Monday, June 22, 2015

Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Lake Superior, Boondocking, Beaches, Agates, and Bones

      Having been home about 7 weeks now battling home maintenance and insurance issues we decided to get back out 'off the beaten path' once again.  In addition our new kitty, Bones needed to be exposed to life on the road in preparation for this winter. 
      For us camping in Michigan can mean only one thing: UPPER PENINSULA!  Michigan can best be described as a three-dimensional state.  There is, of course......Detroit and all the metropolitan areas downstate.   We have been there when needed, but it ain't us.  There is also the thousands of acres of rolling farmlands and orchards that encompass so much of the state that nobody (outside of Michigan) even knows exists.  Villages, fruit stands, farmer's markets, and many, many downhome folks.  Then there is the Upper Michigan.  This can also include the extreme NW part of the state with hills, woodlands, and beaches, but for Barb and I this ultimately means the Upper Peninsula (UP).
      This trip meant 'rock hounding'.   There is no finer place in Michigan to camp 'off the grid' than the shores of Lake Superior.  Beautiful, rough, rocky beaches with plenty of sunshine and wilderness.  We have camped along much of the shore of the UP from Whitefish Point to Copper Harbor.  A favorite of ours has been either Agate Beach near Toivola or the mouth of the Two Hearted River north of Newberry.  This trip we wanted to explore the area between Deer Park and Grand Marais.  We began our journey NW of Newberry and Deer Park camping at Lake Superior State Forest Campground.  A DNR primitive campground, it offers only vault toilets and hand pump wells.  Cost per night = $13.  We did 'water up' at Muskellonge State Park (7 miles east) on our way in.  Once in camp we set up our normal boondocking protocol.  We also brought 12 gallons of gas and our generator if needed.  We did make 40 gallons of on board water last 8 days. 

     This trip was also to assimilate Bones the Wondercat into the world of camping and get him used to the RV so that he doesn't go ballistic on our trip south this winter.  He actually did very well, loving the new abode.

       He was free to wonder, scamper, and frolic throughout the rig and that he did!  He wasn't very impressed with the screendoor due to the fact that he could often see me and Barb, but was not able to let him self out.  He was let out plenty during the trip and despite the inconvenience of the long leash he loved the many squirrels, so little time.  Although he wasn't any help with the cutting and gathering of firewood, he did seem to enjoy watch Mommy and Daddy sweat.  Mission accomplished.
         Besides a palisades of natural beauty, Lake Superior offers some very good rock hounding not only for agates, but Jasper, Unakite, Epidote, Petrified Wood, and just an assortment of pretty stones.  The lake is not often calm and the relentless crashing of waves sometimes on even the mildest of days offers the chance for new samples to be turned over every day. 

Walking the beaches rockhounding is a peaceful endeavor for us.  The solitude and beauty of nature allows us to relax and get back in touch with ourselves.  Barb likes to carry her 'scooper' stick/basket to sift out the stones while I enjoy getting wet and sandy most times. 

Our first couple of days walking the local beaches turned up several nice specimens, including a beautiful 8 ounce piece of Petrified Wood. 
      One day we ventured east to the mouth of the Two Hearted River, another beautiful spot where we camp/hunt on occasion.  We picked up several more very nice specimens of agate, including one that was part of a larger basalt matrix. 
      The best time for hunting is right at 'ice out' which is when the beaches and lake are finally thawed and exposed after a long winter freeze.  The gigantic ice boulders move around plenty of material exposing tons of new material previously undiscovered.  We were not that brave this spring as we wanted a relaxing trip with plenty of reasonable weather and not such an urgency for firewood and propane.  We brought back nearly a gallon zip loc bag of samples.  These are just a small portion of our bounty. 

       We also brought back several larger pieces that I will cut shortly just to see 'what's inside'.  Rough agates never look the same as the polished final product.  Most times they are gnarly, pitted, chunks with just a small window to see what's inside.  Sometimes they are waxy, yet translucent making the process a bit easier.  Sometimes you just guess and take them home to cut open and see.  Any waste after cutting becomes part of one of the most colorful driveways in Northern Michigan. 
      This area of Michigan is quite beautiful, offering just about anything you want to do or see.  There was a group of wind surfers, fisherman, and paddle boarders from Wisconsin while we there and they provided entertainment during our breaks from walking the beaches.  Muskellonge Lake State Park and the village of Deer Park is only 7 miles to the east and the village of Grand Marais only 12 miles to the west, offering any supplies and services you might need.  It is one of our favorite places to camp.  We did have limited cell reception and internet at camp, but not enough to post this till we return home. 
      Heading back home now......only a couple of days off to regroup, mow the Ponderosa and then head to Detroit for another 'Bucket List' item:  Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band at the Riverfront Park!