We departed home on a Tuesday morning, June 23, 2020 once breakfast and coffee were done. Bikes were loaded up and we headed for Pat’s IGA for some lunch provisions. The lupines are thick around Pats and we took advantage of the photo opp to get the ride started.
From place to place throughout the North and South American continents, things are not so different. Plant species are very similar if not the same; our region of North America is not much different from Patagonia. Weather is not much different, climate is not much different, bugs are not much different and back roads are not much different. One could say we live in the North American Patagonia.
Skies were overcast at the temperature was 48F/9C, beautiful weather to cycle in. We headed out of town on M64, heading west before turning south on Norwich Road. A destination was researched and the Norwich Bluffs our goal.
It’s been a while since we’ve toured. It’s been a while since we’ve spent more than a couple of hours in the saddle and needless to say these aging, overweight bodies felt every pedal stroke. The steady climb to our destination made us feel like we were dragging lead bricks behind us. We stopped for a Clif bar break, we stop to look and eat wild strawberries, we stopped to look at flowers and the Monarch caterpillars eating as well. The Sandhill cranes called out to us as we passed by. We stopped at Pioneer Multi-use Trailhead for a lunch of fried chicken that we had picked up at Pats earlier. This put us only a couple of miles from our destination for the evening.
We continued on Norwich Road and then turned east on Victoria Road. Victoria Road is a gravel road going up along the Norwich Bluffs.
We gradually climbed 1.3 miles on Victoria Road before turning off on a non-motorized trail. It was slightly overgrown and 1.6 miles to the top of the bluffs. The grade was a constant uphill. We were able to cycle some of it but soon had to stop to hoist bikes over downed trees. Then I hit a tree that was hidden in the tall grasses. I had been able to ride over many but this one that was slightly off angle took me out. I was literally pinned into the long grass into a mix of dead tree limbs and branches. I could feel myself falling almost in a slow motion drop. Curtis was laughing and got a few photos before helping me out of my predicament. I was pinned in such a manner that I couldn’t get my right arm out to push myself up. It seemed I was in some kind of notch between branches. It was funny. After a few attempts, with Curtis and I working together we were able to get me semi up and the bike off me. From here we pushed, there were too many hidden downed trees and the grass was pretty high. We passed beautiful rock outcrops. The grades were up to 12% in places and the push with loaded bikes was often times not easy but we kept going.
I really cannot move, my leg and right arm were pinned in a depression between the small tree branches. I was able to finally get up and out with just a few bruises and a lot of laughing.
We pushed to the end, 1.6 miles in distance. The old watchtower pilings were all that was left of it. We found an interpretive trail that is right off the North Country Trail. We had passed a lot of water sources on our push up, but there was not any water at the top. Hoping to camp on the edge of the bluffs was a no-go. The vegetation was pretty overgrown and we decided it was best to head back down the trail to one of the water streams.
We saw small snakes and some frogs and toads today but other than the chipmunks that was pretty much it for the critters.
The proverbial question of the day is “Does a bear shit in the woods?” Yes they do and from the numerous piles we found while looking for an adequate campsite I would say that there are quite a few up here! We brought along bear spray as well as scent-free bags and our bear bag for food storage.
We found a spring that had good water for filtering. Perched on the edge we dropped the filter end in and started to pump. Something is wrong. The water isn’t filtering through, rather it is spraying out where it shouldn’t be. Upon further investigation we found that a gasket was missing making the filter un-usable. All water would have to be boiled. On a positive note, we had packed along our new solo-stove that is a wood burner so our fuel source was plentiful.
The tent site we found was actually an old campsite complete with a grown over fire ring. We did not make a fire but we could have it we had chosen to. It was near an old downed tree.
The forest floor is very densely covered with leaf litter and downed trees. Chipmunks visited us often and watched while I set up the tent. Oaks and Maple Trees along with Beech trees were the predominate tree life with an occasional Hemlock thrown in.
We walked the woods, discovering a few mushrooms and other plants. We watched the chipmunks play and we noted large piles of bear dung. Tonight we will need to be bear aware and make sure food is hung. Birds sang, woodpeckers tapped out their morse codes and we sat back, enjoying our supper and enjoying the cool breezes.
This plant was a new one for me. It is called Squawroot (Conopholis americana). It is also known as Cancer Root and Bear Cone. It’s a strange and fascinating little plant that looks like a pinecone, produces no chlorophyll of its own, and lives mostly underground as a parasite on the roots of oak trees, seemingly without harming them.
Curtis boiled water and then cooked supper. Supper was our standby, Lentils & Brown Rice with dried vegetables mixed in. It’s a simple meal but it’s filling, nutritious and tastes so good after a hard day.
One new piece of gear is a small saw that works great for cutting small pieces of wood for the stove. Sure this small maple branch still needed to be split but the saw made it easy to get the lengths appropriate for use.
Bugs, yea there are bugs but there are bugs everywhere. Mosquitos were not too bad and we had the occasional horse fly come by. Bug spray is a must! Once we turned in I discovered a tick that was attempting to sink it’s tiny fangs into me. I ended its life, it had chosen the wrong host. Sleep came quickly.
Total miles today, Tuesday June 24, 2020 was a mere 21.1 miles with 1,347′ of elevation gain.
We were both awakened a few times through the night but sleep took over. Morning arrived with blue skies and light breezes.
We enjoyed our coffee and oats. While were were on the Carretera Austral in Patagonia we discovered that oats could be eaten raw. It was out of hunger and need to conserve resources that we discovered this and have not cooked oats since while touring. Our oats were mixed with walnuts and dried tart cherries.
With the tent packed up and the gear stowed away we made our way back down to Victoria Road. Mosquitos were thick and Curtis donned his bug net. For some reason they weren’t bothering me quite as bad.
Once back to the road we headed east / northeast on Victoria Road. At first it was gradual climbing but before we knew it the first 10% grade hill was behind us, then we hit a 12%. By the time we hit the next 12% grade hill we both opted to get off and push/walk it. We were not on Victoria Road rather we dubbed it Carretera Victoria Austral.
We climbed then we would drop and then we would climb again. The road was remote, the entire 2 days we only saw 3 cars. This is definitely my kind of traffic! We stopped often to look at flowers or watch the butterflies dance across the flower tops. Chipmunks darted across the gravel in front of us. We were definitely in our element.
The road changed from gravel to pavement as we entered Victoria, MI and we turned right and headed down the steep hill to Victoria Dam. This was a beautiful place to enjoy a peaceful lunch. I had made up banana pancakes with peanut butter before we left home. This is a hearty lunch, good carbs as well as protein. We sat and watched the beautiful waters of the backed up Ontonagon River. This is a popular canoe launch and also portage.
The push to get back up the hill back to Victoria Road was tough, reaching 16% grades according to my GPS. Plus this offshoot to the Dam was again gravel so grip was an issue.
Back on pavement we headed once again down to the Ontonagon River before embarking on the 1.6 mile climb out of the river valley. Gear down, go slow and crank is about the only way to get up a long hill. Grades were not bad, maxing out at 9.8%, at least it was not double digit!
We opted to take a gravel route from Rockland, MI back to Ontonagon and found an ATV trail that used to be a railway. We were passed by 2 ATVs but other than that the only traffic was the birds and butterflies. At one point on the trail we were swarmed by hundreds of tiny yellow gold butterflies. This was quite magical.
Our ATV trail dropped us out at Woodruff Road and from there we made our way home.
Total miles today, Wednesday June 25, 2020 was 27.2 miles with 1,989′ of elevation gain.
We will do more overnight bike trips and this one just wet our appetite for more of them. It is something we both enjoy especially being able to combine cycling with camping in the wild.
Yea…. it was good to be back on the open roads.
It gets cold up THERE. It snows up THERE. WHY would you EVER want to live THERE? Statements that we have heard repeatedly after announcing we were looking for a place up north near Lake Superior. We searched this region specifically because it does get cold and it does snow among a vast number of other reasons. The locals asked if we were staying thru the winter as many land owners are seasonal and leave shortly after Labor Day. There was never a doubt that we would remain thru the winter.
The colors of fall were spectacular. November 1, 2019 we had brisk temperatures and leaves on the ground. Walks along our lovely lady, Lake Superior is always a treat and we never quite know what she is going to show us.
The first snow came on November 2, 2019. It was a light dusting that blanketed the land and trees in white. Apples and leaves clung to the trees in a final attempt to hold onto the last days of fall. The snow muffles all sounds and the world seems so quiet and serene. The waves slapped the shoreline of the lake coating driftwood and dunes with a light layer of ice. Ice cycles dripped from so many areas along the beach.
Walks thru the woods became a reoccurring activity. Snow was not deep yet into the first week of December and the quiet of the landscape was inviting. Winds were squelched to almost zero deep in the trees.
The Salsa Fargo bikes that Curtis built for us are incredible snow bikes and with snow on the ground we took advantage of the wide wheels and stable handling. There is always fun to be had if you look for it. Oh sure, we could have hid in the warmth of the house and avoided “the cold” but why would we ever want to do that when there is so many things to do and places to explore. And fun & exploration we did! We rode bikes, hiked thru the trees, built bonfires and sampled ice cycles.
We slid into the new year, welcome to 2020! Ontonagon is a beautiful village with such an iconic lighthouse. It also has some of the most incredible shoreline on Lake Superior. Our lovely lady dons a new wardrobe of ice and snow into the winter months. She takes on an interesting look of ice sculptures and art.
Snow levels grew and the trails thru the trees no longer were possible UNTIL…. we discovered snowshoes. This was so much fun!! We made a trail through the back of the property, across the pond and into the city park. The local loop was about 2-1/2 miles long and we were able to enjoy the solitude and peace of this trail. It was used by several other locals and quite well marked.
Michael and Rachel came for a visit and we purchased 2 additional pairs of snow shoes. This was FUN!!
Winter creates a landscape like nothing else. With Michael and Rachel we explored Bond Falls. Spectacular!
We learned to layer and dress for the cold temperatures finding that anything above Zero was actually enjoyable. We wore gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, buffs, boots, coats, vests and long johns. Layer upon layer we would don our duds and head outside.
By Mid February the snow was backing off and layers were dropping. Curtis and I took a snowshoe trail to O kun de Kun falls and this was by far one of our favorite snowshoe trails.
Days are starting to lengthen and our time outdoors grew even more. Roads were starting to clear. Snow would melt from the pavement only to freeze at night creating black ice. Black Ice is treacherous to say the least and despite the wide tires on our bikes, black ice took us both down.
But the melting snow and ice pack didn’t stop us from enjoying the Salsa Fargos. The snowshoe trails were too slushy now and we had to hang up the snowshoes for the season. The bikes came out in full force and despite the wipeouts, we enjoyed the sunshine.
April 2, 2020 rolled around and the snow has cleared from the roadways. Our roadies made their debut.
The first snows fell the beginning of November and we hiked, walked, snowshoed and biked our way through the winter season. Days have lengthened and the sun shines high in the skies now. Winter is behind us for yet another season.
Excuses of why we can’t do something are put out of mind and thoughts of what CAN we do always came forward. Sure, there were cold days when the weather was prohibitive of us being able to go out and play. Those days were spent in the wood shop or on home repairs/remodels. We baked bread and cookies, created decadent soups and stews. Winter is what you make it! Life is what you make it.
You CAN or you CANNOT, it is your choice.
She’s a vast lake, deep blue waters reach from her shores as she spreads out across a great region. This van tour will circle Lake Superior and we will have the opportunity to explore some of her hidden gems as we go.
Depart Monday July 22, 2019 Depart Ontonagon, MI, overnight at Memorial Park Campground-Washburn, WI
The plan is to keep the daily driving to a minimum and take our time as we make our way around this large body of water. We drive west toward Wisconsin and end up camping at Memorial Park in Wakefield, WI. This park is located on Lake Superior just south of Bayfield.
Tuesday July 23, 2019 Lakehead Boat Basin-Duluth MN
Highlights: Houghton Falls State Natural Area, Bayfield WI, Bayfield Penisula Sea Caves, Duluth Waterfront
Just north of Wakefield was this incredible nature preserve. The hike was short but it took us through a remarkable ravine to the edge of Lake Superior.
Bayfield, WI is a delightful town but quite touristy. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll after a visit to a great coffee shop.
This was a difficult location to get to, we attempted first by driving into Meyers Beach but left quickly as it was wall to wall cars and no parking available what-so-ever. We backtracked onto a narrow, gravel road and found ourselves at a dead end. This was perfect. After a short walk, we were able to link into the Bayfield Penisula Sea Caves Trail. This was phenominal and the views of Lake Superior was pristine.
Wedneday July 24, 2019 Lakehead Boat Basin-Duluth
Highlights: Fitger’s Brewery, Duluth Rose Garden, Blacklist Brewery
Fitger’s Brewery did not disappoint! We enjoyed a relaxing lunch while sampling some of their on-tap delights.
The Duluth Rose garden is a showy delight of flowers and roses. It was a pretty long walk today, but well worth it.
Two breweries in one day, what’s not to like!
Thursday July 25, 2019 Little Gulch Lake Campground-Lake George, MN
Highlights: Driving, lunch on the Mississippi River near Jacobson, MN and camping with Haley, Dena and Maple
We stopped for a quick lunch at a rest stop in Jacobson, MN where we saw the narrow spance of the Mississippi River. It was pretty mosquito infested so we did not explore. We did locate a wonderful campsite at Little Gulch Lake where we were joined by 3 fellow travelers, Dena and her daughter Maple and Haley from Alaska. These bold young women were delightful as I watched Haley tackle some remarkable bead work and Dena was creating a pair of buckskin pants. Such talent! Dena and Maple live in a recently purchased school bus.
Friday July 26, 219 Six Mile Lake Campground-North Cass, MN
Highlights: Lake Itasca State Park
The headwaters of the Mississippi River, where the great river begins. I have wanted to see this state park for a very long time and we had the time now so here we are. We dipped feet into the river before heading out on a hike along Lake Itasca. Great areas of wild rice grown along the banks, butterflies and dragonflies were in abundance. This was so incredible to finally get to see.
Saturday July 27, 2019 Four Mile Lake Campground-Toft, MN
Highlights: Gooseberry Falls State Park, Visiting with friends Bill & Gina
Zig-zagging across Minnesota took us back to the North Shore. We stopped by old family Friends, Bill & Gina’s house in Proctor but they were not home. We left a note and continued on to Gooseberry Falls State Park. This place was packed but within a short distance on the trails, the people dispersed and we enjoyed a great hike up.
Bill & Gina called and met up with us at Gooseberry Falls. I was still in diapers when Bill first met me. Our family lived in a house near Fish Lake and Bill was a great help to my mom while dad was overseas in the military. It was wonderful seeing them again.
Sunday July 28, 2019 Wild Camp near Eagle Mountain, MN
Highlights: Palisade Head Park, Hike Eagle Mountain 2301′
We walked up the hill to enjoy this location, it was rather busy though.
Mushrooms and fungi, I love these things, so many varieties, including the Indian Pipe flowers. Not many flowers today along the trail up to Eagle Mountain, but still plenty of things to look at.
The hike to the top of Eagle Mountain is 3-1/2 miles each way. We enjoyed the trail today immensely and when we approached the summit we were surprised by wild blueberries.
In the summer of 2002, 17 years ago I attempted the climb to the summit of Eagle Mountain only to stop short. I was fat and I couldn’t make it. I just didn’t have the endurance to do it. Today, 17 years later and a fitness level that I am proud of I did it.
Monday July 29, 2019 Wild Camp Little Dog Lake, Ontario, Canada
Highlights: Grand Portage State Park, Border Crossing into Ontario
We picked a bunch of blueberries yesterday at the top of Eagle Mountain. This morning we enjoy the spoils of that and indulge in blueberry pancakes.
Tuesday July 30, 2019 Ontario Wild Camp
Highlights: Kakabeka Falls, water lily bath time
Kakabeka Falls is incredible and we spent the better part of the day here.
The hiking trail to the lower falls was tough but worth it.
Wild camps are best when near water and tonight we were next to a beautiful pond with water lilies near the edge. It was so incredible to “bathe” in among these beautiful flowers. Besides, it’s been a while since our last good scrubbing so getting cleaned up was a plus.
Wednesday July 31, 2019 PicNic Lake Campground-Ontario, Canada
Highlights: Aguasabon River Gorge, Casque-Isle Hiking Trail 6Km
It seems our Lake Superior Circle Tour is one for the hiking, today we completed a 4 Km hike to the water and back.
Highway 17 in Ontario, Canada plain and simply SUCKS. We sat snarled in this traffic jam for well over 2 hours. It seems an 18-wheeler and an SUV opted to occupy the same space at the same time causing a head on collision. The driver of the SUV was taken away in a body bag. Traffic drives too fast, trucks drive too fast, people are in way too much of a hurry. So sad.
Thursday August 1, 2019 Pancake Bay Wild Camp-Ontario, Canada
Highlights: High Falls to Silver Falls Hiking Trail 6Km,
This trail was only 3 Km each way but this was the most difficult trail we’ve done EVER. It was spectacular though and we are glad to have completed it. There was a lot of steep up and downhills to traverse.
Friday, August 2, 2019 Tahquanemon Falls Area Camping
Highlights: Depart Ontario, Point Iroquois Lighthouse
Coffee in the morning, listening to the waves lap the shoreline of Lake Superior. We watched as a small sailboat slid through the waters while a loon kept us entertained.
The crossing from Ontario border back into the USA was uneventful.
The waters of Lake Superior are so crystal clear here at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse.
Boondocking in a field of flowers .
Saturday, August 3, 2019 Tahquamenon Falls Camp
Highlights: Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Clark Lake Trail 5.2 miles
More hiking today, the road into Clark Lake is not suitable for a large vehicle. But, despite that fact we took the van down it anyway. The hike was easy and so few people! Loved it!
Pitcher Plants, so many pitcher plants on the Clark Lake Trail today. These are so cool to see.
Sunday, August 4, 2019 Tahquamenon Falls Camp
Highlights: Tahquamenon Falls State Park-Low Falls to High Falls Trail 10 miles
A 10 mile hike was on the agenda for today. This was a beautiful trail along the river.
Monday, August 5, 2019 Painted Rocks Camp
Highlights: Fixed rear tire-picked up a screw
Other than stop into a tire shop in Newberry, MI it was a pretty non-eventful day. We picked up a small screw in the rear drivers side tire which was slowly leaking air. Today we got that fixed. Other than that, we spent the day driving.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019 Painted Rocks Camp
Highlights: Lake Superior Trail 7 miles
Today’s trek was 7 miles total. The trail is incredible and the campground has a ThunderBox, a very useable outside toilet. The trail was very well maintained and the rocky beaches beyond beautiful.
The Log Slide area is high sand dunes darting into the water. People actually will walk down them in minutes yet the climb back up on all fours takes about an hour!
The Au Sable Lighthouse, it was 1-1/2 miles walk to get here and then 2 more miles to get to the Log Slide. This made for a beautiful hike today.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019 Ontonagon Township Park
Highlights: Drive to Ontonagon
It rained most of today and we drove back to Ontonagan, MI. It was pretty uneventful but we were glad to be back.
Thursday, August 8, 2019 Ontonagon Township Park
Highlights: A do nothing day of rest, we did get the bikes out for a short ride to downtown.
Friday, August 9, 2019 Home is where the heart is
Highlights: Closed on our home
WHAT??!!??? Closed on a house??? Over the past 3 years we have lived with the daily saying of Home is Where the Heart is and today we finalized the purchase of a small house in Ontonagon, MI. It is located 1/2 mile from the beautiful Lake Superior shore and a mere 20 miles from the Porcupine Mountains State Park.
We are great believers that when the path is right things happen with ease. We knew that we would know the property when we saw it and that if it were meant to be the path to it would be easy. And here we are now, keys is hand.
April 2016 we sold our home in Longview, TX and on June 1, 2016 we embarked on the journey from Anchorage, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. We followed our hearts and here we are, 3 years and 4 months later. We’ve had quite the adventure and the Lake Superior Circle Tour was just one more aspect of it.
Buying a home is not the end of our journey but the beginning of a new chapter in our continued adventures. We now have a base to call home where we can retreat to in between new adventures and the Lake Superior Circle Tour is just a start.
July 7-13, 2019 Upper Penisula, Michigan
Organized bicycle tours are a fun way to meet new people and forge life long friendships. Over a decade ago I participated in a ride across Oklahoma taking me from the Texas border into Kansas. One such encounter in 2007 brought me face to face with Moni and a friendship was born. Now in 2019 here in UP we meet up again to enjoy a week of fun, fellowship and cycling as we explore a region of the country that we have never been to.
Day zero, which was a pre-ride for the official tour was a fast and fun 20 miler to a place called Kitch-iti-kipi. This translates to Big Spring and is the largest fresh water spring in Michigan. The crystal clear, emerald green waters were incredibly beautiful!
Sunday evening we hung around the fairgrounds for the official start on Monday morning. As the sun set over the fairgrounds, more and more cyclists rolled in. The eerie fog that rolls in from Lake Michigan created a very interesting sunset.
Monday morning came along and we hit the road, today will be a 65 mile day as we make our way to Escanaba.
From Escanaba we pulled two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) that were 74 miles plus. Our route took us from Escanaba to Cyrstal Falls on into Marquette.
On this tour we camp, the tent goes up every night. I have always found the traveleing tent city fascinating. The cell phone and electronics station is something of an electrical chaotic mess.
The youngest participant was a 5 year old little girl. She was so awesome! Not only did she not complain or fuss, but she was helpful with setting up. After she completed her chores she showed off her artist skills. This little girl was talkative and the giggle and laugh was fantastic. What a delightful child!
We had fun on the road and along the way. Lunch was provided on Tuesday and Wednesay. Long rows of bikes lined the fences and buildings where we stopped to enjoy box lunches.
Marquette, MI was a layover day. We had a day off and we enjoyed it immensely! We rode bikes downtown and toured the Historical Society Museum. The woman recommended a couple of restaurants for lunch and we took her advice and enjoyed lunch at The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery.
We checked out the local bike shop and cruised along Lake Superior. The lake is so beautiful!! I love the clear blue waters and the many nautical sites.
Black Rocks Brewery is incredible. There is so many bicycle themed things in there and the beer ROCKS. We met a number of other cyclists at Black Rocks, Mike, Bob and John who joined us for a lot of tall tales and laughter.
When we got back to camp, Curtis took a nap in the beautiful sunshine.
The flowers of UP, I am in heaven. The vibrant colors, wow just wow. Seems like I cannot pass up the colors as I cycle past them. Flowers have been and will always be a prominent part of my existance.
Leaving Marquette we cycled along beautiful Lake Superior. The sun was bright as it rose into the sky.
One of our rest stops was at Lakenenland, a local artist that created incredible beauty and humor with junkyard art.
Our final day was from Munising back to Manistique. We cycled through the village of Christmas where there is a huge cut out of Santa Claus as well as Christmas themed everything, street names, buildings, you name it.
We rolled into Manistique where our van awaited us. Moni camped in her tent Saturday night and we enjoyed the comfort of our van. We were tired and just enjoyed the relaxation.
The week long ride was pretty short at 343.5 miles with a nice bit of climbing; 8,978 feet. It took us through some beautiful countryside, on some relatively busier roads but that was simply because there are not a lot of alternate options. We met some great people along the way and on the ride. This gave us yet another good look at this region, UP Michigan from the seat of a bicycle. This was fun, the ride was fun and UP Michigan has not seen the last of us.
It was great getting together with Moni again. This ride is now one for the history book as we continue our journey.
West UP Michigan Meander
Day 1 Ironwood to Upson, WI : 16 miles
Day 2 Upson WI to Little Girl Point Campground : 22 miles
Day 3 Little Girl Point CG to Porcupine WC : 47 miles
Day 4 Porcupine WC to Lake Superior WC : 29 miles
Day 5 Lake Superior WC to Ontonagon Campground : 26 miles
Day 6 Rest Day
Day 7 Ontonagon Campground to Emily Lake Campground : 31 miles
Day 8 Emily Lake Campground to Hancock Rec Area : 33 miles
Day 9 Hancock Rec Area to Lady Slipper Wild Camp : 29 miles
Day 10 Lady Slipper Wild Camp to High Rock Bay Wild Camp : 36 miles
Day 11 High Rock Bay Wild Camp to Cliff Drive Wild Camp : 23 miles
Day 12 Cliff Drive Wild Camp to Hancock Rec Area : 36 miles
Day 13 Rest Day
Day 14 Hancock Rec Area to Obijiwa Campground : 25 miles
Day 15 Obijiwa Campground to Courtney Lake Campground : 35 miles
Day 16 Courtney Lake Campground to Stannard Township RV Park : 35 miles
Day 17 Stannard Township RV Park to Ironwood : 52 miles
Getting to know the true feel of an area is easily done from the seat of a bicycle, the attitudes of the people, the “feel” of the locals, atmosphere of the region. We want(ed) to get to know this area of the country. The cooler temperatures, the changing of the seasons, the slower pace of living all appeal to us and we want to get more acquainted with this area.
So, in order to do so we mapped out a near 500 mile loop on the western side of the UP of Michigan. Yoopers are what they call themselves, we found the majority of these fine folks as pretty laid back, helpful and pretty down to earth. We like that. We were not looked at as oddities, no one stared at us in disbelief that we were on bicycles, we got more of the attitudes of cool and good for you. This was refreshing. The other refreshing thing was the temperatures, it is mid-June and we are wearing jackets and/or long sleeves the entire time. So much better than baking in high heat and humidity.
We left our van in Ironwood, MI and enjoyed lunch at a local café. Ironwood has a history deep into mining and there was an exquisite mural in town dedicated to miners of the area.
We made a slight detour west into the sister city of Hurly, WI before stopping in the small village of Upson and the local city park. The Upson Park has a handful of campsites, complete with electricity and a hand pump water source. There is a beautiful river running near by that has a pretty waterfalls. The water is heavy in tannins creating an almost tea like look to the water. We rolled in to the park in time to get our tent set up, build a quick fire and then settle into our new routine of camping. Our tent is new yet it is familiar. We replaced our MSR Hubbahubba tent when we returned from South America. The original tent was pretty tired, zippers were worn out, small holes here and there had been patched over with tape, bug stains dotted the interior where we had smashed them into the fabric. The new tent is pristine, it is bug gut free, the poles are still interconnected on the center support, the zippers slide easily and the fabric is shiny and new.
The sleeping pads came along from South America and we are still using the 2 pad method, a ZPad on the bottom and an air mattress on top. The sleeping bags are still dirty from South America, we had planned to wash them but never quite got around to that. We left behind the liner sheets as we found that we really didn’t use them much.
Camping is something we both enjoy and our campsites on this short tour were varied and a lot of fun. We camped in organized campgrounds as well as bushwhacked our way into the woods and wild camped.
Roads were mainly paved and traffic was light. We discovered a Rail to Trails trail outside Mass City that headed north. This was fun, hard at times due to soft sand and rough sections from the ATVs that race up and down (although we only saw 3). Animals are plentiful, we saw deer every day and a lot of birds. We even came across wolf tracks on the rail trail. They are huge! Snapping turtles lay eggs along the sandy trails in the boggy areas. We saw a number of laying turtles. We also saw one painted turtle.
We also saw many birds, the Loons are our favorite. The Whistling Swans are giant compared to many other water fowl. There are many babies on the water right now and we saw baby swans, Canada Geese and others. A momma Grouse and baby were crossing the road when a car came through. Momma ruffled up and went head to head with the car when her baby zipped under it. Luckily the car stopped, Curtis had to climb under and catch the baby before letting the tiny chick go back to it’s protective mother.
Loons also have babies and they will ride on the backs of the adults.
Flowers, oh my the flowers that are blooming are magnificent! We saw four different types of orchids, two were Slipper varieties and the other two were just beautiful. The blooming season is here and it seems no matter where we looked, whether open roadsides or deep forests we encountered something in bloom.
The ride was tough at times, the hills were steep and the roads were sometimes remote and difficult with the wider tires of the Salsa Fargos. The ride into Copper Harbor was beautiful, along the majestic Lake Superior.
We were able to stop in town, enjoy Thimble Berry Turnovers and some really good coffee before continuing on. The ride past Copper Harbor was tough. US41 starts just north of Copper Harbor, beyond that is a gravel, rutted, potholed road leading to the Point. This was hard, we had a number of water crossing to tackle but the destination on the point to camp at no charge was too tempting to pass up.
This was our favorite remote campsite. The views of Lake Superior were stunning. The lack of light pollution allowed us to see the Milky Way Galaxy very brightly as it reflected off the massive lake waters below. My camera doesn’t due the night shots justice. We camped on the edge of a small cliff that dropped into the clear waters of Superior. Many others came to the point to marvel in the beauty of it, others pitched tents as well. This is a place we will return to.
The ride off the point was a lot faster since it was mainly downhill. We stopped for more of that wonderful coffee as well as Thimble Berry frosted cake donuts. Leaving Copper Harbor was tough, the hills were steep, traffic was aggressive and we had a level of fatigue settling in.
Why is it that vacationers traveling the byways tend to be the biggest assholes? Many tend to be in a hurry, impatient, impulsive and extremely aggressive. Aren’t vacations intended to help people relax? If so, why the obnoxious attitude by so many? This was the worst stretch of road of our entire UP Tour and they aggressiveness all came from RVs and out of state license plates. Sad, so sad that people get so stressed while they are trying to relax.
Despite shorter distances each day, this was tough cycling on the trails and dirt roads. We were exhausted when we made it back to the Hancock Rec Area so we opted to pay for two nights at the campground. We built campfires and relaxed. With a day rest behind us we were back on our bikes and heading back toward to the van.
National and State Forest Campgrounds are rustic but there are typically picnic tables, fire rings and some sort of bathroom facility. These have a small fee to them but it is well worth it. The wild camping is our standard disappear into the woods where no one sees or hears us. Often times, these are our favorite camping areas, they are quiet and remote and we sleep long and deep under the stars.
The bugs are out though, the mosquitos and flies are pretty wicked but it’s one of those things that we just deal with. There is no reason to get mad or spiteful about the bloodsucking insect invasion, it happens. Deet is our friend and we both use the Repel or Off.
Many small towns have Recreation areas or campgrounds in town and they are nice. Bruce Crossing has the Stannard Township RV Park that has a hand full of sites with electric and water, a bathhouse and fantastic shower all for $15 a night. We enjoyed our time in Bruce Crossing and then continued on using the Rail Trail in the area.
It’s time to wrap up this mini-tour and we made a big push the final day back to our van. We really like the areas we cycled but now it’s time to put the Salsas away and dust off the Roadies. MUP, a supported multi-day tour is just around the corner and the road bikes will take the place of our Salsas. It will give us a chance to see a different side of cycling here in the beautiful UP of Michigan.
We would have never guessed the fun and adventure we would encounter in South Dakota. We enjoyed incredible scenery, epic & grand views, majestic animals and fun with family.
We spent May 30, 2019 through June 6, 2019 in South Dakota.
Typically we do not take in tourist regions and activities but we both wanted to check out Wind Cave. We did a cave tour. It was considered a strenuous one but neither of us were even remotely winded from the many steps through the belly of the cave. There are a few interesting cave formations like the box work and the cave popcorn but all in all the lack of stalactites and flowstones made it less appealing to me. I love active, living caves with drops of water falling from above through limestone. This is not one of those types of caves. I did enjoy it none the less.
We got in a few epic bicycle rides on the road bikes. We had planned to go up to a peak north of Wind Cave but were turned around by large herds of bison with new babies that were not only along the road but on the road. These mamas are aggressive and I would rather tackle a car than a bison while on a bike! The Prairie Dogs are hilarious as they chirp and cackle. Antelope look like deer with diapers. I love the cycling thorugh such majestic areas.
We camped at the Wind Cave campground, enjoying the solitude since there were few others here.
There is such a variety of birds and flowers and butterflies and other forms of wildlife. Seeing these from the seat of a bicycle makes it somehow feel more “real”. There is nothing between me and what is laid out before me.
We took the Salsas out on a local trail from Cottonwood Camground outside of Hotsprings, SD. There is an incredible trail and we had a blast. We saw three badgers although only one stayed above ground while we cycled past. After leaving the trail we encountered amazing double track on our way back to Cottonwood. This campground was perched on top of a hill and was incredibly quiet.
Meeting up with my sister Juli, her husband Ed and their friends Portia and Sedona was a lot of fun. We cycled to meet them for coffee in Hot Springs, SD. We then drove to meet them later in Interior, SD which is due south of the Badlands National Park. We enjoyed some grilled ribs and roasted marshmallows.
No trip to SD is complete without seeing Crazyhorse Monument.
We also saw a Bicycle Monument along the roadway. This was a pile of bikes with a few “sculptures”. Very odd!
We camped near Mt Rushmore at Wrinkled Rock Climbers Trailhead. This place allows camping up to 14 days. There is no water or electric but there is a vault toilet. This place was amazing and it allowed us to cycle around Mt. Rushmore and then cut back up through on the Centennial Trail in pouring down rain. What a FUN ride!!
The Bandlands National Park is what we would consider a windshield park. It is beautiful and the storms are intense when they roll through. There are pulloffs to see the views and very few hiking trails. We drove through before boondocking our van at the National Grasslands outside the park.
The area that we parked was on the edge of the Bandlands and we were greeted to a most phenominal sunrise.
Good morning world! Life on the road is incredible and full of things to see and do and so many incredible sites to witness.
Our time in South Dakota was incredible and I have no doubt it is a place we will return to.
The world really is a very small place and meeting friends for the first time is FUN! Although we’d never met before, it was as though we’d known each other for many MANY years.
A couple of years ago we were introduced to Jenn & Ron via our Crazy Guy on a Bike journals. We kept in contact and on May 26, 2019 we got to meet for the first time face to face. What an incredibly fun young couple! We spent a few days together taking in a bike ride and several walks.
We left Centennial, CO on May 29th and headed on for a quick visit with yet another amazing couple, Curt and Cathy .
Curt and Cathy ride a tandem and have spent over 15 years on the road toruing various locations throughout the world. We would have loved to spend more time with them but our schedule said otherwise. But, I have no doubt that our paths will indeed cross in the future.
Kindred Spirits … NO DOUBT!
BLM, Bureau of Land Management areas are a priceless treasure here in the USA. Protected lands for our use and often time free of charge. We found our way into Colorado, punching our way through a series of strong storms blowing across the plains states of Missouri and Kansas. We opted for long days driving to get past the seemingly daily deluge.
The snow began ever so lightly, at first just a light dusting in the ditches but as we got closer to Colorado Springs, CO more and more snow filled the roadway. Colorado Springs is a remarkable city but way too many people and way too much traffic for our liking. We headed west, out of the city and into the mountains.
The BLM lands had ample places to park the van for an extended period. Actually, we could spend up to 14 nights here at no charge. There are no amenities other than a fire ring but we had plenty of peace, quiet and solitude.
Day 1 – May 23, 2019 was an all out snow day, weather was blustery and cold but we did manage to get out in the elements for a refreshing and brisk walk through the wood.