Sunday, August 2, 2009

Our Trip To The U.P.

Alex, Shane, and Adam's Trip to the UP, narrated by Shane and Adam and and artistic descriptions and reflections provided by Adam and Shane.

There are pictures available on facebook; Alex was going to and still might upload bigger versions into the appropriate narrative points in this post, which would make things easier for all of you.

Thursday, July 16 - After assembling all the supplies to be found in Cass City, we set out for Ann Arbor. On the way, we stopped at Shane's dad's house, ate wild berries and garden cucumbers, and picked up a pot and some other items. Driving down was uneventful, listening to Grizzly Bear. For some reason, we couldn't find a restaurant open on the way down, however, and everyone was very hungry by the time we arrived, around 12:30 AM. Alyssa recommended that we go to Kroger and pick up some food. Alex bought, and we ended up with a frozen pizza, kettle chips, and 3 quarts of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. We arrived at Alyssa's Fancy Apartment, and settled in. Sarah Howard was already there, using the Internet. We ate pizza and ice cream and talked about Schrodinger's Cat.

Friday, July 17 - We woke up late the next morning and headed by bus to downtown Ann Arbor, where the art fair stalls were located. The boys and girls quickly separated, largely because the girls had seen the first section of the fair already and were moving faster. There were a lot of great artists, really innovative and provocative things, and overall it was a much more rewarding experience than the Plymouth or Cadillac art fairs, the ones I had been to before. We collected business cards from exceptional artists, including many photographers (international photographers; that is, they all photographed "travel" subjects, like Italy, fog on mountains in China, cottages in England, etc), a space photographer who built his own telescopes, a Latino diorama maker, an outsider artist named Doug Odom (a group favorite), and several cool craftspeople, like bookmakers and hat felters (?).

We also went for a time to Borders and looked at various art books. Of special note to us was "A Collaboration with Nature" by Andy Goldsworthy, which inspired our own erstwhile nature art attempt later in the week. At some point in the bookstore, Trey called to tell me he and David Jansen were coming down and would be there in a couple hours. When they arrived, we took a walk through the last booths we hadn't seen, and then went out to eat at Jerusalem Gardens. We went out for ice cream afterward at Stucchi's. Trey and David left after that, and we went to the Dawn Treader Used Book Store. I bought Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, Hesse's Rosshalde, Peter Hoeg's The History of Danish Dreams (on Sylvie's recommendation; thank you very much), and George Eliot's Middlemarch (a nice old copy for only $1). Alex bought A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, which was his preferred reading for the rest of the week. That night, we watched Frankenfish in Alyssa's living room.

Saturday, July 18 - We had nice bagels for breakfast the next morning, and tried to get in touch with Jeff. Finally, a meeting was arranged at the UM Art Museum, which we toured together briefly and without much interest, for whatever reason. We had wanted to go to the Shaman Drum bookstore, as it was their final day in business and we expected some good deals, but the selection had already been picked clean and no one found anything. We ate at Seva, the vegetarian restaurant, and then Jeff had to go. One more used bookstore, the "Rare and Used Bookshop," was perused then. I got Richard Fortey's Earth, a popularization of geology and plate tectonics in particular, About This Life, by Barry Lopez, and "Chomsky on Miseducation." Alex got an Quantum Theory for Beginners and a copy of the Once and Future King.

At this point we hurried back to Alyssa's apartment to get our things, and then left for Beverly's. Beverly's party was a nice if rather hectic time; we got to see JT and Laura again, for the first time in a year or so, and talk to them. We were on a team together for Beatles trivia, and lost quite well, saying some of the silliest responses. We left early, around 10, and drove up to Saginaw. Once we got there, Shane and I attempted to watch "Dead Ringers," but Erik came home and interrupted us and took us to Denny's for a snack.

Sunday, July 19 - Shane and I woke up and went to Meijer's around midday to purchase all the things we would need. We bought a few camping supplies, like flashlights, a 5 gallon water jug, and the invaluable MaxDeet bugspray, and a large quantity of dried, boxed food. The total was $155. We went to Subway for lunch (Laura works there, and JT suggested we go visit her; however, she'd called in sick and wasn't there). Alex got home from work soon thereafter, and we packed up and left.

We got to Interlochen early enough to buy tickets and then go wander around for a while. I showed the campus and the lake and some ducks, and then we sat down for the concert, talking to Harrison Apple in line. The concert, WYSO with Chris Thile, was opened by a small brass ensemble playing Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland, which was thunderous and brash and wonderful. Chris Thile came out then and performed Bach's Partita in D Minor as a solo, and then with the orchestra played the first movement of his mandolin concerto. His musicianship on the Bach was incredible. After the concerto, he played several more solo selections, this time bluegrass and traditional songs with vocals as well, including his closer, Brakeman's Blues. The orchestra closed with Appalachian Spring, which they performed impeccably, rich and full and overwhelmingly beautiful.

After the concert, we walked back down to the beach and sat on the edge of the pier while the sun set. Gabe and Max were back from Detroit soon later, but Max had gone in to Traverse City to a bar with Chris Thile, so Gabe took us to Picasso to drop off our things. Sam Reese came in and invited us to the Minnesota Building for hanging out, and so we spent a while there, reading and playing ping pong and meeting people. One of the dancers from last year, I believe the one who went out with Ian Wright(?) was there and apparently had like dated JT's new Best Friend from Saginaw. Kind of an odd experience.

Max got back around 1, just as I was deciding to go to bed. We met him in front of the Maddy Building, and walked to the car to get sleeping bags with him. We talked a bit in the dorms then, and then settled into the computer lobby in the second floor of Picasso and slept.

Monday, July 20 - We woke up at 7:30 or so. I spent a few minutes cuddling with Max in his bed and saying goodbye to Gabe and Sam Reese. Then I made my boys go eat breakfast. The cafeteria adult gave us a $2 apiece discount on a rather mediocre breakfast because I am an alumnus. We left then and drove all the way to the
Porcupine Mountains State Park.

We noticed the affluence and tourist-friendly beauty of towns like Charlevoix and Petoskey, and the palatial hotels and golf courses. One interesting joke for the week was picked up at a pharmacy in Petoskey. We went in to go to the bathroom, and while I was waiting outside in the car for Alex to purchase some tea and Shane as asleep, Alex heard the cashier woman tell the old woman in front of him in line about her brother-in-law, who, while hiking somewhere near a cliff but not by the edge of it, miraculously fell off the edge and died, even though he wasn't walking anywhere near the edge. Other than that, there was nothing interesting the whole day. ;( I had to stop once about an hour into the drive and nap for 15 minutes. We didn't arrive until after 9. Once we were registered, we parked at the bottom of the steep hill leading up to the Lake of the Clouds, our intended campsite area. We got all our gear arranged, tied on ramshackle to fallen-apart and brand new and somewhat used backpacks, and stumbled towards the park. Thankfully, a kind couple in a pickup truck let us sit on their tailgate as they drove up the road.

The scenic overlook at the Lake of the Clouds is located on a cliff 700 ft from the valley encompassing the lake itself, where we had planned to find a campsite. The trail is slightly steep and treacherous at night, with plenty of roots and rocks to stumble upon. However, it is a breeze going down as long as you are careful, as gravity does much of the work for you. After spending a few minutes resting and gazing out over the Lake of the Clouds, we made our way down the hill, in twilight muted to darkness by the tree cover. The first campsite we happened across was the first one past the bridge across the swampy river flowing imperceptibly West out of the Lake itself. The site had a fire ring and a bear pole like all the rest, and a toilet, a rare luxury we never ended up needing (there was a much nicer indoor compost toilet at the scenic overlook just a short climb away). We settled in for the night, just setting up our tents (one domicile and one for storage) and falling asleep.

I had hoped that on a camping trip with no artificial lights or computers, we would be subject to the whims of the (capricious and unpredictable) sun, and go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and thus wake up at one, so as to get a lot of good things done. However, no matter how tired we ever got, we always kept each other up until a normal hour, around 2 or 3, with stimulating talk or gossip or tickling or cuddling or massages or other activities.

Tuesday, July 21 - Thus we didn't awake until around 11. Alex and I went in search of water. We walked over a mile down the trail running beside our campsite to the nearest stream (the river we had camped by having been deemed too slow-moving to be healthy even after boiling) and filled our plastic jug with about 3 gallons of river water. The little stream we found, about 4 feet across, was covered in water striders, casting oddly bulbous shadows on the riverbed. Alex carried the jug back, with his trained muscles.

When we returned, we boiled an entire pot of water and made delicious Meijer organic oatmeal - very filling. After eating, we took an exploring walk around a part of the Lake shore - Shane fell asleep on the banks and then we went back to camp, collecting wood to maintain dry in the supply tent. We then went back to bed and napped until 6. We then got up and made soup, which was also delicious.

We cleaned up camp a bit (though not enough, apparently) and headed up to the cliff. The climb back up was far more arduous than the trip down had been the night before. We went off the trail a couple times to the cliff edge to exult and take pictures. Shane harvested four harebell
blossoms from the edge of the cliff and we folded them into the pages of Barry Lopez's About This Life. We spent a short time at the top of the cliff, in what would become our habitual hangout: a slightly acute crevice just over the edge of the brick wall built around the scenic overlook proper. Alex, however, soon grew paranoid about some foreboding black storm clouds beyond the south side of the valley. We packed up our things and headed back down to camp.

Alex convinced us to put all the dishes out, in hopes that they would fill with at least a little bit of drinkable rain. We had eaten some granola bars and of course other food by this time, but instead of putting our trash up the bear pole where it belonged, we merely went to bed. It never really rained, and only a few drops of what did fall made it through the trees.

Our First Grate Tragedy Occurs
A raccoon family spent the night trying to get at our food, locked away in Shane's puptent. Shane was at first afraid it was a bear, but we went outside and drove them off with barking noises. They came back several times during the night, and eventually we tired of scaring them off.

Wednesday, July 22 - In the morning, we discovered they had ripped a hole in the front of the tent and actually broken one of the carbon-fiber poles (Shane claimed they were unbreakable, a Space Material). They pulled out the following food, making a mess and ruining them: spaetzle, sourdough bread, raisins, 3 granola bars (eaten entirely), 2 packs of oatmeal, a bag of granola (eaten significantly), a bag of soup. Luckily, we had brought way too much food, and were left with still a little bit too much after sharing these items with the raccoons. From then on, we always used the bear pole. Shane was slightly upset about losing his tent, though.

We decided to spend the day hiking out to Lake Superior and swimming. We climbed the hill, walked down to the car, and drove first to the store, where we got soft-serve ice cream and Alex a soda. Then we filled our water bottles at Union Bay Station, including the big jug, having decided that we would pay the $8 a night to park the car up at the scenic overlook the rest of the week (the walk up that hill and the ambiguity about our campsite was the reason we didn't take potable water in to begin with). Not knowing when we'd get back from our hike, we went to buy our parking passes right away. Between the trailhead and the ticket booth, we saw a young black bear on the side of the road. We didn't get a very good look at him, however.

We parked at the Lake Superior Trailhead, which is where we had left the car before. Apparently it is accepted that people who don't want to pay the car admission fee park on the side of the road there. A big doe was walking around the trailhead. She was a bit shier than the one that had walked quite through our campsite earlier that day, but still seemed quite comfortable with us.

The trail goes through really beautiful old, open, high forest for a while, mostly flat, old riverbeds and soft leafy soil, and then arrives at a big boulder with a bench. From there, the path is made of bare shale angling up into the air. A rather uncomfortable and unusual path, impossible to walk without shoes. The ground was scrubbier there, and there were several more large boulders with benches, where we stopped to rest. From these you can see Lake Superior over the tops of lots of scrubby trees growing in gravel. Beyond that, a flat shore section with healthier trees.

The hike was probably 3-6 miles in. It hits the coast of the lake at a very extensive campsite, which had a number of sweet chairs made of flat shale chunks arranged around the fire ring. We sat and rested there, eating granola. Then we climbed out on the rocks that were our erstwhile beach. They were big sandstone or shale or whatever sedimentary rocks, with periodic layers of other rocks conglomerated within. They pierced the lake at angles. We tried to force ourselves into the frigid water, being careful not to slip and die on the sharp and algae-covered rocks. We each stayed in only long enough to completely wet ourselves. Words cannot communicate the coldness of
this water. All agreed that we felt cleansed and refreshed by our bath, however.

We dried in the sun on our rocks, and then dressed and headed back. The trail was longer going uphill, of course. We rested often, having the best discussions. The conversation the entire week was a shifting canvas of science (mostly ecology, physics, and earth science), math (quantum mechanics and Flatterland), sex (at night, in the tent), Shane's mind, and lots of bullshitting about erosion (our ad hoc deity for the trip), bears and their employment under the DNR (for use as wireless routers, prostitutes and trail guides), etc.

We went back to the store for more ice cream and to fill our water bottles again. On the way back to camp we stopped at an old mine and peeked in. It may have been 6 or 8 or so by that time. We had given up time for the week. We spent the rest of the night on our cliff, shitting around, talking, and eating peanut butter on bread from the store. We also decided to make nature art, inspired by the book we had seen in Ann Arbor. Alex suggested a stream of red rocks leading from a drain in the brick wall off the edge of the cliff. We worked on that until it got too dark, and then lied down on each others' chests and admired the stars. Once it got dark, Shane tried to hype us into a hyper-alert terror for the walk back down to camp. We ended up just really awed by the stars, though, instead. The Milky Way is not as clear as in the pictures, but it is very visible and quite beautiful.

Shane: Lying with starry reflections on our minds, shoulders supporting another's head; this is life. With a cliff drifting closer as twilight fades thicker into clear beauty. A stripe of stars above, from peak to peak, proves everything you ever learned in science class, and yet defies the quantitative. Shifting winds fade into . . . These simple things fill our already-overflowing minds to the brim. , but careful, else our wonder cause us to forget our bodies, kicking down the river of red stones laid over our cliff home. Nature art, we called it as our shirts stain red with rusted dust, to be lain inch by inch our river flows resisting logic, gracing ridges with lakes and valleys with tributaries. But as our banks fade into monochromatic twilight you lay with me and we look up into starry skies. The influence of the Earth shows with bats and satellites crossing the celestial. The night flows shifting as we cross from silver to unknown with forest darkness pierced only by the beams of our electric lamps. The primordial fear fades as lamps are quieted and our eyes fall prey to auditory beauty. Why do we forget that moments away a symphony of the night plays just as grand as the beauty of distant song?

Our beds hard and cold are what greet us to the plastic house, but we resist telling stories and overall bullshit between the three of us no one lies cold. This is our life with discussions of philosophy mixed with that of our sex lives. We are woken by tourists terrorizing our forest's beautiful silence. One by one we stumble into our favorite morning urination stations. The grunt of an empty stomach reminds that there is food to be eaten so bear poles are wrestled until a foggy mind manages to overcome, but the duty of our meal needs a flame. Soon wood . . .

Shane has to finish typing this out at some point. . .

Adam: The valley and the forest become much more spiritual to me at twilight and at night. I have one feeling I associate with the Microphones that I get at this time, listening to the wind in the trees and imaging how eternal that sound is here. Here and at those moments it is easiest to feel the emptiness of the solipsism, to know intimately and intuitively that these mountains, this forest, the wind and rains that shape and shake them, have truly been here for many thousands of years, observed by only itself. Berkeley may have been right, but it is hard to make that knowledge mean anything here (even more than in most places :)) It is a land that "listens to itself," and being here, one feels the depth and breadth of its long, self-sustained existence.

Thursday, July 23 - Shane also has more to type in here but I will summarize what I remember of this morning for the sake of getting this published; shane, you should still oughta fill this in sometime (no pressure though), and I'm sorry to do this without giving you time, etc, but I feel it should be published; most of it is done anyway.

This morning we woke, performed our morning duties of peeing, getting food down from a pole and cooking it (oatmeal, if I remember correctly), and climbing up our cliff. Before deciding on a fixed destination, we drove to Ontonagon in search of raspberries. We ended up with 6 plums instead. Alex finally remembered that he thought the Enclave he had discovered and claimed on his first visit to the UP with his family the previous summer was on the Presque Isle River. This convinced us to set off for it, so we drove out and parked our car and walked down to the river.

The river here is wide, its flow as always jerky, drifting lazily across long shallow expanses and then gushing down steep and criss-crossing falls. We jump and scramble our way across, finding the paths erosion has left us. There is a childish sense of play, of joy, in this - the risk is a necessary ingredient - and even an element of competition. The river has a curious spirit; it is not as calm and deliberate as the land we had become accustomed to at Lake of the Clouds. We know an awe at its age, of course, and in seeing the pools and perfect swirls in the rock worn away by unimaginable volumes of water, it is impossible to think the world is 6000 years old.

We meet a couple, once from Millington, and take their picture. They return the favor. I feel a slight tension, real or imagined, due to the contrast between us, young radicals clambering across the swells, and them, presumably rather placid, conservative middle-aged Christians.

We follow the river all the way down to the lake. Its beauty intensifies as you reach Presque Isle itself, which the river does not actually split to accommodate (making Presque Isle in truth a peninsula). Rather, in the summer at least, the North side blocks the river with a large rock amphitheater: Alex's Enclave. Since the river is forced into a more narrow passage south of the Isle, the water there intensifies, creating countless perfect circles carved out of the rock along the banks by swirls of water. The Isle itself is of course small, and covered by only conifers, which provide a soft bed of needles.

We spent perhaps 45 minutes in the idyllic, intimate perfection of the enclave, taking pictures, eating granola, and absorbing. The water in the enclave (a tiny lagoon, perhaps) contrasts the river and lake with its intense tranquility. It is immobile, less the occasional water strider or fish ripple. The east side is bare shale, while the south side, sloping down from the Isle proper, is vibrantly green. The juxtaposition of intensely green ferns and mosses over gray shale never lost its power over me after all the places we found it. The water obscures a tree trunk crossing the lagoon just under the surface. To the north, there is a steep hill, littered at the bottom with the gray carcasses of fallen trees, victims of landslides. The layout of the banks of the lagoon allow only a hint of sunlight to betray the outlet and Lake Superior's presence to the West.

We headed back up river then, passing a man who told us we could get all the way up to the next insurmountable falls, though there were "a few hairy spots." Shane stayed behind, exhausting the last of our camera battery taking experimental pictures of falling water. Alex and I forged ahead, examining as we went the exquisite patterns in which the shale had crumbled away. We found various little marvels on the banks along the way:
- A tree, fallen horizontal over the river, split perfectly in thirds, with room to stand up in between.
- A wall where the shale crumbles into cubes smaller than your pinky-nail, covered in cobwebs filled with the final molt exoskeletons of adult stoneflies.
- The curved high wall where the bank rises into the cliff of the falls. The floor is littered with massive chunks of fallen shale.
- The side streams of the falls, where the water moves with little enough force to allow slime to cover the wet black shale. The water follows little slime tails, so that if you drag the slime to one side or another, the water will fall along the same path.

Shane reached us soon after we'd gotten to the end there, and then we hurried back to Presque Isle to catch the sunset and get out before dark; we had neglected to bring flashlights from the car. The sunset was obscured by clouds, but the sky a bit further above the horizon still bore that distinctive pastel-vermilion glow.

A few families dabbled in the cold water. We skipped stones and then Shane became distant and romantic. Alex and I waded out and looked for interesting rocks. We left before it was very dark, and got back to camp.

Friday, July 24 - We awoke to a rainy Friday morning at about 11:30. I had left both my sandals and my shoes outside, and they were soaked, so I refused to go outside. Alex joined me in this, and we spent the next few hours reading and cuddling in the tent. Shane, however, had gotten up and walked up to the compost toilet on the cliff to shit. When he got back, he cooked us rice-a-roni for breakfast and ate in the tent with us. He convinced us to get up, that the rain we were still feeling was merely blowing down from the leaves anyway. Alex decided we should see Summit Peak, once considered the highest point in Michigan (until the discovery of two "obscure" mountains in the Huron National Forest).

The decision was motivated by the fact that the highway through the park goes almost all the way up to the peak. We hiked up our cliff, got in the car, got ice cream at the store, and drove to the trailhead. There is a short hike up to the observation structure on the top of the peak. The view is nice, though not particularly impressive for any superlatives. We did see a soaring falcon and some nice clouds (we had also seen a bald eagle twice from our cliff perch).

From there, we continued west on the highway to the Little Carp River Trail. Overlooked Falls, the name from which we had taken inspiration to come here, lay on the Little Carp River, about 100 ft. from the road. We spent about an hour picking our way downstream. The discussion was now more heated than normal, focusing on cultural relativism and the value of Liberalism in the context of non-Western cultures. Shane argued for the inherent value of culture and cultural diversity and accused us of arrogance and limited perspectives. Alex and I argued for Liberalism as an objective good that could benefit any culture without removing its uniqueness. We found some raspberry bushes on an islet, almost as far as we ever ended up going. Most of them weren't ready to eat yet.

We came back on the trail and did in 20 minutes what had taken us an hour to do on the river. We saw three trees with interlocking roots, that had been ripped out of the ground, with the big blackness of soil-around-roots sticking up vertically into the air. The trees in the park consistently showed the effects of the fierce Lake Superior storms.

Upon returning to our campsite, we made our treat dinner, the last meal we would eat in our campsite, Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese, and then roasted marshmallows. Shane tried and failed to make mashed potatoes with the flakes we had brought, and the rest of the box ended up in the fire. We ate, cleaned up, and settled down to sleep.

Saturday, July 25 – We had intended to get up early, at 9, but it was rainy again, so we slept until probably 1 instead. Packing up was disgusting in the mud, but we made quick work of it. The hike back up the hill was not as hard as we'd feared, as we'd taken some of our things up in a previous trip the night before, and we had no food left to haul. We ate in a small diner in Ontonagon, charging the camera battery meanwhile.

After eating we drove up to Houghton and found a really cool JT-esque bookstore with lots of random things on the first floor, like Indonesian idols and pot paraphernalia, thousands of books on the second floor (mostly trashy paperback romance and sci-fi) and a porn section on the third. I bought the Iliad, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Roughing It, by Mark Twain, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Seven Short Novel Masterpieces, and Lolita. Alex got Barbara Ward's Spaceship Earth, What is Science?, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Affluent Society, The New World of Physics, and Kon Tiki. Shane got The Second Sex and a compilation of Liberal Thought. We crossed the bridge into Hancock and spent an hour wandering there, eating ice cream cones and gazing. The whole area feels like Fargo (the movie) to me. Everyone is Finnish, too.

It was cool and there was nothing to do, so we decided to find a coffeeshop somewhere to hole up and read for the evening. We wandered about for awhile, finding several closed down businesses, and ended up at Cyberia Cafe in Houghton. I read Barry Lopez's About This Life, Alex his Philosophy of Science book, and Shane finished Off The Map. At the closing hour, 11 o'clock, we decided to use the time remaining before we were normally tired to get some driving done. Shane and Alex both desired to go to Copper Harbor, so we drove there.

It was during this drive that we discovered our mice. During one of our trips back to Ontonagon, while waiting to be let through a one-way road passage in construction, we saw a mouse scurrying around on the ground by the back left tire of the RV in front of us. When the RV was let through, the mouse couldn't get back on in time, and was left behind. In order to not kill it, I drove slowly, and apparently gave it the window it needed to climb into my car. So that night, driving in the dark and the fog, with rain splattered on the windshield and the hood of my car, we saw little mice scurrying about in the crevice where the windshield meets the hood. They would emerge and scurry about for a bit and then go back down to hide in the depths of my engine.

No one spoke the whole drive, respectful of the enchanted and thickly intimate atmosphere. We listened to the 2nd Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking as low-lying clouds encircled our car and slowed us to a more appropriate pace. The world became as big as our car and the dense enclosing wall of trees immediately to either side, a shifting veil of fog revealing and then obscuring the road ahead.

The town was as a haunted New England fishing village, bathed in fog, dead save a few bars, and with a creepy aura, almost a presence of its own. Shane became somewhat paranoid about it, even, and him and Alex kept reminiscing about the Silent Hill games all night. After deciding it would be safe to park and sleep in the lot for people to leave their cars when they take the ferry to Isle Royale (an option for our next camping trip destination), we parked and took a walk. It was quite palpably scary to stand on the boardwalk and look down in the darker-than-inky abyss of Lake Superior in the harbor, as though it would hypnotize us and we'd fall in in spite of ourselves.

We continued down from the ferry harbor to a tiny park guarded by signs warning passers of the terms of use: One could only be there during the day, no alcohol was allowed, etc. There was a small boardwalk there as well, with a ramp and a bench. I wanted to sit on the bench, but Shane had a moment of weakness, so we stayed at the top of the ramp. We were amazed by the tangible physicality of the darkness, its immediacy, as though, since it couldn't be seen, you couldn't trust the abyss to stay as far away as you knew it to be. It was as though the darkness destroyed the horizon, making it so vague that it appeared as a thick bar instead of a line. Upon investigating this site the next morning, we realized that we were actually looking at an island, a strip running parallel to the shore and sheltering the harbor, less than 200 yards away, so deeply swathed in darkness that we had no idea it was there.

Having seen all we could think of to see in Copper Harbor at that hour, we returned to the car and talked each other to sleep, Shane stretched out along the back seat, Alex reclining in the passenger's seat, and me with my head in his lap. We listened for a while to bad middle-of-the-night talk radio on my radio flashlight, which receives little enough signal to make everything sound creepy. We fell asleep to the sound of mice running along the sides and on the roof of the car.

Sunday, July 26 - I woke up stiff, slightly sore on Alex's stomach around midday. Once everyone's head was cleared a bit, we organized the car and drove around looking for a restaurant. There were three: two diner/bar places and one fancy tourist restaurant. I chose the latter, despite financial concerns, and we found that the prices were actually just as low as the diner we'd eaten at in Ontonagon the morning before, if one was smart. It was delicious food, and the only place other than Bennigan's that I've found that serves veggie burgers.

After stopping at a small trinket/bookstore, we left Copper Harbor, stopping by the small cemetery on the way out, and headed for Tahquamenon Falls. The drive took us back the same way we had come, through L'anse and Marquette and Munising. Shane stopped us in Munising and took us to two small mirror-image caves carved out of the sandstone by two waterfalls. They are his favorite waterfalls, and though not large or tall or powerful, they fall delicately, with grace, and have an intimate but also awesome setting.

Before leaving Munising, we stopped in a bookstore Shane and Chantel had frequented during their previous stay there. Shane cites it as the bookstore that helped him fall in love with bookstores. Alex was the only one to find any books (another Barbara Ward). We got hand dip ice cream and left.

We arrived at Tahquamenon Falls around 9. They were a good time, but we were chased away by mosquitoes. Instead of stopping somewhere to sleep, I decided to drive all the way back to Saginaw that night. We put on Of Natural History, in the dark, and didn't speak until the Mackinaw Bridge. The mice were still there and moving around outside at that point. We decided to stop and eat in Mackinaw City, and stopped at a random restaurant called the Blue Water Grill.

Shane stayed in the car talking to Tess while Alex and I went in and got a table and ordered. Alex noticed first that the waitress had an accent, so I then asked her where she was from, and got into a nice conversation. Her name is Agne, and her and the busgirl are from Lithuania, in Mackinaw City on work exchange through a private agency. We talked with her over the course of the night, until the kitchen closed and Shane finally came in to eat our leftovers.

She asked if Alex and I lived in Mackinaw City or if we were staying the night there, and Alex later said she was probably going to invite us out if we had been. I told him the only place they would invite us was clubbing or drinking, and he was skeptical and accused me of generalizing and being prejudicial. I asked her if they had found many things to do to keep busy or been able to meet people here, and she said that while there weren't any clubs here, they found bonfires and parties to go to. She went on to say that they didn't have much free time, as they were both working like 11 hours a day and were constantly tired. They had made one trip to Chicago, however, and were working a lot to be able to travel once more before they return to Lithuania in September (they were here from June to September). I left her a $20 tip to support their endeavors, and she was very excited when she saw it. I was frustrated at myself, because I could only remember the names of Tallinn and Riga, the capitals of Lithuania's neighbors Estonia and Latvia, and not Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. She was impressed, either way.

These kind of events are the things that make me hypothesize wildly about mystical ideas like God and predestination. They are really bizarre instances of synchronicity, coincidences, and are really nice aspects of life.

We drove back to Saginaw and slept soundly until the next morning.

Monday, July 27 - Shane and I drove back to Cass City rather early but not too early the next morning. We spent a few hours on the somewhat overwhelming task of emptying the car, sorting things out, throwing away trash, cleaning and drying things, and cleaning the car. Shane was incredibly kind and vacuumed my car for me while I sorted all of my junk.