Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the shipwreck cruise

There are dozens of activities in the Munising area, but unfortunately they all require you to be outdoors! Hiking, cycling, kayaking, boating, and snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter. So with an obviously rainy day on tap and the planned boat ride and hiking expedition cancelled, the tour directors were faced with finding something for us all to do. A check around town led us to the conclusion that Shipwreck Tours was one activity that would still go on in the continual drizzle that was expected for most of the day. So we reserved our spots for the 12:30PM sailing.

This ended up working out well, as did many other on-the-fly decisions throughout the week. Comparing this to the Lake Erie tour that I had just done recently probably isn’t fair since there’s just not as much to work with up here, but whereas that tour had operated with almost military precision and four busy staff members, this tour operated much more loosely with a lot of decisions made each day. That’s not to complain about a lack of service; after all, just the day before Jim had driven one of the participants all the way to Marquette and back to get a broken spoke replaced.

A few people set off in the morning to do some local hiking and visit the waterfalls. I needed to pick up a couple items at a pharmacy and wanted to take a look at the downtown area, so I told Jim that I would just walk into town and meet them later at the boat tour site. Downtown Munising was pretty much as I expected, with a combination of tourist-oriented places and stores for local shopping. Putvin’s Pharmacy was an especially funky place, being combined with a Radio Shack as well as carrying other unrelated merchandise. But I did find what I was looking for.

As I started walking from the store to the boat dock, which was about a mile away, I was glad that I had worn my biking rain gear as the rain started to pick up. Luckily, Jim was on one of his shuttle runs from the hotel, saw me walking, and pulled in so I could ride the rest of the way.

Outfitted for the weather

The shipwreck cruise itself was enjoyable and not at all uncomfortable since it was covered and we were dressed for the cool, damp weather. Due to heavy waves on the big lake, we were only able to observe two of the planned three wrecks, but those were pretty impressive. The cold waters of Lake Superior allow sunken wood to be preserved, and we saw ships on the bottom that had gone down 150 years ago. The glass bottom viewing area gave us an opportunity to see many interesting details of these ships, although it was hard to get a good snapshot of them. It was a pretty cool experience nevertheless.

The best picture I could get as we drifted over the wreck

I also enjoyed being able to get a closer look at Grand Island, which takes up most of the bay in front of Munising and preserves it from a direct pounding by the lake. A lot of the Grand Island shoreline is of the same formation as the Pictured Rocks, and we saw a number of people navigating along it in sea kayaks — not someplace I would like to have been at the time! The entire island is a National Recreation Area and is kept undeveloped but with numerous trails and campsites.

The old lighthouse on Grand Island
Grand Island’s rocky sandstone shoreline

Back at the hotel later in the day, we were scheduled to be on our own for dinner, but nobody was in the mood for another round of shuttling that always involved three trips to move us all using the one support van. So Jim came up with the idea of buying pasties and some sides at a local place and bringing them back to the hotel. Most of us went with that option, which was much appreciated and a way for everyone to enjoy this Upper Peninsula specialty. We of course paid Jim back for our dinner, but the effort was much appreciated and an example of his do-anything attitude.

Not like my wife’s grandmother used to make, but pretty good for commercial fare

It had seemed like a long day and I was really looking forward to nicer weather and a more interesting route on the morrow.

Continue to Day 4

Categories: Tours

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