You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Profoundly disappointed, we are proceeding through Wakefield, Upper Michigan, with its Nee-Gaw-Nee-Gaw-Bow wooden statue on the shores of Sunday Lake, having just discovered that the Randall Bakery is closed up tight. Nobody even answered our pounding on the door. Their pasties are the sole reason we've driven up by this route.
Never mind -- now we've reached Ontonagon on Lake Superior, with this huge ominous looking thing at the northern end of US Route 45, flapping its flag and festooned with signs on the gate invoking God's blessing on 'law enforcement and first responders', Executive Orders about what happens to people who try to enter without first remaining in their vehicles and telephoning for assistance, and a bold, generalized 'KEEP OUT'. [The present operators here are involved in 'marine/defense equipment'.]
We're at the northern end of what was once, prior to the interstate highway system, a major north-south route through the midwest. 'US 45 is notable for incorporating, in its maiden alignment, the first paved road in the South, a 49-mile segment in Lee County, Mississippi', opened in 1915 (Wikipedia).
Be that as it may, we're pleased to be in Ontonagon chiefly because of Syl's Cafe (adjacent to the Ry Dock bar), whose pasties are not quite the equals of Randall's of Wakefield but certainly make a worthy Plan B.
Whilst supplies are being arranged inside Syl's, Choupette is just an irritating package of impatience.
Reining in the displays of impatience, but resentful.
With supplies on board, we exit Ontonagon somewhat stealthily; we wouldn't wish to draw the attention of the wrong citizens.
It's better to just slip on by and leave fact-checking to wiser heads than ours.
Eastward up the shore from downtown Ontonagon, on a dirt road about a mile past 'Four Mile Rock', we're at the family's 'South Beach' cottages and a fairly agitated lake. On a grey day.
We're standing on a 6 or 7 foot sand escarpment and the access ladder to the beach has already been disassembled for the season. We've been advised to fight our way through the surrounding woods to find a more accessible entry and exit point.
Unpacking the car first, before the weather changes for real.
Melvin the Doge plants himself immediately in his vantage seat and awaits developments.
A bad day for sunbathing on the beach anyway. Tomorrow will be much better (said with confidence).
We were here little more than a month ago, and the shape of the beach, and its collections of huge wooden artifacts, have all changed dramatically.
For example, that pile of leftovers was not there then.
The main cottage at 'South Beach', on a grey 17 September 2021 (tomorrow will be much finer)
Once they're out, Choupette heads straight for the foliage that provides the best hunting grounds for shrews, voles, etc.
Melvin, too, sets about sniffing amongst the vegetation, but so far he has always restricted himself to preying upon insects.
And Choupette's favorite prey, after shrews and voles, is Melvin. This is an ambush.
Choupette has also recently discovered the grand delights of climbing around on the car.
Both cats are as perplexed as we are by the absence of suitable access to the beach . . .
. . . and are searching about for alternatives.
A brief glance at the component parts make it plain that reassembling it ourselves is 'hors de question'.
Choupette settling in for a nap on the Bunchberry porch.
Both cats joining the queue for the facilities
Following recommendations and battling our way eastward through the scratchy, prickly forest, we come to the next neighbor's place, brimming with hopes of finding a better way down to the beach.
The neighbors, long time friends, employed trailers instead of a cottage, but seem not to have been enjoying the place very often these days.
Many of the conveniences of home
But, tragically, this cute little caravan belonged to a close friend of Kristin's, who passed away not long ago.
But at least, we have found a means of getting down to the beach which, if not elegant, is doable.
Exploring the recently reconfigured beach -- nature has been busy this past month.
That's the presently irrelevant stairway.
And here's a wholly new collection of beach art.
Impressive new specimens
We'll come back in the next few days and enjoy all this shiny wreckage at leisure.
Kristin's been seizing the opportunity to explain that this terrain is basically all sand, with in the woods a shallow layer of more recent topsoil on top, supporting trees and vegetation etc., such that when the shoreline erodes back into the woods, the topsoil with its roots flops down over where the sandy base has washed out to sea. It's all got a sort of tangled savage beauty to it. It's like an unwelcome metaphor.
Well, somebody's stairway is still standing anyway, we'll remember that.
One can only guess how many more years that cottage has got, if the lake keeps chasing after it like this.
We've probably gone far enough for this afternoon -- we're dreaming of a more challenging sort of beach walk for tomorrow, and need to rest up.
Wonders of nature
This can be better appreciated if we think of it as an 'installation'.
The staircase comes to the rescue.
Now to struggle through the uncharitable woods . . .
. . . to see if our pets have become concerned by our absence.
Oh, won't this be exciting.
It's a 3/4 mile wilderness, but of course we'll have to come back this way, too. That's roughly 1.5 miles (2.414km).
Wilderness, indeed, but next comes . . .
. . . what we've just been informed is a 'hemlock forest', distinguished by the absence of undergrowth (and all the hemlock trees).
Some say that the roots exude a poison that discourages other life forms -- or perhaps it has to do with the dense canopy overhead. The answer to this conundrum is surely known, but not here.
At the end of our wilderness passage, a little bit of history -- and now we return by the same trail.
We're inclined to like that poison theory, spread all round to keep the rest of the world at bay; it, too, has a lot of metaphorical possibilities.
So does this weird tree tangle . . .
. . . they seem much too friendly. But hemlocks (if that's what they are) can live up to 500 years or so, and probably get bored and lonely along the way.
Back out of the hemlocks and into the foliage, and . . .
. . . the disgusting creek. The Ontonagon tourist board needs to look into this before celebrating their Wilderness Trail as a tourist asset.
It's dinnertime, and we're back to Syl's for . . .
. . . a Syl's pastie. With gravy. It's of the Cornish style of pastie, which we would prefer over any other styles, if we were to try any of them, which we're not. There are those of us who would insist that the key to a really estimable Cornish pastie, amongst the beef bits and vegetables, is the rutabaga.
Nice pastie, now for a brief evening walk up to the thrift stores, seeking bargains.
Stuffed with rutabaga, we're content to just admire the outsides of Roxey's Lounge ('Best Doggone Burger in Town'), the UP North Café, and the Shamrock Bar.
A monument to Ontonagon's eventful past, signed by Susan Prentice Martinsen, 2020
A nice old building which apparently replaced the Bigelow Hotel, the go-to accommodation back in the town's copper-mining and timber heyday, which burnt down with everything else in the fire of August 1896 ['Upper Michigan’s most destructive fire on record consumed the village of Ontonagon 124 years ago', Wikipedia].
Pride of Place is awarded to the only entry with anything on it.
The Ontonagon River just before it runs out into the lake (all the squalid mud is channeled by barriers 500m out beyond the shoreline; cf. Google Maps satellite layer).
More Upper Peninsula history
Making sure that the kitties have been well-behaved in our absence