Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘State Parks’ category

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Rain! Petoskey, Michigan

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We woke up to HEAVY rains, thunder and lightning. Like a small hurricane, the winds blew hard. I was worried a tree or big limb would fall on the Airstream. It was predicted to last all day, so we read most of the morning. By noon it let up, so we drove into Petosky and went to the library. Certainly one of the nicest libraries I have been in, the nice lady at the desk told us it is more quiet on the second floor. With comfortable tables, chairs and lounge chairs, we picked a good spot to catch up on the blog. 45 minutes later I was done. We headed across the street to an old church that now served as Crooked Tree Arts Center and checked out all the work, most of which was for sale. 

By then the sun had come out and it was warming up, so we decided to go to Bear River Valley Recreation Area, where the river had been turned into a 1.5 mile white water section. You’d better know what you are doing to run this one. Of course it was rocking from that torrential rain last night. By the time we had walked up the trail for a while, we started peeling layers off. From the 49 degree start of the day, it got up to 75 and sunny.

On our way back to Petoskey State Park, we stopped to look at the incredibly pretty houses overlooking the bay. I hadn’t walked very far when a gentleman, out for his walk, asked me how I was doing. The next thing you know we were walking together, talking about Petoskey. He said he has been coming here for 76 years, his parents bringing the family from the time he was born. He went on to jobs bringing distressed companies back to life, living in many places including Florida and 8 years in Hawaii. He said this is the best place he has very been, and I believe it as it is gorgeous. He told me we should buy a cottage here. Then he gave me recommendations of where to eat and places to go, among them Pictured Rocks and Harbor Springs. We said goodbye. A couple he knew came up the other side of the street, and he went over to talk to them. He must be the mayor of Petoskey. 

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I resumed taking pictures of the lovely homes, but didn’t make it down to Bay Street where the biggest houses are. Martha had made it down and around two blocks before we met again. We decided to go to Petoskey Brewing Company for dinner. A good burger and fries complemented the porters we ordered. A group of 10 guys were seated next to us. I couldn’t help but listen in as one guy told the story of deer hunting when a wolf killed a deer right in front of his deer stand. After all that rain, it turned out to be a pretty good day. 

Hike Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Monday, October 1, 2018

After being on the road for 7 days, it was time to do laundry, so we went to Eastfield Laundry on 8th Street. With good machines, a nice attendant and WIFI, it made our job easy. We had a Reese hitch bolt come out and needed to get that fixed as well. Having replaced it twice myself, I was ready to drill through the box frame and put a bolt in one side, a lock washer and nut on the other, but Martha wanted to take to an Airstream place we saw driving in. I called Airstream of Northern Michigan. A salesman named Greg put me through to Joe, the service manager. Thinking I just needed the right bolt or slightly bigger bolt, he said to come at 2:00. 

We finished up with the laundry, put it away, had some lunch, hooked up and checked out. The Airstream place is called Nature & Me R.V. Greg directed me to service where I met Joe Hooch. We went out to check out the problem, and he called Alan to take a look. These are tapped screws that go in one side of the boxed frame, and Alan said it didn’t work too well. Now they put a brass rivet nut into the hole, acting like a rivet when you tighten the bolt. He noted that the second bolt on that bracket was also stripping, which I knew. Really you should remove both brackets and put in rivet nuts and new bolts. They were busy with winterizing, other jobs and a couple of other travelers like us, so we agreed to come back tomorrow. Joe was very apologetic, but I fully understood. I could see they were very busy. 

We checked back into Traverse City State Park where the staff was really into decorating for Halloween. Arms, hands and legs hung on signs and tried to come out of the ground. Ghosts hung from a fence, and a huge spider scared me in the bathroom. Martha found a hike called Brown Bridge Quiet Area along the Boardman River. It was good to get out and get some exercise. We parked at area #1 and read the sign. Must be getting old, but we couldn’t read the tiny symbols on the little signs. Oh well, you couldn’t get lost in a place like this. Following a ridge line, we headed east toward #2 through the woods. We could barely see the river winding below us. It is an old lakebed that has been drained. Our plan was to walk to a loop to the river at the far end of the lake, turn around and come back for 4.2mi, getting back for cocktail hour

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Those little blue triangles have numbers in them

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When we finally reached the river, I was so happy to see this beautiful river and take some pictures, we took a wrong turn and crossed the river over a bridge. There were side trails in a lot of places, especially along the river where people fish or just walk along it. Then that little sign was so small and hard to read. We didn’t realize what we had done until we got to marker #6. Finally I took a picture of the map with my phone and expanded it so we could see the tiny numbers. Well it wouldn’t be that much further, and it was much prettier following the river. It would be a great float through here although a bit chilly today. I wondered at the map whether there was another bridge at the other end of the old lake. By the time we had walked 8 miles and crossed the dam, we arrived at the bridgeless Boardman. I certainly wasn’t walking back, but Martha was hesitant to walk across. It was supposed to start raining any time and the sky looked like it. The river is shallow at that point, 2-3ft, and not running too hard, but it was a cool, cloudy 50 degrees, and I had on blue jeans, cotton socks and hiking shoes. We held hands and walked across, up the hill to the road and back to the truck. We shed the wet shoes and socks. Martha’s hiking pants dried quickly, but jeans won’t dry for a very long time. Fortunately it was only a 20-minute drive back to the campground. A hot shower felt good.

North to Traverse City

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We went up to the Visitor’s Center in Sleeping Bear Dunes. There were nice displays and a movie telling the history of the area. Sleeping Bear is a great park. We left a lot undone, but we had a great visit. There are many pleasant streams to float, a great bike trail, lots of hiking trails and miles of beaches. A through-hike in this park would be great.

Hooking up, we headed north on Rt. 22 to Traverse City.  After some trouble leveling the trailer in soft sand at Traverse City State Park Campground, we went downtown to cruise the shops and get Martha some warmer clothes. She found some gloves, hats, sweat pants, but couldn’t find the shirt she wanted. We found the world’s best Mommers hand-made ice cream at Peppercorn, a kitchen shop.

Next up was the Peninsula Drive to the light house, stopping at one of the many roadside fruit stands and bought Honey Crisp apples and plums. Beautiful farms growing grapes, fruit trees and vegetables are on both sides of the road. I have never seen apple trees trimmed to grow like grape vines. The road follows a ridge, so you see Lake Michigan on both sides. Heading back down on the west coastal side, we passed a little restaurant, the Boathouse, right on the water. After some discussion, we turned around and went back for dinner. The prices and cuisine are suited for yacht and wealthy homeowners, but it was excellent.  Driving back down the coast as the sun set, it was fun looking at the beautiful houses. With side roads going everywhere, there is much to explore here. When Ed and Diego and I were here last summer, Diego ran a marathon out this road for a beautiful run. 

Back in camp, Martha was happy to have TV reception. She watched her “Buff Boys” (NCIS LA) as I fell asleep.

Bike Greater Allegheny Passage

Thursday, June 21, 2018

After a night of very heavy rain, we waited until 10:00 to start biking. In the meantime I had to go see the slide, a natural shoot on Meadow Run. It is the most popular place in the park where you can slide down the river on the rocks. You are going to get bumped up on the rocks though, and our river guide recommended wearing a helmet. There is one spot where you could really bang your head, and you’re going pretty fast. I wasn’t brave enough the first day, and I sure wouldn’t do it now.

We then biked the rails-to-trails that runs all the way through the park, following the river. We started at the train station, going east, 10 miles out and 10 back. The “Yough” (Youghiogheny River) was raging. There was so much rain that every 50 yards was a waterfall. With puddles and muddy spots, you were going to get dirty, but once we got over it, we just went on. Not far from Confluence we saw two rafts filled with people hanging onto a tree. I was amazed there were people on the river. A half mile further up, there was a raft stuck in a hydraulic. It looked like it was tied up there, but it was just the churning water holding it in place, bobbing up and down.

When we got to the put-in spot, a raft group was getting instructions for their trip. I went up and reported the hydraulic hole. They said they would check it out and call the raft company. Apparently everyone got dumped out of that raft, or got out when they couldn’t exit the hydraulic. That’s why the two rafts we had seen were overfilled. We headed back down the trail and passed them. As far as I know, no one was hurt. I thought is was pretty crazy to risk being on that river that day, and the middle section is much calmer than the lower with Class II-III rapids normally. 50 miles south is the Upper Youghiogheny with Class V rapids, which is world-class kayaking. 

We had a nice lunch at the Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe. Their breads are great. Then we biked west for an hour before returning tired. This is one of the best state parks I have ever been in. If you like outdoor adventures, you can’t ask for more. It is beautiful, unspoiled despite many visitors. The campground was nice, with plenty of room. 

Hike Kentuck Trail/Visit Kentuck Knob

We hiked Kentuck Trail in Ohiopyle State Park – about 4.5 miles after the rains stopped. It was cool, but very humid, and we were the first ones on the trail, so we got all the spider webs. The river is the main attraction of the park, but there are 20,500 acres of beautiful forest and small streams. Behind Kentuck Knob Picnic Area is a beautiful overlook of the little town, the river and surrounding mountains. Hiking in the woods requires a reward for me to enjoy it. It could be along a trout stream, beautiful overlooks, exceptional trees (like the Redwoods), wildlife sightings or a variety of flowers and mushrooms. Our reward today was good exercise and a beautiful vista. 

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Just a mile from the campground is Kentuck Knob, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Hagen family. A smaller home than Falling Waters, it sits on a high hill overlooking Ohiopyle and the Youghiogheny Valley. It is built into the hill in hexagonal and triangular forms using native sandstone with a copper roof. It is a very cool house in a beautiful setting, and it has held up well over the years. The Hagen family made their money making Hagen ice cream, which is sold in the visitor’s center.

We just made it back before the rains came again, and it rained hard all night. I was going to float the middle Youghiogheny Friday, but might be a bit too much now. 

Fallingwater – Frank Lloyd Wright

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We went to visit Falling Waters, a summer house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family, owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh. The property on Bear Run was once a country club. Then Kaufmann bought it for his employees to use in the summer, who paid $1/night to stay. There were cabins and activities of hiking, swimming, volleyball and fishing. Later Kaufmann asked Wright to design a house across from waterfalls on Bear Run. Wright pushes to build it over the waterfall. It is a very cool house with cantilevered balconies and patios, and steps from the living room down to the river. A small swimming pool was built as part of the house filled by the stream. I loved the huge fireplace with a steel grate and a giant kettle that swings into the fire to make warm beverages. It would be great fun to walk the beautiful grounds, but the rains came and we retreated.

After lunch, when the storm passed, we hiked the Fernwood Trail through the Peninsula. This was once built up with a hotel, boardwalks and other businesses, but once cars became prevalent, train travel to Ohiopyle dropped off and the hotel closed. Later all the buildings were removed and trees replanted. It is now a forest with only trails crossing it. For all the visitors who come here, they have preserved the wilderness feel. When you are on the river, you don’t see any signs of civilization. Ohiopyle is a cute, little town with outfitters for rafting, biking, climbing and fishing. The park is 20,500 acres of forest, streams, the Youghiogheny River, The Greater Allegheny Passage Bike Trail, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (70 mi) and lots of other trails. This is surely one of the best state parks I have visited. 

Ohiopyle State Park

Monday, June 18, 2018

Getting an early start, we hiked the Ferncliff Trail around Ferncliff Peninsula. This follows a big loop in the river going through a gorge. There were a few side trails down to the river. On one, we were lucky to be there when a group of rafters came through. This is a big, powerful river with some big rapids. Although this group had guides in kayaks showing them the way through the rapid, there were no guides in the rafts. There were about 10 rafts, and they all got stuck in the middle of the rapid, some crashing into the ones already stuck. Amazingly, no one fell out. We were happy to have a guide in the boat for our trip this afternoon. 

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I was soaking wet from hiking in the hot and very humid forest, so we went back for a shower, lunch and a little rest. Then we went to Laurel Highlands Raft Company for a 3½ hour raft trip down the lower Youghiogheny River. Our team leader, Michelle, gave us instructions as we put on our life jackets and helmets. Then we piled into a van and drove 20 minutes to the put-in. As she drove, Michelle talked about all the adventurous things you can do in the park – biking, mountain biking, rock-climbing and a popular natural water slide. “We have many ways to get you injured” she said. At the landing, she positioned us in three rafts, each with a guide, ours being Toby. “Most drownings are from getting a foot wedged. There are many rocks, tires and redneck refrigerators on the bottom. Do not put your foot on the bottom. If you fall out of the boar, do not try to stand up. Lie on your back with your feet up to push off rocks”. the other biggest injury is getting hit by a paddle handle, so she cautioned to always keep you hand on the handle.  

Off we went, but the guides explained their instructions – all forward, all back, right side forward, all stop. We had a pretty good crew with two teen-age girls, a teen-age boy, Martha and three men, all nice. Toby told us the names of all the rapids, along with rock names, like ‘The Decapitator’. Then in the first rapid he went down side-ways so we would all get wet. The girls screamed. It was hard to tell when Toby was messing with us and when he just hit rocks. We were stronger on the left side of the boat, which made it a bit of a problem. 

We came to Dimple Rock in the middle of the afternoon. There was a large group of rafts getting instruction before going through. They had no guides in their boats, but several in kayaks. A huge sign warned of the dangers of Dimple rock, and there was a portage sign on the right side of the river. Geez! The leader of the large group let our three guided boats go through before them. We headed right at huge Dimple Rock, then Toby turned 40 degrees and yelled “All forward hard”. We did, but we still bumped the end of the rock, which turned us around, but we had passed the danger. I later read about this rapid. Dimple Rock is a V-shaped rock pointing downstream. The entire force of the river plunges into the open part of the V. Of the millions of people who have floated the river in the last 30 years 18 boaters have died. Nine of those were at Dimple Rock. 

There was another big rock where the river makes a hard right, a good place to get swept into the rock that is undercut, but we managed that one without incident. It was a seemingly less difficult rapid with heavy waves that we ran into a big rock on the left as we swept by. We had hit plenty of rocks, but we were going to hit this one pretty hard. Like a bouncing ball, the raft compressed when it hit, then released and threw three of us into the river. Feet up, on my back, I watched for big rocks. They got the other two quickly in the boat, but I was behind it. All I was thinking was not being able to see what was coming, the raft blocking my view. As we got to the bottom of the waves, Toby waved me to come on, so I turned over and swam to the boat where he quickly dragged me in. One of the girls dinged her knee pretty good, but seemed to be OK. Toby then moved people around to make the right side paddlers stronger. That sobered people up a bit, and we were a little more serious about paddling. We still managed to hit more rocks, getting stuck on a few. 

Having turned over plenty of times in canoes on much less powerful rivers, I have tremendous respect for the power of water. What you worry about is getting into a boat with people who don’t know. They think they are in Disneyland, laughing, talking, paddling lackadaisically. They think the guide can control everything. It’s really those hard turns where everyone needs to be a their best. Our crew really did pretty well. Laurel Highlands does a great job, and Michelle is a real pro. This river is absolutely gorgeous. You don’t see anything but trees and river. It’s as pretty a river as I have ever been on. The trout population is quite good here, but I have no idea how you would fish this section. It is way too deep and forceful to walk in. I didn’t see any driftboats, and this would be a challenge for them. 

Savannah Trolly Tour

May 14, 2018

As we were driving out, a Barred owl flew across the road and landed in a tree. We managed to get a few pictures before it took off again. 

Taking the OldTown Trolly tour of the historic district of Savannah, we agreed to stay on the tour if we had a good guide. We stayed on, because Lilly Belle was great – the perfect tour guide. It was interesting to see the lovely old houses and many parks and squares. There was the bench where Forest Gump sat while saying “Life is like a box of chocolates”. We passed the Six Pence Pub where Julia Roberts saw her husband with another woman in “Something to Talk About”. Lots of other movies have been filmed here.

On our second trip around, we got off at Brighter Day Natural Foods Market for lunch and some groceries. Then we visited the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. An entertaining man gave a nice history of the church, and what a gorgeous church it is. We had to have ice cream at Leupold’s, voted one of the best ice creams in the world and in business since 1919. We could not disagree! Then we went into the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. A man gave a short history of the church and how it was built. It is quite beautiful.

We stopped at Bonaventure Cemetery, listed as one of the top 10 things to do in Savannah. It was very pretty with big, old trees and sitting on a bluff along the Wilmington River. We found Noble Jones’ grave, who was on the first ship to the settlement. He built Wormsloe Plantation.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

May 13, 2018

Martha went for a kayak trip on the Skidaway River for about an hour and a half. She had two porpoises swim beside her for a bit.

We then went to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It was a hot day at 91 degrees at its peak. The sun was very intense, and with the humidity at 87%, it’s oppressive. There is a fabulous 4-mile drive through the refuge. Originally rice plantations, where gates flooded the rice fields. There are no more rice fields, but it is planted with a variety of wildlife foods. There was a huge variety of birds, and we saw a number of alligators. This is a very cool place, with the Savannah loading docks in plain view. I could have shot pictures all day. 

sa·van·na, noun: savanna

a grassy plain in tropical and subtropical regions, with few trees.

We got the bikes out and rode the Little Back River Trail for about an hour. There is a lot to explore here with hiking trails and biking trails, viewing blinds and a driving tour. There are 31,551 acres of wetlands.