This trip we headed West to attend the LTV Winkler RV Rally but our first stop was in Kincardine to camp with some University friends. Our friends Geoff and Karen have a 5th Wheel Trailer now and our friends Alf and Paula have a permanent trailer in the Kincardine RV Park and Cathy and Ian also joined us. We had some heavy rain through the weekend but we still had a great time visiting.
From Kincardine we headed along the Lake Huron coastline stopping to see several coastal towns on our way to Sarnia to visit our friends Donna and Jim and their son Jon. We had a great time catching up and Jim prepared a homemade Chicken Parmesan and Pasta dinner with some special wines!
Our crossing into the US at Port Huron the next day was very quick and Donna and Jim gave us great advice for groceries and diesel and the route to travel to get to the Mackinac Bridge. Sharon shared the driving with me due to my blood clot in my leg so I could keep my leg in various positions. We got into the Straits State Park which was on the North side of the bridge. After dinner we walked the hiking trails to see the bridge and the shoreline. There was a drone flying over to make a promotional video for Straits SP so we might be in the final cut;-)
From the bridge we planned to follow the Southern coast of Lake Superior since we had done the Northern coast a couple of years ago. We were tight on timing as we wanted to be in Winnipeg by the Friday of the Labour Day weekend to visit Sharon’s parents. However we decided the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum was a must see for us so we headed up to Whitefish Point. The Museum had outdoor exhibits, a theatre with a memorial show for the Edmund Fitzgerald, a guided tour of the still operational lighthouse (Lake Superior’s first lighthouse from 1849), displays in the Lighthouse Keepers house, a building with the history of the US Life Saving Service and the US Coast Guard, and a museum building with shipwreck artifacts and information on the Edmund Fitzgerald including the bell from the actual shipwreck. In the memorial show they explained that the relatives of the 29 people killed on the shipwreck requested that the original bell should be brought up from the ship and in its place they put a memorial bell with the names of the 29 people. They used the Canadian invented Newt diving suit to recover the bell. At the top of the lighthouse we could see ships going by and there is a web site where you can see the flow of ships in the Great Lakes: Great Lakes Shipping
Lake Superior can have extremely bad storms due to the cold deep waters (maximum depth 1333’) and therefore has a lot of shipwrecks. Waves can reach up to 30’ in height so it is very much like a sea instead of a lake.
After the Shipwreck Museum we headed to both Lower and Upper Tahquamenon Falls State Park to see the waterfalls since we had purchased the Michigan SP Annual pass. We found out though that we were supposed to put the sticker in the lower, not the upper, corner of the passenger side RV window as the park ranger made us remove the tag and get a new one.
We had originally planned to camp in Picture Rocks National Lakeshore but it was getting late in the day and it was first come first serve camping so we decided not to risk it and stayed at East Branch Fox River State Campground. This campground was primitive with only a couple of spots occupied.
The following day we spent almost the full day in the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore Park driving from the East side to the West and exploring most of the sites and doing short hikes. Our first hike was down the 200 stairs to see Sable Falls and to go to the shore of Lake Superior. It was raining when we started but gradually eased off. We also did the hike to the top of the Grand Sable Dunes.
We stopped at the visitor centre and then stopped at the Log Slide to see the location where they would slide the logs down the dunes to the lake so they could be taken to the mills. The cart they used to haul the logs had massive wheels and the dune was a scary drop off to the lake!
Our next stop was Hurricane River to have lunch and walk along the beach. This is also one of the campgrounds in the park with a small number of sites. Along the beach was supposed to be a shipwreck you could see from shore but the waves were too high so we couldn’t see it.
It was a bit of a drive to the Western end of the park to see Miners Castle but it was a pretty drive with several lakes to see. At the Miners Castle visitor centre they had several outside displays to read. Here are some of the interesting factoids:
- Lake Superior is the largest Great Lake in area and volume
- It takes 191 years for the water to be completely replaced in the lake
- The name Superior comes from a French usage that meant “situated above the other lakes”
- Lake Superior holds 10% of the earths fresh water
- The average depth of the lake is 489’
- Miners Castle lacks the Au Train formation caprock and therefore has weathered more than the surrounding cliffs
- Miners Castle was predominantly featured in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem Song of Hiawatha
Once we left the National Lakeshore we continued along the coastline and saw lots of beach areas. The waves were very large and the wind was strong making it difficult driving. We reached Van Riper SP which was named after Dr. Paul Van Riper who was a Doctor in the area from 1901 until he saw his last patient at the age of 92 in 1967. We went for a walk around the park after dinner and saw a fun looking floating island on the lake and enjoyed a nice sunset. One of the display boards indicated that 59 Moose were relocated from Algonquin Park to this area to bring back the Moose population. The Smartphone step counter said we had done 17,600 steps for the day so we definitely got our exercise this day;-)
The following day our first stop was at Trout Creek Mill Pond which was used in the Lumber industry for many years. They had on display a 1912 Reynold Corliss Steam engine used in the local lumber mill until 1968. They also had a cool picnic table where they used a half of a steel wheel as the support mechanism. The reflections on the pond were quite nice.
Next we went to Agate Falls where they had a walkway under the old railway trestle bridge but unfortunately the viewing platform had lots of trees in front of it so you really couldn’t see the 39’ falls all that well. It would have been better if they had steps that went down closer to the water. As we carried on along Highway 28 in Michigan they had a large section closed for a bridge repair so we had to detour by Lake Gogebic but it was a scenic area. When we reached Ramsay we detoured into the town to see the historic Keystone bridge. In Bessemer we turned off to see the Gogebic County Courthouse which was made of Jacobsville Sandstone blocks (also called Brownstone) which was from the local area and built in 1888. Our last stop in Michigan was in Ironwood to see the Fiberglass statue of Hiawatha (52’ high, 18,000 lbs and built in 1964) in the Miners Memorial Heritage Park.
As we progressed through Wisconsin (now in the Central time zone) we decided we had enough time to make it past Superior/Duluth and find a SP in Minnesota for the night. However we made sure to fill up on diesel in Wisconsin because Minnesota has mandated B20 Bio Diesel (which means 20% comes from Bio sources like corn) and our Mercedes Sprinter RV cannot take anything greater than B5. Just outside of Chisholm Minnesota we saw the very large statue of the Iron Man Miners Memorial which was 85’ high and the 4th largest statue in the US. We called ahead and McCarthy Beach SP (Side Lake Campground) had sites available so we decided to stay there for the night. It was a very pretty park on a spit of land in between Side and Sturgeon Lakes. We went for a walk after dinner but were a few minutes too late to see the sunset across Sturgeon Lake.
The following day the drive west and north through Minnesota was quite boring as it was mainly a boggy area with few towns. We did stop to see Kelliher as that town had the same name as where Sharon’s Dad grew up in Kelliher Saskatchewan. We also stopped in Baudette to see Willie Walleye (40’, 2.5 ton statue built in 1959);-) We were really surprised at the border crossing in Warroad/Spraque as there were only 3 cars ahead of us. The website made it sound like it would be an extremely long wait since it was Labour Day weekend. We filled up on diesel once we got into Manitoba and the rest of the drive to Winnipeg was uneventful. The following day we stopped into the St. Norbert Market and visited with Sharon’s cousin Randy and Edie’s cousin Janet.