This will be our last day on the shores of Gitchie-Gummi as the Native Americans called Lake Superior. We moved a bit further east so we could tour the Whitefish Peninsula. The stop at Tahquamenon Falls brought back Ken's childhood memories of a family vacation here. Tahquamenon is a state park that is in two pieces for the upper and lower falls. The lower falls are less imposing, but you can rent a rowboat and paddle right up to them. The higher falls are fifty feet high and two hundred feet wide. Brown water colored by the tannin created by decomposing leaves gushed over the rock formations and roared as it cascaded down. Boardwalks and overlooks made the falls accessible for nearly everyone.
The Shipwreck Museum is at the point where ships coming through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie enter Lake Superior. The museum documents many of the ships that went down with memorabilia that divers have retrieved. The lake bottom is a steady 40º, too cold for much decomposition. The fresh lake water does not have the plant life a similar area in the ocean might have. Bodies also stay on the bottom because they do not decompose and fill with gas as they might in warmer water. In modern times with GPS and radar, ship wrecks are much less common, but the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 losing 29 men is still a vivid, painful memory. The ship was heavily loaded with ore and encountered an especially nasty November storm. Ships in the area were in communication with the Fitzgerald and she reported losing her radar and taking on water faster than it could be pumped away. Then all of a sudden she disappeared from radar screens and everyone was gone. Family members of the crew requested a memorial and divers retrieved the ship's bell, which hangs in the museum today. Canadian Gordon Lightfoot wrote a best selling ballad telling the story that has been a favorite of ours. Another building on the museum complex told the story of the sea rescue forces that tried to rescue men from sinking ships in the area with small rowboats. The statistics were surprisingly successful.
We've enjoyed our time in the Upper Peninsula. In some spots it felt like Alaska lite. There were signs for dog sled tours and some of the speed limit signs are for snow mobiles rather than for cars. The campground newsletter described the special people who live here full time:
Yoopers have a habit of saying "youse guys" or often putting an "eh" after a statement. You will also hear a lot of "da" which is Yooper-speak for "the." Also "der" for there and "den" for them. "You betcha" is another one and dropping "H's" in a word such as "wit." Yoopers call people who live south of the bridge "trolls." Anytime you hear "da bridge while in the UP, you know it is da Mackinac bridge, eh? So now that you know dat, here are a few Yooperisms for ya. You're turned on by a woman who can field dress a deer. You've hit a deer with your car - deliberately. You've saved lots of money on your honeymoon by going deer hunting. You keep a can of "OFF" on the kitchen table. Your wife's Lady Remington is a 30-06. A trip to the islands means Mackinac. You tink dat a Big Mac and a shake refer to the bridge on a windy day. You can ice fish nine months of the year. Your junior high has a mandatory class called "Chainsaw Operation and Repair." Your summer shirts are wool plaid (just like your winter shirts.) Your mosquito repellant doubles as your aftershave. Your new goose down pillow was migrating south yesterday.