Friday, June 24, 2022

Back Across the Bottom

 June 19 - 24, 2022
Iron Mountain - Manistique, Michigan

We leave behind temps in the cool 70's for a couple days forecast in the high 90's. And I thought California had fickle weather!

I'm glad I checked the campground website for our next stop which tells me they're in Central Standard Time - what? Although we're returning east and south, Bill looks at the map and learns our Sunday drive takes us west of Chicago and Green Bay! Michigan's weird.

We only see two other vehicles in 124 miles, and even more rare here - a good size hill ahead!

My family moved to a little company-owned village in the Colorado desert of Southern California when I was five, and I lived most of my life there until I turned 17. It was called Iron Mountain for the range of mountains it nestled below. For that reason I bring us to this Iron Mountain on our return east across the bottom of the Upper Peninsula. A good size town of 7500, it's named for the proximity to a bluff stratified with iron ore. It's also a good half-way point to our final UP stop in Manistique. 

Keeping with the nostalgic theme, Bill took me to my senior prom and the theme was Seals and Crofts' Summer Breeze. With the time change we arrive just after noon to Summer Breeze Campground. The host comments that "it must be nice" to be done driving at noon - you're damn right it's nice, it's retirement at its finest :-))) 

We get set up in our level gravel site with 50 amp FHUs and a large grass space. Picnic table and fire ring, and one of two open sky sites where our satellite connects. It's a pretty, green campground of less than 50 sites.

It's been a while, and even though it's so early, we enjoy our first Mexican food and margaritas in a few weeks. Carlos Cantina doesn't disappoint.

The number of bugs lessens and I get a good night's sleep with no new bites - woohoo! Monday is 99 degrees so we run a few errands while we're in a larger town. Oil change, car wash, post office, grocery pickup - life stuff still has to get done! 

10 degrees cooler in Tombstone today!

I'm looking forward to the advertised good Italian food here, but they're all closed on Monday so we have pretty bad Chinese food - yes, so disappointing. 

Our stay in Manistique is another late check-in so we take our time heading out on Tuesday. This time the time change helps us out.

After all my whining about corn a few years ago I can't believe how happy I am to see fields of it on our drive. At just over two feet tall, it really opens up the space!

Indian Lake State Park is a lovely surprise with the largest sites of anywhere we've ever stayed. 50 amp electric-only, all grass space off narrow interior roads. I'm able to get level, and our satellite connects in #79. Best of all I now remember I was able to reserve a water-front site!! Cooler here as well - so happy.

All us!

Next door is a solid stairway to the water with level terraces to enjoy the lake.

For the last three years of my working life I flew from SoCal to Sacramento every week to work at our headquarters. Bill picked me up at the airport every Thursday and most of those we stopped at Bob's Big Boy for dinner. That one, and most of the others, are all gone now. Seeing that Michigan has a few is exciting, and the sign for the one in Manistique (where our state park is) means that's our first-day-lunch :-)

The familiar icon.

Making it their own! Also the only moose we see while in the UP.

Although the menu no longer includes our two favorites, we're able to order combinations that make them ourselves. Even more happy!

After the great mosquito debacle I keep my outside sitting to a minimum, but a nice glass of Sangria, and this spectacular view, wrap up a wonderful Summer Solstice.

The sun makes it almost to 10:00 before leaving with a lovely sunset. Definitely been a while since we've seen one!

The plan is to see the Big Spring nearby, and ride the little raft over the top. But Wednesday morning the wind is up and that now sounds like something for a calmer day - which we hope for on our last day. 

Instead we check out the other places on my short list. 

Schoolcraft Historic Water Tower - 1922 structure held a 200,000 gallon water tank.

The siphon bridge was included in Ripley's Believe It or Not. Built in 1919, the road across it was at the water's level. The design meant the river helped to hold up the bridge.

This beautiful 1886 ladder truck is housed in one of three other historic buildings on the site.

The Seul Choix ("only choice") Lighthouse is the last remaining active station on the north side of Lake Michigan. The grounds include the historic two-story keepers' house, the fog signal house, and the boat house. A separate building that houses the gift shop was built in 1996. The $6 fee to tour the grounds and all the buildings is a great deal.

The docent in the keepers' house has been a volunteer here for 35 years, has written 12 books on the station and its keepers, and is a treasure of knowledge and pride in the location. She shows me photos of two of the five spirits who have been scene here for many years by many people. There is zero doubt in my mind that she's right. 

Seul Choix  Tower and Keepers' House

The signal house includes exhibits on the local community of Gulliver. 

Fossils found during the initial builds.

Late season Lilacs

There were 6 Keepers in 100 years and all of their families have returned several personal items that were used by their ancestors who worked here.

96 steps in this beautiful spiral stairway in the tower.

Period pieces were added to this room in the 1990's. The room was the birthing room where over 40 babies were born in 100 years.

Two of the three upstairs bedrooms where three keepers and their families (18 people at one time) all slept.

Dated in the mid 1700's, this dug-out boat was discovered in 1974 in the dunes near the light station.

Seney Wildlife Refuge is our next stop, but sadly the seven-mile drive is closed to vehicles and foot traffic due to bridge repair. 

The watch tower is also closed due to age - oh darn!

North side of the refuge just off Hwy 28 - where all the mosquitoes in this area are hanging out!

Much of the return drive through the center of the peninsula is Hiawatha Forest, but there are also pretty pockets of open land. 

A few farms and ranches also break up all the trees.

Back at home the wind continues to rough up the lake, and some really weird bugs with fairy wings and long triple tails (Mayflies) have made the outside of the rig their own. 

Pulling out of our last campground the utilities bin door came open, and Bill had to "adjust" the latch to get it to stay closed. Upon arrival here he can't open it after several attempts. Since this is where the sewer and water are.....not good. I warn Jim (our next, much anticipated, stop) of our conundrum, and he's prepared with all manner of tools - the chainsaw is Plan B :-)

The skies are completely cloudless, and the wind is a light breeze for our last day on the UP. The Mayflies love this weather and have invited all their friends to hang out here. 

We leave them to it and head to the Palms Book State Park to see the Big Spring. I've seen in reviews that the line to get on the free raft to cross the 200 foot wide pond can get long, so I'm excited to see just four other people waiting! The returning raft has about 30 people on it, but when we push off our group is just 15 - perfect. This very solid raft moves along a cable with the use of a hand-turned wheel on board. Passengers take turns pulling us across the water. An open rectangle in the center provides a shaded open view into the 40-foot deep fresh water spring. Along with huge trout, the springs pushing 10,000 gallons a minute are visible at the bottom. It's so clear and so beautiful!

That color!

The fish and moving water make wonderful abstract art.

The springs billow along the bottom.

When our exploration is over, the line is almost back to the bridge - our timing was great :-)))

I try another pasty for lunch - 3 Seasons Cafe - not as good as Syls, but still better than those we had on the "other side" of the bridge. So far the guy on the ferry was right!

We check out more of the little town, make a stop at the Breakwater Lighthouse, where the wind is much stronger on the big lake. Back home the bugs are gone and after a lovely nap, we just hang out at our beautiful spot. 

Cleaned yesterday afternoon :-))))

The history of how the UP became part of Michigan instead of Wisconsin (a deal that gave Ohio the Toledo area), is interesting. But for us it really seems like it should be part of Canada instead. Even though we didn't see any Moose, we definitely saw a lot of trees! It's mostly two large national forests surrounded by two big lakes. Absolutely beautiful, not a lot of variety, with some exceptional natural features like the Pictured Rocks, Lake of the Clouds, Big Springs, and all the water falls we didn't see - and pretty, little lighthouses. We didn't visit the northeast corner where I know there are other lovely spots. 

Friday we're back across the bridge with a longer-than-usual drive to spend a few days with a couple of dear friends we can't wait to get caught up with!!

Penelope and Reese enjoy building together.

M&M loving some beach time.


  1. Bob's Big Boy is franchised as Frisch's Big Boy in Ohio. My BIL's favorite stop.
    Beautiful spots along the beaches for you to explore and visit the lighthouses ... and enjoy the sunset.
    Good Mexican food is hard to find outside of the southwest. Glad you found one.

    1. We did notice the "Bob's" was no longer part of the logo! Those pretty beaches were a real treat.

  2. I remember the Big Boy. A great sandwich. Love your lighthouses. Sorry you saw mayflies and not moose. Raft sounds like fun. Yum pasties. We had a tasting contest all across the UP.

    1. We're bummed we didn't see any real moose, they have been the most elusive of all the wild life for us. Have to make that trip to Canada next year for sure!

  3. I'm so glad you visit this section on UP. I was looking at the map this afternoon and we did entirely different spots. I guess that shows just how big the UP is. Wow! You certainly had the jackpot site at Indian Lake SP. Nothing being on the water with the sunset right there. It reminded me of our bay sites at Mission Bay. Beautiful sunset photos!! So glad the bugs backed off some. But, mayflies, ugh! I wish I had know about the raft across the Big Spring. What fun...and good timing! The water is just gorgeous. Adorable grands photos:) Tell Jim and Diana hello!! Have a wonderful visit.

    1. That site was a real highlight of our visit to the UP - and so huge! Glad we got to take you to new places :-) The turquoise water is so clear it looks almost fake when you're right above it.

  4. The Seul Choix tour was great--that staircase is amazing! We have a big spring in Montana too--guess we need to visit! Bugs--a big UGH! Fly fisherman love mayflies--me not so much!

    1. For such a small lighthouse, it had a big impact for me. Having a great docent sure makes a difference when visiting historic sites. If Montana's spring is like this one you really do need to check it out!

  5. But you DID see a moose! In suspenders and checked pants! LOL LOL!!! Wow, you guys were busy. That lighthouse is beautiful, with so many interesting interior details. I love the kitchen! I always love kitchens, even though I also love eating out, haha.

    I've been waffling about the spring, but it sounds like it's worth visiting? We have so many rivers and springs in Florida that are that exact color and clarity. I have to look at our agenda and see if we're going to be close enough to visit.

    I hope you don't have to execute 'Plan B" to get that utilities bin door open. 😳

  6. That was me....Laurel....dang I don't know blogger changed the comment section. :-(

    1. It's funny, but I thought that sounded like you!! I think the spring is definitely worth a visit, especially if the line isn't too long. The photos don't really show the clarity of that water under the raft . I love those old kitchens with the iron stoves and the solid wood cabinets - and that one is very sweet. Plan B was avoided - whew!!

  7. It’s Gay…what a wonderful spot t call home for a few days and that sunset was gorgeous! The turquoise color of the spring water is my new favorite color…love the ripples and movement. That is the most unique water tower I have ever seen…quite the structure.

    1. This was a really great stop in many ways! The ripples in that spring made such interesting patterns. Can you imagine doing all that work for a water tower? It is a beautiful structure.

  8. I love "memory lane" , whether reading about friend's or walking on our own. We had "Big Boy" where we grew up also! The color of that spring is fantastic! I only though Florida water looked like that.

    1. I've been suprised by the different water colors in both the great and the inland lakes here - so diverse!

  9. Bugs or not, that shoreline campsite looks divine. I remember Big Boy in the Chicago suburbs. Sure hope Jim helped with the bin issue, and no chain saw. You've been and gone and I'm way behind reading.

    1. Had no idea Big Boys were anywhere but SoCal - glad they're still over here now! Yes, I forgot to post the update on the bin! Jim was our hero and it's all back together and working fine. Sans chain saw :-)