Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 4: A “B” Day All Around

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Despite being the size of a golfball, the Winter Wren really has an amazing song.  It seems to just go on forever…kinda like alarm clocks, but much more pleasant to wake to….

Breakfast was on the lakeshore with morning hiking in the Lake Bailey Aububon Preservejust east of Eagle Harbor.  With hopes of showing Nat a Pink Lady’s Slipper, the cedar swamp was just the place. Not a slipper to be had, but we tried. More Starflower, in addition to 3-leavedSoloman’s Seal and Canada Mayflower made the walk pretty fun.  Birds? Yeah, more of the same. Black-throatedGreens especially.   In any case the hiking was quite neat. 

Departing the Keweenaw, our route had us in the western Upper Peninsula by lunch time. After saving a Wood Turtle from becoming a speed bump and purchasing a new addition to my ever-expanding collections of locally crafted coffee mugs, it was time for me to try a pasty.  (Note: I may have had a pasty during my Boy Scout days a few years back. Okay, decades back.  Honestly, I can’t recall if I did or not…)

Now…um, stop it.  A pasty and a pasty are not the same.  A pasty (the one I had for lunch) is pronounced “PASS-tee” and consists of meat, potatoes, rutabaga, onions and spices in a baked pastry roll-type thing.  They apparently became very popular in the region with the influx of mining immigrants.  Smothered in gravy (some prefer ketchup), it makes a fine lunch. I’ll have one again for sure somewhere.

 A “PAY-stee”, on the other hand, is……different.  Let’s leave it at that. 

Okay, let’s not.


Now, we’re done.

Porcupine Mountains State Park is basically a must.  Sure, it took me 42 years to get there, but I’m glad I did. Nat has been there before. As you can figure, because she came back, it must be worth it, right?  The park has it all – history, flowers, birds, insects.  It’s a naturalist’s/historian’s dream.

After securing camp, all visitors are required by act of Congress to view Lake-in-the-clouds.  Okay, no you don’t have to see it, but you’re a dope if you pass it up.  You certainly can’t claim that the hike is bad. It’s paved and can be measured in feet.  The view is breathtaking.

Don’t thank the glaciers for this view. Everybody is Michigan wants to think the glaciers carved out the lakes and made the state what it is. No.  Over one billion years ago (this guy was just voted into office), a large seam ran from what is now Kansas to the UP. Lava and such would bubble up and ooze out from this rift.  Over time, after various stone depositions, the entire basin collapsed under its own weight. The basin became Lake Superior (see….no glacier action) while the edges of the basin became features we know today as the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale.  Lake-In-The-Clouds is nestled along one edge of the basin between two ridges.  It is one mile long and considered one of the premier views in Michigan.  Having a Bald Eagle diddle by really set the stage for us.  Quintessential Michigan!

A pleasant drive to Summit Peak was in order, as well. The grand view of the park from the Tower (over 50 feet tall) placed on a ridge was short-lived as a storm was rolling.  (I don’t claim to be the brightest bulb in the box, but standing on a giant tower in a thunderstorm is not smart.)

After showers (both the weather and hygiene kind) dinner on the lake shore was in order.  Why the lakeshore? The open air, and therefore the lake breeze, should have been enough to knock down the black flies.

Oh yes, the black flies.  Only a few millimeters long, these little bastards have plagued boreal travelers since people first set foot there.  Do they buzz and poke like mosquitoes? No. Like stealth helicopters in Pakistan, they sneak in.  When they find the right spot, they cut you open with their little switchblade mouthparts and lap up the blood.  Anti-clotting agents allow it to flow freely.  You have no idea it has happened until they are gone and you notice that drop of crimson on your arm or leg.  Itching to the point of insanity can ensue, but we didn’t seem to be bothered by that part. We got the welts.  Yum.

That said, it is worth noting that black flies are not the kings of the air. (I should say queens. Only the females bite.  The males eat pollen.) These guys rule the skies….

With a head basically covered in eyes and flight skills that make modern aeronautical engineers drool, dragonflies can snatch black flies and skeeters with ease. Forget about sharks and hawks being good predators.  Most of time, they actually miss their prey.  Dragonflies? Most of the time, they nail it.  Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be enough dragons to go around.

Of course, the breeze would have been enough, but shortly after setting up dinner, the breeze died to nothing.  Within microseconds, the swarms were upon us.  Hoping to prevent our Chicken and Rice from becoming Chicken a la Black Fly, we ate dinner in the car while watching the storm move out over the lake.  A steady rain settled in. After a round of drinks (no special beers) and munchies in Silver City, we went back to camp for the night.

Yeah, this was a “B” day all around – birds, boulders, bugs, botanicals, beer, and baked goods to name just a few.  I suspect I could keep going….

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