Sound advice: Behave when crossing the border
For the third time in four days, we are crossing the border again at Niagara Falls.
We are sightseeing Niagara Falls and in the process of a 6,000 mile trip around the Great Lakes, we tell the Canadian agents.
There have been no problems coming or going.
Questions will vary between border control agents on either side. The Canadians want to know if we have a gun on board. The gun question was asked during each entry. They wanted to know where we lived, why we were coming to Canada and how long were we staying; purpose, are we bringing anything to leave behind, firearms, tobacco or alcohol.
A felon might want to stay home. If traveling with children, it is wise to bring their birth certificates.
The U. S. agents in the past have sent an agricultural specialist into our RV to check the refrigerator. Once they found and confiscated a half lime. Fruit flies, they say, can harm the U. S. citrus crops.
Returning from Canada into the U. S. an agent asked for our vehicle registrations for both RV and tow car. The registration papers were within arm’s reach.
Not that we are professional border crossers, we have learned to make a list and have it readily available. On that list will be alcohol—specifically the number of bottles of liquor, wine and beer. If entering either country, avoid carrying more than $10,000 cash and make a list of any purchases and the cost of each. For some reason, we have never been asked if we were carrying that much cash. Ha.
Crossing the border is serious business. Remove your sunglasses. The agent wants to see your face. This is not the time to joke with the agents. Look them in the eye and behave yourself. Have everything readily available: passport, driver’s license, vehicle registration papers, shot records for the dog and proof of vehicle insurance. Canada also requires braking systems on RV tow vehicles to prevent breakaway.
Agents will randomly board and inspect every nook and cranny of an RV. This is not the time to be sneaking a gun into Canada.
More border crossing information is available online.
Notes from along the road around the Great Lakes
Coyotes and wolves hybrid
Not far from our campground in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, we heard reports of coyote or coywolves attacking and killing dogs and small farm animals. Authorities say the coywolves are mostly coyotes but contain a small percentage of wolf from an unlikely mating of the species years ago. They exist throughout the northeastern U. S. and eastern Canada and have been confirmed in northeast lower Michigan. Coyotes do not hunt in packs or stalk their prey, however, there have been reports that coywolves may stalk their prey. (http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4978724-coyote-coywolf-attacks-have-ontario-communities-worried)
Walking 600 miles in 30 days
In Wiarton, Ontario, Canada, we talked with a young couple who were hiking the Bruce Trail from Toronto to Tobermory, a distance of 600 miles. They were planning to finish the hike in 30 days or an average of 20 miles per day. Nice to be young. The trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, one of the thirteen UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada, for almost 900 km (560 mi).
Camping from South America to Canada
In St. Ignace, Michigan, we camped near a couple from Sweden who were driving a German made MAN diesel truck camper conversion that had been shipped from Europe to South America. From South America they drove the high wheeled vehicle through South America, Central America, Mexico and across the United States and into Canada. The truck was built for back country rugged driving but from the outside didn’t appear to have many camper features.
A close encounter of the bear kind
Heidi dog’s bathroom clock went off as usual at 6:30 a.m. in a Sault St. Marie, Ontario, Canada, campground on the edge of town. Half awake, and in the dark, we walked about 50 yards from the RV to a fenced-in dog park where she proceeded to take care of her morning toilet, as they call it in Italy, then walked back to the RV. Fifteen minutes later, a huge black bear weighing at least 400 (say the spotters) pounds, made a brief visit into the campground following the same route we walked only minutes before. It climbed a tree near the dog walk area, woofed and clicked its teeth a few times at a barking dog, then exited the tree and the campground. We are not in Kansas.
Who would have thought?
It’s early September and we’re camped in St. Ignace, Michigan and awoke to a startling 37 degrees outside temperature. Inside the RV it was 53. Thank goodness for a gas furnace that works.
Walking and driving the Mackinaw Bridge
On Labor Day an estimated 30,000 people with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder leading the way, walked across the five mile long Mackinaw Bridge. Two lanes of the four lane bridge were blocked off for walkers. It was the 58th year for the annual bridge walk. A week later while we were staying in St. Ignace on the Canadian side of the bridge, more than 1000 antique tractors were driven across the bridge. It was the eighth year for the event. The bridge is more than a bridge for vehicles.
Speaking of bears, Michigan has between 15,000 and 19,000 black bears. About 90 percent of those live in the Upper Peninsula, where we are currently camped. Males can be five feet tall and weigh 400 pounds. We have hiked many a mile in Michigan and yet to see a bear which is fine.
Extra camping fees in Michigan
Local residents pay $11 for an annual camping permit called “Recreation Passport” that allows them to stay in Michigan State Parks. In addition, they must also pay the camping fee which can vary from park to park. . Non-residents must pay $31 for the Recreation Passport plus the camping fee. Michigan also charges $8.40 for campers pulling a tow-car if they disconnect the vehicle while in the campground.
Dinner with the critters
At Sault St. Marie, Michigan, we had dinner at a very unusual place called The Antlers. There are over 200 animal mounts scattered throughout the restaurant with dozens of various antlers tacked to the ceiling and walls. Deer, antelope, bears, big cats polar bear and fish are among the critters mounted on the walls and ceiling. Most thrilling, however, was the news that The Antlers has been featured on a national television show My Ghost Stories. Nothing scary about the hamburgers. They were delicious.
Waterfalls are becoming major attractions
In Canada we found waterfalls galore in the area around Owen Sound, Ontario and all were attracting lots of visitors. At Munising, Michigan, the area boasts at least 12 major waterfalls. Most communities are taking advantage of the waterfalls as an attraction and publishing separate brochures with pictures and maps for visitors to the area.
Driving across the Mackinaw Bridge
It was drizzling rain and clouds were covering the tops of the five-mile-long Mackinaw Bridge during our crossing giving us the impression that we were climbing into the clouds—an erie feeling. When built in the late 50’s it was the tallest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge is the dividing line for Great Lakes Michigan and Huron. ????
How far did we travel?
5,728 miles, used 639 gallons of fuel, and spent 60 nights in campgrounds
Big snowfall, extreme cold for most of Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The world’s largest lift bridge connects Houghton and Hancock, Michigan.
The Quincy mine near Hancock, MI, is open for tours that goes into the mine to the seventh level.
The highway to Houghton, Michigan followed the shores of Lake Superior most of the way passing through Marquette, the largest city on the Upper Peninsula with just over 21,000 people and Christmas, maybe the smallest and too few to count.
The camping grapevine told us about a little campground in Houghton with only 25 campsites but offered all the trimmings, including waterfront sites.
We were surprised when our campsite was located on the shores of Portage Lake and included a concrete pad with our own private wooden deck, covered picnic table, charcoal grill, ringed fire pit, cable television and free wifi. The roads in the campground were also paved.
The campground is operated by the City of Houghton and stays full most of the summer. Fortunately, we were here in late September, long after Labor Day when kids are back in school and fewer campers on the road.
The spiral staircase going to the top of the lighthouse at Eagle Harbor is so narrow visitors go backwards down the steps.
The lighthouse at Eagle Harbor, Michigan.
Like most cities along Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula where winters are severe, Houghton holds the distinction of having the third-most days below 32 degrees of any city in the U. S. and an average of 218 inches of annual snowfall. They have 100 days per year when the daytime high failed to reach 32 degrees.
Locals jokingly say Houghton has two seasons: “winters here and winter’s coming.”
It was in the 50’s at night but daytime temperatures were in the upper 60’s and low 70’s during our visit, making it difficult to relate to its winters.
The view from our campsite rivaled any of the 40 or so campgrounds on this Great Lakes trip.
We drove from Houghton across the world’s largest lift bridge over Portage Lake to Hancock then headed mostly north on the Keweenaw Peninsula into the area where copper was industrially mined in the mid 1800’s. The mines were so successful that they employed thousands of people, most of them immigrants from Europe, who came with mining experience near the turn of the century.
Eagle River Falls is a roadside attraction on the Keeweenaw Peninsulal between Hancock and Copper Harbor. During the area’s mining boom, the waters once generated electricity fora nearby plant that served the industry.
The mining boom continued until 1967 and some mines are now preserved and listed as National Historic Sites offering daily underground tours. We drove past the Quincy Mine just outside Hancock as we were driving north to Copper Harbor. This mine operated until the 1970’s when locals made a successful effort to save a few of them for historical purposes. Today’s visitors to the mine are taken underground and down to the 7th level by the Quincy and Torch Lake Cog Railway.
The town of Calumet, which is north of Hancock, also has remnants of its successful mining days. The Boston-based Calumet and Hecia Mining Company produced more than half of the country’s copper from 1871 to 1880.
The entire Downtown Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We continued north, stopped at a waterfall and took a tour of the Eagle Harbor lighthouse. Eagle Harbor is a small community built around a small harbor on Lake Superior which appeared to be mostly summer vacation cottages.
Several people along the way had told us to take the Brockway Mountain Road to Copper Harbor and we were not disappointed. The scenic road is eight miles long and reaches 1300 feet high at one point with a wide view of Lake Superior and the town of Copper Harbor.
The temperature was 47 degrees when we broke camp at Houghton the following morning and headed home. Weather reports were predicting heavy rains from the Great Lakes to the southern United States. We left Michigan in an effort to get ahead of the storm.
It rained through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and parts of South Carolina. Our last night on the road was near Lake Wateree, about 20 miles north of Columbia which a few days later would be severely damaged by heavy rainfall.
Our Great Lakes trip was over.
Getting up close at Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Munising, MI
Morning temperatures were in the low 50’s and trees were showing their fall colors as we left Paradise, MI., on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and headed west 70-miles to Munising.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in the waters of Lake Superior about a half-hour boat ride from Munising but high winds the past two days have cancelled the tour boat trips to see the massive shoreline rocks.
Miners Falls is located near Munising, MI., inside the Pictured Rocks National Shore Park.
Our campground is on the shores of Lake Superior and through advanced reservations, managed to secure a site on the waterfront.
“It’s windy and cold but the view from our campground is gorgeous,” writes Martha in her journal.
We took care of some housekeeping duties (cleaned the RV and went to a local laundromat to wash clothes) and visited a couple nearby waterfalls. Seems there are waterfalls at every stop on the Upper Peninsula. Later in the day we took the tow car and drove up the coast for a view of Pictured Rocks from the shoreline. We stopped at Miner’s Castle and walked to an overlook for a closer look. We were several hundred feet above the shoreline standing on a cliff overlooking Miners Castle.
Miners Castle is a huge sandstone cliff shaped into the form of a castle by wind and rain. We would see this again tomorrow from a boat on Lake Superior if the winds cooperate.
Back at the campground from Martha’s Journal, “Ron built a fire which we enjoyed for about an hour before the combination of cold temperatures and 30 mile an hour winds forced us inside. It rained and the wind blew hard during the night. The seasons are changing. It is warm one day, cool the next. Will rain for two or three days, then sunshine and nice cool temperatures.”
Finally, on the third day, winds calmed and we boarded one of three double-decker boats for the half-hour ride to the Pictured Rocks. Temperatures were in the low 50’s when we left the RV this morning.
While many hearty tourists selected open-air seats on top of the double-decker boat, we opted to sit inside with other warm weather visitors. Those outside were afforded the best view but we were warmer and could see the cliffs through windows.
The captain of the tour boat drove up close to the sandstone cliffs and the hilly shoreline, some reaching 200-feet above the shore level and many naturally sculptured into shallow caves, arches and in some cases, human profiles.
Following a short walk on a gravel path to the viewing platform, Wagner Creek flows over numerous rock ledges to create a beautiful waterfall.
Martha wrote in her Journal that it was “hard to describe the rocks. They were huge, pink sandstone cliffs with brown, white and green stripes that the cruise boat captain said were caused by the minerals and water seepage in the rocks.
There are only four National Lakeshores in the National Park system and all four are located on Lakes Michigan and Superior.
Wind sailing on a blustery day on Lake Superior near Munising, Michigan.
NEXT: Houghton and Copper Harbor, our last stops on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Whitefish Point museum and memories of Lake Superior shipwrecks
“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitchegumee. The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy…” From the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.
Martha put a pot roast loaded with vegetables (my favorite dinner) in a slow cooker and we took off for the 20-mile drive from Tahquamenon Falls to Whitefish Point.
She says in her journal that the landscape looks so much like Alaska where we lived in another life some 20-years ago.
“We had some views of Lake Superior on the drive. Superior is so big it’s like looking at the ocean.”
At 160 miles wide and over 350 miles long, Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world.
“We are headed for Whitefish Point,” she wrote, “ to see the lighthouse and museum that honors the many shipwrecks that happened off Whitefish Point over the last 100 years, including the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
The museum/lighthouse complex at Whitefish Point on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The lighthouse at Whitefish Point is the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior and dates back to 1849.
Three hundred shipwrecks have been documented by the non-profit organization “The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society” which also operates the museum and lighthouse complex. All shipping traffic passes by the Whitefish Point lighthouse, going or coming on Lake Superior.
Despite the 350 recorded shipwrecks there may be another thousand wrecks lying on the bottom of Lake Superior. The Edmund Fitzgerald, which was immortalized by the singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, is by far the most widely known.
Our golden retriever takes a stroll along the Lake Superior shoreline.
On November 9, 1975 the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald and its’ 29 man crew, heavily loaded with iron ore, was lost just 17-miles from Whitefish Point during a massive storm with wind gusts approaching 90-miles-per hour and possibly 30-foot seas.
The non-profit organization sponsored a recovery effort and with a remotely operated underwater recovery vehicle found the ship and its ship’s bell which is now on display in the Whitefish Point Museum. An identical bell was engraved with the names of all 29 crewmen to replace the original bell.
An observation desk at Whitefish Point as seen from the top of the lighthouse.
During the visit to Whitefish Point we climbed to the top of the lighthouse and looked across Lake Superior—trying to imagine how something so spectacular could be so deadly. The guide mentioned there could be 6,000 ships lying at the bottom of all five Great Lakes.
I took Heidi dog for a walk along the now calm Lake Superior shoreline, the fifth and final great lake visited on this trip.
Colorful Tahquamenon Falls is another Michigan natural attraction
The Tahquamenon River cuts through the state park of the same name and sports two huge waterfalls on its way to Whitefish Bay which is part of big Lake Superior.
We are camped in the state park near the tiny town of Paradise, MI., and within walking distance of the lower falls but it’s the upper falls about four miles away that grabs most of the attention. Over 50,000 gallons per second goes over the falls, second only in volume to Niagara Falls east of the Mississippi. The falls are impressive and very loud.
Tannins from cedar swamps that drain into the river give it a golden-brown color which can be seen in photographs and accounts for the name “Rootbeer Falls” as referred to by locals. Shades of green and blue appear along with the brown color in late fall.
There are five campgrounds in the 46,179 acre park. We stayed at Hemlock at the lower falls on gravel campsites with plenty of room between campers. Many of the people here are from other parts of Michigan and vacation in the U.P. during late September when most of the tourists have gone elsewhere.
Heidi, our golden retriever traveling companion is puzzled by the chipmunks which venture within a few feet looking for a handout. She is on a leash and still as a mouse knowing any movement will send them scurrying back into the trees.
The campground and area around nearby Paradise, MI., reminded us of Alaska scenery without the mountains.
Weather in late September on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remains cool at night—sometimes in the mid-40’s—and upper 60’s or low 70’s during the daytime. Leaves are just starting to welcome fall with a few trees showing bright colors. It’s easy to pick out locals who stay here year round and brave the harsh winters. They have multiple loads of firewood stacked or dumped in the front yard ready to ward off the freezing temperatures and to survive several hundred inches of snowfall. Those without firewood are just here for the summer and head to warmer climate when the winds of November start to blow.
NEXT: Whitefish Point and the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Youpers bring their own dialect to Michigan’s popular Upper Peninsula; You betcha!
Tahquamenon Falls is located near Paradise, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or the land above the bridge, referring to Mackinac Bridge that connects the peninsula, is where Michiganders go on vacation.
That helps explain why license plates from throughout the country are visible in most Upper Peninsula parking lots. The rest of us have found it, too.
We left behind the memory of passing through U. S. Customs at Sault St. Marie, MI., and headed west on Highway 28 and north on MI 123 en route to Paradise, MI., and immediately noticed the well-maintained roads, the lack of traffic and miles and miles of lush green forest. It’s late September and leaves are already starting to color.
There is not much serious farming here because of the harsh winter weather, although we did notice plenty of backyard vegetable gardens along the highway. Cranberries and blueberries are grown successfully.
Most of the tourists have gone home. RV’s, travel trailers and fifth wheels comprise most of the vehicles on the road. Campgrounds are less than half full, except on weekends.
They come here for the weather—cool nights and mild daytime temperatures– the pristine waters of big Lake Superior, the lush forested landscape, beautiful waterfalls and for some, the lack of people.
The Upper Peninsula or U. P., contains about a third of the land area of Michigan but only three percent of its population.
The towns are small. The largest is Marquette with less than 22,000 residents. Most of the U. P. is remindful of the United States in the 50’s when mom and pop restaurants and motels were plentiful along major roadways. Most highways here are two lane with frequent passing lanes.
And then there’s the roadside rest stops. Unlike most other states, Michigan’s roadside rest stops on the U. P. are not after thoughts but clearly selected for their scenic value whether it’s along the shores of Lake Superior or stops overlooking rivers, creeks or waterfalls.
Add to the dozens of state and national parks that dot the U.P. , the Michigan State Forest system protects over 3.8 million acres.
It is a wilderness place where about 90 percent of the state’s 15,000 to 18,000 bears reside in the U. P. We did not see one on this trip.
Lunch at one of tiny Paradise’s two small restaurants found us looking through a rack of tee shirts sporting the Yooper logo which refers to the people who live on the U. P. Their dialect is a mixture between the Finnish, French Canadian, Scandinavian, German, Italian and Irish who settled this area in the late 1800’s to work the copper and iron ore mines. “You betcha” finds its way in most conversations, including the waitress after she took our lunch order.
The mines in this state once produced more wealth than the California gold rush. Most have closed long after the heydays of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
In addition to the two small restaurants, Paradise has a gas station liquor store and-general store combination, a grocery store, post office, quilt shop and a couple other hard to identify merchants. It is the only commercial place for tourists who are here primarily to see the waterfalls in Tahquamenon State Park and Whitefish Point. Along with Newberry to the south, Paradise is the Gateway to the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan was originally home to many different Native American tribes which are honored in the names of many of its towns. Paradise, for example, is located in Chippewa County.
NEXT: Waterfalls and the ill-fated Edmund Fitzgerald .
A bell pepper sends us to the Group W bench at the border
The train to Agawa Canyon entertained passengers with a live camera showing the landscape where the train had passed. We took this trip a day before crossing the border at Sault St. Marie, Canada into the United States.
The train to Agawa Canyon entertained passengers with a live camera showing the landscape where the train had passed. We took this trip a day before crossing the border at Sault St. Marie, Canada into the United States.
Today we lost our bell peppers and paid an unexpected visit to the security area of the U. S. Border Patrol at Sault St. Marie, Michigan.
It started out like any other border crossing: removed my sunglasses and cap before getting to the booth, had my list of purchases, amount of alcohol (one partial bottle of cheap wine and a couple cans of beer in the refrigerator), had my “down to business” face-on, answered the questions without hesitation and forthright, read off the list of fresh vegetables and that’s when everything started downhill.
Followers of this blog might recall several years ago when a border patrol agricultural specialist came into the RV and removed half a lime. We remained on board and the female agent was friendly and asked about our trip. She brought her own zip lock bag and left with the half lime.
Heidi, our 80-pound overly friendly golden retriever, has her front paws in my lap and is trying to get her head out the window in hopes of a friendly pat on the head from this uniformed man in the booth. She is drooling on my shirt. I keep pushing her away and she keeps coming back. She thinks the border patrol agent stopped the RV to say hello to her.
I did not forget this time and had tossed two perfectly plump limes in the trash the night before arriving at the border.
Confident we were compliant the border patrol agent in the booth asked which fresh vegetables we had in the refrigerator.
Potatoes, squash, lettuce, mushrooms, apples, onions, carrots, cherry tomatoes and a bell pepper, I said proud that I had remembered.
Pull your RV over to the right, he said. There were no smiles on his face as he talked on a radio to another agent announcing he was pulling us over.
Okay. Oh my. It’s happening to us.
Immediately, four Border Patrol agents walked front, back and alongside the RV as we slowly pulled aside and out of the traffic.
I’ve seen this happen to other RV’s and wonder what kind of contraband those people were carrying. Glad it wasn’t us.
Get out of the RV and follow me, said the agent standing just outside the driver’s side window. Do not leave any money in the RV. Put the dog on a leash.
It was happening to us.
Martha grabbed a zip-lock bag full of washing machine quarters and we hooked a leash on Heidi and the three of us followed the lead agent upstairs to the second floor of the Border Patrol secured office building. The stairs were grated steel, the kind you might find in a prison stairwell. Heidi’s claws were hanging up on the steel. She would take a step or two, hang a toe-nail then stop and reluctantly continue after a tug on the leash.
Electric doors clicked open and I suspect but did not see the cameras that surely were recording our arrival. A half dozen border patrol office heads turned as we walked inside and were escorted to a row of chairs along the wall. No one said a word.
It reminded me of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant” where he is caught littering, arrested and told to sit on the Group W Bench with the other criminals.
I asked Martha if this might be the Group W bench but she had no idea what I was talking about.
The agent in charge was polite but all business.
He handed us a sheet of paper printed front and back with current regulations regarding fresh vegetables that were allowed and those prohibited from entering the United States.
Read these directions Mr. Hughes and maybe you won’t have to come visit us the next time you cross the border, he said.
About 30 minutes later he returned and said they had removed a green bell pepper and a small container of cherry tomatoes from the refrigerator and escorted us back downstairs to the RV. He had to stop traffic for us to cross the road to the RV which was still surrounded by agents.
Passengers in passing vehicles were looking at us. I know what they were thinking.
I thought we were in compliance, I told the agent.
Read that paper I gave you.
About a mile down the road, I broke the silence and asked Martha if everything looked in order. She didn’t have time to look as we boarded and left immediately.
Obviously, they did not inspect the entire RV, just the refrigerator. They are within their rights to turn everything upside down.
It was a strange feeling.
Agawa Canyon train trip through Canadian wilderness
Agawa Canyon train trip goes through 114 miles of Canadian wilderness.
From Sault St. Marie, Michigan, the ride across the river puts us in Sault St. Marie, Canada. After passing through customs, we drive through the Canadian version which is much larger than its American cousin.
We spent the night at a campground on the edge of the city, only to awake the next morning to find a huge black bear had scampered up a tree about 50 yards from our RV. Maybe 15 minutes earlier, we had passed that same tree with our golden retriever Heidi en route to the dog walk. It was still dark and although she was somewhat excited on her morning walk, it was an unremarkable outing.
It was a 40 minute round trip walk to Bridal Veil Falls but it was more than worth the effort.
The bear exited the park and did not return.
We drove back into downtown Sault St. Marie the following morning and boarded the Agawa Central Railroad’s passenger train for an all day 114- mile trip to Agawa Canyon. The train travels through wilderness lake country of southern Canada parts of which are in the Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Temperatures were in the low 40s when we left the train station but approached the 70’s when we arrived around lunchtime at the Canyon.
On the way, we passed several large lakes with hunting and fishing lodges along the shores that are only accessible by float planes or old abandoned logging roads. One can imagine staying at one of the lodges and fishing the lakes for walleye, trout, pike and smallmouth bass.
The scenery passing the train windows kept us busy There were several high trestles, a huge power plant and once got a glimpse of Lake Superior about four miles away.
Black Beaver Falls are 175 feet high, somewhat smaller than Bridal Veil which is 225 feet.
We had breakfast on the train and bought box lunches when we reached Agawa Canyon.
After sitting on the train for more than three hours, we welcomed the opportunity to stretch our legs and took a 40 minute hike to a couple of impressive waterfalls, Bridal Veil and Black Beaver. The trails were gravel and well-groomed. We picnicked along the Agawa River before boarding the train for the return trip to Sault St. Marie.
NEXT: Back into Michigan to Paradise.
Getting up close to Great Lakes freighters at Soo Locks
Waiting for the locks to fill before entering Lake Michigan.
The Valley Camp Great Lakes ship, built in 1917 and retired in 1966, is anchored at the Soo Locks Tours for visitors to experience an up-close view of the freighters that travel the lakes.
It’s somewhat overwhelming to pull alongside a giant 1,000-foot moving tanker so close one can almost reach out and touch it.
That happened to us as we waited our turn to go through the locks at Sault St. Marie, Michigan–the gateway that connects the shipping lanes between great lakes Michigan and Huron. Known as the Soo Locks, they have provided a valuable connection between the lakes for more than 160 years.
Getting a close up view of the Great Lakes freighter Federal Hudson as it approaches the Soo Locks at Sault St. Marie, Michigan.
We are among the one million people who visit here annually to get a close-up look of the big freighters as they pass through the locks moving from one lake to the other.
Before the locks were built, ships were portaged overland, a process that sometimes would take months depending on the size of the ships. Over 5,000 ships now traverse the locks annually.
Passing through the locks on the Canadian side.
While we watched the ships from a Soo Locks Tour boat, visitors can watch the process from an observation platform within Soo Locks park. There is no admission charge to watch the passages.
In addition to passing through the U. S. locks, our tour boat also passed through the Canadian Locks and provided a close up view of three hydro electric plants, steel mill, paper mill and the waterfront separating the U. S. and Canada. No passports are needed because the tour boat does not stop and dock on the Canadian side.
The Soo Locks are consider the largest waterway traffic system on earth.
We are camping at Sault St. Marie, Canada, and passed through customs to get to Sault St. Marie, Michigan, where the Soo Locks Tour originates.