Thursday, July 30, 2020

Keweenaw Peninsula

Today was to be a low-key day driving up through Keweenaw Peninsula to the northern-most part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We made a few stops along the way. We found a couple places to walk right down to the shores of Lake Superior.

This next spot had a sandy beach. Kai dipped his feet in the water but it was colder than where we were yesterday and he didn't want to go much further.

Toward the northern end of the peninsula, we took Brockway Mountain Drive to get to some high spots. At this first lookout, we could get a panoramic view.

And then we came to a lookout where we could get a great view of Copper Harbor.

The photos don't really capture the magnificence of the views.

We then drove down to the town of Copper Harbor and had lunch. We buffalo tempura caulilini as an appetizer. I had never heard of caulilini but our waiter explained that it's like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. This was deep fried with tempura batter and flavored with Buffalo wing sauce. It was good!

And for our main course we had pizza. Kai had a standard supreme pizza while my wife and I tried the Lake Trout pizza. I never had fish pizza before but it was tasty. Though I especially liked the first slice and then the salty fish flavor started to be a bit overwhelming.

After that, we had a three hour drive to get to our next destination of Marquette, Michigan. Kai and I swam in the motel's swimming pool before we went out to dinner. All of the interesting places were full so we ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings.

More adventures tomorrow.

Porcupine Mountains... Lakes, Waterfalls, and Hikes Through the Woods

We had breakfast in Bayfield at a cafe where we could sit outdoors. My wife and I had Eggs Benedict with Lake Trout as we wanted don't make Benedict at home and we also wanted to eat the local fish. It was good. Kai had chicken fried steak as he doesn't like traditional breakfast food very much.

After breakfast we drove east, leaving Wisconsin and entering the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Our destination was Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The Porkies are known for its scenic sites and good hiking.

I wanted to do one main hike that would take us to two waterfalls and then over to the shores of Lake Superior. It was a good trail, mostly boardwalk, going through peaceful woods. There were a lot of stairs going up and down both ways but the temperatures were pleasant in the low 70s so it wasn't too tough.

The first waterfall we came to was the larger one, Manabezho Falls. You can't get right up to this one... here we are at the best vantage point:

Manido Falls was shorter, but I liked that you could walk right up to it. And the cascades were pretty.

From there we hiked back in the other direction until we got to the shores of Lake Superior where we had lunch. Subway never tasted as good. Something about eating outdoors while looking at a nice vista makes food taste better.

We felt the water with our hands and, surprisingly, it wasn't exceedingly cold. We experienced far colder water in Lake Michigan and thought that Lake Superior would be freezing cold. So I was surprised when Kai didn't want to take a dip. He wasn't wearing his swimsuit but that hadn't stopped him in the past. He was starting to be crabby after our hike and he just didn't want to do anything. He later said that he was crabby because he didn't get his usual amount of sleep the night before.

So when we went on a hike to Summit Peak, he was grumbling even though it was less than a mile to the tower, and then didn't want to climb to the top. My wife and I went up by ourselves and could see for miles around. In the photo below, you can see Lake Superior in the distance.

Our last destination in the Porkies was Lake of the Clouds which is at another high point in the park. It was a beautiful sight. We later saw a photo of it in the fall with all of the trees colored yellow and reflecting on the water. It was quite spectacular.

We then made our way to the motel where we would stay the night. It had a nice long pool and no one else was there (unlike previous motels where we had stayed on this trip) so we were able to go swimming. Kai was happy about that. But he wasn't happy that the motel was in the middle of nowhere, or rather, on the middle of a cellular dead zone, and that the motel's wifi was very spotty. (It kept me from posting my blog last night).

And so Kai was happy when we drove almost 20 minutes into the small town of Ontonagon to eat dinner. The food was just okay, but it was worth the trip for the free wifi which lifted Kai's spirits.

Back at the motel, we walked out to the Lake Superior shoreline to see the sunset. The clouds were in just the wrong position but it was still a nice, relaxing way to end the day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sea Cave Kayak Tour on Lake Superior

This was the day I was most looking forward to before the trip. We would go kayaking on Lake Superior and see some (hopefully) awesome sea caves.

We drove about three hours from where we spent the previous night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Our destination was the far northern tip of Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

We arrived there at lunchtime and went into the small town of Cornucopia to have lunch. We found the only restaurant there that was open and had fish chowder and a Tater Tots Hotdish.

And then it was time to head over to Meyers Beach where we would meet our group for a two-hour kayak tour. As luck would have it, we were the only ones so we had a private tour. Kai and I shared one kayak while my wife rode with our guide.

Our guide, Travis, cautioned us that the water was choppy. It would be about a mile on open Lake Superior water before we would get to where the sea caves were, and it was tough paddling. But Kai kept at it and didn't complain at all.

The sea caves were as awesome as I had hoped.

Here we are approaching one that was quite narrow.

This was the view from my wife's kayak as we started to go inside the cave:

It got ever more spectacular the further we went in:

And this was the deepest we could go as our kayaks could barely fit:

We also went through a couple of arches. Here you can see my wife's kayak approaching one:

Here's me and Kai coming into a sea cave:

My wife took this next shot of the view coming out of a cave... Look at that tree hanging onto the side of the cliff.

And here's a picture of my wife and our guide in a cave:

It was a fantastic experience. I was happy that Kai seemed to enjoy it, too. He later said that he likes Wisconsin better than Illinois.

After kayaking, we drove to the nearby town of Bayfield where we would spend the night. We rewarded our hard paddling with some very tasty ice cream.

We checked into our motel and took a little break before heading into town for dinner. My wife and I had Lake Superior Whitefish while Kai had a mushroom and swiss burger.

After dinner, we walked around the small town and went to the harbor. The sky was still lit up from the recently set sun.

And so wrapped up a great day. This was the kind of day that all vacation days should be like.

More tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2020


On the second day of our vacation, we drove just less than an hour west of Madison to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin.

We had enjoyed seeing Fallingwater, perhaps the most renown of Wright's designs, a couple of years ago. Now we wanted to see the house where he lived for many decades.

During this time, they had limited tours to half the usual number, just 15 in our group. People generally kept socially distant though it wasn't always 100% possible to stay six feet apart inside the house.

We took the Highlights Tour which covered the Hillside Studio in addition to the Taliesin home.

This was the Fellowship Dining Room inside the studio building:

The living room was a highlight:

Kai got a bit irritated about having to keep his mask on for the full two hours, but generally did okay. This wasn't exactly his cup of tea but he took a lot of pictures with his phone.

Wright had visited Japan and was a big fan of Japanese art. Almost every room has some type of Asian art.

The house was high on a bluff so you get great views from many rooms.

Wright's bedroom was one of my favorite rooms:

Tomorrow we will be heading up north and doing something completely different.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Start of Our 2020 Road Trip

It's been a tough year. Tough for pretty much everyone with the pandemic, the social unrest, and everything associated with all of that. I'm not going to say that our challenges are worse than anybody else's. But we've had challenges.

We're looking for a bit of a respite and wanted to get away. With the pandemic, we thought it was best to not fly and instead stay somewhat closer to home. And so our summer vacation this year will be a midwestern road trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan all the way up to Lake Superior and then back down the other side of Lake Michigan.

As expected, Kai is somewhat anxious about the trip, particularly about venturing out as the Covid rates are going back up again. We're not taking his concerns lightly. We'll be careful to try to maintain social distance and to wash hands and use sanitizers as needed. And hopefully by traveling to one of the most remote areas of the Midwest, we'll be able to stay safe.

Our first destination was Madison, Wisconsin where we wanted to see my nephew and his wife. We met Ian and Susan on the UW-Madison campus at the statue of Abe Lincoln.

Some are calling for the removal of this campus icon.

We walked from the campus to the Capitol building downtown. Most of the shops on State Street were still boarded up from the riots of late May.

Many were painted with the messages of the protests.

It was like walking through a living art history museum.

At the end of State Street is Wisconsin's capitol building.

It was a steamy day in Madison, reminiscent of our summer trips to Japan. We took a break from the heat and found a spot where we could eat Wisconsin brats and cheese curds in a nice shady spot outdoors (where we prefer to eat if possible).

And after that found a place with great locally-made ice cream.

We took a break back at our hotel and then met up with Ian and Susan again for dinner. We hadn't gotten together with them since before the pandemic so it was great to see them again.

Now it is time to move on. Curious to see how the rest of our vacation will go.
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