For years, I have felt like a bad Michigander as I have never been up to the UP. Every Labor Day, the Mackinac Bridge is opened for pedestrians and I figured that this last Monday would been a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Along with my friends, Kraig and Stacey, we made plans to go do it.
Since the walk was to begin early in the morning, Stacey wanted to spend the night near there. Otherwise, we would have had to leave from our homes in the wee hours of the morning. I was open to this as we could also fit in Sleeping Bear Dunes. The fact that the park was recently voted the number most beautiful place in America helped. Seriously, click that link.
We started out on Sunday morning and the drive up there was okay for me. It wasn’t so comfortable for Kraig and Stacey. Poor Kraig had his knees pressed up against the dash to give what little room there was in the back for Stacey. Once we got through Cadillac, the drive scenery improved… but then it got old. I’m not one to appreciate long drives on two-lane country roads. At home in Michiana, I am surrounded by essentially three interstates so it’s a little unnatural for me.
We stopped in Empire for some lunch at a local diner. It was crowded. I think it was because it was the only apparent eatery for miles that tourists like us would have seen. The food was decent enough I thought.
When we reached Sleeping Bear the entrance was blocked off. I, along with a number of others, parked just around the corner and waited to see what was up. No one seemed to know what was going on so I resolved to walk back to the entrance and ask what the deal was. Stacey came along and we were also joined by some bald guy. We found out that they shut down the entrance because of some medical emergency. It seemed odd to me that they would shut down a park for that!
As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge.
After a short wait, we did notice that the park was opened again. We went in and realized why they shut down in an emergency. The road into the park is only one lane and is a long winding loop. It is totally understandable why they have to close it down to get emergency vehicles in and out. *COUGH* It might be worth some money to widen the lanes??? Let me tell you though, the drive is GREAT. It’s absolutely gorgeous driving up and down the hills and through the woods. Along the drive are stop points that you can park and get views of the park. Eventually you will get to the stop where Sleeping Bear is.
Sleeping Bear is a 450 foot drop into Lake Michigan. Really guys, pictures don’t convey a real perspective on that thing. I was a little reluctant to go down because I knew it would be hell to get back up but you know, I came this far and by God I was going to do the full experience. I came real close to turning back about halfway down though because it seemed like a very bad idea. Glad I went through with it though.
As predicted the trip back up was horrible! HORRIBLE! I don’t know how many times I had to plop down on my ass to get my breath back. Kraig was helpful as he would go up ahead 10 meters [snickers] and I would have a goal to climb to before I would rest again. BTW, that woman that gave me her water bottle deserves her ticket to heaven now. When I was done, though, it felt great. It may seem weird, but it really felt like an accomplishment. …And it only took an hour to complete. And... I wouldn't mind doing it again.
Kraig has established the “Big Lie” in which I ended up having a heart attack climbing up Sleeping Bear and needed rescue. I added that it cost me $250. That’s sound believable right?
We spent the night in a Motel 6 at Traverse City. The check-in and check-out process was frustrating but I guess that’s what I get for going for a budget chain. We woke up early to head over to Mackinaw City (which is actually a village) for the walk.
I was already getting a little sore from my time at Sleeping Bear and I knew that I would have to take it slow on the bridge. It was crowded and walking side by side with either Kraig or Stacey turned out to be futile so I slipped back and let Kraig take point. I would have thought that with that many people on the bridge, it would be loud with conversations. Oddly enough, it was pretty quiet. Maybe it was because it was so early in the morning? Also, I have never felt so well protected as the guard was out there with soldiers stationed at short intervals.
I got to see Governor Snyder. He’s shorter than I imagined.
If you want a numbered certificate, get your group together and get them from one person handing them out. I got mine at the same time Kraig and Stacey but got it from a different person. Based on our certificate numbers they arrived at the finish line hundreds of people before me.
Apparently fudge is the thing in Mackinaw City. I would recommend walking around before buying though as different shops offer different deals. Also, apparently cats are acceptable in shops up there. I had one nearly scare the crap out of me. It was large, grey and black, and for a split second, I thought it was a raccoon that trotted past my leg.
We headed into the UP on our way to Tahquamenon Falls. Before heading into the state park, we stopped by a local eatery to try a pasty which is a kind of Yooper dish that I have never had. …And I will never have it again. Granted, it could have just been a fluke but the one I had tasted like a pot pie drained of gravy. It was gross and became even worse when I kept belching it up later.
After lunch, I was ready for a nap! We made it to the lower falls of Tahquamenon Falls. Stacey and I read a map that seemed to indicate that it would have been a four mile round trip walk from the lower falls to the upper falls. That seemed reasonable until we found out that it was a dirt trail and more like another 8 miles more than what we already walked. Hell no! We drove to the upper falls.
It truly is beautiful up there. I love to visit but I’m telling you, I’d much rather live day to day with my Walmart nearby.