“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru.
In my 3yrs stay in the US, we have travelled widely and thoroughly throughout the country and as such very few places are left for us now to go to on any long holidays. After a lot of speculations and contemplations about our Memorial Day weekend (an American federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May to remember the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces), we decided to revisit the magical Pictured Rocks Lakeshore (immortalized in Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha) located on a northern tip of land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bordering Lake Superior. This park has unique and spectacular scenery that haunted me and wanted me to go back once again. We had first visited it 2 years ago but I couldn’t let go my second opportunity to revisit it again. So mesmerizing is the beauty of the place that whoever has been there once would want to come back again and again.
We enjoy long drives rather than travel by air. The only adversity we often faced in the early days of our travels, when we were less experienced, was the food. Being vegetarian and Indians!!!, it was difficult to get something to satisfy our palates while on the roads. But now we have discovered that we can customize certain dishes and ask to prepare it according to our choices. Thankfully this has made our road trips more pleasant and less distressful. Obviously one cannot enjoy in an empty stomach. Earlier we had to stay content with vegie pizzas, burgers and sandwiches alone but now there is a wider and larger plate to be tasted on every go.
That was an off-track rendition of my earlier road trips. We started our journey for the upper peninsula of Michigan at about 4.01pm on Friday. I had packed snacks and also dinner for the evening. So there was no tension of searching for a suitable restaurant for the night or reaching late at our hotel. One thing I need to mention is that people here take early dinners (6-8pm) and all restaurants are shut by 8pm… though the sun is up almost up till 9.30 pm. in summer and we Indians are late diners.
The total distance from Eden Prairie to the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore was 496 miles which would take around 9 hrs to cover. On the first day we drove for 5hrs and halted at a place called Ironwood for the night. We reached our hotel Bugethost Inn, at around 9.30pm. After checking in we had a delicious dinner of my aloo paranthas, mixed veg curry and vegie patties that I made at home.
Next morning, after breakfast, which was free at the hotel, (bagels, bread, jam butter, fruits, juices, coffee etc.) we started our journey again. After another 3 hrs drive, we reached Munising. A stop at the visitor center located at the H-58 and M-28 junction is worthwhile for the first timers as it has a wide range of valuable information for the Pictured Rocks Area: Maps, Brochures, Permits, Weather Forecasts, Trail Conditions, Information on Waterfalls, etc. But since this was our second trip we knew exactly what things we wanted to see and so we only stopped at the center to get a map of the area.
Then we headed to our first point, the miners castle a spectacular vistas overlooking Lake Superior and Grand Island. Stairs and a steeper trail lead to the lower overlook adjacent to Miners Castle.
We had an interesting misadventure on our first trip due to our lack of proper knowledge of the area. There is a time difference of one hour between Michigan (Eastern Time Zone) and Minnesota (Central Time Zone). We had booked the 5 pm cruise and we reached there at 6pm Eastern time followed in Michigan. But our central time zone showed 5pm. Though we arrived half hour early for the trip, in reality we were half hour late and our boat had already left. So we had to take the next day’s cruise as the weather was becoming pretty dull for the 5pm cruise.
The true natural and untouched beauty of the region was captivating. The cliffs and underwater ledges formed over years of sand deposits created a unique shoreline in the region. Mineral stains give color to the miles of cliffs and reefs in the region. Red and orange colors are iron, black is manganese, white is limonite, and green is a trace of copper. There are a range of hues in the caves, arches, and cliffs that you would not expect in a rock! Light aqua, sea foam green, beige, dark brown to black, and they change again to orange, red and yellow. The color of the water changes as well, with the sun it is turquoise, under the clouds it becomes grey, when it is calm it looks light blue or when rough it looks navy.
People come from all over the world to see this sight unique to the Michigan landscape. Though the region is very picturesque (as the name goes), boaters often meet with treacherous conditions. The biggest and the deepest great lake is not to be tampered with. It has a tendency to swallow ships and spit them back to shore. But don’t worry, that’s only on a bad day.
People who enjoy hiking can explore the beaches and trails in the region that run many miles.
The real beauty of the mosaic of colors, textures, and sights of the place cannot be captured in the lenses of any camera. You need to see it to believe it.
After the spell bounding cruise trip, we headed for the waterfalls in the region. There are around 17 waterfalls in the area some of which are temporary and are visible only during spring time. Short hikes along trails from the parking areas lead to the falls. We hiked to Miners falls, Sable Falls, and Wagner Falls only.
There are innumerable activities in the region for everyone throughout the year. This is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Waterfalls, beaches, hiking trails, boat rides, kayaks etc. are to name a few. Wintertime too has plenty of outdoor activities of different levels and preferences. The long winters provide opportunities for ice climbing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and ice fishing. There are many museums too that showcases the history of the region. Proper planning is required while visiting the area so that you don’t miss out the most exciting and also important places.
At about 3 pm Sunday we started our return journey. We chose a different route through the Porcupine Mountains
wilderness state park which has scenic views. The Presque isle in this region is worth the visit, specially the evening sunset. We stopped there to capture the charm of the evening sun. It was an experience that words cannot define nor pictures do any justice.
The scenic drive through the park was another magical part of the trip. The park too has many things to see and do but it was not part of our plan and so we drove through it enjoying the views alongside the road. We halted for the night at hotel Ramada in Marquette city.
Next morning we continued our return journey, which is always tiring and boring.
We reached home at around 8.pm by daylight fortunately.
There are so many things to say about the place and so many pictures to be shown that this brief write-up cannot cover. Moreover, the real magnanimity of the beauty of the place cannot be interpreted in just a few words or pictures.
“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions, nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.”…Leonardo DaVinci
“Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors Veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My heart was touched by your glorious greetings
As I stood numb admiring your first strokes on the earth.
I feasted on your magnetic beauty
As you rose from beneath the sky.
An unspoken communication took place between us
As I tried to capture you through my lenses.
With a mystical smile thou beamed through the turf
Glazing out hues of orange and red.
A precious privilege for the early risers
A blessing from the angels above
A celestial song buzzed around
Even in the stillness of the dawn.
I think this is the trip that made me feel like a professional photographer. Till date I was clicking pictures only to keep them as memories but after visiting this place, I started liking photography in the real sense. I wanted to make my pictures look as stunning as the landscape looked in reality.
Last Dec, we took a morning flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix and from there rented a car to drive through Utah. It was a long 5 ½ hrs. drive to reach the magnificent Monument Valley. At first the drive through the long stretch of barren land was boring but as we neared the valley the landscape became more attractive. It is here that I got the real experience of being in the wild Wild West in the true sense.
The backdrop of many a Hollywood movie, Monument valley is located in the northern border of Arizona, close to the Four Corners region, along highway 163. The valley is marked by a group of iconic and huge sandstone buttes, spires, and monoliths that creates a mesmerizing spectacle.
The drive itself became astounding as we approached our hotel ‘View’ true to its name. The long road stretching towards the red cliffs was awesome in its own way. It was nearly dark when we reached the hotel and we got some stunning sunset pictures.
The view from our room was fantastic.
Early next morning we woke up for some early morning shots. It was pretty cold outside with slight snow fall but we were too excited to feel the cold. There were very few people waiting for sunrise pictures. A tour guide approached us to know if we would like to book one for the valley drive but we preferred to drive on our own. After taking a couple of sunrise pictures we headed down the valley.
The 17 miles drive through the rocky, bumpy and muddy road cannot be described in words. We stopped in between along the overlooks and viewpoints to take our pictures and also to enjoy the beautiful colorful sandstone rock formations.
The little snow scattered here and there added to the beauty to the whole scene. There are 11 main stops in the loop and the drive takes almost 2 hrs as the speed limit is 15mph. the road is so bumpy that at times the speed is even less than that.
There are also some ancient cave and cliff dwellings, natural arches and petroglyphs at isolated locations and can be viewed only as part of guided tours. Luckily that day there was less traffic in the area and we could drive at our own pace.
The experience through the valley cannot be expressed in words. It was as if we were travelling in some outer planet.
The main points are:
1. The Mittens and Merrick Butte
2. Elephant Butte
3. Three Sisters
4. John Ford’s Point
5. Camel Butte
6. The Hub
7. Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
8. Totem Pole and Sand Spring
9. Artist’s Point
10. North Window
11. The Thumb
There’s no doubt about it, no tour of the American West is complete without a visit to Monument Valley.
Clicking through the area non stop, I felt like I could go on for ever.