The Great Northern Adventure 2012, Days 7, 8, AND 9.

MUSKALLONGE LAKE STATE PARK, Mich. –  Yes, readers. It has been many days since I have updated this page. Leave it to this family to find the most remote regions of the United States (and Canada!) to pick for their vacation. There are few regions without 4G Verizon coverage these days, and even fewer regions without 3G coverage, but where these regions exist, by god, our family’s matriarch will find them.

“The better to avoid useless conference calls with, my dear,” responded Michelle.

Not that this avoidance was effective, but no matter.

Day 7, if you’ll remember, readers, dawned with Michelle’s super-duper-awesome (her terms) 5 mile hike!!!! (her exclamation points). The family was still based at Tahquamenon Falls State Park at the time, and the weather was beautiful. But the company wasn’t.

“Laurel was reticent. Ethan was downright reluctant; however, once we began Ethan wanted to hike all the staircases. Laurel turned into the mopey-groaney one, like she’s trying to win some prize for Best Whiny Teenager,” Michelle said.

The hike first led them past the Tahquamenon (rhymes with phenomenon, y’all) Upper Falls:

03---Tahquamenon-falls-3Tahquamenon-upper-falls-1Tahquamenon-upper-falls-2 

It seems these falls lay claim to being the 2nd largest falls east of the Mississippi (next to Niagara) or depending on the source, the third largest falls in terms of volume for vertical falls east of the Mississippi (after Niagara Falls and Cohoes Falls, both in New York state). So there you are. Whew.

Laurel rejoiced at the sign for the falls trail they were about to hike. “Yay!” she said, “I can’t wait to hike 4 more miles one-way! It will be so awesome!!!!!” You can just see it on her face, she is SUPER STOKED:

04---happy-teenager-super-stoked-to-hike-the-trail

As she would say: “NOT.”

Ethan, as this reporter mentioned, forgot all his previous reservations and was thrilled to hike as many stairs as possible, counting the entire time.

“GEEZ, I wish he wouldn’t count,” said Michelle, though she was the only other family member game to go along when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. “Counting only makes it worse because then you’re THINKING about ALL THE STAIRS.”

But anyway, they hiked a few more stairs than Greg and Laurel, which probably owed to their lagging at the end.

05-more-game-members-of-the-party

The whole family marveled at what appeared to be very ambitious beavers along the way.

06-Ambitious-beaver

Also in their journey, the entire family bitched about marveled at the wonky bridges, some of which had completely fallen out of alignment with the opposite side, leading to a great number of high/long jumps and ensuing hilarity. Or aggravation. Choose your own adventure. Ethan was particularly perturbed by the omnipresent encroachment of ferns, primarily because they were as tall as he.

07-Wonky-bridges-abound

“GOD,” he complained, “WHY DO THEY ALLOW ALL THIS STUFF TO GROW AROUND THE WHOLE TRAIL?!!!”

“Because,” Michelle explained, “they can’t keep up. The land is fertile here next to the river, and the ferns grow very rapidly where there is no hemlock to render the ground too acidic. Notice how when we pass beneath the hemlocks there is plenty of room but when we come out into the sun there are…”

“I DO NOT CARE, THERE ARE TOO MANY FERNS!!!” Ethan exclaimed. “THOSE BASTARDS!”

“Don’t say ‘bastards,’” Greg warned.

After trudging along for four miles of single-lane-through-the-ferns track, our family heaved an in-unison sign of relief upon encountering the Tahquamenon Lower Falls, which came accompanied by a side of easily-traversed boardwalk.

08-Tahquamenon-Lower-falls-1

“Don’t forget the ice cream cones!” exclaimed Laurel.

Yes, our family, as they are wont to do, stopped at the Lower Falls store for some ice cream cones because, after all, they will look for absolutely any excuse, however minor, to indulge in ice cream.

“You wanna make something of it?” challenged Michelle.

Upon returning to camp, the entire family decided that was certainly an evening for the much-anticipated brewery at Tahquamenon Falls.

So how was it?

“Terrible,” said Michelle. “How do you righteously fuck up a bison burger?”

“Very bad,” remarked Greg. “How do you righteously fuck up both a hamburger and a beer?”

Well, you win some and you lose some. Right?

***

Day Eight dawned with the family beating a hard path toward Muskallonge Lake State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This was a pretty cool park because it lies on a narrow strip of land between Muskallonge Lake and, hi, LAKE SUPERIOR.

The first order of business was checking into the state park, naturally.

09-Greg-&-Ethan-on-the-teeter-totter-thingy10-Muskallonge-Lake-campsite11-View-from-Muskallonge-Campsite-63

Unfortunately, not long after checking in, Greg had to go attend to one of those aforementioned conference calls.

“Super awesome,” Michelle said. “Normally I absolutely abhor it when Greg has to deal with work crap and now that he’s at a good company it is truly rare so it’s all good, but this time he even had to go out to a place where there also exists a laundromat, so hi, he got to do our laundry and I took the kids to Lake Superior for some super cold swimming. Awesome, right? How many Great Lakes have YOU swam?”12-Kids-swimming-in-Lake-Superior

Greg, however, had a slightly less effusive opinion of the situation.

“Yeah, I spent at least a half-hour in this, yelling into the receiver because it was so crappy nobody on the other end could hear me.”

24---real-live-telephone-booth25-Bugs-inside-the-booth

“Of course, being the superawesome wife I am,” Michelle opined, “I just knew what time Greg would end up back at camp and the kids and I got there just in time for him to regale us with how Super Awesome and Productive that phone call was and how Super Happy he was he got to be on it.”

But that was soon at least partially remedied by Greg’s Much Anticipated Activity – renting 4-wheelers.

And rent them our family did, from a little hole in the wall place on County Highway 407. Josh and “DaLane” helped them get those ATVs rented after much consultation of how-tos in a binder. They were very nice, though, and Josh let Greg borrow his 2” ball hitch because our family realized very quickly that a 13-mile ride to get the ATVs back to the campground was very much NOT FOR THEM.

“We needed about another 6” drop,” Greg observed, “so the trailer was hanging pretty off-kilter, but Josh and I got those Arctic Cats loaded, and Josh admitted he had never ever, evereverever ridden the Two Hearted Trail, didn’t know shit-all about it and couldn’t help us at all, thankyouverymuch, to which of course I wanted to respond, ‘you’re renting these ATVs for use on those trails, you oughta ride them so you can give people advice’ but I’m too goddamned polite to say something like that to people in the public.”

Greg’s highlight was that Josh said “beauty,” when they unloaded the trailer after the rental, in true northern US / Canadian fashion, but this reporter digresses.

While Greg and Josh loaded the 4-wheelers, DaLane grilled Michelle about how they found out about the place to begin with.

“The internet,” is how Michelle wanted to respond, but instead she regaled DaLane with the ins and outs of Google and wanting
to go north for the summer because they hadn’t been, and yada yada yada, and DaLane talked about the Pure Michigan campaign and Michelle noticed DaLane had eggs for $2.50/dozen which is way cheaper than you can get them in St. Louis and they talked about that and DaLane’s tomatoes and Michelle’s tomatoes and, well, you get the picture. It’s vacation so there is really no big rush. Most days.

The rental was followed in short order by running a short stint on the Pine Ridge Trail.

Heh.

“MY GOD IT WAS AWFUL,” whined Michelle. “First of all, these machines are big machines, and Ethan was on behind me so we didn’t have as much weight and I was on a brand new machine which sounds great in theory but has a super stiff suspension. Then the trail we went on was chock full of pine stumps and tree roots which are all well and fine if you hit them Just Right but if you happen to glance a tire off them or something it jerks the handlebars (or whatever they’re called, maybe they’re called something way cooler than ‘handlebars,’ hell, I dunno) right out of your hands and I ended up feeling like I had one elbow hyperextended and when THAT happened my thumb hit the throttle and Ethan and I went pretty much nose-first into some scrub brush and Ethan couldn’t plant his feet because he’s too small and it was just BAD BAD BAD.”

Meanwhile, from Greg: “It was awesome. I had a great time.”

So our family, being thinkers, swapped kids to ride on the back.

“Adding another 50-some-odd pounds helped tremendously,” Michelle sighed. “But even then Laurel said it was a rougher ride than being with her dad. We never did switch machines but I still believe the broken-in suspension might have had something to do wish the ease of Greg’s travel. Guess we’ll have to ask our family experts James and Anita,” she added.

So what better to finish off a rather dubious experience than a trip to Pine Stump Junction, which just freaking rocks, in this reporter’s opinion.

“True,” said Michelle.

23-Pine-Stump-Junction

The family ordered pizza and beer (root beer in a frosty mug for the kids, no less) and enjoyed it so much they….

Well…just hang on.

After a pizza dinner that couldn’t be beat, our travelers returned wearily to the campground with a trailerful of 4-wheelers a-tow.

All went well until they pulled into the park and Head Honcho Park Guy halted them.

“You got tags for those ATVs?” he asked, chock full of self-importance and Michigan accent.

“Uh,” Michelle responded, “No, but we figured if we trailered them in…”

“Boy, I sure wish you woulda called me and let me know,” park guy said. “I woulda given you some tags, you know, for registered campers only.”

Greg said, “Grumblegrumblegrumble.”

Michelle stepped in.

“Pfft! He called, like, last week, or two weeks ago” she protested. “They told him we could drive them into the campground but we decided when we got here to trailer them in. The gal TOLD HIM that if our site allowed we could park a trailer full of ATVs there NO PROBLEM. We’re in site 63 and we know there is more than enough room so what do we need to do here?”

“Aw, go on and park over there and come in,” park guy said, backing off quickly, as expected, from Michelle.

Meanwhile,  Greg continued to grumble, “This pisses me off, really pisses me off because I CALLED.”

“Alright, go park,” Michelle directed. As they pulled away from the station she continued, “Look, I know this guy ‘cause I’ve worked at parks. He’s working nights on the weekend, he’s throwing his weight around, he wants to be Big Important Park Honcho. I can totally handle him. Don’t worry.”

And handle him she did, with aplomb, showing him she and Greg were at least as smart as he when it came to reading maps, determining trails, and being Real Fuckin’ Assertive. He backed off and became Real Fuckin’ Friendly and offered every single map they had of the Two Hearted Trail along with some bad news: “Much of the Two Hearted is closed on account of a forest fire,” he said.

Of course. What else is new? If our family wants to run a trail there’s either too much snow or too much fire.

But the real coup? Park Honcho asked, “Listen, when you guys are done running that trail there, will ya’ let me know what is open? ‘Cause the guys who are s’posed to know aren’t tellin’ me, see?”

So they agreed.

And the next day, Day Nine, they woke early and headed right out to those trails. Specifically, the went to the Two Hearted Trail.

“We have long dreamt of enjoying a Two Hearted IPA next to the mouth of the Two Hearted River,” Greg said.

So off they went, sore arms and asses be damned, with Laurel riding behind Michelle for more ballast.

14-Good-part-of-ATV-Trails

They found wild blueberries along the way.

”I’m so surprised by how tiny the bushes are,” said Laurel. All agreed, and all had a few, and all agreed they were indeed very good berries from very small plants. Funny thing – the wild blueberry festival in these parts is held in August.

“I guess like everywhere else, they’re having a very early harvest this year,” Michelle noted.

15-Wild-blueberries!

After a seemingly endless (in Michelle’s opinion) amount of ATV trails, our family was indeed forced by forest fire to move to the county roads.

“I told Greg we should just go around the ‘trail closed’ signs but he wanted to be all LAW-ABIDING and follow the signs,” whined Michelle. “Never mind that when we were in Colorado he Jeeped right past THOSE ‘trail closed’ signs. Like, what are they gonna do, tell us we’re all naughty and shit and we have to get off? We even got park honcho to tell us that while he wouldn’t officially tell us we should go on the closed trail we should totes go on the closed trail!”

She was feeling pretty feisty, apparently, after enduring mile upon everlasting mile of rough trail. It seems the woman of the family was hell-bent on doing this whether she liked it or not, just so her man would be happy.

Regardless, they moved to the county roads and soon found themsel
ves at the mouth of the Two Hearted River, where they stopped for lunch, for play on a suspension bridge over the river,

16-Mouth-of-the-Two-Hearted-River17-We-learned-about-this-at-Whitefish-Point,-remember-the-Coast-Guard-boat18-Ethan-checking-out-the-4wheelers-from-the-drivers-seat19-Pumping-water-but-it-never-came-out20-Suspension-bridge-over-the-Two-Hearted-River21-A-Two-Hearted-at-the-Two-Hearted

After a full 50 miles on ATV trails and back roads, our very dusty family found themselves returning the ATVs and then returning themselves right back to Pine Stump Junction for another round of pizza and beer.

“Yes. We were indeed here last night,” Michelle noted. “We were also here this afternoon fueling up the 4-wheelers before returning them while surreptitiously surveilling a meth-addled couple stumble their way in for a late lunch or, possibly, some booze to bring themselves down. Whatever. That was one of those fascinating interludes we often encounter on our vacations, kind of like encountering a sign on the gas pumps that read, ‘Sorry about the price. Inquire inside,’ whatever THAT means. But we’re here now and we do NOT have the same waitress as last night so the only people who know we are in the same place two nights in a row are us, our blog readers, and our bank.”

Speaking of banks, Pine Stump Junction accepts only cash or checks. The night before our family paid by cash but now they were pretty much fresh out.

Greg asked the waitress, “Will you take an out-of-state check?”

After consulting with her boss, she had the answer: “As long as it’s a good one.”

And friends, that is how our family paid their bill, for the first time in a very, very long time.

“Hell,” Greg noted, “I wouldn’t even have thought to bring a checkbook.”

“Or cash,” Michelle added. “Greg doesn’t carry checks or cash. I, on the other hand, almost always have cash and because you never know, the checks go with us on vacation.”

But would-be thieves beware. “I will absolutely, without question, kick you in the nuts if you try to steal from me,” Michelle assured. “So don’t.”

22-Yes-we-accept-out-of-state-checks

And that, dear readers, is how Day Nine ended.