Monday, September 23, 2013

Back roads and surprises of MI’s Upper Peninsula and The Soo…

From Duluth Highway 2 is short-lived through Wisconsin.  We did stop in the charming town of Ashland, nestled on the south shore of Lake Superior’s Chaquamegon Bay, for fuel and a lunch break at a beautiful city park.  We’re getting lots of tips from friends and bloggers for places to visit and sights to see on this trip, but unfortunately our route did not take us near any Rhinelander Restaurants, as recommended by Ex-Badger Al.

Filling up in Ashland, WI, a very nice town!
Fueling up in Ashland, WI
Ashland, WI on Lake Superior's Chaquamegon Bay
Ashland city park on Lake Superior
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Americana through our windshield
A second Great Lake experience was added to our list with views of Lake Michigan appearing out our windshield near Manistique, MI.  This obviously called for a photo op stop and Howard was more than happy to accommodate.  We took advantage of this time to explore possible driving itineraries to maximize our sight-seeing experience.  Our map showed a scenic drive (77, 28, 123, 28) that would take us to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and eventually drop us off in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Howard models for a photo by Lake Michigan

It proved to be the perfect route.  We passed through small towns on a two-lane lined with trees in varying stages of autumn colors.  We happened upon a couple of vintage cars that we were destined to meet up with in a short time.  We found the magnificent Taquahmenon Falls State Park, and were only too happy to part with the $8 day use fee, unprepared for what lie ahead.

We are destined to meet up again with these vintage cars!
A couple of vintage cars, but there's more!
Leaves are beginning to turn...we're following a vintage car.
A touch of red and gold...
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And this is what greeted us after parking!  A very impressive vintage car club from all over the country meeting up for a road trip.  They are known as the FARTS…Friends of Ancient Road Transportation.  There were classic Pierce Arrows, Rolls Royces, Cadillacs, Overlands, and Peugeots.

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Much more awaited us on the half mile trail to the Upper Falls but we certainly weren't prepared for this:

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About 100 steps down...then up, but worth it!
Taken from a viewpoint on the trail above..
And closer...
and up close!
The colors of brown, red, and gold are the result of tannic acid in the soil and roots and what a spectacular, unexpected display it was!

We finally continued on to our destination in Sault Ste. Marie and another marvelous parking site right on the banks of the St. Marys River.  Thanks to Beth for encouraging us to go a bit out of our way (we have a way?) to see the Soo Locks!   There are only 4 sites with water and electric for $25 but again it’s the location that counts.   This is the view from our window of the working waterfront.

Looking across the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

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And we were just in time for a fine chicken dinner with all the trimmings.  I’m sure we saw this freighter in Duluth!

From our table (out the window) dining at the Elk's Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie
We transited the Panama Canal in November 2011, but never tire of amazing feats of engineering.  The Soo Locks are a set of four parallel locks which enable ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. They are located on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the province of Ontario. They bypass the rapids of the river, where the water falls 21 feet:
  • The MacArthur Lock is 800 feet  long, 80 feet wide, and 29.5 feet deep.
  • The Poe Lock is 1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 32 feet deep
  • The Davis Lock is 1,350 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 23.1 ft. deep.
  • The Sabin Lock is 1,350 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 23.1 feet deep.

A single small lock is currently operated on the Canadian side of the Soo. Opened in 1998, it was built within a damaged older lock, and is  253 ft.  long, 51 ft. wide, and 44 ft. deep. The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats; major shipping traffic uses the U.S. locks.

The latter two are either used infrequently or placed in caretaker status.

We had heard while walking around that a large vessel was approaching.  We went into the very impressive Corps of Engineers Visitor Center and this was confirmed.  We had about 45 minutes to view and read all the exhibits then gathered on the viewing platform for the approach of a 1000’ freighter.

The MacArthur lock looking toward the St. Marys River
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Looking toward Lake Superior and the International Bridge with a 1000' freighter approaching the Poe Lock
This Soo lock is now open & level with Lake Superior
Here the MacArthur Lock has raised 21' & now level with Lake Superior
Here you can see a tug heading up to Lake Ontario & across is the freighter being lowered to the river
A small tug enters the Lake as the large freighter (lock 2) is lowered to River level

We are moving along pretty fast now to get to Niagara Falls, so keeping current on blog posts is replaced by days full of seeing the local areas that happen to be our home for a night or two, and quick Facebook check-ins. Please stay tuned, though, as I will eventually get you to where we are!  Thanks for stopping by….

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