Advice from a Waterfall: Go with the flow/Roar with excitement/Let your cares fall away/Create your own music/Immerse yourself in nature/Stay active/Make a splash! ~(c) Ilan Shamir http://www.yourtruenature.com
Another day of fun in the sun. Well, not quite today, but it wasn’t raining and we did not have to don parkas so off we went to do some more exploring. Unfortunately, overcast days don’t work so well for taking photos but I told Terry to give it his best shot.
We headed off to the east part of the park today and our first stop was down the beach about 1.5 miles from Au Sable Light Station. There was a great path that wound through the woods but we opted instead to walk along the beach, which took us all the way out to the lighthouse. It was much more picturesque, we thought, with the lake breeze in our face and the waves lapping up on shore.
This stretch of beach lines Au Sable Point (French for “with sand”), which as early as 1622 was recognized as a hazard for mariners. When the lake traffic began to boom in the 19th century with the opening of the Soo Canal, Au Sable Point was particularly dangerous. Many vessels would become victim to its sandstone reef, which is one-half mile wide and stretches out from the shoreline for a mile, lying no more than six feet below the surface is some spots. Besides the offshore sandstone reef, the region was infamous for its thick fog as well. Many a ship went aground here and with the weight of the wooden boats and the small engines used at the time, there was no way for them to recover.
We saw evidence of three shipwrecks, all built in the late 1800’s, on this short stretch of beach. The picture above is that of the Sitka, which went down about a mile offshore in heavy fog and high winds in October, 1904. She was 272′ feet in length and her bones now lie on the shore at Au Sable Point.
Mariners felt that “in all navigation of Lake Superior, there is none more dreaded by the mariner than that from Whitefish Point to Grand Island”. Congress took action in 1872, building a lighthouse on Au Sable Point, which was completed in August, 1874. It is the most remote lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula.
We were fortunate to make the decision to tour the lighthouse today as we learned that tomorrow is the last day of the season for doing so and busloads of tourists are brought out for the day. We had the place almost to ourselves and, although the park ranger was not available to give a tour, Harold was kind enough to do so. We learned later that the park ranger is Harold’s daughter and he has been volunteering at Au Sable for the past several years. His daughter completed her thesis on the lighthouse and has gathered extensive data for the on-site museum.
The beacon for the lighthouse projects 18 miles out to sea and is now powered by a photovoltaic system instead of the original Fresnel lens, which still resides at the lighthouse. In 1968 the Au Sable Light Station was transferred to the National Park Service, although the Coast Guard continues to maintain the beacon and solar panel that charges the storage battery.
A few miles down the road is the Log Slide, part of the Grand Sable Dunes. These dunes are believed to have developed during the melting of glacial ice about 9500 years ago.
The picture above is where the Log Slide was during the days of the white pine lumber era in the 1880’s. Logs were hauled to this point by horse teams then slid down a dry log flume to Lake Superior. They were loaded onto boats and taken to the Grand Marais sawmills. Although this sandy hill looks more like a gentle slope, it is a 500′ drop to the bottom, with overhangs hidden at the bottom. We did not venture far down the slope, given the warnings posted.
From here we took a short hike down to Sable Falls, a 75′ waterfall that tumbles over several cliffs until it reaches Lake Superior.
We had wanted to take some pictures of the changing colors, as it seems the trees are changing color before our very eyes. We have been waiting for a summer day and the sun peered out when we were heading back to the campground. This is not the peak season yet but the trees are spectacular. Enjoy the colors!