Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You're Never Too Old to Run Away From Home

I always loved Huck Finn :-)

JD and I ran away from home this weekend. We couldn't afford a long trip south to get somewhere warm, which is pretty traditional for spring break.  Instead we went where everyone else was traveling FROM.  Up north.  The UP (upper penninsula).  Across the straights of Mackinaw.  That bit of Michigan that might as well be Canada.   

There's not much in the UP that doesn't involve the outdoors, so winter there is almost empty. Maybe a quarter of the businesses in larger towns stay open for the snowmobilers, ice-fishers, and locals.  But Tahquamenon Falls is still flowing, Lake Superior is still dramatic (and almost as cold as it is in August) and Whitefish Point is still beautiful in the winter. 

We were thwarted a lot.  We both love kitchy roadside attractions (The Mystery Spot!  See live bears!  Michigan Wax Museum!) and most were closed for the season.  We love to take backroads through the state forests instead of highways, but all the state forest roads quickly ended in walls of snow passable only by snowmobiles or skis.  Even the roads to the lower Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks lakeshore were closed for the season.  Winter hiking is one thing.  A twelve mile trek through two feet of snow to look at a cliff is on another level.  Even a very pretty cliff.  Also, my faith in dive diners was alternately destroyed and restored as we moved.

Then again there were benefits!  The traffic was almost non-existant.  Off-season hotel rates were fantastic and reservations were for other people.  There were no bugs, and the mixed pine/birch forests covered with snow made for a very scenic drive.  It was quiet.  There were no bugs.  There were ice floes under the falls and heaving with the waves along the lakeshores.  There were no bugs.

(For those who don't get the bug reference, the UP is a combination of marshland and clear flowing rivers that results in huge summer populations of mosquitoes and black flies that can carry away small children to where their bloodless bodies will never be found.  Locals call this "Nature" or sometimes "Tourist-Repellant".)

In all we took three days to drive almost a thousand miles and finally calmed my wanderlust for another season.  I'm now in "travel-lag" and can just about stay awake with enough coffee. I don't know if I'd do it again without skis or snowshoes to really get around, but it was worth it just to see.  The place is so different in the winter that if we decide to go again in three months it'll be a whole different destination. 

Pictures will be forthcoming, but probably not until tonight when I can sort through them.


i-geek said...

The U.P. is my favorite vacation spot in the world. There's a state park/campground called Muskallonge Lake, about 30 miles north of Newberry. There's just the one road up from Newberry to the park. The campground is on one side of the road (next to Muskallonge Lake) and the gorgeous public beach on Lake Superior is just on the other side of the road. Last time we stayed there, we snuck onto the beach at 2 AM to see the stars over the water. No city lights to block the view, no noise of traffic. So, so cool.

JeninCanada said...

Holy man, you were almost up in my backyard! :) I'm glad you enjoyed the trip; Superior is gorgeous and humbling in any season but it sure has an otherwordly quality in winter. All that power hushed under the ice...

Sonja Newcombe said...

Wow, I wish I could just go for a drive right into snow!

Australia's still in warmer seasons, though it's been getting chilly overnight (evidenced by the cat insisting on sleeping under the covers).

One of these days I WILL just take off to the coast for a day, or even just for a lunch of fresh fish and hot chips.

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