Last weekend m wife and I took a four day road trip to the U.P. I’m trying to remember now why we took the trip but I think it had something to do with trying to see large numbers of Monarch Butterflies at Peninsula Point Lighthouse.
On Friday we drove over to Escanaba, Michigan. We had planned to go out to the Peninsula Point Lighthouse and look for butterflies but it was a little late in the day so we rested a bit and then drove downtown and stopped at the Swedish Pantry to try the meatballs. They were ok but don’t compare with those from The IKEA Cafeteria. We spent the evening walking around Ludington Park. This is a photo of the moon rising above the Sand Point Lighthouse.
The next morning we drove over to Peninsula Point Lighthouse park to check on the butterflies. Unfortunately we only saw a few butterflies around. Apparently they rest in the Cedar forest and it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find them since they blend in so well. It would also be difficult to photograph them in the deep forest. It was a good idea but I think I’ll stick to looking for Monarchs in meadows.
We then started driving up the coast. I was reading the Moon Handbook as we drove along and found an article on Fayette Historic State Park. It is a reconstructed 1880 smelting town with many of the buildings still standing. We decided to drive over and have a look. All along the way we had been discussing how dry it looked. When we arrived at the park we asked the ranger about it. Apparently they had record low rainfall for July and August and it sure showed. The grass in the park was all brown. The park was very interesting and was well worth the detour.
The next stop was the Suel Choix Point Lighthouse. A nice lighthouse with a great gift store if you are interested in that sort of thing. I was just about ready to leave and my wife mentioned that standing in the shadow of the lighthouse and shooting up into the sun would make an interesting shot.. She was right.
We then headed north to Newberry and on to Tahquamenom Falls. We stopped briefly at the upper falls. I didn’t bring the camera on the walk to the falls so no falls shots. The water levels were very low. You could see the rocks below the water at the top of the falls as well as the rock face in back of the falls.
Whitefish Point Lighthouse was our next stop. We had been there with our son when he was about eight years old. About all I remember from the visit was that he broke into tears when he heard about the Edmund Fitzgerald . I was very disappointed with the visit because when we arrived we found that they were working on the lighthouse and the lower portion was covered in scaffolding. Unfortunately the website failed to mention the revocation. If you are planning a photographic trip you might want to call first to check on conditions.
Our final destination of the day was Seney. The plan was to photograph the sunset at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately we had doddled a bit too much along the way and were really pressed to make it for the sunset. Fortunately I had checked the Refuge out on Photographer’s Ephemeris before we arrived so I knew where I wanted to be for sunset. Ephermeris indicated that Marshland Drive would make a great spot to photograph the sunset. Things started off with a bang when we saw a wolf just as we drove into the Refuge. We were late in arriving and I was just able to setup the camera in time for sunset. It was one of the more spectacular sunsets I’ve seen. It was even more amazing because there had not been a cloud in the sky all day. As we drove through the Refuge we also saw over fifteen beaver and muskrat. In the evening light they weren’t at all shy. Unfortunately the light levels were low and they were difficult to photograph.
The next morning the goal was to go back into the Refuge for some sunrise photography. The Marshland Drive does not offer any good options for sunrise photography but as we drove though the park the previous evening we noticed that the fisherman’s Drive was open. Photographer’s Ephemeris indicated that this road would provide the best opportunity for sunrise photographs. The opportunities were not as good as they were the night before but I managed to get a few good shots. The morning shooting was somewhat of a disaster because as we drove toward the refuge all of the interior windows in the car fogged up. I’ve had the windshields fog up occasionally but in this case every window in the car fogged up.
It was so bad we had to stop and wipe the interior of the windows with paper towels. When I got out to photograph the sunrise my camera viewfinder and lens quickly fogged up. I’ve never encountered conditions like this before. In spite of the problems I did get a few sunrise shots. As we drove through the Refuge saw over fifty Trumpeter Swans in s single pond. We also saw over a dozen Belted Kingfishers. It was very frustrating because I have never gotten a good shot of this bird and only managed a distant shot on this morning.
If you are looking for a great place to photograph sunsets and wildlife this is it. I’ve added it to my don’t miss list of places to visit when I travel to the U.P. The one fact that you should be aware of is the Fox River Inn is the only motel in town. You could stay in one of the nearby towns but they are all at least a 30 mile drive to the Refuge. It is also important to note there is only one place to eat in town and no place for breakfast so you should plan accordingly.
Later in the morning we drove over to Grand Marais. This was one of the locations where we saw the most fall color although less than 5 percent of the trees had turned. We stopped for brunch at the Sportsman’s Restaurant. When we emerged the air was heavy with smoke and you could see a haze over the area. When we drove into Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore the ranger thought it was an air inversion and they didn’t know where the smoke was coming from. Later we discovered that it was likely from fires in the Boundary Waters.
We stopped at the Hurricane River Campground and then hiked along the beach to the Au Sable Light Station. This is one of our favorite hikes in the park. Unfortunately the nice white fluffy clouds that were around early in the morning disappeared and we had clear blue skies except for the haze from the smoke. There are several shipwrecks along the walk and they were the most exposed I have ever seen them. A good time to photograph them if you are in the area.
We drove over to Munising. My favorite place for sunset and waterfall photography in the park is Miners Beach. On this night it was very depressing. As we walked down to the beach we found it littered with dead trees and brush. The debris stretched all the way to Elliot Falls. It is almost impossible to get a good photo of the falls under the current conditions. There was only about three beers of worth of water flowing over the falls. That problem can be easily solved with a little rain but getting rid of the debris is a much larger problem. The sunsets are still beautiful but I sure miss the falls.
The next day we drove home through Ironwood, Michigan and Hayward, Wisconsin. It was a bright sunny day and we only made one stop. That was at Canyon Falls. I was a little doubtful about getting any photos in the bright sun but when we reached the falls itself was still in the shadows. This is a location where I tend to spend more time photographing the water patterns in the Sturgeon River and gorge and less time photographing the falls. On this day things were reversed. The river was so low that you could walk across it. On the other hand the falls was exposed and provided a great opportunity to photograph the rarely seen rocks behind the falls. My attempt to photograph the falls also provided a harrowing experience. The river was so low that you could climb down to river level below the falls. I managed to slip on a rock and only prevented myself and camera from a serious fall and a dip in the river through some great ballet moves. The fall color was the most advanced in this area although it was probably less than 5 percent.