Day #111 – Enjoying Houghton… in spite of the rain!

LOCATION:  Houghton, Michigan – on the western side of the Upper Peninsula (UP)
CAMPGROUND:  Another night at Houghton City Waterside RV Park
WEATHER:  Rain, with a real downpour mid-day.  High 76

We putzed around the RV in the morning, then walked to downtown for lunch.  There is a beautiful waterfront bike/walking trail from the RV park to downtown shops, restaurants, library, and bars.  Very convenient.  The city seems to do a lot to keep everything pretty and tidy. 

We had Lake Superior whitefish for lunch – very nicely done – with a side of wild rice.  As we were leaving the parking lot, the our next door camper neighbors from Porcupine Mountains (the newbies) pulled in.  What a small world!

This lift bridge in downtown Houghton is neat.  They lift it up if a tall sailboat or large ship comes through.  The bottom part is used for regular traffic.  Then, in the winter, they lower the top level.  They won’t be needing to raise the bridge, as the water will be frozen, and there is no water traffic.  Then, they use the lower level for snowmobilers.  How creative!

We were almost back to the campground, enjoying our walk, when the skies opened up.  What a downpour!  Unfortunately, Joy’s leak recurred.  We spent the afternoon mopping things up and cleaning out wet cupboards.  George tried to find the source of the leak again, but just cannot find it. 

After the rainstorm, we did a little shopping, and then checked out the other brewery in town. 

This college town seems to have the “town and gown” syndrome.  There were some customers that looked very much like college students or professors.  Other tables were filled with working-man locals.  Very interesting to listen to conversations.

We have this beautiful view from our campsite overlooking this lake (I previously misspoke and called it a river).  When the rain stopped, the kids came out to play in the playground and at the beach.

There are three other Airstreams here and the owners came by to chat.  Some people spend the whole summer here, then winter in the South. 

We will be leaving Houghton tomorrow, but only traveling about 20 miles.  We are staying in the UP for several weeks. 

DINNER:  Good ole’ hamburgers.  George grilled them, along with some onions.  Side was a rommaine and tomato salad.  I find rommaine hearts last longer than other lettuces.  I had him char a red bell pepper for me to use in an eggbake coming up later this week.  Peppers are just so much tastier if they have been charred and peeled, I think.

BOOK:  “Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw” by Will Ferguson.  I loved this book!  I learned about this author from a book I picked up in an RV park’s “library” awhile ago.  It was about hitchhiking in Japan (which I also did years ago!)  I liked his writing so much that I looked up other books by him.  His style is very similar to Bill Bryson’s, a favorite author of mine.  He is very witty.  This is sort of a travelogue about Canada.  5 stars out of 5.

Day #110 – Close call with a snake in a pit toilet!

LOCATION: Houghton, Michigan – in western side of Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Houghton City RV Park.  Beautiful park – right on river that leads to Lake Superior.  Each site has a covered picnic table, waterfront views, fire pit, stand-up grill, level/paved site and space between sites.  Full hook-ups plus cable.  Great wifi.  BUT – no bathrooms/showers!  At $50/night, should offer shower house.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 75

The extent to which I go to post this blog each day!  (Just joking)…..

I had spotted a hiking trail from our campground to the visitor center (which has wifi), so I decided to go there early this AM to post the blog.   The trail started out fine, then turned into a jungle. Thank goodness, the trees were marked to define the path.

In the many wet places with standing water, I had to cross a narrow plank, keeping my balance while swatting pesky mosquitoes. 

After doing my wifi business, I opted to make the 1-mile hike on the highway instead of facing the jungle again.

Then, George and I were off for one more hike in the Porcupine Mountains before setting off.  This trail was a loop around an old copper mine from the 1800s. 

Before we set off on the hike, I needed to use the pit toilet.  Never a pleasant experience, but this was a first……I looked down into the “deep” and was shocked to see a snake swimming among the you-know-what!  I really had to go, and I was so afraid it would jump up and bite my bottom!!!!  Happy to say I survived this episode!

Who rates these trails?  The difficulty on this one was categorized as “easy”.  Ha!

This one had some challenging plank-walking, too.

It was very lush.  We are always fascinated by wood ears like these

Back at the campground, we watched the “newbie” family next to us pack up.  It was a real challenge for them to get all their stuff packed back in their small car (plus 2 kids and a dog). It sort of grew while they were here.

Even though they were real camping novices, they were a very nice family.

We had a pleasant, short drive to our next destination, passing by landscape that looks like it could host a moose.  No sightings, though.

Houghton appears to be a cool college town, right on the river.  It used to be a major shipping and distribution center.  Many of the old warehouses have been turned into commercial enterprises or condos.  We walked along the river front…

… a brewpub, of course!  Very friendly staff and customers. 

DINNER:  Thai pho noodles.  I added more noodles and vegetables to a Trader Joe’s frozen meal.  It was very good. 

From our back window (bedroom), I watched the water-skiers and jet-skiers until about 10:30 PM, while it was still light.  Beautiful! 

Day #109 – No luck with fishing…..again!

LOCATION:  In far western Upper Peninsula, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Porcupine Mountain State Park
WEATHER:  Gorgeous.  Sunny.  High 68

First thing this morning, George tried fishing again, right in front of our camp site on Lake Superior.

We are so lucky – last night’s campers left early this morning, so we have a clear view of the lake from our site.  It is a bit foggy, so the lake and sky kind of merge together in the photo.

On our way out of the campground, he couldn’t resist trying his luck on the boat dock…

We spent the day hiking the Porcupine Mountains.  The park is full of trails.  We drove 25 miles from the eastern edge (our campground) to the western edge.  We could have hiked it, by connecting several trails, but we opted for the car.  🙂

George took his fishing pole with him on our 2-mile hike in the Presque Isle part of the park. At every point where he could access the water, he threw out a line.   This hike is known for its 3 waterfalls.  Here he is at #1.

Let’s try #2……

The hike was really pretty, but a bit challenging.

Now he will try #3

The trail  followed the eastern side of the falls, then crossed this bridge, and then made a loop back to where we started.  Here he is trying one last time…

On our way back, we stopped to do another trail, up to an overlook marking the highest peak in the park.

Tired and thirsty, we stopped at “Porky’s Pub” (the Porcupine Mountains are fondly called the Porkies).  Too bad this sign didn’t work for George today.

Back at the campground, George made a roaring fire.  It seems like there is a big bonfire at each campsite. 

DINNER:  Sort of a Mediterranean theme…..Spicy chick peas (compliments of Trader Joe’s) with turkey thigh meat that George had grilled previously.  Steamed rice and kalamata olives. 

Our last night here with Rick Steves.  Tonight’s DVD took us to Gibraltar and North Africa. 

Day #108 – Camping on Lake Superior

LOCATION:  In western Upper Peninsula, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Porcupine Mountain State Park.  Large campground – 100 sites, and all are filled, many with tents.  Right on Lake Superior.  Some sites have water views.  Electricity at sites; central water and dump station.  New and clean bathrooms/shower.  Same type of fire pit as previous state park – cannot grill on it without modification.  Short site.  Level.  $28/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 77
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes

We are taking our time driving through the U.P.  Today was another very short drive.  When we left Lake Gogebic, it was 77.  As soon as we reached Lake Superior, the temperature dropped to 67.  Noticibily cooler and breezier. 

The Porcupine Mountains are quite popular year-’round.  In summer, the main thing is enjoying the lake and hiking.  We are pretty remote, and it feels rugged here.

We got set up.  There is only one small tent blocking our great view of the lake….

With a possible threat of rain, we hurried to do one of the park’s hikes.  This one is called Lake of the Clouds, and is one of the most scenic views in the UP.

You can almost make out George waving to me from above

The forest was really pretty

Right in front of our campsite is the escarpment, layers of sandstone and granite.

We watched, and eavesdropped on the family next to us.  As they pulled in, I heard the 2 teenagers complain about the 9-hour drive.  They have a very small car, and it was unbelievable how much stuff they unpacked…two big tents, 4 camping chairs, sleepng bags, air mattresses, cookware, suitcases, big plastic bins, coolers, and lots of gadgets.  Did I mention a dog, too?  Much of the stuff seemed brand new – still in their boxes. 

DINNER:  Spaghetti.  I made a thick meat sauce with Italian sausage, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and tomato sauce.  There was more sauce than pasta.  Side was caprese salad, which I always enjoy. 

Again, no TV reception, so we enjoyed Rick Steves again.  Tonight in Spain.

Day #107 – Great day on the lake = lots of sun and no fish to clean!

LOCATION:  In western UP, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Gogebic State Park
WEATHER:  Perfect!  Mostly sunny.  High 76

The campground host posts each day’s weather forecast.  Today he wrote –   High 76; low 51 – just about perfect for camping.  I would be thrilled if this weather continues throughout our stay in Michigan. We are so lucky.  I read about friends’ travel posts encountering heat wherever they go.    We will see!

I got a notification from the State of Hawaii saying that their travel restrictions have eased.  As fully vaccinated travelers, we can now go to Hawaii without a pre-test or 2-week quarantine.  So, our trip there this December is on.  Yay!  Hopefully Canada won’t be far behind? 

We went to quaint Lake Gogebic Lodge, designed in sort of a Scandinavian style, where we rented a pontoon for the afternoon.

It was an absolute perfect day to be out on the water.  Surprisingly, there were hardly any other boats.  I wonder if it will get busier this weekend?  I think the water is too cold for water-skiers or tubers.  Just fishing and pleasure boats.

George bought some leeches to use as bait.  I had skinned my ankle the other day, and George wanted to put a leech on the cut to suck out the blood, reducing the bruise, and therefore engorging the leech (for tastier fish bait).  I politely declined…..

He fished and fished all afternoon, but not even a nibble.

He is a good captain, and drove us all around the lake.

I enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful lake homes.

The afternoon passed quickly  – we ate a picnic on the boat, drank a few beers, read (me), and fished (George). 

We passed by our state park campground.  If you look closely, you can see Joy peeking from behind a tree.

With no fish, we simply returned the boat keys to the lodge, and we were off.  So much simpler, and cheaper, than owning a boat.

Back at the campground, George got a fire going for dinner.  The fire pit is not designed for cooking – it is a big round barrel without a grate.  So, George created a set-up so we could place our small grate on two metal poles – poles from a broken lawn chair that someone had left behind at a previous campground.   Clever boy!

DINNER:  Gyosa – Chinese pot stickers, again compliments of Trader Joe’s. George browned them in the iron skillet over the fire.  Meanwhile, I made an Asian vegetable stir-fry,  and a dipping sauce for the gyosa.  I improvised on the sauce, as I didn’t have any mirin or sake.  Instead, I mixed:  fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, bit of sugar, and white wine.  It tasted like the real thing!  George finished off the kimchi – a smell concoction he made about 3 months ago!  I’m glad to get it out of the refrigerator!!!!

Tonight’s entertainment was Rick Steves again.  Tonight in Spain….

Day #106 – Hoopin’ & Hollerin’!

LOCATION:  Near Wakefield, Michigan in the western UP
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Gogebic State Park
WEATHER:  Overcast and cooler.  Some rain.  High 76

It rained hard almost all night long, with lots of thunder and lightning.  We were pleasantly surprised to find no leaks this morning.

We decided to do the 3-mile foot trail around the park.  We set off, only to encounter lots of mud and puddles.  After getting our shoes soaked and being attacked by mosquitos, we gave up and turned around. 

Then, off to the Hoop and Holler Tavern on the NW side of the lake.  There are 3-4 quaint lodges/restaurants around the lake like this one.   This place’s restaurant  has supposedly the best food on the lake plus a lodge, camping area, bar, gas station, boat dock/marina, bait shop, and even great wifi – all with a population of 2! 

We were the only customers there, and shared their daily special – sea salt chicken wings.  Huge amount of food. 

One has to take into an account the different time zones around the lake.

The owner/waitress told us that they are busiest in the winter months – tourists doing snowmobiling,, hunting, ice-fishing, and trapping. Today, there was one boat out fishing.

We took a drive around the lake – 15 miles long.  The houses are all hidden behind trees on the lake.

Back at the campground, our neighbor pulled in after a day of fishing.  He did pretty well, but said yesterday was even better.

DINNER:  Another Trader Joe’s entree – lamb vindaloo and rice.  So fun to try these dishes.  Side was a salad including a perfectly ripe avocado (often hard to come by).

Another evening spent watching Rick Steves – this time in England. 

Day #105 – Lakeside Living

LOCATION:  Near Wakefield, Michigan in the western part of the Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Gogebic State Park.  Right on the lake.  Grassy sites (I think this is typical of all Michigan state parks).  Electricity at site.  Central dump station and water.  Level.  Firepit and picnic table.  $30/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Perfect for camping!  Cool in the AM and PM; sunny and warm (80) during the day
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes!

We stayed around the ski resort where we “camped” last night with Harvest Hosts.  I walked some of the ski trails for exercise.  There were 3 other RVs that camped overnight, but we didn’t hear them as we were all spaced far apart. 

George suggested that I post this photo – he spotted it next to the men’s restroom in the ski lodge this AM.

We had a ridiculously short travel time today – just a half hour.  We followed the lake (big) for quite a while, getting glimpses of rustic lake homes and lodges.  We were able to check in early.  For right now, our front neighbors have not arrived, so we have an unobstructed view of the lake.

We took a drive around the area, spotting a few lodges with restaurants we might want to try.  We stopped at the Gogebic Lodge where we lined up a pontoon rental for Friday.  These lodges thrive year-’round.  Boating and fishing in the summer; hunting, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing in the winter. 

We are right on the Eastern Time Zone line. Half of the lake is Eastern; half is Central.  I noticed that the restaurants in the area specify ET or CT for their opening hours.  Some of our clocks have changed and others have not.  It was hard to know when to start happy hour!

DINNER:  George grilled some boneless pork chops which I had rubbed with a home-made grill rub.  He also grilled some turkey thighs which we later boned for future meals.  I made a really good side dish that I learned from watching Lydia, the Italian chef, on PBS.  I will definitely do this recipe again.  Lydia said any vegetable would work, but particularly recommended leeks:

1 large leek, cleaned and cut vertically
Sliced mushrooms (I added these on my own)
Olive oil
2-3 slices prosciutto
2-3 slices provolone or gyurere
chopped walnuts

Saute the leek and mushrooms in the oil, briefly.  Add a bit of water until wilted.  Line a Pyrex dish with butter and add the leeks/mushrooms.  Drizzle with a tiny bit of oil, salt, and pepper.  Layer on the proscuitto and cheese slices.  Bake at 400 X 20 minutes.  Sprinkle on the walnuts and cook some more. 

With no TV reception, we watched several Rick Steves’ travel CDs, traveling to Scotland and Wales.

BOOK:  “Fall On Your Knees” by Ann-Marie MacDonald.  A very strange book chronicling a strange family through many generations.  It takes place in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where we hope to be later this summer.  3 stars out of 5

Day #104 – On to Michigan!

LOCATION:  Wakefield, Michigan – in western part of Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Big Snow Resort, a Harvest Host site.  HUGE parking lot, so easy to park.  Quiet.  Beautiful views of ski trails.  Bar/restaurant with great views and decent food.  Superb wifi.   5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Still cool.  Sunny.  High 68

I did laundry at the RV park in Bayfield this morning.  There was a “logjam” as others seemed to have the same idea.  Consequently, I had to wait and we asked for a late check-out as the clothes were still in the dryer.  No problem.  We have enjoyed our stay in Bayfield; 4 nights was just about the best length of stay. 

Then, we were off.  We stopped in Ashland, WI for groceries and a look around.  This used to be a major shipping port on the Great Lakes, second only to Chicago. It is now famous for its murals. 

We enjoyed occasional glimpses of Lake Superior on our drive east.  Michigan is our 14th state on this trip so far. 

The instructions for finding this Harvest Host site were to turn on a a certain road and drive until the road ends..  And it did!  At the end of the road is the ski lodge, lots of ski lifts, the Sky Bar, and the parking lot for our stay tonight. 

We got settled in easily, in a gigantic parking lot.  It must fill up in the winter, as there are about 10 ski lifts here.  There are also cute lodges and cabins.

Unlike many ski resorts, the lodge and parking are  at the top of the mountain.  You ski down, then take the lift back up. 

From our RV, we have views of the lodge and a little lake below us.  Very nice

We had dinner in the Sky Bar which overlooks the ski slopes.

DINNER:   We shared a grilled ahi tuna sandwich. For some reason, they put orange marmalade on it.  We scraped it off!!! 

Sunset was beautiful over the trees below us. 

Here is Joy, basking in the setting sun, with a full moon coming up…

Day #103 – National Nude Hiking Day!

LOCATION:  Bayfield, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Apostle Islands Area Campground
WEATHER:  Cool again, but sunny.  High 60

What a great day!  Everything is just so much more fun when the sun is shining! 

We took the 10:00 catamaran tour of the Apostle Islands. 

There are 22 islands that make up the Apostle Islands; we saw 21 on this trip.

The tour was nicely narrated.  We got up close to see some of the islands’ shorelines.

The captain/narrator pointed out eagles and baby seagulls.  The wind was pretty strong and the captain warned us that it would be even choppier once we left the protection of the islands.  He wasn’t sure if we would be able to go to the one farthest out – Devil’s Island – due to the waves.  By the time we got there, the waves had calmed down and we were able to go around the island.  I’m glad we did, as the sea caves there were very interesting.

One of the islands has an old fish camp still on it.  I cannot imagine anyone fishing and living out here in November. 

Several of the islands have lighthouses on them.  What a lonely life that must have been for lighthouse keepers. 

Lake Superior is huge.  At one point in the tour, we could see Minnesota’s North Shore (way in the distance).  Sioux Ste. Marie (Michigan/Ontario)  was on the other end. 

The tour was 3 hours – just right.  When we returned, we stopped in a park and had a little picnic.  Then, off to the hike that we had planned to do yesterday.  It is called Lake Shore  Trail.  The 4-mile round-trip trail is rated “moderate”.  The first part is pretty easy.  Then it turns tricky.  Lots and lots of ravines.  It is a good thing we did not try the hike yesterday as it would have been muddy and slippery.

I read on the internet (so it must be true!) that today is National Nude Hiking Day.  As we hiked, George had to tell everyone this.  Many looked at him with dismay!  We weren’t nude, but we did take off a lot of layers as we heated up.

At the end of the trail, we were rewarded by views of the cliffs and sea caves far below.

Back at the trailhead, I watched some brave people going for a swim (with wet suits on)

We took a different route home, passing through lots of orchard and berry farms, for which this region is famous. Strawberries will be in season soon.

DINNER:  Thai pho.  I sauted a  bunch of stuff:  onions, garlic, ginger, leftover pork, mushrooms, bell pepper, and frozen Asian stir-fry vegetables.  I added some homemade broth, soy sauce, and a bit of soy sauce.  I served all of this with pho noodles. 

Day #102 – A wet day on Lake Superior

LOCATION:  Bayfield, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Apostle Islands Area Campground
WEATHER:  Cooler – HIgh 59.  Rain most of the day

We took a drive along the north coast of Lake Superior, stopping at a national lakeshore park where kayakers were unloading their kayaks after having rowed to and camped at one of the islands.  Looks like a lot of work….and in the rain and cold!

We were planning a hike that is supposed to be quite scenic, but the description sounded a bit too challenging in the rain (slippery).  So, instead, we went to a distillery!  Why not!??

It is on an Indian reservation and the owners are from the Ojibwa tribe.  It was fun talking with the owner and servers – all teachers working there when school is out.  I had their Bloody Mary – almost a meal in itself!

We found a place in town for lunch, and shared a whitefish sandwich.  The seafood here is so good. 

Then, we drove south of town and took a hike, even in the rain.

The trail ended at Lake Superior.  Very nice!

Back at the campground, it continued to rain so we just hunkered down.  We had some local smoked whitefish/trout spread for an appetizer.  So tasty!

DINNER:  The last of the mufuletta mix.    I’m afraid the jar that George bought (a long time ago in an unsupervised shopping moment) was huge, so it has taken a while to get through it.  I used the bread that I bought yesterday in the farmers’ market and added Italian sausage slices and cheese to the sandwich.  Since it was chilly, I toasted the sandwiches before serving.  Side was a salad.