Sunday, 10 September 2023, Houghton MI
How can it be time for another parks trip? I'm still reviewing and posting blogs of my Alaska adventures!
That's the price I now pay for getting so backed up in my posts (and spending so much time off-grid in the far-north). Each entry I work on takes me back to the day I lived it - especially today as I review my glacier-walk writeup, struggling to strike a balance in expressing the emotions that flooded that day.
Every night since I came home, I've dreamt of Alaska, of bears, of kayaking, of all that I did. It's making it hard to focus on my seven remaining parks. Luckily, I'd already scheduled everything for the upper Midwest tour I now embark on.
The other five parks are only penciled in (except for my flights to American Samoa). But a dark shadow has fallen over my plans. The spectre of a threatened government shutdown, closing the parks, adds to my stress load.
My recovery from Alaska continues. Nine days after my glacier face-plants, my face still hurt when I blew my nose. My cheek still feels slightly puffy three weeks on - as if the dentist had shot me with Novocain, and it's only 90% dissipated. My right arm finally healed from the elastic-band motif, though my left elbow still has residual aches from lugging the overweight duffels.
At least this new trip started on the right foot when I checked in for my flight and found that American had given me a complimentary upgrade to first class. Nice! That took a little edge off of a long travel day. Driving directly from Minneapolis to Houghton MI would've taken over six hours, so I inserted a 20-minute detour, driving 3:45 to Wisconsin's Copper Falls State Park to take a nature break, then tackling the last 2:45 to Houghton.
Copper Falls sits in Wisconsin's highlands, straddling the gorge cut by the Bad River. The park website mentioned that Copper Falls laid only a quarter mile from the parking lot,
or one could see three falls in a 1.7 mile loop. I've got nothing but time...
The lush forest cleared my lungs of any stale big city air left over. The park was well-maintained, said several interpretive signs, highlighting the work done by CCC and WPA back in the 1930s.
Major floods in 1946 and 20176 washed away many of the improvements; others got restored.
Signs recommend you start by crossing over the river, doing the loop clockwise. I quieted my inner rebel and did as the sign said - the right move to make. Sure enough, Copper Falls came into view quickly as I found myself now towering over the gorge it carved out. Different viewpoints through the trees exposed different angles of the torrents;
no one view displayed it all.
The trail stayed high, eventually revealing Redstone Falls
as water entered the gorge from a side canyon. After that, the trail descended stairs to reach a bridge at river level.
Time for the return half of the loop.
The trail on the far side formed a short section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which stretches 4,800 miles across eight states
and along the shores of three Great Lakes. This section happened to illustrate the adage, 'What goes down must come back up'. From river level, the trail ascended the hillside on over 80 steps, followed by 17 more after a short respite.
As the trail peaked and slowly started to drop, a boardwalk branched to the right to a pair of viewpoints. Since the falls I'd already seen hugged this side of the gorge, I figured the views would elicit a yawn. The first one, though, showed the Taylor Stream coursing down a narrow cleft to join the Bad.
Then I stepped to the second overlook - and my jaw dropped.
I saw a series of cascades roiling down the terrain, hemmed in by lush greenery.
Sure, I had another 2¾ hours to drive, but it made my day. Not that the park was through with me - a couple more photo ops
still lay in wait - but I already considered the day a success.