From Niagra Falls to the UP

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Maid of the Mist experience
Sept. 10, 2011    Eons ago, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, I visited Niagara Falls.  Okay, it wasn’t that long ago, but Niagara was a small city back then.  Viewing the Falls is an incredible experience no matter how you choose to do it but we opted for a small group tour.  With a tour guide, Tom, and two other couples we started with the best part of the tour (from my perspective), the Maid of the Mist.  The boat which travels near both the American and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, is close enough that you hear the roar and feel the tremendous power of the falls and, if not for your souvenir raincoat, you would get a good drenching as well.  Since weather had changed our itinerary a bit, we arrived the day after Labor Day.  This turned out to be a perfect time.  Normally carrying as many as 600 passengers, on our post-holiday/post-season visit, there were about 100 passengers on the Maid.  This lack of crowds followed through with all of our stops.  In addition to the Falls, we stopped at the Botanical Gardens and floral clock, designed and maintained by the Niagara College Canada, School of Horticulture and Agribusiness.  This provided a lovely interlude during the day. 

Cave of the Winds
American Fall
Tom provided us with an ongoing narrative on the history of the Falls, as well as info on the Niagara area.  Did you know the first person to go over the falls was a 64 year old woman in a barrel padded with a mattress?   Falls trivia filled the day between our stops.  The day ended with the Skylon tower trip, via elevator- 775 feet, which provided a spectacular over view of the entire region, in addition to Niagara Falls.  

At 5 A. M. the next morning we headed for the Niagara border crossing into Canada.  The method to our madness on this early awakening was to beat the long lines at the border, as we took a short cut to reenter Michigan at Port Huron.  With only a couple of cars in front of us, we breezed through the border and were sitting in line to come back into the U. S.  four hours later.

Bay City State Park at Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron was our stop for the night.  Ten campers in the park, which holds 184 campers, reflected the post-Labor Day influence.  It seemed like our private campground.  The large grassy sites, under mature oak trees would be roomy even when full but now it felt extra special.  This year round park offers sunbathing, fishing and swimming, in addition to a 17.5 mile interconnected walking/bike trail.

Over view from Avalanche Hill   
We moved on the next day to visit with our friend Kathi in Boyne City, MI.  She acted as our tour guide of the surrounding area.  In the nearby tourist area Charlevoix, where the residents of the town plant petunias on both sides of the street for the entire length of the town in May, we saw the “hobbit houses” built by architect, Earl Young.  The primarily rock homes have curved lines (even on the roof) and you can almost visualize a little gnome walking out the door.  At the Petoskey Beach State Park, famous for the petoskey-fossilized rocks, we walked along the shore and found a few of the prized rocks.  In the nearby town of Petoskey, you can find the fossils in gift and jewelry stores.  They are ground and polished into unique earrings, necklaces, key chains and a variety of other items.

We stayed in Kathi’s cabin overlooking Lake Charlevoix, which marries into Lake Michigan.  Her home, one block away, is a showplace for her beautiful quilt works.  A large studio off the side of her house provides a roomy work area for her numerous projects.  

The following morning, we borrowed Kathi’s double kayak and took a paddle along the shoreline of the turquoise and teal lake.  Having never visited the Great Lakes region before, I was shocked by the Caribbean feel of the lake.  The afternoon took us on a short hike up Avalanche Hill, which provided an overview of the vicinity.  Kathi swam in the “warm” water of the lake (only a Michigander could call the 65 degree water warm) after the hike.  We ended our day and our visit with a barbeque, while watching a glorious sunset, followed by a beautiful moonrise over the lake. 

Driving through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (known as UP by the locals), we discovered pasties (as in ‘passed’.)   What the heck is a pasty?  A misspelled pastry?  Does anyone in Michigan know how to spell?  After passing several places advertising this oddity, we knew we had to stop and check it out. Along Rt. 2, at Big Bay De Noc, we spotted Rosie’s at the Tylene’s Family Restaurant, and we slipped into the large parking lot.  It turns out that a pasty is a meat pie.  The food was first brought to the area in the 1800’s by copper miners.  This English food from the Cornwall locale is a round, flaky dough filled with ground meat, a variety of vegetables and seasonings.  The dough is folded over, crimped and then baked.  In Alan’s assessment, it was delicious.

We’re moving onto Wisconsin and our workshops at the Madeline School of Art.  Alan will spend the week with Tony van Hasselt in a plein art class. I’ll be with Catherine Watson in a travel memoir writing class.

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