Sunday, September 4, 2016

2016 Travels Continued: Bicycling in Minnesota, Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, Black River and Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Visiting friends in Hazen, SD. In the hills of North Dakota is a long lake created by a dam on the Missouri River. Lake Sakakawea fills the river valley and backs into quiet bays in the folds of the hills. Our friends Mike and Cissy take us out on the lake in their sail boat. This is our first time sailing. Mike give us some expert sailing lessons and than lets me take the wheel. What a trusting guy. I learned I can't tip it over so his trust was well placed.

I take the helm in my first sailing lesson.
If we lived on a lake we'd have one of these. It's amazing to set the sail just right so the boat leans over and glides across the water.

Jim gets his turn at the helm.
We visit the Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site on the Missouri River. The visitor center offers a short film and exhibits on the live of the Northern Plains Tribes. The earth lodges they lived in were make of timbers, small diameter trees and sod. The lodges dotted the plain above the river at this site. Tours are given of a replica of the earth lodge.

A tour of the earth lodge at the Knife River Indian Village.
Inside the lodge are displays of the tools and personal articles of the Northern Plains Tribes. The park ranger tells how the earth lodge was made and the social and family structure of the people. The buffalo skin has the exploits of a chief painted on it.

A park ranger tells the story of life on the plains.
In the display of tools and personal items are a set of buffalo ribs tied together. This was a sled children used to slide down the earth lodge in the winter.

Important tools and personal items.
We take to the wide Missouri River with Cissy and kayaks from the dam to Stanton. It was a 4-hour paddle and paddle we did. The river seems to flow at about a fast walking pace. We saw 10 Bald Eagles along the way.

Bird watching as we paddle down the Missouri River.

Kayaking on the wide Missouri River.
After leaving Hazen we stop at the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center in Washburn, ND. Each Lewis & Clark Visitor Center we've been to is different and worth visiting. Each documents the challenges, discoveries and encounters they had in their explorations.

The Lewis & Clark Visitor Center in Washburn, ND
We're now in Minnesota. What attracted us are the paved Rails to Trails bike paths in the Walker/Leech Lake area. We camped at Stony Point, a Forest Service Campground south of Walker.  All the sites were large, widely spaced and had electric hook up. There was a dump station, water and flush toilets but the showers where closed for repairs. It was a nice campground with views of Leech Lake and boat and fishing access. The cost is $26/night, $13 with the Senior Pass.

Our camp at Stony Point Campground on Leech Lake.
Ospreys nest on platforms near the lake.

Ospreys nest on platforms near the lake.
On the afternoon we arrive we take a 26-mile bike ride on the Paul Bunyan Trail, a paved Rails to Trails bike path. The next day we ride 56 miles roundtrip on the paved Heartland Trail from Walker to Park Rapids and back. The trail stays away from roads most of the way, passing through woodlands and along small lakes. The grade is 2% if that. In our home of Silver City we don't have bike paths and there are no flat roads so this is a real treat. We put on some easy miles and enjoy the sights.

The Heartland Trail, a paved Rails to Trails.

The joy of a paved Rails to Trails bike path.
Trumpeter Swans have been reintroduced to the lakes near Park Rapids. We see them on the lakes along the bike path.

Trumpeter Swans are found on many of the lakes around Park Rapids
In the little burg of Nevis we stop for ice cream and a photo with the World's Largest Tiger Muskie. There something fishy here.

World's largest Tiger Muskie.

The Heartland Bike Path looks like a country road.
After spending 2 nights at Stony Point we move north to Cass Lake and the northern end of the Heartland Trail. We camp at the Norway Beach Recreation Area, a Chippewa National Forest campground on the east shore of Cass Lake and stay 2 nights. I forgot to take a photo of our site but it was really nice and very wooded. There is a paved bike path that connects to the northern terminus of the Heartland Trail. There were flush toilets and showers. Several sites have lake views. The facilities were older but the hot, gushing water was wonderful. Water was available at taps. There are several loops one of which had electric at a rate of $26/night. We choose the no-hookup loop for $21/night, $10.50 with Senior Pass.

We ride the winding MeGiZi Bike Path around Pike Bay.
A paved bike path starts at the campground at Norway Beach Recreation Area and connects with the Heartland Trail and the MeGiZi Pike Path. The Heartland will link to the Paul Bunyan Bike Path. It's possible to bike all day and never have to deal with traffic. The paths pass through forest and around little lakes. A cyclists dream.

Black-eyed Susan and Goldenrod boarder the bike paths.

The railroad bridges are renovated as part of the Rails to Trails.
As much fun as we've had in Minnesota it's time to move on. We'll be traveling US 2 across Wisconsin and Michigan. We spend one night at the Clover City CG on Lake Superior north of Herbster, WI. The sites are small and close together but we had a great view of the lake. Hookups were $30. We took a tent site for $17. There was only one of each men's and women's flush toilets and a shower trailer with 3 showers each. Water was available at taps. There weren't many other camping opportunities.

Our no-hookup site at the Clover City CG north of Herbster, MI.

Our first visit to Lake Superior.
The wind blew strong off the lake and it rained through the afternoon but we were treated to a wonderful sunset. This was our first time seeing and camping on Lake Superior. I caught a Gordon Lightfoot ear worm that stayed with me quite a while.

A Lake Superior sunset.
The next day we travel to Bayfield, WI. We found a campsite at Dalrymple CG, a Bayfield city facility only a half mile from town. The sites are tight and uneven. We were looking for a site with electric because the campground was totally shaded and we didn't have sun for our solar. After trying several electric sites and not being able to get level we took a no-hook up site and our generous neighbor said we could hook up to his pedestal. There are only a few sites that big rigs would fit in and only a few had a view of the lake. It's nice to have a small rig. A few sites had electric but most were no-hookups. There are vault toilets and water available at taps. All sites were $20/night. We spent 2 days here so we could take a cruise of the Apostle Islands. It wasn't the best laid out campground but we liked the walk to town.

Our campsite at Dalrymple CG in Bayfield, WI.
That afternoon we walked around Bayfield and took a hike on the Brownstone Trail along the lake. Bayfield is a relaxed tourist town with beautiful homes and a well maintained historic downtown of shops and good eateries. Several businesses along the waterfront offered a variety of fresh smoked fish. We indulged and bought smoked white fish, lake trout, herring and salmon. Delicious!

Downtown Bayfield.

Bayfield marina.
This sweet little sailboat and her captain can be rented for an excursion on the lake. It flies a pirate flag so it's got to be an adventure.

Sailboat and captain for rent.  
Wondering what to do with that old boat in your yard? Decorate it with colorful bird houses.

What to do with an old boat if you have room in your yard.
On our second day we take a cruise of the Apostle Islands. It was only $40 each for a 3 hour cruise. We choose to sit on the upper open deck. Take the seat facing the stern by the pilot cabin. Than you'll be out of the wind and have great views.

The Island Princess is ready to take us on a tour of the Apostle Islands.
The islands are a National Lake Shore and are protected. Camping and hiking are allowed with permits. A lot of economic activity such as fishing, logging and stone quarry took place on the islands in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Our captain told us the colorful history and stories of the islands as we toured around them. He had a good sense of humor and made the tour fun.

An old fish camp preserved by the Park Service.
The Islands aren't as dramatic as the cruises we took in Alaska. From a distance they look like big green matts floating on the lake. There are lighthouses on several of the islands and a preserved fish camp.
The lighthouse on Devils Island.
The most unique of the islands was Devils Island.  The crashing waves carved grottos and arches into the cliffs on the north side and created a surreal landscape. The native people's name for the island referred to bad spirits because the waves made terrifying sounds in the caves. That name was roughly translated to Devils Island. The captain takes us in close and the boat glides along the cliffs for some nice photo ops. There are two tours a day. Many people like to take the 4 pm tour so they can capture the cliffs in the afternoon light.

The caves and grottos of Devils Island.

Devils Island on a good day. Superior is calm.
Our next destination is Black River in the Ottawa National Forest north of the town of Ironwood, MI. We camped at the National Forest Black River CG. It was an easy quarter-mile walk to the Black River Harbor on Lake Superior. It's a nice primitive forested campground with vault toilets, no hookups and water available at taps. Some of the sites have lake views. The trees in the area are mostly Maple and Birch so this is probably really pretty in the fall. The cost is $16/night. $8 w/Senior Pass. You should spend at least 2 night here to visit all the falls.

It's a quarter-mile walk from the campground to Black River Harbor.
At the Black River Harbor is a nice picnic area and boat launch.

The suspension bridge across the Black River built by the CCC in 1938/39.
A beautifully crafted wooden suspension bridge built by the CCC in 1938/39 crosses the Black River giving access to trails to the beach and Rainbow Falls. A plaque commemorates the construction. The CCC were everywhere doing conservation and construction projects all over the nation. It's really interesting to find places where they worked.

CCC commemorative plaque.
From the campground it's about a half mile to Rainbow Falls and trails that connect to the other 4 falls. All the falls are within about a 2 mile stretch of river. There are parking areas for each falls and it's a quarter to 3-quarters mile walk to each fall.  There is also a nice hiking trail that connects them so we hiked the trail from the campground to all the falls. The trails and woods are beautiful and a very pleasant hike.

The trail through the woods to the falls.
The first day we visit the Great Conglomerate Falls. Water darkened by tannin from Hemlock and hardwoods roars over the rocks in a spray of amber foam.

Great Conglomerate Falls. 
In the afternoon we hike to Rainbow Falls, the last fall before the Black River empties onto Lake Superior. At certain times of the day the mists make rainbows. You can see the observation deck on the right. A three-quarter mile trail that crosses the suspension bridge leads to this view of the fall. All have wood stairways descending to the falls and most observation points have wooden decks and railings. Were there are no decks great caution should be used in approaching the falls. A man trying to photograph on of the them fell and drowned a few days before we arrived.

Rainbow Falls.
On our 2nd day we hike upriver from the campground to the other 3 falls. The gentle peacefulness of the forest belies the tremendous power and turmoil of the falls. Sandstone Falls was the first on our morning hike and probably had the longest set of steps descending to the river.

The stairway descending to Sandstone Falls.

Sandstone Falls.

Jim at Sandstone Falls.

The turbulent power of Sandstone Falls.
A little used path goes up river above Sandstone Falls to some smaller cascades and is a pretty side hike.

There are several cascades above Sandstone falls.

Jackie at the cascades above Sandstone Falls.
We found an abundance of edible mushrooms along the trail through the forest although we no longer pick them. There were boletus, oyster mushrooms and this attractive bracket fungus growing on a dead tree.

Natures creations. A bracket fungus on a dead tree.
The next falls we hike to is Gorge Falls spilling out from a defile that squeezes the river.

Gorge Falls.
And the final falls of our morning hike is Potawatomi Falls that spreads a wide vail across the canyon before dropping into the gorge. The hike round trip hike from the campground to these three falls was only about 4 miles.

Potawatomi Falls.
After our tour of the falls and lunch we spend the afternoon bicycling 22 miles on the beautiful smooth pavement of the entry road that goes from Black River Harbor back to Ironwood. A great ride with a few hill climbs. Michigan isn't all flat.

Clark Lake Campground in the Ottawa National Forest.
We discovered a wonderful Forest Service Campground on Clark Lake in the Ottawa National Forest, MI. All the interior roads and sites are paved with smooth asphalt which makes for some nice bicycling through the forest. The sites are all shady which is something we've come to expect of Michigan campgrounds. We needed sun for our solar panels and none of the sites were working out for us until we luckily found an empty electric site. There are 4 loops and each loop only has one 15 amp electric site. All the other sites are no hookup. Three of the loops have nice flush toilets and the 1st loop has vault toilets. Water is available at taps. It's $18/night. $9 w/Senior Pass.

There is a nice beach and picnic area with a large stone building that can be rented for events. Nice shower facilities for camper use are located at the picnic area.

Kayaking on the smooth waters of Clark Lake.
Interestingly the campground is at the boundary of the Sylvania Wilderness and the lake is within the wilderness. There is a parking area and boat ramp where we could launched our kayak into this wilderness lake. No motorized or sail boats are allowed on the lake. Only human powered boats like canoes and kayaks. On all the lakes we've kayaked there have been power boats so this was really a treat. The lake was so glassy and quiet. We paddled around the circumference of the lake in about 3 hours.

Taking a lunch break on Clark Lake in the Sylvania Wilderness.
We saw a pair of Osprey, a Bald Eagle and a Common Merganser with 8 newly fledge young tagging along behind her.
A family of Common Mergansers.
We highly recommend this Clark Lake for the quality of the campground, facilities and recreational opportunities. We enjoyed the bicycling and kayaking. There's also a 9-mile trail around the lake which we didn't have time to hike.

Our site at Little Bay de Noc Campground with a view of the bay.
Our next  camp was on Lake Michigan at Little Bay de Noc Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest. Most sites are forested but there are several sites along the bay with lawns, open spaces and access to the water. We found a large site with a place to launch our kayak. The campground has no hookups, vault toilets and water available at taps. The cost is $18/night. $9 w/Senior Pass.

Looking at our campsite at Little Bay de Noc Campground from our kayak.

Pileated Woodpeckers.
At our campsite we were entertained by two Pileated Woodpeckers chasing each other around a tree trunk playing hide & seek. They went from tree to tree playing games for about half and hour.

In the afternoon we took a wonderful 26-mile bike ride to the Peninsula Lighthouse. It's 13 miles from the campground to the lighthouse on a nice road through farmland and forest. The last mile was packed dirt. This historic lighthouse is no longer in operation and open to the public. You can climb the spiral stairs to the top and catch the view. There are vault toilets and a picnic area. There is a donation box to help maintain this landmark.

Peninsula Point Lighthouse.

Prisoner of the lighthouse.

Jim catches the view from the top.

The stair case inside the lighthouse.
The point on the peninsula is also a gathering place and research area for Monarch Butterflies. They gather here in great numbers and wait for a favorable north wind to carry them across Lake Michigan on their migration.

A plaque about the Monarch migrations.
Along our bike ride we see Sandhill Cranes, a field of Canada Geese and two Turkey hens with 14 young. Two successful families.

Canada Geese in a field of Queen Ann's Lace.

Two successful Turkey families.
Our travels take us closer to the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. Our next camp is at Bravoort Lake Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest. This lake is just east of St. Ignace along Highway 2 and will be our home base for our trip to Mackinac Island.

Our campsite at Brevoort Lake Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest.
The campground is on a small peninsula that extends it's reach into the lake. All the campsites have a beach and lake access so kayaks and canoes can be launched. There is also a boat ramp and fishing dock. There are nice restrooms with flush toilets, the sites are no-hooks. A dump station and water tower at the campground entry. The cost is $18/night. $9 w/Senior Pass.

Catching a sunset at the fishing dock in the Brevoort Lake Campground.
The next day we drive to St. Ignace to take the ferry to Mackinac Island. We take our bikes with us to ride around the island. The roundtrip cost for us and the bikes was $52.

We take the Arnold Ferry to Mackinac Island.
On our way across the channel to the island we get a nice view of the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Michigan upper and lower peninsulas.

The Mackinac Bridge.

Approaching Mackinac Island.

Beautiful mansions that offer lodging accommodations line the waterfront.

Coming into the Mackinac Island harbor.
Motorized vehicles were banned from the island in the 1800's. Transportation is bicycling, walking or equestrian. Horse-drawn carriages transport people and give tours. Horse-drawn freight wagons deliver goods and baggage to shops and hotels. When we get off the ferry the downtown activity is just getting started.

Morning in downtown Mackinac Island.

Bicycles, pedestrians and horses mix it up in the downtown streets. There was no sound of traffic, booming music or noisy trucks. Just conversations filtering through the streets and the gentle clip-clop of horses. It was paradise.

The noon rush hour. The carriage and bicycling traffic increases.
Not to worry about horse droppings. Street sweepers are on hand to clean up the old fashioned way with broom and shovel. Kudos to the street sweepers.

The afternoon traffic jam. Carriages and bicycles everywhere.
The lodging is exquisite on Mackinac. Here's a idea. Take a honeymoon, leave your motorhome at the ferry parking lot and stay the night in the Grand hotel or any of the beautiful lodges on the island.

A lodge and gardens over looking the lake.

Bike rentals are a big business on Mackinac.
If you don't take a bike you can rent one. There are bikes for everyone; kids bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers and tandems. You definitely want to bicycle the 8-mile, paved highway the circumvents the island along the shoreline. This is a Michigan highway and perhaps the only one in the country that doesn't allow motorized vehicles. It's a really pleasant ride along the lake shoreline. As we rode the loop we saw family groups and people of all ages. There are plenty of opportunities to stop along the shore and wade in the water or picnic. Signage along the way tells of the Native culture and history. It's a wonderful experience. We rode three times around the loop and took several of the roads into the interior of the island. It was just so beautiful.

Cairns built by bicyclists along the lake shore.
Bicyclists stop along the bike highway to build cairns along the shore.

Some of the beautiful interior roads on the island.
If you don't want to rent a bike, rent a horse and carriage and ride the bike highway. I met this couple celebrating their 36th anniversary. The horse's name is Jerry. He fidgeted when we stopped to chat and wondered what was going on. He loves what he does.

A couple I met celebrate their 36th anniversary on Mankinac Island.
So this is the end of this post. It's probably more than I intended but there's so much to see and enjoy. When we post again we'll resume with our stay in Sault Ste. Marie at the Aune Osborn Campground along the Saint Marys River.

Until then,

Jackie at Sandstone Falls on the Black River, MI.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the North Country -- Land of trees and hard-won solar power!!

    When I visited Cass Lake, MN several years ago I was intrigued by the fact that it has an island with it's own lake. Reminds me a little of one of those endless mirrors.

    I was bike-less at the time so missed out on the rails-to-trails opportunities. I guess I'll just have to go back some time.

    I've always been puzzled by the lack of camping opportunities along the north shore of Wisconsin and even back into Superior and Duluth. I once even resorted to staying at the Nedadji Mobile Home Park in Superior, which actually turned out to be better than I anticipated.

    Mackinac Island was, and still is a regular destination for our family.(My cousin's husband's ashes are going to be scattered there later this month.) Another cousin spent many winters living on the island while renovating the Grand Hotel and I once made the trip out and back across the ice on a snowmobile pulling a sled of building materials. That was interesting! (OK OK, so it scared the crap out of me!!)

    Looking forward to hearing about the Sault and beyond.