Rolling On the River

Northwoods Journal

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mark left work at 1 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) and I had just about everything loaded up and ready to go when he got home so we were on the road by 2:08. The idea was that we were leaving “early” and would therefore miss all the rush hour traffic. Unfortunately there was some sort of highway incident at Milan – rumor said a dump truck had snagged some power lines and brought them down over the road – and we hadn’t even gone 20 miles when we were stuck in stopped-dead traffic. We crept and crawled along for an hour. I don’t know how true the dump truck story was, but we did pass a semi-truck that had been going northbound and must have gotten tired of sitting in traffic so decided to try and cross the grassy median to make a U-turn to the southbound lanes. Needless to say, with all the rain we’ve been having, that didn’t work out so well, so the stuck semi was causing more backups for both north and southbound lanes. It appeared the truck driver was getting written up by the State Police as we crept by. Two hours after hitting the road we finally made it to Brighton – a whole 40 miles from home!

Thankfully, once we got past Flint, it was fairly smooth sailing. We stopped at a rest area just south of Pinconning and as we were getting the dogs out, Mark spotted a lot of activity in the mulberry trees nearby. They were full of cedar waxwings!! I’ve gotten smart and now keep my camera case in the front with me so I quickly grabbed my camera and got a few shots. I was so excited! I rarely get to see cedar waxwings and this was my first time ever getting photos! I think they are one of the coolest looking birds and I’m always delighted when they show up in Quiet Solo Pursuits’ posts.

Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.

Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.

Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.
Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.
Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.

Cedar waxwing in mulberry tree.

As you can see from the photos, the wind was really blowing. I was behind the wheel when we left the rest area and hadn’t driven five miles when we hit torrential downpours. The rain came down so hard I could barely see the road! This is when being a praying person really comes in handy and thankfully the heavy squalls were intermittent and by time we got off at exit 202 the worst of the rain was behind us.

A drive that normally takes us between 4 and 4 ½ hours took nearly 5 ½ but we arrived safe and sound and except for the grass (really, weeds) being knee high and our woods looking like a jungle and mosquitoes swarming like mad, everything was in good shape when we got here. After we unpacked, the dogs wanted their hike so we took them up Stevens Spring to the ATV trail. As we were walking up the road, there was a bird high up in the trees really giving us a hard time. When we stopped to see what it was, Mark noticed a hanging nest! So, then we knew it was an oriole chattering at us. Of course, I had not taken my camera! We walked the ATV trail toward Sportmens Dam Lake and saw a couple of deer and then sand hill cranes in the marshy area near the lake’s north end. I was so mad I hadn’t taken my camera! Today I went back and took a picture of the nest.

Hanging basket oriole nest.

Hanging basket oriole nest.

Since we cancelled our big vacation down to the mountains, I told Mark I didn’t want this weekend to be all about work, or all about keeping the dogs placated, I wanted to do some “vacation” type things. Thanks to the US23 Heritage Route website, I discovered there is a paddleboat cruise out of Oscoda that goes up the Au Sable River. This sounded like something fun and different, so I made reservations for us to take the cruise.

Oscoda is about a 1 ½ hour drive from our cabin and we were supposed to be at the dock by 12:30, so we left our place just before 10. The day was nearly perfect, except for maybe a bit on the chilly side, but there was plenty of sun and blue sky. It was a very pretty drive and since we had extra time to spare, we stopped at the Lumberman’s Monument and Visitor’s Center.

This might come as a surprise but there is a monument to the lumbermen at this park.

Lumbermen's monument, front view.

Lumbermen’s monument, front view.

Lumbermen's monument, back view.
Lumbermen’s monument, back view.

  I was pretty disappointed when I uploaded my photos and saw that the middle figure’s face is entirely in shadow. I wish I would have paid more attention when I took the photo! Good thing I got one from the back where there was plenty of light. 🙂

The park commands a grand view of the Au Sable River.

The Au Sable River and Cook's Pond.

The Au Sable River and Cook’s Pond.

We decided to walk the steps down to the floating cook shack.

Floating cook shack.

Floating cook shack.

Floating cook shack.
Floating cook shack.

These dunes can be seen at many spots along the river and they are called rollways because the lumbermen used to stack giant pyramids of logs at the top, and then roll them down the bank into the water.

One of the many rollways along the Au Sable River.

One of the many rollways along the Au Sable River.

Here is a view of some of the 250+ steps we had to walk down and then back up again. (I’m not sure of the exact number of steps, a sign near the top said 242 but the brochure from the park said 280. You can tell they have recently been rebuilt.)

It was easier going down than back up! :)

It was easier going down than back up! 🙂

There are nearly 8 miles of hiking trails in the park and also many educational and interpretive exhibits of the lumbering era. We definitely want to go back when we have more time to explore the area.

We arrived at the Au Sable River Queen dock just before 12:30. The temperature had dropped and it was very windy and cold.

The Au Sable River Queen at dock.

The Au Sable River Queen at dock.

The Au Sable River Queen.
The Au Sable River Queen.

They began boarding the boat at 12:45 and the cruise was supposed to leave at 1 o’clock. They were waiting on a tour bus full of people that was running late. A little known fact about me is that from March of 1986 until September of 2002 I suffered with debilitating panic attacks and anxiety. For a time I became agoraphobic and could barely leave my house to do the most basic of tasks. Eventually I was put on medication that saved my life and helped me function. Then, in September of 2002 I experienced what can only be described as a miraculous encounter that returned me to being a normal person and I haven’t been on anti-anxiety meds since. With the onset of my lymphocytic colitis a year-and-a-half ago, I began having small bouts of anxiety from time to time. As we sat on the Au Sable River Queen I had the worst panic attack I’ve had in nearly 13 years. If you’ve never experienced a panic attack for yourself, there is absolutely no way I can adequately describe it in words. All I can say is I thought for sure that I was going to run off that boat and we were going to have to eat our $30. Mark must have seen the look on my face because he asked me if I was okay and I told him I was having a panic attack. He talked me down off the ledge and told me that once we got moving and I could take pictures, I would be fine. I wasn’t so sure. We were probably a good 20 or 30 minutes into the cruise before I stopped feeling like I was going to throw myself overboard. Here is the view from my window.

My view from the paddleboat.

My view from the paddleboat.

And here is the Foote Dam that creates this giant body of water out of the Au Sable River.

Foote Dam.  Rather unimpressive from this side.

Foote Dam. Rather unimpressive from this side.

The cruise lasts approximately two hours and goes 19 miles round trip. The ship is a little shabby but they have a snack bar on board and a bar for alcoholic drinks on the upper deck. Depending on your sense of humor, you may enjoy Captain Roger’s jokes, or you might not. 😉 Once I calmed down, I did enjoy the cruise very much. It was a pleasant jaunt and we got to see a juvenile bald eagle along the way.

Juvenile bald eagle.

Juvenile bald eagle.

Unfortunately everything was a bit far out of my camera range. There was also a turtle sunning itself on a stump.

Turtle sunning itself on a stump.

Turtle sunning itself on a stump.

There were lots of sea gulls circling around us the entire time and I tried to get a good flying bird photo, but they were just too quick for me.

One of many gulls following us upriver.

One of many gulls following us upriver.

When we made the turn to head back down river, Mark and I moved to the upper deck to see how the view was from there. I got some nice shots of the paddlewheel.

Paddlewheel.

Paddlewheel.

Paddlewheel.

Paddlewheel.

As we passed Devil’s Island – yes, at one time this used to be an island until an ice flow took out the last of the trees – I noticed a common tern among all the gulls.

What's left of Devil's Island.

What’s left of Devil’s Island.

Common tern among the gulls.

Common tern among the gulls.

Despite the panic attack at the beginning, I thought the cruise was very enjoyable. Mark thought it was a bit too long. I think if I had a complaint it would be that there wasn’t more wildlife to see. The cruise is most popular in the fall when they do color tours twice a day during the week and three times a day on weekends in September and October.

It was after 5 p.m. when we returned home. The first thing we saw when we drove in was that the septic guy had been here to dig the test hole – and he had dug it right where the current septic is, digging up one of the existing pipes. Such is our life.

Mark wanted to set right to work on mowing so I took the dogs for a quick walk up the road. When we were coming back down Stevens Spring, a deer stepped out into the road. She was quickly joined by a fawn. I was so excited, but even more so when a second fawn stepped out of the woods! Of course, right about then the three beagles saw them and set to howling, causing the doe and her twins to quickly dash back in to the cover of the woods.

After dinner and dishes we sat outside around a campfire for about an hour but since we are so close to summer solstice it still wasn’t dark when we came back inside to get ready for bed!

I’m closing this post with a photo of a sassy red ground squirrel who was giving me the business after I chased her away from the bird seed. I know Mr. Tootlepedal has a fondness for red squirrels, even though ours aren’t as cute as the Scottish kind.

Red ground squirrel eating bird food.

Red ground squirrel eating bird food.

Red ground squirrel reading me the riot act.

Red ground squirrel reading me the riot act.

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16 Responses to Rolling On the River

  1. avian101 says:

    Very interesting post Amy, you have a lot of energy to do so much work and adventure. I liked the waxwings shots! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the shout out, and congratulations on some great photos of the waxwings!

    I’ve never been to Foote dam, even though I love the Au Sable River, so seeing the area in your photos was a treat. Shooting photos on a moving boat can be tricky, as I learned on the Pictured Rocks cruise, I think that yours are great.

    It’s too bad that you cancelled your trip to the Appalachians, I was looking forward to seeing the photos from that trip, but staying in Michigan isn’t all bad either. 😉

    Your story about sitting on what I assume was US 23 northbound brings back lots of memories, been there, done that. For my trips, I always have a back-up route (or two) in mind for just such occasions, which is nearly every Friday northbound, anywhere in the state. Same with southbound on Sunday. The advantage, besides not being stuck in traffic, is seeing things that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, an added bonus. Michigan is a beautiful state, but very few parts of it photograph well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We don’t come up Friday nights or go home Sundays anymore because of the bad traffic. Normally when we get in bad traffic we will get off and take an alternate route, but there are a couple areas where that is difficult and between Milan and Ann Arbor is one of them. The other area that’s hard to detour around is Saginaw. We have to go really far out of our way to get around those two areas. We thought leaving Thursday at 2 would be good, LOL. Mark normally gets really antsy sitting in traffic so I expected him to get off and go around, but he was “trying to stay positive”. 🙂

      I was disappointed to cancel our trip, I think I was more disappointed than I even realized until the time for leaving arrived, but hopefully we can do it next year.

      I was so excited about the waxwings. We saw some today over at Pigeon River but they didn’t allow me to get photos!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kathydoremus says:

    Great Waxwing shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tootlepedal says:

    Lovely to see a waxwing. We didn’t get any visits from them this spring. Your squirrels are quite cut enough for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carolynn says:

    Great shots, Amy! Just the other day there was a waxwing (we call them Bohemian waxwings here in this part of Canada), sitting on our birdhouse in the backyard. My friend asked me what is was. Usually they are in groups and so I wondered if it really was a waxwing. I told her I’d check Amy’s blog. More than once, you’ve solved a mystery for me. Thanks.
    Sorry to hear about the panic attack. It must be a very frightening experience. Relieved to hear you were able to enjoy the rest of the journey, in spite of it.
    God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your name for the waxwings, as they do appear very Bohemian! That is perfect! I’m glad my photos could answer your question. It was pretty awesome to get some pictures of them. Yesterday we saw some, but they weren’t cooperative to get photos!!

      I’m hoping the panic attack was just an aberration and will not become a common occurrence again. I have no wish to be ensnared again in that yoke of bondage!!

      Love you, my friend! ❤

      Like

  6. Tiny says:

    Lovely shots of the waxwings! And I enjoyed all your landscape/riverscape photos too! I’m happy your panic attack subsided quite quickly and you could enjoy the cruise. We always want to see more wildlife, but my experience from boating is that the birds and other wildlife tend to be very far even when we see them. Much love, Tiny

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my friend! Yes, because the “river” (really a lake at that part) is so broad, everything we did see was very far away!! But it was a fun cruise and the tour bus people were quite fun. One woman was celebrating her 75th birthday so we all sang Happy Birthday to her. 🙂 They were a bit of a rowdy bunch so it made it very entertaining.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bob Zeller says:

    Amy, I really enjoyed this post. I couldn’t stand your traffic though. Out here to go 40 miles takes 30 minutes, and never a traffic tie-up. I hope you can make it out here to the “wide-open” speces one day. Hey, I think I remember Brighton. Back in the 50s (1950s LOL) I seem to remember a quarter-mile dirt track for auto racing. I went there a few times. BTW, Bohemian Waxwings and Cedar Waxwings are two different species. In your area, you should have Cedars all the time, and possibly some Bohemians during your winter. The look very similar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bob! I will have to look up Bohemian waxwings now — I’m curious!

      Normally, where I live, there isn’t too much traffic, but the route going up north is under construction ALL summer long – from early spring to late fall it’s nothing but orange barrels, even in places where you can’t see any need to repair the road!! I do want to get out to Texas someday though! It sure would be awesome to see some of the sights you have photographed!

      Liked by 1 person

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