Back in Michigan, and back in the Eastern Time Zone, we find ourselves nearly drowning, then freezing to death. Grim weather is sparking discussion of whether we should just point the Fireball toward the Bridge, then home.
We left Wisconsin in the pouring rain, and headed to FW Wells State Park in Michigan. Two days of rain had left many of the sites there submerged. Luckily, the park was deserted, so finding a spot above the waterline wasn’t a problem. The view would have been great – we were 40′ from Lake Michigan, but gray/rain/wind doesn’t make for many great photos.On to Fayette State Park, a spot we designated as a ‘must’ when planning our trip. We snagged a campsite elevated from most of the mud, and put up our awnings, hoping for a dryout during our two-day stay. Again, we had the park to ourselves. The last of the yellow maple leaves were falling in earnest, pushed by gusty winds. A hundred yards away, Big Bay de Noc was roaring – smallish waves very close together smashing on shore.
Fayette was a mining town from 1867 to 1890, when the smelter ran for its last day on December 1. For the next 50 years, there was a bit of hunting/fishing tourism business, before the State purchased the entire area and designated it a Historical State Park. What a treasure! The entire town is there to wander – the gorgeous house of the mine Superintendent, homes of the foremen, businesses and community buildings, and one reconstructed home of a laborer. Rather than spit out a history lesson, I’ll just show the photos.
The heart of the operation was the smelter.The smelter was fed by huge kilns which held 35 cords of wood each, producing charcoal to run the blast furnaces. The wood was loaded into the kiln, set afire, then left to heat for 6-8 days, producing charcoal. Here’s the outside of a kiln.And the inside….The Superintendent’s home from across Snail Shell Harbor.The town center included a music hall, community buildings, and company stores.As well as an enormous hotel.Here are a few other random shots from the day.Along the Trail to the Park, we found this ancient cedar, which has obviously been the setting for many a photo.We were lucky to get there when we did. At the Visitor Center, we learned that the Park would close for the season the next day.
Of course, I had to wander down to the St. Peter The Fisherman cemetery. Set at the end of a muddy trail, it was a serene, if somewhat decrepit resting spot.We left Fayette after five straight days of rain. Luckily (I guess we have to look at it this way….), when the rain stopped, the wind picked up, and dried out our awnings before we had to pack them up. But, oh did the wind ever howl! The temperature as we packed up was in the low 40s. Winds were 10-20mph, gusting to 30. Top that off with gray, overcast skies, and you’ve got yourself a day when you really want to just cover up and stay in.
But, no……off we go to Palms Book State Park, home of the Big Spring, Kitch-iti-kipi, a 200 foot wide, 40 feet deep freshwater spring. The cool thing here? You see the spring from a big square barge-like raft with a viewing hole in the middle. It runs across the spring on a huge cable which is powered by turning a large captain’s wheel. Out in the middle of the spring, the bright green clear water is teeming with huge trout. The circles on the bottom are the spring boiling up through the silt. It’s eerie. This would have been the perfect spot for me to shoot a brief video, but leaning over the water with a death grip on my camera, it didn’t seem like such a good idea at the time. (That’s the bad thing about a cell phone camera – no strap to hook it to your wrist for these situations!).Captain John drives the barge back to the dock. Interesting group of passengers…There’s nothing else at this State Park to see or do, so we head to nearby Indian Lake State Park to camp for a night. The wind is howling, and it’s bitterly cold outside. Once again, we find ourselves a day ahead of the Park closing for the season. We hope somebody appears at this cool Alta camper, so that we can get a peek inside. The black parts are all smoked plexiglass, so the entire inside of the camper is a panoramic view. This would be a gorgeous camper to have in some of the big National Parks in the Southwest. As it was, these folks just have a view of a gray day through black windows. Like idiots, we had planned a Dutch oven dinner, so we sheltered the oven as best we could from the winds blast and cooked dinner. Great dinner, but a really unpleasant cooking experience. This morning, it’s 26 degrees outside, as I write this. But, sunshine….we are encouraged.
We’re finding that many of the State Forest and National Forest campgrounds are closed for the season. Our plans had been to skip along the Lake Michigan shoreline, as we did Lake Superior, checking out the changing views, finding a hike or two, then moving on. Now, we’re uncertain. We are tugged toward throwing in the towel and heading home, but hesitant to do so. Hoping that a day or two with decent temperatures and a bit of sunshine will keep us on the road. We’ll see….