Aug 17, 2012

Treacherous And Deadly

It was a dark and stormy night.  In the distance, a dog barked.  And then a really loud pickup truck drove through the campground.  No, a really loud truck.  One of those huge "I have to prove something" trucks.  Just before we set up the tent the night before, the ranger stopped by to tell us the weather service issued a high wind warning.  Just to let us know.

I slept through most of it, but there was little or no rain.  Jill felt the tent rise up from the bottom once but we had used every stake we had and it held quite nicely.  I've decided I like our tent.  No rain leaks, held up to the wind, and now that we know what we're doing, it's a pretty quick set-up.

When morning came it was drizzling.  And I really didn't want to get up into the cold morning air, pack up a wet tent and all of our gear, and get moving.  I just wanted to stay curled up in my sleeping bag for a few days.  We all overcame our issues (the kids take to bribery quite well, BTW, and I will move for a cup of coffee) and we ended up getting out of there at a decent hour.

The whole time we were at the campground these kids were riding their bikes in circles, seemingly everywhere.  If you wanted to go to the bathroom, you had to weave through the circuit.  Which would have been ok (never) if they didn't have a sign up that said "no bicycles" right there.  Also, the kid picking his zits in the bathroom mirror.  Grumpy me.

On our way out of the campground the kids were on their bikes in the road.  And by kids I mean the range is from age 3 to age 7.  Little kids.   I had to stop and wait for them to get out of the road.  And they didn't.  They kinda sat there like "what?" while I had to wave to get them to move.  I finally went around them.  I wanted to run them over but Jill told me that wasn't the right thing to do.  Their lucky day.

Our next stop was the falls.  Taquamenon falls, upper and lower.   Leading us into the parking lot was a Mercedes SUV.  I went through the list of reasons one would have for getting a Mercedes SUV and came up with nobody I would want to hang out with.  Plus, they were driving like mad folk.  As we wheeled into the lot in our Obnoxious Chevy SUV I saw two guys get out of the Mercedes.  Odd.  Then I saw the bumped sticks.  I was immediately aware of the fact that I was a middle aged, wide middled guy with two crazy kids and a wife.  I was wearing a pith helmet and plaid shorts.  I was the anti-cool.  And I was totally fine with it until the gay guys showed up and I remembered that there was a world out there that didn't consist of old RV driving couples, Italian (or Illinois) tourists and college kids working summer jobs.  I was the cliche that they laugh about later in the comfort of their hotel rooms while I'm arguing with a 9 year old girl about why exactly she can't get that t-shirt at a gift shop.  It's a personal problem, I'll get over it.  But it made me self conscious for the rest of the day.

The falls were pretty cool.  There were multiple falls and an island in the middle.  You could walk around the whole deal on a path and look at everything from the shore, or you could rent a rowboat and row to the island.  There's a sign before the waterfalls that tells you not to row over them.  So for $15 or so you can put your family in a boat just above a waterfall and row them across a river to an island.  Apparently this goes much smoother than I would assume, as they're still in business.  Remember the list of tourist-types from the last paragraph?  I can't imaging any of them (including some in my class) making it across a river in a rowboat.  But row they did, and all is well.  I was elected the rower, which surprised me since I assumed Lily would want to try and row us over the falls, but whatever.  I felt a bit like Charon on the river styx.  Eli goggled that I knew something about mythology, but I told him if it has to do with hell or death, I was all over it.  That boat was made out of steel, the oars welded and screwed and tied into place.  There was no way the oars were coming loose, and I think if the boat went over the falls it might have just stuck to the upper lip and sat there.

Upon arrival on the island I was feeling a bit spent.  I was looking for a water fountain but really wanted a gatorade fountain.  We were greeted by this sign:

I wish this sign had been on the other side of the river.  But that would have affected row boat rental income.  I particularly enjoy a sign that uses the phrase "treacherous and deadly" and it became my catchphrase for the day.  I liked saying it in a "Richard Nixon as a Pirate" voice.  Eli liked it too.  He was still trying for an English accent but missing it by an Australia or so.  Ironically, this was the week we could have sent him to acting camp with a focus on accents.  Go figure.

The island had a nice path running around the perimeter, with a good view of the falls on either side.  There were railings, as well.  Signs every few feet said to stay on the path, as they were trying to repair the damage done by countless humans traipsing around in the underbrush.  (My phrasing)

So we round the corner and find the iPad family.  Mom was helping the two boys through the fence, dad in the background taking a picture with his iPad.  So much for staying on the path.  And who takes pictures with an iPad?

After a brisk rowing back to shore from the island we headed up to the gift shop.  Eli needed a sweatshirt, as his only sweatshirt had been soaked the night before.  And it was a gift shop.  I didn't get anything, but got a few ideas of things I could make at home out of wood.  Eli found an awesome wooden sword in a wooden sheath.  Very nice work for $6.

The second stop of the morning was at the Upper falls.  Now THESE were waterfalls.  Large, wide, and well paved.  The path, that is.  It reminded me of the headwaters of the Mississippi.  Lily was exhausted, so we parked ourselves on a bench and had a lovely father daughter chat about nothing and everything.  She was so tired she felt like a sleeping baby, completely limp.  I convinced her to make the final stretch to the car and everything was okay from there on out.

Let me just say something about waterfalls.  They are imperfections in a perfectly good river.  The bigger, wider the waterfall, the more obvious the imperfection.  I don't think anybody shares my view here.  But I found it interesting once I came up with that perspective.

From the last falls we were on Moose Watch.  I've never seen a moose in the wild before, and the campground actually had a FAQ on the bulletin board by the bathroom.  One of the questions was "where can I see a moose?" -- it actually gave a location where you can occasionally spot one.  I'm not sure if that was a valid answer just to shut people up, or you could actually see one there.  We didn't.  Nor did we see one for the rest of the Upper Peninsula.  Ok, there are 150-200 moose in the whole state, and the odds of seeing one are pretty slim.  But I really wanted to see one.  I've had a longstanding bounty of $100 for a moose sighting.  Lots of rules, of course, given my kids:
  • I can't have seen it first
  • I must see it once it's pointed out
  • Must be live
  • Must be wild
  • Must be real
  • Pictures aren't required but desired
  • False positives cost $10 each instance
I have the same rules for a Capybara in MN/WI, but that's worth $1000.  It could happen.  The idea behind the bounty is twofold.  First, it gets the kids looking out the car windows.  It's hard to pull them from their glowing screens sometimes.   Second, it employs more eyes to look for my elusive moose.

Long drive later, no moose, we end up in Munising at a Hardees.  I liked my Mushroom Cheeseburger but was burping that smell for two days.  A short drive found us at the Pictured Rocks.  We chose one of the many viewing areas and headed up the paved path to a platform overlooking one of the most amazing views of Superior I've ever had.  It wasn't the rocks so much as the weather.  The wind was up quite a bit and the lake was a cobalt blue with many whitecaps.  It looked like the ocean.  It even sounded like the ocean.  The waves were crashing on the rocks and blowing spray up the rocks.  Tremendous!

We went to a less obvious platform and got to see the rocks from a different angle.  Again, pretty rocks, but cooler lake.  If you looked down at a certain spot of the shore and waited for the right size wave to crash in, you could see a rainbow appear in the mist.  Beautiful.

In tyhe parking lot we saw a real jeep.  Dirty, muddy, not jacked up.  Like an army jeep almost.   And it had a similarly grungy trailer.  It looked like it had been to war and back.  Two little boys and their father sat by it.  The dad was smoking.  I think he was the Marlboro man.  We don't approve, of course, but I'll bet those kids and that dad had some stories to tell.

A short drive took us down below those rocks to the beach.  It was a lovely, wide, sandy beach.  The waves crashed on the shore like real oceanic waves.  They even had that sudden silence every few minutes.  The kids wanted to put their feet in the water -- just like Jill always done.  Jill did, but the kids had their own version.  Lily ran up and down trying to catch up to and then run away from the waves.  It was pretty cute.  Eli, on the other hand, went to war.  He stood in water to his knees and when a wave approached he would swing both hands together smashing into the wave.  He would do that for hours if allowed.

The day was getting long, so our next stretch took us to Baraga, where our campsite for the next two days waited for us.  Driving into the campground it looked for a moment like it was a KOA style open lawn with as many campers crammed into one space as possible.  Happily, it was a bit more spread out.  Our site was wide and open with enough trees to make you feel like you weren't on top of one another.  We were thrilled.  And it was clear weather.  It was so nice there were a few bugs here and there.  But we welcomed them with open, dry arms.

We made pizza pies with our campfire sandwich cookers, and the kids set up the tent all by themselves.  I think they were going for shock and awe, so it's not something I'm expecting every time we camp.  But you never know.

Sleep came early, but not before Jill and I spent some time by the fire reading and writing after the kids had gone to bed.  We looked up and saw so many stars, the Milky Way galaxy, a floating satelllite or two and a single falling star.  Awesome.  A chilly but dry bedtime ended a long but fruitful day.


Jill said...
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Jill said...

I learned later that if you rowed past the signs you would hit a rapids, not a waterfall. Just to be clear on the liability here.

Also while Robert and Lily rested on the bench above the upper falls, Eli and I took "94 steps down to the the brink" and hung out on top of the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.