On Saturday, August 31, Lillian, Frank, Heather the Collie, and Mason the 12-week old Aussie piled into the Subaru for a 9-day, 3400-mile adventure touring the upper Great Lakes. Saturday we drove from Wilmington to Grayling, Michigan, a 770-mile jaunt that we were pleased to complete in 12 hours. The puppy did GREAT in the car, and she continued to do so the entire trip. Grayling is north-central in the lower peninsula of Michigan. We really enjoyed the roads and the forest as we headed further north, away from the cities and the crowds. Our lodging at the Grayling Days Inn was perfectly adequate and the only night we would spend in a motel on the trip.
We awoke early Sunday to heavy fog. Ugh! On the road and heading north by 7 AM. We were pleased that the fog was burning off as we approached the Straits of Mackinac. The famous bridge had one lane blocked off for a bicycle tour. We crossed the bridge, entered the upper peninsula, and encountered our first "Yoopers". All kidding aside, we loved everything about the U.P. Wonderful place! We stopped in the small town of St. Ignace at the harbor on Lake Huron. There was a craft festival going on at the waterfront. We wandered around with the pups for an hour or so, with Mason and Heather getting lots of loving from strangers.
Northward we sped up to Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks. The waterfront was a neat touristy area. We enjoyed seeing the locks, between Lakes Superior and Huron, though the dogs were not allowed on the grounds. As we left the town and headed west it looked like rain. We needed to rendezvous with John and Barb at Lake Superior State Campsite near Grand Marais. Along the way we did our best to see Whitefish Bay and Tahquamenon Falls. Well, it did rain. We got lunch in Paradise and ate it in the car at the upper falls parking lot. The parking lot was full. Apparently all of Michigan goes to the falls on the day before "Bridge Day". Between the downpour and the crowds we were less than thrilled by our walk down to view the falls. Oh well.
We later accessed the camp ground by a dirt road along the shore of Lake Superior. Luckily the rain had stopped by the time we arrived. However, the road was full of deep mud puddles and the Subaru wound up being the "dirtiest it has ever been", according to Lillian. We arrived about 3 PM after 300 miles of driving. John and Barb had found a wonderful campsite perhaps 30 yards off of the beach, with a path leading directly to the water. Heavy vegetation provided a good wind break, that would be much needed later on. We found their van and the Nimrod (pop up camper) already set up. We quickly found them out on the beach. The sun was out, it was about 70F, and the lake was dead calm. The pups enjoyed a good romp on the beach after being cooped up in the car for two days.
We got set up in camp as a few rain squalls blew through. Luckily our friends had a nice tarp set up over the picnic table and we all stayed dry. As evening approached it dried out, but the winds picked up. By dark a gale was blowing. Due to the shelter of the campsite we were still able to have a wonderful camp fire and then settle down in the tent with the pups for the night. The wind and the surf were perfect "white noise" with which to sleep after a busy day.
The next morning we were up early. The wind was howling and the waves out on the lake were estimated at 10 feet. Quite the scene! After more rock collecting we packed up the campsite and headed west to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We enjoyed seeing the Grand Sable Dunes and the Miner's Castle rock formations. The dunes are massive, probably 300 feet high. The wind was still wailing off of lake, perhaps 40 mph.
We stopped for a brief lunch in Munising and continued west to Baraga, arriving about 3 PM and 160 miles traveled. We found a camp site at Baraga State Park. This afforded a nice view of the Kewaunee Bay. Unfortunately it was also next to a busy highway. We dropped the Nimrod and our car at the campsite and all piled into their van for the roughly one hour drive east to Mt. Arvon. At 1979 feet, this is the high point of Michigan. The route involved about 10 miles of dirt roads that were well signed. As we went on, the roads got a little rougher. We were able to essentially drive to the top. Upon arrival there were a bunch of ATVers, but they quickly left. We had the top to ourselves. The wind had died completely and there was a nice view point looking north and west across the bay to the Kewaunee Peninsula. On the way back we stopped at a logged over area to forage for firewood.
We had one whole end of the campground to ourselves and a great fire! We tolerated the traffic noise. It got quite cool overnight, low-mid 40s F, and there was a very heavy dew the next morning. By 10 AM we were dried out, packed up, and ready to head south to Wisconsin. Along the way John and Barb showed us Bond Falls, a wonderful cascade in the southern part of the U.P. The trail and catwalk system allows you to get up close and personal with the falls. Highly recommended and very impressive water flow.
We stopped in Eagle River, WI for lunch at the "Dog House". The staff were very dog friendly and we enjoyed sitting out at their picnic tables with the pups. Heather now has her picture hanging in the restaurant! We continued to head south and west towards Timm's Hill, the high point of Wisconsin. We arrived at the 1951-foot summit at about 2:30 PM and just under 200 miles of travel. This location in north-central Wisconsin is a county park. There was a great observation tower affording fine views of the surrounding countryside. Bass Lake stretched out below. It was sunny, warm, and beautiful. John and Barb bade us goodbye to return to Green Bay and work the next day.
We checked into our "cabin" at the "High Point Village". The Northern Pines cabin was actually a very nice summer home overlooking the small Bass Lake. It was great, clean, and very peaceful. Kathy, the owner, was very nice and interested in meeting highpointers from other states. Heather and I went for a hike around the lake. We got some take out from the Rail Trail Cafe in nearby Ogema and enjoyed peace and solitude. After watching "Grumpy Old Men" it was time for bed.
Wednesday morning we were up and heading north by 9 AM. Along the way we stopped by what had to be the most unusual sight of the trip, the Wisconsin Concrete Park in nearby Phillips. Think several acres filled with hundreds of life and larger than life size figures of people, animals, etc. formed out of concrete and broken glass. All one man's (Fred Smith) passion. Not a lot of artistic talent but obviously a lot of energy and free time. We stopped in Ashland, WI on the shore of Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay for lunch. Our friends Barry and Jill were expecting us in Esko, MN, near Duluth, at about 3 PM. We had a little extra time, so we detoured to down town Duluth and wandered the streets with the pups for an hour. Interesting town built on the side of a big hill!
Jill and Dewey the Golden Retriever greeted us in Esko, after a relatively modest 200 miles of driving. Barry was home from work by about 5 PM. We hadn't seen these guys in many years and it was great to catch up. Daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Jacob joined us for a wonderful reunion dinner.
On Thursday we, sans Jill, piled into their SUV and Barry drove us up the North Shore of Superior to Eagle Mountain, MN. At 2301 feet, this was the high point of our journey. We drove about 100 miles up the lake to Lutsen, before turning inland on dirt roads to the trail head. The three humans and three dogs signed in at the trailhead and started the 7-mile round trip hike. The first 2 1/2 miles of trail were basically flat but surprisingly rocky. Upon reaching Whale Tail Lake, the trail climbs up the ridge the final mile or so to the summit. There were some nice open ledges with great views on a perfect early fall day. We could see a sliver of Lake Superior on the horizon. This was a popular mountain. We saw perhaps 30 people on the trail during the day.
Amazingly, Mason walked nearly the entire way up and down the mountain. We were sure we were going to be carrying her but it pretty much didn't happen. She was definitely cranky and overtired on the way back down, but did not want to be carried. For some unknown reason, Heather felt the need to jump off a boardwalk on the way back into a morass of thick, black mud. She was absolutely filthy! Once back to he parking lot we cleaned her off the best we could and stuck her in the back. We were back to Esko by 6 PM.
Jill had made reservations for us at the Va Bene restaurant in Duluth. We enjoyed great Italian food overlooking the lake and Duluth's famous lift bridge. Life was good! By the time we were back to Esko we were all pretty beat. They both had to work the next day, so we turned in.
Prior to leaving Friday, we gave Heather an impromptu bath with the hose in their front yard. This got off the remainder of the mud. We hopped in the car, crossed back to Wisconsin, and started a 380-mile, 7-hour journey down Rt. 53, I-94, and finally I-90 to Beloit, to see friends Jere and Connie. By the time we arrived at 3 PM the temperature had risen to the upper 80s. We enjoyed catching up with our friends, and Connie whipped up a wonderful dinner. After dinner we visited on their back deck. Frank and then Jere wandered off to bed while Lillian and Connie kept the torches burning late.
Lillian, Jere, and Frank were up early on Saturday for the final highpointing adventure, Charles Mound, IL. Connie was kind to stay behind and watch the pups. This 1235 foot massif, about 80 miles west and a bit south of Beloit, is on private land and the owners don't allow dogs. It is also challenging to visit, as they only are open to the public 8 days per year. We were parked and walking up the dirt road to the highpoint by 8:30 AM. A hike of a bit over a mile brings one to a pastoral view and a sign announcing you have reached the top of Illinois. We took photos, enjoyed the view, and were back in Beloit in time for lunch.
We bade goodbye to Connie and Jere and headed south and east to the Chicago metro area. We arrived at Karin and Rob's home in Naperville by 3 PM, with about 300 more miles on the car for the day. We were less than enthused about the extent of the commercial strip along the major thoroughfare accessing their home. It was great to get to know Robert, Kristin, and Trey. The dogs got along OK. We loved their home and were intrigued when they told us there was a "real" downtown to Naperville. We loved walking through the downtown, along the River Walk, and had a great dinner at Giordano's Pizza. After putting the kids to bed we played some pool (poorly, speaking personally) and then retired ourselves.
We were up again bright and early on Sunday for the long drive home. After saying goodbye, we were pleased to make the nearly 800-mile drive in 12 1/2 hours. It was quite a lot to pack into a week's vacation. Frank now has a total of 35 state highpoints completed; Lillian has 20. What great fun! Thanks to all of our amazing friends that helped make this possible!