Saturday, August 12, 2006

Monday, June 20th -- 2am (it's 1am somewhere)

It's been a long day. I slept horribly last night in Ashland. It's certainly not the fault of the motel, I just never go to bed before 5am, so my body couldn't convince itself to crash anytime sooner. I had to be up by 10am for the check-out, and was tempted to sleep out in my car in protest.

Your mind does funny things when you can't sleep. Around 5am, when I was still wide awake, I seriously thought about getting in the car and driving until I got to my next motel. Or, possibly, getting out on the lake and walking until I couldn't keep my eyes open. I knew both were quite awful ideas, but it beat laying in bed waiting to be too exhausted to turn over again. Still, I looked out the window and saw the first signs of light on Superior and decided against it.

Anyway, I left Ashland around 11 and decided to get on the road right away. I stopped in Odanah, a village on the Bad River Reservation outside of Ashland, to fill up on gas and get an easy lunch for the day (pizza slice, soda, chips --- hey, I was on vacation). After this, I was on my way to Ironwood, Michigan. It still seems strange that Michigan is only about a 3 hour drive from Duluth, and from what I can tell the people in this part of Michigan would be happier to be identified with Duluth than Detroit.

Gas was even worse after crossing the boarder, about 10 cents more than Wisconsin. After, again, going through town at about 30 miles an hour and noticing the lines of small, cheap motels, I decided to make a quick stop at the local K-Mart for a few last minute items. There was also a dollar store next door, which had an extra pair of socks and cheap soda for $2, and I was off again only to stop about 5 minutes later.

This part of the state is largely covered by the Ottawa National Forest, so when I came across a visitor's center I stopped in to find a few maps and get some advice on where to go. After looking around and getting suggestions, I decided to take a small road that followed the Black River up to lake -- stopping every few miles to view the numerous waterfalls along the river. I lost count as to how many there were, but it was possible to hike out to all of them. If I were ambitious enough, I could have started out near Ironwood and hiked all of the way to the shore. I decided against this, but it's nice to know the option was there.

The first stop on this road was Conglomerate Falls, which was two falls in one. After about a two mile hike down to the river, it was worth the wait. After a few more stops along the way at Gorge Falls and a short hike between other falls, I ended up at the harbor at the end of the road. While it was somewhat warm out, it was a perfect day to be out by the water.

On the harbor there was a small park and gift shop where I got a few post cards. After this, I went out for a walk on the bridge over the river to the other side. This is where I met a little bird that verbally harassed me for much of my time there. I didn't get too close, but it was clear that she was not happy with me and my presence. Protective little things.

Anyway, after a nice long walk I went back into the car and went back down the road and jumped ahead an hour. I'm not sure why, but this part of the state is in Eastern Time, even though it's a few hundred miles west of Chicago still, which is also Central. Either way, it was suddenly 6pm. I was getting sleepy, which is a terrible thing to have happen to you on the road. So, I turned up the AC, turned on a song that always keeps me awake (Spock's Beard's "The Great Nothing" - nearly a half-hour in length). Fortunately, I made it to Silver City before it got much later.

Silver City is barely a town, more like a settlement of tourist shops and motels on the bay of Lake Superior. My motel was another 3 miles down the road, which quickly turned to a rough gravel road. Still, down this path was the Entrance into the Porcupine Mountains State Park - and The Silver Sands Motor Lodge right on the edge of the park. I highly recommend this motel if you ever decide to stay in the area, for reasons that I'll get into later on. It's a great place with ambitious hosts who also run a gas station/continence store on the grounds. It's all located across the street from the lake, which is perfect for sunsets.

After checking out the room (nicely sized and once the air was on, quite comfortable), I went into "town" to find something for supper. I found the "At The End of the Rainbow Cafe" down the road, which is something like a drive-in that you can find in many small towns in the mid-west. However, these people had their cafe at the edge of the forest, and therefore had a bear or two roaming around the back. They were fenced off, so I took a seat outside to see if they'd show up a little closer. While one of them did, it quickly was scared off by a group of other people who loudly informed people nearby to grab their cameras. Oh well, I have plenty of bear pictures from Alaska.

When supper was done, I went into Ontonagon, the closest "real" town. It was a bit farther than I anticipated, but this made for a nice drive along the shoreline. Ontonagon (as I'd learn in a few days) was a logging town as well as one of the main ports on the Superior. These days, it's clear they are working on becoming more accommodating to tourists. I took a long drive around town, and realized it was a big larger than I expected for only about 2,000 people. I decided to turn back to the motel, and check out the town again over the next few days.

Back at the motel, it was about 9pm, and the sun was starting to go down. I stopped at the little gas station right before it closed to pick up some breakfast for the next day and some bug spray for the next few hours. Then I went across the street with my lawn chair and set it in the sand and watched the sunset on the lake. I even had a loon bobbing around in the lake, which would have made a perfect picture if I could have gotten him into frame. This is a perfect way to end the day. By about 9:50, the sun was all but set, and I decided to head in. After watching the sun for an hour, I turned around and saw that it was considerably darker to the west, and it really was night finally -- two days before the longest day of the year.

I took off to my room to shower, write post cards, and watch Star Wars III that was on HBO. After that, all I really wanted to do was sleep longer than 4 1/2 hours.

The next day's plans were to hike around Porcupine Mountains, drive into Ontonagon and make things up after that. I came close.


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