The Mackinac Bridge
My mother’s side of the family has been coming to Trout Lake for as long as anyone of my generation can remember. Mom’s siblings came every summer and brought their children (my cousins) with them. As my own parents often did. We all have many wonderful fun filled memories of this park and a few of us have passed our love of it down to our own children. Some of our reminiscences are bittersweet as too many of our loved ones are no longer with us. Then there are others who wanted to join in this year but for various reasons were unable to attend. Sadly two of our own daughters were in that mix, one has a grandchild at home with serious health issues, the other started a new job.
Don and I made the trip up early. We felt the need to spend a few quiet days together, just the two of us, before the rest of the family arrived. So on Wednesday morning, the 13th, we made the two hour trek north across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge to set up camp at Trout Lake Township Park. (You won’t find it listed in RV Park Reviews) We arrived with our fresh water tank full as there aren’t any spigots on the grounds. I should mention however, that there is a fresh water fill located near the dump station and bathhouse. We were greeted with blue skies, abundant sunshine, and a nice breeze coming across the lake. It felt great to be out in the sun again after being under a heavy canopy of trees for the last two and a half months. Unhappily though, we found our water pump wasn’t working correctly. It became very hot to the touch. Being concerned that it might cause a fire, we are utilizing it only when deemed absolutely necessary and have instead resorted to using water jugs. It’s a good thing we keep a few on hand just in case.
Thursday was more of what we affectionately refer to as a typical Trout Lake day. It was cool, breezy, and rained the entire day. The rain moved out as evening rolled around. The wind calmed, the water laid down, and we had a perfect ending to the day huddled up next to a glowing campfire.
On Friday Don inflated his portable Sea Eagle fishing boat and charged his little trolling motor. We spent much of the day doing leash training with Beau or reading and soaking up the sun’s warm rays. At the campfire that night we sent up a memory balloon in honor of Tucker’s 10th birthday. Teary eyed, we watched it drift heavenward until it was no longer visible. We turned our attention back to our campfire until long after dark.
Clyde’s of St. Ignace, MI, a U.P. icon
We got an early start on Saturday. The three of us drove the 30 miles into St. Ignace. I had laundry to do and groceries to pick up. Don had a short list of things he wanted to get at the hardware. We figured we’d be in town the better part of the day so we added an early dinner at our favorite drive-in restaurant, Clyde’s. We make it a point to stop and have a Big C every time we visit the U.P. On our drive over we had two deer cross the road in front of us. One was a six point buck. The photo isn’t too clear as I had to scramble to get a shot of it and it was taken through a bug splattered windshield. When we returned to the campground we found my father had arrived with the boat in tow. He was supposed to spend the week up here as well but left to go back home within the hour. Dad is so notorious for doing stuff like that that, but sorry to say, we make bets as to how long he’ll actually stay once he arrives. So once again, no surprise other than we thought for sure he’d make it at least a day or two.
6 point buck. Photo’s not to clear but you get the gist of it. We’ve seen more deer this week than we’ve seen the entire summer at the property.
Our daughter Leslie and granddaughter Ava arrived Sunday afternoon to spend the next three days visiting us. The first of our family members also began arriving. They are staying in cabins about 3/4 mile away from the campground but also on the lake. Apparently no one camps anymore. My uncle Lloyd and cousins Karla and Larry stopped by after they were settled in. It was a nice visit. Always good to see my Kinsey side of the family.
On Monday the rest of our extended family arrived and settled in. Don and I took the kids to Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry. I had visited a similar one as this when I was a child and the memory of it has always stayed with me. I was hoping to share it with all of my grandchildren this week but such was not the case. Ah well. Ava enjoyed it though. She not only got to see huge full grown female and male black bears but yearlings and cubs too. Oswald’s offers a photo op to guests, for a $10 fee you can have your picture taken with a cub. Of course Ava was up for that. This is something I think she’ll long remember. At least I hope so. After a quick lunch we headed back to camp where Ava went swimming. That’s one of the nice things about this lake, there is a roped off beach area but “the sandy beach” actually extends the entire length of the lakefront campsites. You can walk quite a ways out before it becomes waist deep.
Campers next to us had a medical emergency and had to leave early. They offered us all of their firewood, almost a cord in all. We thanked them and moved it piece by piece to our campsite knowing it would be used up by week’s end. In the evening everyone gathered here to celebrate uncle Lloyd’s 82nd birthday with cake, ice cream, and a bonfire. A perfect ending to our day!
Tuesday morning was the perfect fishing conditions so Don took the inflatable out to try his luck while I took the girls to see Whitefish Point on Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. It was made famous in Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald. Whitefish Point is a former Coast Guard Station. It’s lighthouse is the oldest active light on Lake Superior. Although it hosts a beautiful beach filled with agates and sun bleached white driftwood, I’ve never seen anyone swim here since the water temperature is bone chilling even in the hottest of summers. The place is now a museum that pays homage to the Fitzgerald but does mention other shipwrecks as well. At one time it was free to tour the buildings here, now it’s a bit costly, certainly more than I cared to spend. For 4 year old Ava the fee would’ve been $9 plus another $5 on top of that to hike to the top of Whitefish Point Lighthouse. She did however like rock hunting on the shoreline and even ventured in to get her feet wet.
Memorials to lives lost upon Superior’s waters
Back at camp Don had caught 3 small mouth bass, only one was keeper sized though. He released it back into the water since he’s only interested in hooking fish and not in vying for this year’s family fishing trophy. While sitting out in our camp chairs Don and I witnessed a Broad-Winged Hawk swoop down to the water. He was after one of the six ducklings swimming near the shoreline. Mama duck put up a mighty ruckus and much to our amazement won that round against the much larger hawk.
Later around the campfire that evening we were lulled by the gentle waves lapping against the shore, the sound of the loons calling from the far side of the lake, and the sight of a full moon rising over the tall pines to our east.
A trip to Tahquamenon River’s upper and lower falls were on our to do list for Wednesday. I can never pick a favorite. I love both falls equally. I have wonderful memories of visiting both as a child. At the lower falls, we would all pile into rowboats and row across the Tahquamenon River to the island centered in the middle. Back then we could walk out on the slippery rocks into the spray of falls. I seldom see anyone do this anymore. Perhaps it is frowned upon by the park service now. Today, because we had Beau along, we didn’t rent a boat but instead gazed upon the lower falls via several vantage points from above.
Four miles further up river lies the upper Tahquamenon falls. The upper is said to be the second largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River with Niagara Falls being the first. The average volume of water going over the falls is about 7,000 gallons per second. In the Spring, the runoff can be as much as 50,000 gallons per second. I can attest to the beauty of these falls in all of Michigan’s four seasons but in the Autumn when the leaves are dressed in a multitude of color, that is when the falls are most spectacular. As a child I could walk a path behind the upper falls and hear their thunderous roar surround me but erosion has pretty much put a halt to that except for the truly adventuress (or stupid) who attempt it from the opposite side of the park.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park includes a micro brewery and restaurant on site. Don and I have eaten here a couple of times and the food is pretty good, especially the whitefish, today was no exception. We located a picnic table in the shade rather than eating inside, since the pup was with us. I ordered our food carry out. Each of us had something different but all agreed t was delicious. Don isn’t a fan of micro brews so no beer was ordered. We have sampled their Blueberry Ale in the past and it was good. On the drive home our two tired babies took naps, Ava in her car seat and Beau in my lap.
Leslie and Ava left early on Thursday ahead of the thunderstorm that was moving across the U.P. Don and I waited for the storm to abate then the three of us took a drive to find the mouth of the Pine River where it empties into Lake Huron. One of the locals informed him that folks were catching the limit on Walleye there. He wanted to find a boat launch where he could put his inflatable in to do a little fishing later this week. We also scouted campgrounds in the area but didn’t find one that could entice us to move from where we already are. We stopped for lunch at Susie’s Pasties before heading “home.” They were very good but Muldoon’s in Munising is still tops for pasties in our opinions. We were still feeling full by dinner time so I suggested we just go for pie at McGowan’s in town. The raspberries are in season and I knew they had fresh homemade raspberry pie on the menu. That was our intention but the ample selection of the salad bar called to us so we both ended up having salad, a cup of homemade chicken and dumpling soup, AND raspberry pie ala mode. McGowan’s is the only true restaurant in Trout Lake with the other two places to dine being taverns so saying it is the best restaurant in town doesn’t do it justice. I think it serves some of the best food in the Yooper.
March of the geese in early morning light
Don went out fishing again in the evening but returned when he saw I had company. My cousin Erik had arrived and heard we had Jameson whiskey on hand. We visited until a little after 11 then called it a night.
Thus far it’s been a relaxing “vacation”, so much so that I extended our stay by three nights. I would have extended longer but others have reserved our site for a week beginning on the 28th. We’ll enjoy it for as long as we can.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid……