Thursday, July 7, 2022

Road Trip

            Kim and I haven’t taken a road trip for a while – long winter, the pandemic, some mobility problems, etc. But our good friend Barbara was flying up from Florida to see us and to seek butterflies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Part of the fun was introducing Barbara to Yooper culture. It was also a good road test for my new Jeep.


            One of the highlights of the trip was when I got stuck in deep sand on a back road where there were supposed to be butterflies. I was able to shift into 4-wheel drive and easily continue down this difficult road. I was in charge of logistics, and anything I could do to get us and our stuff from Point A to Point B was counted as a success, and it did not matter whether or not we had a good time at Point B.


            My success was, at best, mixed. After butterflying (that’s what it’s called) through much of the afternoon, we set out on our 100-mile journey west to the motel, which meant 100 miles of trees with the occasional bar or gas station, spotty cell service, and no Starbucks. The drive looked simple enough on the map, but just to be sure, I entered our destination in the Jeep’s new GPS. No problem. The map said to turn south as we approached Munising, and the GPS lady (we named ours Gertrude) told me to turn a bit sooner than I thought, but I figured I’d remembered the map wrong, and besides, Gertrude sounded very confident. So, I turned.


            About a quarter of a mile later, she told me to turn west, and I did so. I was mildly concerned that I was turning onto a narrow bumpy two-track with overgrown branches scraping against my new car. I was also concerned when Kim told me I was making a mistake, that I should turn around. There was, of course, no place to turn around, and I reasoned that maybe Gertrude knew a short cut. So, I continued. After a few miles, Gertrude told me I would be turning south in a mile. Great, I thought – this would no doubt be the road on my map. Nope. It was an even narrower two-track, marked by deep ruts and some sand traps - I was happy to be driving my Jeep.

             Kim said we should look for a place to turn around. I said there isn't one, and I'm not backing up for ten miles in the woods. Barbara said to keep going, that she and Mark do this all the time. On purpose.

             The forest, I should note here, was beautiful, and not many tourists get to experience it.


            We continued, following Gertrude’s orders, zig-zagging through another half-dozen pavement-free turns, until Gertrude announced that we had reached our destination. I stopped the car and looked around: Nothing but trees and our narrow what-passes-for-a-road.


            We decided to continue south until we reached civilization, by which I meant pavement. That took us another five miles or so, but then we had to decide which way to turn. Barbara’s Google Map had stopped working because of lack of signal, so we guessed south. Five miles later we reached Buckhorn Road – also paved. We were elated because the restaurant next door to our motel was named The Buckhorn Inn, so that increased the odds that we would reach our destination. (By the way, in the U.P., “next door” means a mile or two away.) Again, we didn’t know which way to turn, so I guessed (wrongly, again), but where the road ended at another paved road, there was a sign pointing to The Buckhorn Inn back the way we came. We rejoiced. It’s not quite the same thrill as photographing a rare butterfly, but close.


            When we arrived at The Buckhorn Inn, the waitress asked if we would like anything to drink. I was the first to answer. The wine was not great, but I told her that it was the best can of wine that I’d ever tasted.


            In addition to mastering navigational challenges, we were, of course, looking for butterflies. Here are a few photos that we captured.

Bog Fritillary

Common Ringlet on Hawkweed

Northern Pearly-eye. To get this shot we had to put up with Black Flies and Wood Ticks.

Blue Flag Iris with Skipper, who crawls up the stem to reach the flower.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail - found in Northern Michigan

European Skipper. We saw many thousands of these.

Spider eating a European Skipper

Puddling Canadian Swallowtails. 

Many butterflies engage in puddling, where they visit wet places such as mud, dung, fermenting fruit, carrion or urine – looking for salts, amino acids and other minerals. Blood, sweat and tears are also attractive. Males do most of the puddling, sometimes taking minerals to waiting females as a gift when mating.

Puddling European Skippers

            We did a fairly good job of introducing Barbara to Yooper culture, though she did not try a pasty or cheese curds. Though we did eat some good fresh whitefish and walleye from the Great Lakes, we also had coleslaw and applesauce served to us in plastic Gordon Food Services containers. We had breakfast twice at The Dogpatch, featuring renditions of Al Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoons on the walls. We stayed at a motel that was 80 years old and in need of remodeling. She made friends with ticks and black flies – or, rather, they made friends with her. We saw deer and some clear and very large moose tracks. The people were unfailingly friendly, possibly because we chose not to discuss politics with them.


1 comment:

  1. Barbara missed out on the pasties. The UP has great ones.