Rainy morning in Fayette

Monday, 15th July 2019; 8:07 am

I was half awake when the rain started at 6:00 am.

The good news is that I practice universal precautions: I prepare the camp for rain any time I go to sleep or leave the camp, no matter how nice the weather. So, aside from leaving my wet towel hanging out on the scooter hoping for it to dry out overnight, I was prepared: the rain fly on the tent was set up, my boots and shoulder bag (where I keep my rain suit) were in the tent’s vestibule, and my jacket and other assorted gear were on the picnic table wrapped in the rain cover I bought for my big backpack. The only thing that got significantly wet were my socks, when I ran out of the tent to grab the towel. (It’s mostly dry. Which is important now.)

Not so good is the timing of this. If I’d known it was about to rain, I would’ve quickly packed the tent. I’ve done that in the past when it started to rain during breakfast. It’s a little counterintuitive to get rid of your shelter, but packing it would’ve kept the tent dry. Meanwhile, I’d stay dry in my rain suit. But the rain started quickly, and now the tent is wet (on the outside). Unless the sun comes out to dry it, I have to pack it wet. Ick.

And I’m in a dead zone for mobile service, so I don’t know how likely that is. I foolishly didn’t check the weather forecast for this area last night when I did have a signal, so I don’t know if this is a rogue rain cloud, or just what I have to expect for today.

UP Day 3

Sunday, 14th July 2019; 8:54 pm

I have to say that turning off M28/US41 onto a low-traffic road early this afternoon was like a breath of fresh air. It was the kind of road where you could see a nice view, and just pull over and stop for it, because you were only going about 40mph.

The previous night’s not-that-great sleep started catching up with me, so I pulled off at a little turnout that I think was for fishing the adjacent river, set the phone to wake me in 15 minutes, covered my head with my emergency bug net, and took a nap. That’s how to do it!

I got to Fayette Historical State Park around 6pm, which is what happens when you schedule a reasonable amount of riding in your day. It’s 15-20 miles south of US-2 on a peninsula sticking into Lake Michigan, which is why skipped it on my previous passes through the area. (The first time I rode around here, I stayed at Indian Lake State Park instead… which apparently doesn’t exist anymore.)

The peninsula reminds me of… the Lower Peninsula, which makes sense since it’s one of the southernmost parts of the UP. It even has a fleet of big wing turbines in the middle of corn fields. (And signs in the yards of some residents protesting the wind farm… as if not having wind power was actually an option anymore.) The corn was only about a foot tall, but it’s remarkable to see it grown at all this far north.

The state park is at the site of an old company town, where immigrants smelted ore back in the days of Big Iron. It also has some natural territory, which I explored a little as well.

As is my habit, I ended up at a bar and grill near the park for dinner. (Campground cooking would add just a bit too much additional challenge to these trips.) At the bar are eight locals who sound like eighteen and there’s a jukebox that’s trying to drown them out with 70s-80s pop/rock. But they have Upper Hand IPA and fresh deep-fried whitefish, and I’m OK with that.

Make Way for Ducklings

Sunday, 14th July 2019; 4:24 pm

Fairly mature ducklings, from the looks of them, but this crew somewhat reluctantly followed mother across the road after I stopped for them.

There were some chickens a little further down, but they didn’t seem interested in crossing the road. I didn’t ask why.

Canyon Falls

Sunday, 14th July 2019; 1:05 pm

Before rerouting, I wanted to catch one last point on my original itinerary. I saw Canyon Falls in an article about waterfalls in the UP and was surprised that I had been past it (or near) a few times without knowing it. I wasn’t doing that again.

It’s a short hike from the highway between Lake Michigamme and L’Anse. It’s been called “the Grand Canyon of Michigan”, which is fair to neither the Grand Canyon or Michigan. It is a series of rapids that leads to some falls that have cut a cool gorge into the rock.

Definitely worth the morning. But now I change course for Fayette and Lake Michigan!

Revised plans

Sunday, 14th July 2019; 6:51 am

It got down to the low 40Fs last night. I am so glad I threw in that extra hoodie! The forecasts are for much warmer nights after this, but that’s… chilly!

As promised, I slept on the question of what to do with my travel plans, and I think I’ve decided on changes:

Instead of doing the long arc north of Lake Superior, which would involve spending most of four days just sitting in the saddle on a long road with the throttle open, I’ll be taking a shorter route to the south.

My plan is to ride today to Fayette State Park in Delta County, on Lake Michigan. It’s a place I skipped over on my way through the UP before because it was out of the way. From there I’ll head east to St Ignace, and spend the night at Straits State Park by the Mackinac Bridge. Then home.

It isn’t turning around: it’s changing course. Both days ahead would have fewer miles to ride, and the first should also be low on traffic. It means missing some things I was looking forward to – the Apostles, Isle Royale, Pukaskwa park – but maybe I can get to those another time, by car, where the travel is a bit faster and safer. And I can do some more leisurely riding after I get home.

I’m still thinking about options, so this isn’t set in stone, but I think this would cut out a lot of the stuff I’ve not been looking forward to, now that I’m back out in the road and remembering what highway riding is like.

Superior Day 2

Saturday, 13th July 2019; 11:11 pm

You may have gathered from my metaphysical post that today wasn’t all happiness and fun.

The county road that was to take me into Munising… didn’t. It was closed just outside of the city, sending me on a detour that I apparently got lost on. Getting to Munising Falls – just west of the closure – was a little tricky.

I remember it from 10 years ago, and I definitely recommend it, especially since it’s so close to downtown/harbor. It isn’t huge, but it’s a cool setting, in a narrow gorge that it carved.

Tannery Falls is apparently nearby, but I couldn’t find it due to road construction.

Horseshoe Falls turned out to be a private, admission-fee, tourist-trappy thing.

Alger Falls is little more than a spot by the highway we’re water comes down the rocks.

Wagner Falls is worth a visit. In fact, it clued me in to M94: a less busy, inland alternative to M28, which runs along the Lakeshore.

Which was a good thing, and a bad thing. In many ways, it’s the opposite of the county road I took through Pictured Rocks: no curves, and the woods aren’t hugging the shoulders. Not very many cars/trucks, and they could usually pass quickly, but the road quickly became… tedious. Which got me thinking about some of the roads ahead of me: Minnesota-61 from Duluth to Grand Portage, and the Trans Canada Highway. Also know as Day 5, Day 7, Day 8, and Day 9. And those will be busier.

M94 also brought me past Laughing Whitefish Falls, which weren’t previously on my agenda. it’s a fairly high falls that, instead of cascading down a series of steps or simply falling down a cliff, it falls a little ways then flows down a slide.

So after mostly skipping Munising, I bypassed Marquette entirely, heading to Van Riper State Park more directly, inland. This still put me on M28/US41 for a while, reminding me why I don’t like those major roads.

Van Riper is much like I remember from before… except for the sinkhole. The road from the main campground to the rustic campground is completely impassable. The ranger who booked me in neglected to mention that, or the mile-long detour needed to get there. It’s ordinarily a short hike to the showers from the rustic campground; I had to take the scooter to get there and back before dark.