Waterfall Madness and Possible Trespassing
A I mentioned in my last post, we were back in the western Upper Peninsula which meant we had another opportunity to visit with our friends Teri and Grey. Just like our previous visit they had a slew of activities and hikes planned for us, which was awesome. The afternoon we arrived we took a short trip to swim and walk around a lake (for which I didn't bring my camera), and the next morning we began by visiting Bakers Falls by the local ski resort before stopping in the tiny town of Ramsay at a really beautiful keystone bridge built in 1891.
The adventure of the day however was our hike to Saxon Falls. Tom and I assumed it would be a hike to er, a waterfall. What we didn't expect was that this waterfall is located on land owned by a hydroelectric plant dam and that to view it involved climbing up a couple ladders to the powerhouse, walking on top of the 6-foot diameter pipeline, and opening chain link gates. As we approached one of the latter which appeared to be bolted and I think we all had a moment (even Teri and Grey, who had both been here before) of, “Are we trespassing?!” Well, we never answered that question conclusively but the lock wasn't locked so we proceeded.
Adding to uniqueness of the setting were the contortions and coaxing required to get all the dogs around the ladders and also the gangway that runs for a few hundred yards on top of the pipeline. We were fairly successful in convincing Abby to run parallel to the pipeline and below as well as scamper up the steep hills where the ladders were installed, but with Teri's dogs Gabby and Missy with us too, one of the three would get distracted and turn back to the base of the ladder which usually resulted in all of them turning around. Added into this was Max, Teri’s sister’s mini dachshund who was physically incapable of climbing around the obstacles – which necessitated us carrying him and then handing him up the ladders. I brought him up one ladder and since, as you know, you need both hands for ladders, I would like to thank Max for being a trooper and for not squirming while balanced on my shoulder. It felt like a comedy at times. As Tom remarked while navigating ladders and platforms, “This is the weirdest hike I’ve ever been on.”
Saxon Falls was really lovely, and despite our inability to get an unobstructed view, we hiked a very nice section of forest near the top of the falls and got some great glimpses of the water spilling over the drop. I don’t think we broke any other laws in our other adventures that day, but we did visit plenty more waterfalls. Potato Falls, which has an upper and lower falls, is located in a relatively dramatic gorge nestled within farmland and forest. We first hiked down to the river bed below the lower falls and then attempted to scurry up the rim to the upper falls before deciding that maybe we wanted to take the trail instead of bushwacking the whole way. The upper falls had a series of stepped drops that were really scenic; luckily, there was a perfect spot along the elevated river bank to capture all of them in one photo.
Just down the road was Upson Falls, a broad, two-staged cascade that flows over jagged remnants of basaltic rock. After that it was decided that it was time for dinner and beer, but as we were driving back towards the Michigan border Grey stopped for a quick look at one of the many old iron mines dotting the region. South of the copper lodes of the Keweenaw Peninsula lays a wide band of iron deposits that stretch from the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through northern Wisconsin, and into Minnesota. Along with logging, iron mining drove a huge portion of early shipping on Lake Superior, and resulted in the establishment of settlements across hundreds of square miles including major cities such as Duluth, Minnesota, where much of it was – and continues to be – shipped from. The legacy of iron mining in the region continues with counties and towns including the word iron.
After we ate, and just when we thought the day was over, Teri and Grey suggested a walk up to the top of a small mountain that overlooked the area. For the life of me I can’t recall it’s name, but what was most memorable was that instead of taking the trail, we ended up bushwacking across the mountain top, then got separated on the descent. It appears that both Teri and Grey have the same tendency as Tom and I for wandering off trail and getting mildly lost which is great, frankly. Forging your own trail seems to always result in an adventure of some sort so I’ve long made my peace with this kind of hiking and now actively look forward to it; finding more like-minded people like Teri and Grey to hike with makes it all the better.
Even as we were leaving Grey’s house we were receiving suggestions on where to stop. On our route east through Ottawa National Forest is Bond Falls State Park, a really lovely 50 foot cascade that flows over a 100 foot crest. The walk down the river banks and around the falls offered a myriad of different perspectives of the falls that made the park uniquely pretty and an understandably-popular tourist attraction. We stayed just long enough to see the falls since there were quite a bit more people than we’re used to encountering on our hikes, but it was definitely worth the stop.