Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And the Saga Continues: The Not So Summery Summer Vacation Part II: Michigan's U.P.

After oohing and awing over Tahquamenon Falls last week, we survived the night in our Norman Bates-ish motel, took a swim in the indoor pool (which, let's be honest, smelled more than a little funky) before breakfast, and hightailed it out of there to points further north. 

Our first stop was Oswald's Bear Ranch, which is an outdoor attraction that we wanted to get to before it started pouring rain. Oswald's is a family-run place that takes in rescued bear cubs and raises them. It's sort of like a zoo for bears, but although they are fenced in, the bears are living in a very natural habitat with tons of space to move around. It costs $15 per car to get in, and then visitors are free to walk around and look at the bears. You can buy a bag of apples ($2) and toss them over the fence for the bears. It's very safe, which I mention because we once went to a gator place in Florida where my kids could have easily walked up to a cyclone fence and stuck their fingers in the mouths of any number of snoozing gators. So no, in case you were wondering, you can't stick your hand through the fence and pet the bears. You can, however, hold, pet, and get your picture taken with a bear cub. The charge is $5 per family for them to take 5 pictures with your camera. Scan through your pictures while you're there, because they will happily take some more if the first 5 didn't come out. Our weather predictions were correct, and it started raining hard just as we were finishing at Oswald's. They had several signs up asking visitors to post pictures on Facebook, so I may as well direct you over to their Facebook page.

Next on our U.P. itinerary was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Lighthouse. I was looking forward to the museum, but I was also excited that the kids would see their first real glimpse of Lake Superior, because I'm a dork and that's the kind of think that excites me. In case you were unaware, Lake Superior is the largest, deepest, and coldest body of fresh water in the world. The museum consists of several buildings and you have to go outside to get from one to another, so we were not quite saved from the rain. First we watched a rather depressing but interesting film about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ship that was lost to Lake Superior, along with its entire crew, in the 1970's. Then we explored shipwreck artifacts in the main museum, went to a gift shop, a snack shop (good fudge, cruddy soft pretzels, nothing but coffee to drink), went to a building with Coast Guard stuff, and walked through the lighthouse keeper's quarters. We paid extra for Bethany and I to climb the 90-something steps to the top of the lighthouse. I had to sign a release, visitors are not allowed to climb without proper footwear (no flip flops), and a guide accompanies climbers to the top. A measly 90-whatever steps was a small price to pay for the spectacular views. Right on museum grounds there is beach access. I'm glad I got in a few pictures during a lull in the rain, but it was definitely not a good day to hang out on the shore of Lake Superior and play on the beach.

We then headed south, across the Mackinac Bridge and back to the Lower Peninsula. Back in Rogers City, the endless rain and cold prevented us from doing all the things we wanted to do for the next couple days, like going to the beach and visiting cousin Joe's farm. We did drive to a nearby town to pay a visit to Chris's great aunt and uncle, and of course no visit to a rural Michigan town would be complete without shopping at the local resale shop. Oh wait, you don't do that when you're on vacation? We have a very large Salvation Army not five minutes from our house, so it's not like resale shops are a novelty, but for some reason my kids cannot wait to go thrifting when we're away from home. 

Rogers City's claim to fame
I'm betting there's a good chance most of you don't know that Rogers City is home to the largest limestone quarry in the world. Well now you do, and I'm sure your life is more complete for knowing.

We did lots of driving this trip and my kids were such troopers. The day we left Connor started complaining he didn't feel well, and since he doesn't complain much we knew he really felt sick. (Sure enough he has strep throat). Even so, the 6-hour ride home was a breeze...except for the darn rain

We can't wait to visit Aunt Donna again. Thanks again for your hospitality, Aunt Donna!

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