailer full of big inner tubes. And people were coming and going as we got out of the van to check out the fee station and what would be required.
We deposited our five bucks and headed up the trail.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

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Not more than a few minutes up the trail we intersected a small footpath on the left. This led us to our first view of the river and one of the "piers" for which the area is named. There was a sign which told us we are at "Pier 1". Piers are what these basalt bedrock reefs are called.
See that reddish dot waaaay back there? We will see this later.

Michigan comprises three distinct land regions: the Superior Uplands, Northern Highlands, and Great Lakes Plains. The Superior Uplands spans the western two-thirds of the Upper Peninsula, the region formed by ancient volcanic activity. It is a landscape of dramatic beauty, characterized by rugged basalt cliffs and thick boreal forests of fir, spruce, and birch—all part of the vast Canadian Shield that dips down from the Arctic, across portions of the northern Great Lakes region, and up the west side of Hudson Bay in a giant horseshoe.

Source: by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel

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Betsy and I wandered around the basalt pier enjoying the view, testing the water for swimability and watching this fisherman cast.

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As we continued up the trail we caught our first glimpse of why this section of the river is so heavily visited.

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Betsy and I positioned ourselves on a bluff to better view the shrieking thrill seekers as they took the plunge and rode the rapids. There were several other groups of people doing the same thing at various points along the trail.

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This next series of photos show the rafters in action.

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Now at the end of the short run they disembarked, walked back up the trail and did it all over again.

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We continued on up the trail and went though this lovely park like section of woods. We were getting hot and sweaty now and it was time to scout for a dippin' spot.

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Mission accomplished! The water was delightful as was the scenery...;)

Shortly afterwards the trail petered out and when we saw a riverside house not far away we knew it was time to turn around.

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I am not sure why someone had left this boat sitting on the bluff like this. But it made an interesting picture.

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It was warm and humid enough so that even the short hike back was reason enough for another cooling dip.  Ahhhh...

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We had passed this wet seep on our walk up the trail and now I stopped to take a closer look.

It turned out along with some plants of Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) there was a very nice population of the Bulblet Bladder Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera).

The Bulblet Bladder Fern is rather unusual in that it produces bulblets along the bottom of the fronds. When mature, these fall off and will sometimes produce new plants.
FrondFondler Joan Eiger Gottlieb describes these bulblets as "scattered, proliferous meristematic nests". Now that is a mouthful!
Unlike the plants produced from spores which are unique, the bulblets produce clones. This, combined with Bulblet Bladder Fern's propensity to spread by creeping rhizomes, accounts for the fact that when you find this plant, it's usually a bunch of them!

Another interesting thing about the Bulblet Bladder Fern is it grows almost exclusively on calcareous substrate - which usually means limestone.
But in this case the substrate is most likely Kona Dolomite.
These two rocks are chemically different but to a non-geologist like myself it matters not - as long as the ferns are happy - I'm happy!

When we got back to the car it was time to move on down the road. We continued east on US Rt 2 which was getting busier as the day progressed. It was a nice weekend and lots of people were out and about.

We passed through Escanaba and jogged north along Little Bay de Noc. We were in familiar territory now - we had explored this area in June of 2010 during our 3 Weeks in Michigan trip to celebrate Betsy's retirement. Soon we passed through the small town of Gladstone and then started east again at the town of Rapid River which is at the northern end of the Little Bay de Noc.

When Betsy and I passed through the town of Rapid River, two places caught our eye.

Ritch Branstrom's adhocWORKshop - June 2010

This is a shot of the store front of Ritch Branstrom's adhocWORKshop on US 2 as seen in June of 2010. It is now empty.
Fortunately it only relocated and did not close. The shop moved from it's location on US 2 to "Main Street, Rapid River, right next door to Jack's Restaurant into the former Viau's Market/ RedOwl store".

Mikey B's Grill - CLOSED

This place, which was right next to Ritch Branstrom's old location did not fair so well. It is now permanently closed. This is a story oft-repeated in the UP.

Norway to Manistique

Soon we were nestling down for the night in the town of Manistique.

We drove across 2 all the way to Manistique and stayed in the Star Motel where we had stayed before. It was just as nice as we remembered and $40.00 a night cheaper than the Downtowner.
~ Betsy's Journal Entry ~

Betsy went off to Jack’s store for beverages: 2012 Black Ale, Burly Brown Ale, Nude Beach Wheat and Blonde Bombshell. Upon her return we sat in the late afternoon sun and soaked up the warmth.
Then we unloaded and set up the cooking gear on a picnic table and had a simple meal of sausage and canned beans.


We enjoyed the Sunset along with our meal.

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When I was rummaging around in the car I came across these two smoked fish wrappers. They were from the tasty treats we got when we were up in Washburn WI. Sure was yummy!

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Memories... sigh.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

We left Manistique and started the forced march home. We continued on US 2 which hugged the north shore of Lake Michigan for most of the way to the Mackinac Bridge. It was now Sunday and lots of other folks were heading south as well. US 2 was getting busy.
When we spotted the sign for Gustafson's Smoked Fish we quickly pulled in to have a look/see. The smoker was full of Lake Trout and so were the coolers inside the store.
Knowing this would be our last chance, we loaded up on various goodies including some smoked Gouda.
Here is Betsy's Journal entry for that day.

We drove and we drove and we drove and we drove and we drove and we drove and we drove! And we ended up at the Budget Inn southeast of Toledo off the Ohio Turnpike. Indian run (dot not feather) newly remodeled, and the cheapest room we’ve found on this trip - $49.00 including tax! Right by the Interstate, but that’s the breaks.
We enjoyed beer and Arby's Juniors for supper.

What she does not mention was the bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic we encountered around Lansing and several other places. This was a new experience for us as we usually stay off the interstate. It sucked.

The next day we made the drive from the Toledo area to Morgantown without incident.


And so ends our "3 Weeks in Minnesota".
Thanks for coming along with us.


Now, where to next...?