There are something like 500 waterfalls in Michigan and I believe that 400 of them are likely in the Upper Peninsula, and down the street from my parent's cabin. After a grand 4th of July celebration that left some of us a little wobbly or tired it was time to enjoy nature with group kid friendly activities. Translation - hiking to waterfalls and swimming holes.
Now for the average hiking family one might think that a family friendly hike would involve a groomed trail with a medium to small difficulty. Not in the Upper Peninsula, all trails, no matter the difficulty, are family friendly and traversed in water shoes. Just bring your walking stick and little people hold the hand of the nearest big person.
This particular trail, on this first morning of exploration took us to Silver Falls. It is a big fishing spot and all of the trail along the river is groomed by either the water itself or the fishermen who regularly traverse it.
I walked right smack into a spider web as we made our way along the bank of the river in search of a sandy spot for the kids to swim. I spat and swatted at it stuck to my face like a ghost sticker. I'm pretty sure my niece Kira laughed at my lurching attempt to remove it as I held my not very useful "hiking" purse and a can of sparkling water.
The first location we tried for swimming was not it. Too many rocks, not possible to jump and play in the water without bone breakage. But the sandy beach was just down the way and the men decided to walk downstream to meet us at the sandy beach.
Here they are making their way slowly over the rocks in the river to us as we stood and watched them come forward.
The girls had a super fun time splashing around in the soft sand of the river until a leech was found on Kira's foot - screaming ensued and the leech was removed forthwith. After the leech incident my niece wouldn't get back in the water, and many stories about the benefits of leeches had no impact on the trauma.
Here I am looking very wilderness-y in my waterproof dress, water shoes, can of sparkling water, and Calvin Klein "hiking" purse. Can't you tell I was born in the woods? I'm ready to be a wilderness guide.
Speaking of wilderness this location is about a 5 minute drive from my parents cabin and has a parking lot with an outhouse - so it is a very well maintained state park, by UP standards. There is also the possibility for finding gold in them there hills. Here is my brother-in-law staring wistfully down stream dreaming of it. I joked that we should start a reality TV show called UP Gold Rush and go around interviewing old time Yoopers to get there stories and pan for gold at different waterfalls. It would be more interesting than a lot of the shows on the History channel.
I'd also like you to take notice of the flip flops on Nathan's feet. This is the Yooper water hiking shoe. It is very safe and durable, and will never just slip off your feet. Or maybe it will. I'll take my water shoes - they also kept the leeches off.
Because you can't have streams without the lake or forest without beach we also headed to Second Sand Beach after lunch on the same day to let the kids get so tired that they had a complete and utter meltdown. It was a good time, especially since the wind was blowing pollen into shore - so the water was coated in this mucusy yellow funk that even made me not want to dangle my feet in. We told the kids it was perfectly harmless and natural - because it is - it just looks gross and could possibly make your very itchy if you do not shower after long term exposure.
But nothing more itchy than these blood thirsty predators - to which I was pock marked by on this 3rd day of UP Adventure time. Nathan really wanted me to feature this photo here - killed this one special just for the blog. One mosquito will not be missed. And don't every believe a Yooper if they tell you the mosquitoes "aren't that bad" or "they are just around for a couple of weeks" they are everywhere, hungry and the one thing I would change about this paradise if I could.
We also watched "Big Bird" the Sand Hill Crane who has taken up residence at my parents chasing all of the other birds away from the feeder. He spends 2/3rds of the day eating so it must have a huge family to feed or considers my parents bird feeder to be the jackpot.
Meanwhile, Morpheus the cat was unamused by all of the commotion as there were big and little humans everywhere in different states of distress. Just another day in Upper Peninsula Paradise.