Back in April I wrote about our sudden change in plans for the summer. Plan A was three months of volunteering at state parks in California and Washington, then the rest of the summer off in Washington to attend a couple big geocaching events, hike, visit friends and family, take an Alaskan cruise, and generally just goof-off. The virus thing changed all that and we went with Plan B, which was really Plan A for 2021, and the 2020 Plan A became Plan A for 2021. So far, Plan B, or is it now Plan A, has worked out to be quite similar to the 2020 or 2021 Plan A even though we didn’t plan it that way. We worked two months in Minnesota, the same months we were planning to be in California, worked one month in Michigan, the same month we were planning to be in Washington, and are now goofing off in Michigan just as we were going to do in Washington. What’s that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men…? If at first you don’t succeed, count your hatched chickens and don’t forget Murphy’s Law. Something like that.
Aug 1 to 3 – From our base in Germfask, a no-stoplight village on the Manistique River, we explored places south and north on the UP. Went south first to the area around the town of Manistique on the shore of Lake Michigan. Checked out the big spring at Palms Book State Park, where we struggled to remain socially distant in line for 45 minutes to get on a large raft/barge with an open center well, like a glass bottom boat, that slowly made its way out and back on the spring pool so we could see the big fish and “boiling” sand in the clear water. There was also a rather unique geocache to find there, it was on the the barge rather than at a fixed coordinate…only one other time can I remember a moving cache, it was on a waterfront trolley in Oregon. Found other caches in the area too…at a breakwater light, at Indian Lake State Park, and Seul Choix Point Lighthouse. Early the next morning I paddled 11 miles and three hours down the Manistique River from our campground to a spot at Mead Creek where Sherry picked me up. Didn’t see another human soul but did see a few otters, ducks, and a Bald Eagle. That afternoon we did the short scenic drives in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge just north of Germfask hoping to spot some larger four-legged animals but saw only birds. Tried again in the evening, no luck then but did bag a geocache. On the 3rd we went north to picturesque Grand Marais on Lake Superior, then west to check out the sites in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — the Log Slide and Twelve Mile Beach, and a three mile roundtrip hike to the Au Sable Light Station.
The raft on the Big Spring at Palms Book State Park
The big spring at Palms Book State Park
Au Sable Point Lighthouse, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The beach at Seul Choix Point Lighthouse
Aug 4 to 11 – Before hitching up and hittin’ the road on the 4th, I did another paddle on the Manistique from Ten Curves back down to the campground, an uneventful but pleasant sojourn with occasional light rain showers. Then we headed west and north a bit for a few hours, 180ish miles, to Houghton/Hancock on the Keweenaw Peninsula (Key – wi – naw Puh – ninse – oola) poking out into Lake Superior and set up at the Hancock City Campground just outside of town on Portage Lake. Even though it was a full campground, we didn’t notice. Our shady site was tucked back into the woods on a long driveway and was separated from most of the other sites so we couldn’t see any neighbors, a welcome change from the last place. That was home base for another week of exploration and a little bit of relaxation.
Day one we wandered around downtown Houghton in search of geocaches (Houghton and Hancock are on opposite sides of Portage Lake which is more like a wide canal for much of its length from the peninsula’s north shore to the south shore, one could argue it technically makes the Keweenaw an island rather than a peninsula…there is just one old lift bridge crossing the lake and connecting the two towns), checked out the Isle Royale National Park visitor center (the actual park is an island in Lake Superior accessed by boat or plane), and shared a pastie lunch on the waterfront. A pastie (pass-tee) is a traditional miner’s lunch common in this part of the country; a popover crust filled with meat, potatoes, onion, rutabaga, and gravy. We tried ’em 17 years ago the last time we passed through the UP and I wasn’t impressed enough to crave another since then, I could probably make it another 17 years.
Went southwesterly to Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, aka “The Porkies,” dropped south a bit to Bond Falls and Agate Falls State Scenic Areas to see the waterfalls and find geocaches placed by the couple we met on the beach at Brimley, then made our way home via lonely backroads.
During a stormy, warm, and humid couple of days we mostly vegged at home, although Sherry went out on a solo cache search among the many old copper mine ruins just outside of town. This region was a big copper producer dating back to the early 1800s, the Keweenaw National Historic Park encompasses most of the remnants of that era. When the mugginess was gone on the 9th we ventured north along the shore through Eagle River and Eagle Harbor to scenic little Copper Harbor, a touristy village catering to multitudes of mountain bikers and visitors like us on the tip of the peninsula; checked out the restored historic Army post at Fort Wilkins State Park and part of Brockway Mountain Drive. On the last day we poked around sleepy Calumet, another copper town not far from Hancock full of impressive old buildings but not a lot of people or open businesses downtown, thanks to the virus thing or maybe just bad economic times. Found a few caches and tried one more pastie…this one was a little better but still not enough to make us want to look up the recipe.
Lake of the Clouds in The Porkies
Geocaching in Houghton, MI
Bond Falls State Park
Fort Wilkins State Park
Fort Wilkins State Park
The 11th was moving day again. Left our hideout in the woods and backtracked south a ways, took US 141 to Crystal Falls then state 69 east to a quiet county park campground, O.B. Fuller, on the shore of Lake Michigan, just south of Escanaba, Michigan. Not long after we turned onto 14, coincidentally right about at the spot on my paper map (yeah, I still use them for quick reference on the road…hey, I’m an old school geographer) where there is a symbol indicating “primary moose range,” something big ran across the road in front of me. But it wasn’t a moose, I’m pretty sure it was a wolf…it was much bigger and darker than a coyote. Sherry radioed to say she saw it too. I googled it, there are more than 600 wolves on the UP. Pretty cool for our last day in Michigan.
Aug 12 to 15 – Continued south on state highway 35 along Lake Michigan, US 41 to Green Bay, Wisconsin, then state 57 north up Door Peninsula. In other words, we did a big fish hook to get around Green Bay, the body of water, to get to the point of land sticking up into Lake Michigan about 80 miles on the east side of Wisconsin. The peninsula is better known simply as Door County, a regional vacation destination similar to “Cape Cod” or “Napa Valley.” Set up at the Countryside Motel & RV Park, the cheapest place we could find in and area filled with high priced RV parks, a few miles south of the town of Sturgeon Bay for another week of exploration.
The 12th was a short driving day, we had plenty of time in the afternoon to do laundry in town and get started on the geo-trail. When we are in an area for just a few days Sherry does a bit of geo-homework so too much time isn’t wasted on average caches; she focuses on caches with a lot of “favorite” points from previous cachers and unique, or interesting-sounding caches, and especially those in scenic or historic places. One such cache was at the downtown Sturgeon Bay fire station. It was a fun gadget cache with several stages requiring a little bit of brain power and skill to open. Unfortunately, the last cachers to open it lacked some of the former. They put a lock in the wrong place and we were stuck, but with a quick phone call (the dedicated, hard-core local cache owner put his phone number in it) Labzone (Jim) came to our rescue. He was very helpful but wasn’t a complete “spoiler alert,” Sherry got the cache open, and we had an interesting geo-chat with him that ended with his thoughts on the coronavirus conspiracy and dawning new world order. As it turned out, he wasn’t the only nice local guy we met.
The next few days, three to be exact, were spent driving around in search of big quilts, geocaches, and whatever else there was to see. Door County, like most of Wisconsin from what I’ve seen, is all about agriculture…farms, dairies, hayfields, etc…but not a grand scale with plowed fields stretching to the horizon. There’s tidy farmhouse and barn compounds everywhere, dense woods interspersed among the farms, small nicely landscaped residential lots here and there, and sleepy little villages. Getting around is easy as long as you have a map and GPS, there’s a vast network of quiet farm roads and two major highways traversing the county. The other half of the county’s economic engine — tourism — is plainly evident in many of the villages in the north end like Egg Harbor, Sister Bay, and Ephraim. They’re filled with art galleries, craft studios, boutique shops, inns, restaurants, traffic, and vacationers. We do our part to minimize our carbon footprint in those villages but we are guilty of stopping at the big touristy farm market stores in the country filled with overpriced salsa, jams, bratwurst, mustards, and vacationers looking for free taste samples. Not sure if it’s good or bad…the virus thing has put an end to tasty samples at these places. Now we have to actually buy a lunch somewhere, but we’re healthier perhaps. Baked goods are our (mostly Sherry’s with my whacked tastebuds) weakness, we always seem to find something for a “treat.”
Sorry, I digressed…the touristy stuff was a sideshow. Our mission was to find all of the barn quilts in the county, the geocache located nearby, a few other fun caches along the way, and of course any lighthouse. Hopefully from the photos you can figure out what the barn quilts are. I was silently groaning at the prospect of doing this…40+ big wooden quilts scattered throughout the countryside, quilts, really?…(sorry Sherry) but it was a good way to see all of Door County, not just the busy brochure and guide magazine commercial sites. Plus, we met some more of those nice people during our quest. Jerry, an Irishman from Chicago mowing the lawn on his rental property, stopped to chat with us while Sherry was looking for the geocache near his barn and invited us to see the inside of the barn. At another one, a lady on her porch told Sherry it was OK to go down the driveway for a closer shot of their barn quilt. Her husband, Ken, was chillin’ in the yard and chatted with Sherry for a while (I was in the car, as usual…I’m just the driver). The geocache was hidden nearby in the bonus feature for this big wooden quilt…Ken’s Irish Wall. He had a dream one night then spent several years meticulously building a decorative wall using rocks picked from farm fields. He came out to the wall, at the edge of his manicured lawn and flower gardens, to tell us all about it and point out a few of his favorite rocks and shared a little about his life and medical issues with the VA. We also met another friendly local geocacher at one of his caches, which happened to be in his yard and masqueraded as an outhouse with a satellite dish. Brussells2 (Jim) saw us stop to look for it and came out to introduce himself, although he had already done so via geo-email the day before after sherry logged one of his other caches. We had a nice chat with him too while Sherry searched the outhouse. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s called “A hole in one.” Guess where it was cleverly hidden?
Labzone to the rescue
Jerry and his barn
Yet another barn quilt…
One of the many roadside farm stands
Door County barn quilt
Brussells2 checkin’ on the outhouse cache
Ken the Irish Wallbuilder
Ken’s Irish Wall
One more adventure and I’ll close this long post…while on the geo-trail near Baileys Harbor on the 15th we stopped to see the Cana Island Lighthouse. There’s nothing extra special about the light itself, it’s the way you get to it that’s unique; a tractor-pulled hay wagon hauls people about a quarter mile across a flooded causeway to the island. Since I’m just the driver and the tractor already had a driver, Sherry went Jon-less to see the lighthouse while I stayed behind to waste a lot of bytes trying to capture the perfect shot on the rocky beach.
Stay tuned for further Door County stuff…we just got started.
Queen Anne’s Lace is everywhere
Cana Island Transportation System