Embracing Michigan’s vastness

Featured image: “Bear! Bear!” shouted our guide above the din of our ancient trolley train that took us to the boat on the Tahquamenon Falls journey. The bear disappeared as we got close.

Looks like bear tracks to me, spotted on the path on the half-mile-plus walk from boat to Tahquamenon Falls.


Cogitation 37 Saturday 15 September 2018   “Embrace our vastness” could be a slogan for the State of Michigan. The state touches Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie.

The state’s Upper Peninsula borders Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.

Michigan’s location provides for an abundance of natural resources, including trails. The state has and continues to make strides in developing and maintaining more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails.

“It’s an interconnected trails system that provides plentiful recreation opportunities for bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, snowmobilers, equestrians, cross-country skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts,” I read in The Newberrry News (September 5).

Trails make a difference. Hip hip hooray for Michigan!

The DNR and Travel Michigan have recently launched a Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town program to showcase the state’s array of trails, including water trails and trail-centered communities. Motorized and non-motorized trails serve a vast number of people. Let other states and communities take note.

We’ve spent a week in the Upper Peninsula, commonly called the U.P.  This was the destination for a week-long vacation for Marty’s family when they had to get here by ferry. We’ve migrated back over the years, staying in or close to Curtis. The crossing is now by the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge.

Join us for a glimpse of the U.P.


Cross on over on the Mackinac Bridge

We crossed the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge in search of adventures old and new in the U.P,


Highway 2, a scenic drive

Scenic Highway 2 for at least 45 miles hugs the north shore of Lake Michigan. Sadly, some drivers are determined to get through this stretch by going way over the speed limit. Makes me shake my head and smile for want of crying out.

We are spending the week near Curtis, on Big Manistique Lake. From here we have ventured to Seney National Wildlife Refuge, the village of Grand Marais on Lake Superior, the Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour and Toonerville Trolley, and, if it’s confession time, a stop at the tourist-enticing Mystery Spot near St Ignace.

One of the highlights was the 6 1/2 hour train and boat tour to Tahquamenon Falls, combining a jolting ride on open-sided trolley cars through the wilderness on 24 gauge track with a totally tranquil boat ride on the Tahquamenon River.


Here’s a glimpse of our visit to Tahquamenon Falls

“Bear! Bear!” shouted our guide as she pointed ahead of the open-sided Toonerville Trolley. It soon disappeared.
Sandhill Cranes alongside the Toonerville train.
Eagles circling.
The engine that chugs through the wilderness, with trees identified along the route.
Boarding the Hiawatha for the 10-mile-per-hour journey on the Tahquamenon River to the Falls.

A beaver lodge.
Tahquamenon Falls, also called, Root Beer Falls, is colored by minerals from the river’s boggy wilderness watershed.

Return to Soo Junction on the Toonerville Trolley, a fine day in the wilderness.


Open sky and water in a not too disconcerting spotty cell phone coverage area

Nightfall on Big Manistique Lake.
The moon’s Waning Crescent phase appears over Big Manistique Lake at Pine Bluff Resort.
Sunset over Big Manistique Lake.


Grand Marais, a favorite destination on Lake Superior

Café owner Ellen Airgood signs a copy of her first novel, South of Superior. Lunch at the diner is billed as a “cultural experience.” Funky, fun, flavorful.
Five “patient” diners, John, Gerald and Mary Miller, Marty, Richard Mishler.
Lake Superior, a place to find agates and ship wreak stories.



Birthday dinner, with cake and a candle

Marty shared her birthday cake after dinner at Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn, Curtis.
The Carpenter Ants provide dinner music, transitioning into a lengthy “Happy, happy, birthday,” when the cake arrived.


Wild flowers, white birch, Christmas tree farm. trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans at Seney.


Mystery spots, fact or fiction?

I’m skeptical about the scientific claims of the 40-some mystery spots around the US. They thrive on a shifty view of science that appears to defy the laws of physics. At best they offer you a visual illusion. Still, as someone has said, when was the last time you enjoyed a vacation accompanied by a skeptic?


Go U.P.

The UP has oodles of natural and human-made wonders to gratify your noodle. I learned a few more facts, among them the problems humans, forest fires, and beetles have sprung on the U.P. Boat Captain Stewart freely shared his wisdom on the good and the bad, with considerable emotion, gleaned from 37 years of piloting the Hiawatha. Thanks, Captain.

In addition to a few facts, I take away the sound of the loon, the sight of golden rod and white birch, the start of changing color of leaves, water lapping on Lakes Michigan and Superior shores, good meals in and out, cinnamon rolls from Family Heirlooms Bakery, Helmer, done with gooey goodness.

Also a bonfire, some walks, visit to a local potter where a chicken led us into the studio, a cascade of stars in the night sky, memories from long ago resurrected with laughter and groans, card games, sitting on the porch, embracing moments of wonder, conversations and doings we’ll recall in the future.

Go U.P!


One thought on “Embracing Michigan’s vastness

  1. What a fabulous week, John! Enjoyed the photos and descriptions very much. Reminded me of the time we took a Circle Tour of Lake Michigan when our children were teenagers and passed though the UP — truly a wondrous destination.


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