michigan upper peninsula 2013 ... part 3


We awoke to the promise of a much better forecast and a grand view of the bay. The fog had lifted and we had little patches of blue sky peeking through the clouds. Off to breakfast (back at the DogPatch again), we weighed our options for the day. On Friday we ducked into Pictured Rock Cruises and booked a sunset cruise for this evening, knowing the weather would be better, so we had to be in Munising by 6:30pm. We stopped into the trusty Visitor Center (and Gift Shop) to investigate other attractions to take advantage of in the area (we could have journeyed to Marquette, but that was a bit of a haul). In particular, something that did not require a lot of walking (our legs were a bit spent from Friday's hikes). The person at the Visitor Center had recommended a guided tour of Grand Island. It only had a few short walks and was otherwise on a small tour bus for most of the trip. We booked this for noon, but still had some time to kill. We noticed signs for an Art Fair in a local bayside park, so we perused works of some of the local artisans. It was a relatively small art fair, only about two dozen booths, but we did find a local photographer with some stunning works of places we had just seen the day before. Jen opted to pick up a couple of prints for our bedroom. The art fair also had live music from local groups, which helped pass the time.

Coming close to our tour time, we drive to the Grand Island launch, just west of town. The boat to take you over is only rated for six passengers at a time (basically a pontoon boat), but it's a very short ride of about 5 minutes. We were the first group to go over, along with our bus driver/tour guide, so we wandered the museum, culture center on the island and waited for the rest of the group to arrive. We had a relatively small tour group, just Jen and I, and a mother with two younger boys. The tour guide (Eric) did a great job of retelling the history of the island, and the rise and fall of it's recreational use and ownership. It's a fairly interesting history, that is well documented in several books, and there are still many of the original structures left (some still in use and under private ownership). We stopped at a few beaches on the south and north side of the island, and several historical cabins and houses used by the national park services. I was glad to have brought the bug spray, because some of the walks were in the woods and the mosquitoes were still relentless. We also toured a lodge built by one of the islands original owners, which is being re-purposed for use by a University for their anthropology students recovering artifacts from the original Ojibwa tribes that called the island home. The last stop was along a secluded beach on the west side of the island were we could take about an hour to walk and collect rocks (I think Eric was a bit of an amateur rock collector as well). Jen and I left with pockets full of stones to scrutinize and analyze later. We caught the boat back to mainland and decided to track down lunch/dinner before the cruise.

We stopped into a local restaurant called "The Navigator". While not a bad place, not as good as the DogPatch either. It was certainly more of your "diner/greasy spoon" quality establishment, but did offer great views of the bay. We wandered across the street after lunch to the Falling Rock Cafe, offering a variety of light food dishes and coffee beverages. It is also a combination book store, music shop, local band performance area, etc. It has a lot going on. The staff was very helpful, pointing out several new works by local authors on the area (both historical and fiction). We picked up some coffee and a few books our tour guide had recommended and headed back to the motel to freshen up before the cruise.

We got back to the docks about 6:30pm and noticed people already starting to line up for the 7:30pm sunset cruise. We overheard it was so booked that they added a second boat to the cruise. We decided to stand in line as the seats are first come/first serve, so if you want a good topside rail seat, get there early. The cruise started promptly at 7:30pm and ran for about two and a half hours. They made an effort to stop at several key attractions, like the east point lighthouse, for a few moments so everyone could get pictures. The actual tour of the Pictured Rocks park shoreline was more extensive then I thought it would be. The cruise took us out almost to Spray Falls, and the tour guide provided informative if not witty remarks along the way. This cruise is really the only practical way to see much of the coastline features unless you have your own personal boat. I read mention of alternative ways to see the park by kayak, but after seeing how rough the waters were along the cliffs, I was glad to not have gone that route. We took lots of photos and had a nice, if not chilly, time. While the sky was clear, it was also about 60F on land, and a lot cooler on the lake with a good north breeze. We joked about being the last weekend in June in wearing three layers of clothes to stay warm.

Back to the hotel, we snacked on the last of the Friday pizza and got a good nights sleep ahead of the 8 hour drive back to Delta.


Once packed and in the car, we stopped back to the Falling Rock Cafe for bagels, muffins, and coffee before the drive home (the smoked trout bagel was exceptional). The drive home took us along the Lake Michigan north shore line on Route 2, offering a few glimpses of the lake through the dense tree line. We picked up I-75 in St. Ignace, and took the same route back to Delta without incident.

Other Thoughts:

It was a very fun trip to a new area which is very accessible. Hotel accommodations were reasonably priced, although fuel was about 20% higher then Northwest Ohio. I would probably plan a different time then late June to avoid the hatching, perhaps a time in Autumn. If we go back, I would definitely like to stay the Crews Quarters at Whitefish Point, and perhaps spend a bit more time in Tahquamenon Falls or explore west of Munising, into the Marquette area and iron mine areas.