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Day 219 –  Upper Peninsula Drive, Saturday, July 23, 2011

With a little bit of a late morning start (lost an hour in
Michigan), VANilla, Petey, and I motored up Highway 2, through Hiawatha
National Forest, and toward Fayette Historic State Park.  To get to the park, we turned south at Garden
Corners, followed a road along Big Bay De Noc, and passed by an old house, covered
in peeling white paint with “FREE STUFF ->” spray painted in large, black freehand.  Next to it, a smaller phrase in black spray
paint demanded, “Don’t put anything here without my permission”.  I’ve passed a handful of quirky signs over my
last 48,000 miles of travel, but many times I forget to mention them.  Perhaps that one was amusing enough to
remember.

The Fayette Historic State Park features a 19th-century
iron industry community.  About 100 years
ago, Fayette was a bustling company town where barges delivered ore and ships
took away tons of pig iron – the product of Fayette’s giant smelting
furnaces.  The furnaces and many other
original buildings still remain including a hotel, houses, the town hall, and
remains of the company store.

In addition to exploring the historic buildings, visitors
may take a variety of trails that follow along the bay and through the dense
forest.  A handful of caches are hidden
in this park in an effort to increase traffic to the area.  I found the virtual cache and one of two
containers I set out to find.  Not
finding the second one was a little trying…UGH!
Petey and I originally set out on a low path which led to a dead end…we
should have taken the overlook trail.  I
almost didn’t go searching for it as Petey was tiring, but I decided to coax
him along as it was only another ½ mile and we came up empty…bummer.  At least we got to enjoy a nice view and see
a deer.  Speaking of deer, I think I
might be able to claim I’ve seen one in every state when I’m finished with this
trip…or at least the lower 48.

After visiting Fayette Historic State Park, we turned north
and made a short stop at Palms Book State Park known for its 45-foot deep
natural spring, Kitch-iti-kipi, an Indian word meaning Mirror of Heaven, which is also a virtual cache.  The crystal clear water that appears emerald
green due to mineral deposits maintains a temperature of a cool 45
degrees.  Visitors may climb aboard a
wooden raft and using a guide cord pull themselves across the 200-foot-wide
pond.  The center of the raft is made of
clear windows so that tourists may watch the aquifer pump 10,000 gallons of
water a minute, stir up sediment and spot oversize trout glide among the
limestone-coated branches of fallen trees.

We spent a short time in the park before moving on to the
north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to enjoy Pictured Rocks National
Lakeshore.  Pictured Rocks extends forty
miles along Lake Superior from Munising to Grand Marais and encompasses a
fascinating wildnerness:  dense forest,
multihued sandstone cliffs, unique rock formations, waterfalls, rivers, and
sandy beaches.    Our first stop along the National Lakeshore
was at Miners Falls.  Petey waited for me
in VANilla on our first cool afternoon in about a week while I hiked along a
well-maintained gravel, interpretive trail to Miners Falls.  The thick forest of trees kept most of the
spitting rain from landing on me.

By the time I had returned to VANilla, the sprinkle had
subsided.  We turned up the gravel road
toward  Miners Castle, a rock formation
that stood above the sandy shores and striped sandstone cliffs.  As we bounced along the road, a wolverine
crossed our path.  I’m not sure if that
is common or not.  I’ve never seen a
wolverine.  In fact, I wasn’t exactly
sure what it was.  It sort of looked like
a badger or a giant, brown raccoon three sizes too big.  I had to do a little Wikipedia research for
verification.

Upon visiting Miners Castle, I finally decided it was time
to search for a campsite.  I didn’t
expect to have much luck given it was late on a summer Saturday.  I had planned to go to some campgrounds
outside the park, as generally they don’t fill up as quickly as campgrounds
within the park, but frankly, I was tired of driving.  I decided to try my luck at Little Beaver
Lake which required maneuvering a 3 mile twisting, hilly dirt road that was off
limits to vehicles in excess of 36 feet.
I couldn’t believe that the very first site of only six to eight sites
total, which may have been the smallest campground I’ve ever been to, was
available.  I felt so lucky that I didn’t
even care my site seemed to be the one that people lugged their canoes across
to get to the lake!  It was so nice to
find someplace cool too…an incentive to turn on my computer and to not simply
lie motionless holding a fan two inches from my face. ETB

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