Ad”Van”tures: Volume 1, August 6 through August 12

So I’m going to try beginning writing about the adventures I’m taking in the van now that it is close to completion.  With the summer wrapping up and the school year about to begin, I’m trying to squeeze every last bit of fun I can get from summer.

One of the annual summer adventures I’ve gone on is a camping trip to High Rock Bay.  High Rock Bay, is a remote pebble beach at the end of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Since US-41 ends in Copper Harbor, the rest of the trip must be accomplished in a vehicle capable of navigating the treacherous forest service roads.

With K’s brother being up for the weekend, we scheduled a trip for the 6th and 7th of August, to head to High Rock Bay.  After getting a slightly late start, we wound our way up along the spine of the Keweenaw.  Soon, K’s Subaru was bounding over the rutted road as we made our way past Copper Harbor.

Pulling into High Rock Bay, we were greeted with the sight of Lake Superior.  With the lack of wind, no waves crashed among the conglomerate rock shelves and pebbled beaches that lay around us.  Piling out of the car, we embarked on our first adventure, navigating around the conglomerate rock shelves and exploring the beach.  Turning over stones and throwing them in the lake, I soon encountered a snake which I promptly caught.

As the sun started to dip in the sky, we climbed into the car once again and made our way to out campsite.  Parking at the Keweenaw Rocket Range, we enjoyed some wild raspberries before loading up our gear and making our way to the site.

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Home for the Night

We made camp tucked just in the forest.  About 50 feet back from the water lay a stone fire pit someone had built.  K, his brother, and girlfriend went and looked for firewood and I built a fire with what I already had.  After gathering enough for the night we soon headed out swimming.  The water was cold, but not unbearable.  However, we didn’t linger and made our way to shore to roast hot dogs.

We ate dinner and enjoyed our conversation around the fire as the sun sank below the horizon and the stars slowly fade into focus in the sky.  We decided to lie on the pebble beach for a while and then headed off to sleep late into the night.

The following morning I awoke early.  Crawling out of my sleeping bag, I tip toed to my pack. I too out my GoPro and set it up facing east.  I crawled back into my sleeping bag and fell asleep as my GoPro recorded the sunrise.

Soon everyone else was up.  After gathering firewood, we roasted poptarts over the open flames.  Breaking down camp, we made our way back to the car.  Heading out from our campsite, we slowly wound our way down the Mandan Loop, pausing to pick thimble berries along the way.

We stopped in Mohawk for breakfast, and then headed to Douglass Houghton Falls to explore.

I stopped in Houghton to take care of some work related items, but our adventures weren’t done.  We left Houghton, and headed south towards Baraga.  We ventured into Ottawa National Forest to Sturgeon River Gorge.

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The Sturgeon River in Ottawa National Forest

Sturgeon River Gorge is a fairly popular swimming hole.  Despite being 12 miles off of paved roads, many people flock here to escape the summer heat and enjoy the cliff jumping opportunities.  Because of the intertwining rocks, there are many opportunities for launching oneself off many platforms of varying heights- the highest are about 40 feet in height.

As we walked along the trail that would bring us to the river I heard some rustling in the ferns that lined that path.  Peeling away the leaves, I caught a faint glimpse of two yellow stripes on a smooth black body- a garter snake!  Leaping towards him, I wrapped my hands around the soft scales of the serpent as he desperately flailed to escape me.  There were so many snakes on this path!  I couldn’t just stop at one.  I caught several as we made our way to the falls.

Despite my consistent interruptions to chase reptiles, we eventually made our way to the falls.  I’d been here many previous times, but jumping off the cliffs didn’t get any less frightening.  I started small, jumping off an easy 10 foot cliff into the stained waters of the Sturgeon River.  The shock of the water felt good on my body.  Nice and cold.  I swam to the rocks in the center of the river, well, let the current carry me I guess as I navigated my body in the correct direction.  I paused for a moment, taking in the scenery that surrounded me, then plunged back in to the other side.  K and I were already at the rim of the rock, leaning precariously over the waters below.  I made my way to them.  They quickly jumped off the rock leaving me alone.  I paused, attempting to quell my fear of heights that was rising in my chest.  I let got of the tree I was holding onto and sprung off of my legs.  I jumped into the air with gravity taking a hold of me and pulling me to the waters below.  Despite only 35 feet from the height of jump to the churning rapids below, time seemed to slow.  Disorienting is the best way to describe what it feels like to jump into a river from that height.  The murky brown waters pulled me down stream as bubbles slowly rose to the surface.  My head made it above the water.  I gasped air, shook the water out of my hair and eyes and crawled to the other side.  I was all smiles.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the gorge and the cliff jumping there.  I spent the next week finalizing my van, then getting ready to fully move in.  I’ll be posting again soon with more ad”van”tures.

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