Monday, August 25, 2014

Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Painted Rocks National Lakeshore

We spent the last portion of our trip at a Michigan state park near Painted Rocks National Lakeshore. Hands down, it was the most perfect camping spot in the history of Brinton family camping. The restrooms, water pump (a hand pump!) and trash bins formed a triangle around the perimeter of the camp. We had a huge lot with a lakeside view and gorgeous trees...
not to mention our private beach!
The first night we ate right with Frito pies and watermelon,
but when food supplies were running low, the kids decided to take things into their own hands and dive for mussels!
Here are the tough Mussel Men braving the 60 degree F water fearlessly! We cooked seven for lunch but were glad we also had some leftover brats in the cooler. :)
I also swam, but not for mussels. I wanted so badly to wash my hair and soap up that I overcame my aversion to cold water, for a few minutes at least.
Later we scored a trunk full of cheap firewood and the kids built a small bonfire.
Our principal interest in the Lake Superior side of the U.P. was to see Painted Rocks, over 40 miles of sandstone cliffs that have been "painted" with mineral-rich groundwater seepage:
We explored first on a 3-hour boat tour
whereon we ate two large grocery sacks full of snacks (I told you about the food shortage earlier, right?!).
Then of course we had to get out and touch Lake Superior for the first time. My favorite fact: if you took the water in Lake Superior and used it to fill a 5-foot-deep swimming pool, the pool would cover the entire continental United States!
The next day we explored by way of the beach, on a hike to the Au Sable lighthouse.
Max noticed the groundwater seepage that gives these rocks their distinctive coloring.
Hiking is tough, but not as tough as holding a tree over your head. Alright Zach!
We read stories about a dozen shipwrecks near Au Sable Point, and we actually saw the exposed boards and nails from three of them. The shipwrecks are what kept the kids going on the hike.
I was interested in the lighthouse at the end. A ranger took us up into the 140-year-old lighthouse, where we saw the original prisms that once reflected a small kerosene lamp's light. We also saw the keeper's quarters.
Here's the view from the top. If you look in the background you will see a stretch of sandy dunes.
That was our next and final stop. The Log Slide was used in the 1800's to send timber down, and legend says that the logs generated enough friction to catch fire on their journey down the 500+ foot dune--yes, that puppy is steep! It seems nearly vertical. I only let the younger boys go down part way--some people took about an hour to make the climb up, and signs warn that many people are rescued each year because they can't make it back up. Yikes!
Eventually we decided to go for it. Eric went down with the two older boys, then the boys went down again with me. They climbed up in 8 minutes! Eric and I were each a few minutes behind, and totally exhausted! What a rush, down and up! 
Max threw a fit when we had to leave, saying he wanted to go back to the "running-down sand box." I told him that I felt the same way--it was a sad day to leave the U.P.! After coming home, cleaning out the van, and doing 10 loads of gross camp laundry, I think we're recovered from the vacation and ready to jump into the school year. Well, almost. Every time a summer ends I feel as if a dear friend has suddenly moved away and I am left alone.

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