You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Walks in the Nara Nature Park, Houghton, MI
Houghton is more or less at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about an hour's drive eastward from Ontonagon, and we've been advised by a helpful guide to 'gentle walks' in the UP that there are a number of congenial nature trails here, so here we are. 29 August 2023.
We've found the Nara Nature Park carpark and have so far made no sense at all of the trail map, but we've tried our best and spent half an hour traipsing all round this ridiculously complicated reticulum of mowed woodland thoroughfares, how disappointing.
So, wisely in our opinion, we read the guidebook text a little more carefully and got set right. We're on the wrong side of the road.
The Nature Park is slight, and the vast reticulum of trails are primarily all-season recreational opportunities for the students of the Michigan Technological University (an attractive campus, by the way, established in 1885 to support the then-thriving iron and copper mining industries).
What we're looking for is just across the road. Duh.
The City's 'Nara River Boardwalk' is actually a bit of a misnomer -- it's evidently the Nara Boardwalk on the Pilgrim River. The boardwalk trail on the southern side, a bit less than half a mile long, begins here, and the one on the northern side of the mighty Pilgrim has a few nature signposts up, so it's called the Nara River Nature Trail.
The Pilgrim River is only 12.9 miles long (20.8km) but traverses an attractive wetland from the road here out to the Portage Lake, a length of the partly natural/partly artificial Keneewa Waterway that cuts across the peninsula to Lake Superior at both ends.
Here we go (and it's wheelchair accessible [for future reference]). There's an well-made information sign at the head of the bridge, called 'What Happened Here', that describes an historic thunderstorm in June 2018 (severity that 'only occurs once every 1,000 years' here) that flooded out the boardwalk system, which the City and FEMA will be trying to repair. It's a very fine sign, but superseded by events.
Observation decks all along the way, for viewing the wildlife (though we didn't actually notice any wildlife; an off day perhaps).
That's an observation deck on the far side of the river, and a surprising patch of Purple Loosestrife, a very destructive invasive weed that one would have thought had no place in a Nature Park.
We're pleased to find that, in addition to this very fine boardwalk, the weather is pretty much ideal.
There are botanical names for many of these swampy species, and we would have thought that anyone who'd worked for twenty years alongside wetland scientists could have helped us out here. But no luck.
A bit less than half a mile out, they've promised, so we're making progress.
Nearing the end of it
The Portage Lake lies all before us.
A healthy wetland, it seems, and only about two miles from downtown Houghton, a city of fewer than 8,400 citizens in 2020. Far-sighted City Fathers, perhaps. A No-Condo or No-Industrial Zone.
We return to the carpark for our next adventure, a bit farther along.
Back to the bridge. We would desperately like to walk out the twin boardwalk, the Nature Trail, on the other side of the Pilgrim, but we've decided first to trudge a few hundred meters farther north along the paved path by the carpark, where we're informed we'll find the 0.7 mile Peepsock Trail (no boardwalk).
This is the Peepsock Trail. No one on Google seems to know where the unprepossessing name 'Peepsock' comes from, and one dare not speculate.
At least it's got all the hiking amenities.
Here we're circumambulating round a ca. 500-foot basin towards, we're promised, a bridge across it.
No patience with stragglers round here.
A bit of a clogged-uppy sort of water body, leading to some sort of outlet -- the Peepsock Creek, of course, or as some say, the Peepsock River.
We're on what appears to be quite an old bridge, 300 feet long, but they've left behind bits of a still older one.
As it turns out, that industrial arrangement on the far side is apparently in the headwaters of the Peepsock, which has a total length of less than half a mile. So Creek is clearly a better name for it than River.
One of our party had, by long habit, misread the site description to say that this bridge is 300 meters long, and has been muttering annoyingly that that's way mistaken. 'It can't be more than 300 feet'. (Old habits die hard.)
We understood that we were going to revel in scenic views of the Peepsock Creek along this part of the trail, but no such luck.
But in the end, moments later in fact, we did come to the Portage Lake and Keneewa Waterway, stretching majestically out before us -- 0.7 mi out, so 0.7 mi back.
A bit more 'authentic' than marching along a boardwalk, eh.
Back to the 300m bridge. (Sorry, 300'.)
Stragglers need to hasten now.
Here at the end of the bridge is a slight and unmarked path seeming to veer off to the south. What if it might lead us to the western Nara Nature Path -- think of how much time we'd save. If we're right.
It's a very pleasant, little-traveled path -- worth the walk wherever it goes.
Still, we maintain our convictions until disproved.
Bingo, the western Nature Trail. With its own beautiful boardwalk.
Here we go again -- surrounded by the dreaded Purple Loosestrife on all sides.
(These boardwalks are really well made and very attractive. Whoever they are, the people in charge of all this ought to be thanked.)
And, looking off on both sides, we really are grateful for the boardwalks.
And we hope that they have a plan for dealing with the Loosestrife, before it germinates and eats their boardwalk.
This is the confluence of the Peepsock Whatever-you-want-call-it and the Pilgrim River, leading out onto Portage Lake.
There's our original Boardwalk Trail on the far side (we stood there our very selves not half an hour ago; memories).
One of a few nature plaques (perhaps a few more are planned).
Back up to the carpark
Exhausted from our hiking adventures, we've rocketed through downtown Houghton and crossed the river (or 'Keneewa Waterway') to levitate 2.65mi up Rte 41 through Hancock to locate Peterson's Fish Market.
The need to divert our trip for a trip up to Peterson's Fish Market is complicated but not difficult to outline -- it has to do with securing a great mass of fresh Something Trout for tomorrow night's clan dinner and a fresh fish sandwich for our driver. The fresh fish sandwich will now be ordered, and picked up when our great mass of fresh trouts are ready.
Our great mass of fresh fish is ready, and now . . .
. . . we just need to pause for a few moments whilst our driver necks down an ample fish sandwich.
Next morning -- High Seas on the lake
No shampooing out there today, no way.
A few hours with our books near the cottage, and then back to Civilization. Well, to northern Wisconsin.
It's probably more impressive when the waves are washing these logs -- and 19th century freighters -- up onto the beaches. So we won't complain.
Sneaky Choupette preparing a morning ambush
A few last photos of the beach harvest, to compare with next year's (assuming we make it back)
How touching -- they're pretending to ignore each other.
Who could argue that these things aren't beautiful in their own way -- and shiny.
This year's beach, with a new little promontory that will doubtless be gone next summer.
Choupette is nearly in tears about having to leave so soon.
But she may have time for catching one more tiny shrew.
(Deplorable behavior, but what can we do? It's 'Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw'.)
Leaving town, reluctantly, we've just time to pass by the house of the famous Ontonagon Wanker.
Every year we get to admire his thoughtful displays of Utter Poopy, and then . . .
. . . a bit later, to stop at Randall's in Wakefield for a small suitcase full of their legendary pasties.
Next up: Wasped half to death on Adjidaumo and stuck once again in the canal