I’m writing this on a beach on Lake Michigan, the last of the Great Lakes I’ll see on this trip. I’ll be alongside it for the next four days as I make my way through Wisconsin to Chicago where friends and a very eagerly anticipated break from the bike await. I’d planned to camp on Lake Michigan, but I passed a motel, weighed the relative merits of laying $35 more than I would to camp against the thought of not being mauled by mosquitos and blackflies all evening and morning, and decided on the motel. It’s only 71 miles tomorrow, so no need to cram miles in today – and I would have fallen just short of setting a new distance record for this trip anyway. I’ll probably do that on Friday, from Milwaukee to Chicago.
Lake #3 was Superior, where I camped on the shore near Paradise and then again on the mouth of the Hurricane River, in Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. I managed to get as much out of the park as you can on a bike, I think – the way campsites are distributed, it’s tough to access some of the hiking trails given the distances you’ll also have to ride. However, more or less by luck and vague instinct, I hiked the loop that covered the most scenic vistas along the cliffs without backpacking the entire length of the park. Then I took a boat tour yesterday, seeing most of the park from the water. Pictures will follow in a post to be written from Chicago, where access to a computer will presumably be given me, and I can type a longer, photo-filled post without enduring the misery that is typing on this app.
Yesterday’s campsite was yet another beautiful one by yet another gorgeous lake, surrounded by yet another multitude of mosquitos roughly equal in number to all the members of the human race who have gone before us, live now, or are yet to come. Rather than pointing to grains of sand, God might have directed Abraham to the mosquitoes within one 10’x10′ square of northern Michigan, the better to convey the magnitude of his offspring’s eventual fecundity.
At camp, the couple in the next site over invited me to sit by their fire, where the smoke made w slight but noticeable difference in the number of bites. We ended up chatting all evening until 8:30 when I went to bed, full of steak, potatoes, and Pina coladas. I’ve eaten more steak on this trip by the benefit of strangers’ hospitality than I have paid for in quite a long time.
Some kids from a nearby campsite seemed to be family friends, and they joined our table. One also came and chatted me up with the full range of nine-year-old interests while I broke down my camp in the morning, and provided a good place to offload a juice box someone had given me a week ago which was never going to be drunk. The kids were living quite the life – plenty of Xbox and Minecraft and organized sports like a typical mini-American, but also hunting, trapping, and fishing with their dad. They can catch and clean and cook a fish on their own, something I certainly couldn’t handle at their age, or now. Also , when asked what time they usually woke up, they thought about it and came up with “about three am, if I’m going salmon fishing.” Another capability far beyond my reach at pretty much any age.
I guess thiese remote woods would be a pretty wholesome place to raise your kids; plenty of opportunity to build character. Plenty of opportunity to wander with the moose and wolves. I was surprised to learn from Dennis and Tina, over steak and tropical-flavored drinks, they wolves are not only present here (thanks to reintroduction) but numerous enough to be a problem! They keep the deer population down. Sounds great to a pennsylvanian, but apparently enough Yoopers feed their families with venison that in recent years, the Wolves’ rapacity has been a cause of real concern. Hunting them isn’t legal yet, but I guessed that as the population grows keeps growing and complaints get louder, the state will eventually respond with new hunting regulations. Tina said, “the wolves already take people’s little dogs. Someone’s kid’ll have to get taken before they’ll change the law.”
Today’s ride was pleasant enough – sunny and warm with the wind alternately opposing and assisting me. Not photogenic at all, though – I didn’t pull out the camera once until I reached the spot where I’m sitting now, at J. B. Wells State Park. I thought I’d take a photo of the sign saying I’d entered the Central time zone, as evidence of the most interesting thing to happen today, but there was none – just one for Menominee County.
I’d like to come back to the UP someday, as crazy as that sounds – after all, nothing is worth blackflies. But I’d come in October. The Porcupine Mountains and Isle Royale still seem worth a visit. But seriously, don’t come in summer.