Friday, July 13, 2012

Flashback Friday: A look at my 2005 trip to Isle Royale

Looking out toward Canada on Isle Royale in July 2005.
I'm launching a new segment on this blog, since I'm guessing I won't be doing much traveling the rest of the year (starting a new job and planning a wedding can do that). I'll be unique in calling it "Flashback Friday," a name no one (yep, no one) uses. It'll be a highlight of a trip I've taken in the past, and I took some crazy trips around Michigan when I was younger.

My dad and I on the Minong Ridge.
I love this photo, it hangs in my
bedroom framed.
I think I'd start with a bang, and share some images from Isle Royale National Park, located in Lake Superior and the only national Park in the United States that completely shuts down in the winter.

I ventured to Isle Royale in July 2005 with the St. David's Christian Service Brigade. My father, who hiked the island in the 1980s by himself, also came to come back and "finish the job" he left. He hiked off the island last time after falling and breaking his arm; he now cannot extend his arm completely because of the accident.

The trip was one of the greatest I had ever taken; it was a weeklong excursion, which started at Moskey Basin, the only location I've ever swam in Lake Superior where it's warm. Taking a charter boat across the island, we drove by the old lighthouse on the south side of the island. We moved from Moskey Basin to Lake Richie, where we camped for several days to use up some of our food and get acclimated.

We started at places such as McCargoe Cove, Chicken Bone lake and Daisy Farm. Some were better than others; typically, the inland campsites were less shaded and less comfortable then those on the lakeshore.

The wildlife was spectacular as well. In addition to your typical chipmunks and squirrels, Isle Royale is special in terms of its ecosystem. It has wild packs of wolves, as well as moose. It's ecosystem is so special, it's featured in the New York Times, as well as Michigan Radio, which recently did a big series on the island and its fragile ecosystem (it also was the inspiration for a biology paper I wrote in college, although I only got a C+ in the course. Carry on). We never saw any wolves, although we could hear some howling one night while we got ready for bed.

Moose, on the other hand, were plentiful. We saw a handful of moose, starting with one taking a bath in Lake Richie early on the trip. We saw a cow and her calf near Rock Harbor, although we stayed away from her. The gem was a pair of bull moose that came running out in front of us while we hiked along the Greenstone Ridge. Two full-racked moose came strolling from the brush, no more than 20 feet from us before they headed down the trail.

It's a trip every major outdoor enthusiast should take. It has everything: wilderness, quiet and challenge. The island is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and is the ultimate trip for many of us outdoorsmen downstate.

Hiking along the Greenstone Ridge trail, the main system across the island.
The view of Lake Superior. 
Have you been the island since 2005? I'd love to know if anything's changed from what I remember last.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dow Gardens in Midland provides for a quiet place for a day walk

A bridge across a stream in Dow Gardens near the back of the park. 

With some spare time in between a wedding last weekend, my fiancé and I, along with her parents, wandered into Midland's Dow Gardens. The gardens, which house the home of Alden Dow, the founder of Dow Chemical, are a stunning visual during the summertime when the plants have bloomed.

One of several flowerbeds in Dow Gardens.
One of the many sculptures
in the gardens this summer.
The gardens are not what you'd expect with the name Dow, which is typically associated with chemicals manufacturing. The gardens sit on 110 acres on Midland's Eastman Avenue, the main road through town. It's not exactly camping, but its a great day walk through some of the scenery.

Areas such as the herb garden and the rose garden are stunning when in full bloom, which a myriad of colors. Other areas, such as the secret garden, which lay off the main trail, have a range of different ferns, shrubs and other wild plants.

Several sculptures from Michigan artists are scattered all over the garden, including several this summer featuring Great Lakes Bay Region artists.

For a day trip, it's a great one if you're looking for something different. The flowers, trees and vegetation are all labeled, so it is easy to determine the species of plant.

Several pieces of architecture also dot the park, including the bridge in the photo above. The Red Bridge allows for visitors to stroll across the streams and waterfalls constructed throughout.

Views like this are common walking through the park.
The paths were light with foot traffic the Saturday afternoon, which made it easy to navigate the area of the park we meandered through. My fiancé and I went to the gardens several years ago when were were students at Central Michigan University. Cost for students is $1, and general admission is $5, so the price is right to spend the afternoon if your looking to kill some time before a Great Lakes Loons game.