Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 16, 2013

"I want to take the scenic road"

At some point during the time at our cabin in northern Wisconsin, we try to do some type of group adventure. This year, we decided to visit some of the waterfalls in Iron County.

Art initially headed to the farthest one he selected, Superior Falls on the edge of Lake Superior. After an hour and a half drive, youngest daughter Katie, Art, our German "kids" Nadja and Tim, and I arrived. We first walked to a nearby point overlooking the big lake. The view was spectacular. All the while, we could hear the waterfall but couldn't see it.

Taking a steep path downward, we came to the rocky shore of the lake. Because of its size, Lake Superior reminds me of an ocean with its clear blue-green water and waves swishing onto land. But I was immediately distracted by the mostly black, iron-red and white stones, rubbed smooth by the sand, wind and water.

Art pointed out the waterfall, which was some distance away, but we spent the next hour or so on the beach. A young eagle swooped in and landed on a nearby tree as I sifted through the rock piles, listened to the water lapping against the shore, and watched Katie, Nadja and Tim wading. I eventually took my shoes off just long enough to dip my toes into the water that was a bit cool for my taste. Swimming in Lake Superior was on Tim's "bucket list," so it wasn't long before he took the plunge.

We didn't really want to go, but decided if we were to see any other falls, we'd better get moving. Before leaving, we took a grassy path to get closer to the falls. The kids crawled around a large tree on the edge of the water to get a closer look.

From there, we went to Saxon Falls, which was a bit more remote. The kids and I walked across a narrow bridge over the tubes carrying water to a small hydro-electric plant and then followed a secluded wooded path filled with ferns and other forest plants. Nadja, Katie and I agreed that it might be a perfect spot to encounter a bear, so every now and then, we let out little "whoops" to make sure that didn't happen.

Art had gone upstream to look at the small lake above the falls and so came along a little later. I said, "There he is," but Nadja didn't hear him approach. He growled and grabbed Nadja from behind, causing her to scream and jump. The rest of us laughed.

Tim took off his shoes and waded the river. It amused us how the iron-laden water made his feet appear to be orange. We studied the long-hardened veins of lava that had filled the gaps between older rocks.

About 5, everyone was hungry, so we drove to Ironwood, Mich. The Maplewood Steakhouse addressed that need.

Once finished, Art asked if we wanted to try one more waterfall or if we were ready to go home. I was somewhat tired from crawling around on the rocks, but I didn't think visiting two falls was enough. I said I was game for one more. The kids didn't disagree.

We traveled a short distance on the highway before turning left onto a paved county road. A few more miles, we left it behind for a graveled road. After five miles of dust, Art announced that the GPS indicated we were coming to the next turn. It proved to be a very narrow, muddy trail - the kind where an arm protruding from an open window would be slapped by the brush on the side of the track.

"One guy commented on a website that he has visited this falls often, yet had never seen anyone else there," Art said. "He said it had a parking area."

Looking at our road, I could understand why no one was ever there.

The van bumped along slowly. Art skirted large potholes filled with water, staying to one edge of the trail or the other.

"Sometimes there can be large rocks in the middle that the water covers that can take out something under a vehicle. I don't want to leave the oil pan behind. We'd definitely be walking then, so I want to play it safe," he said.

Somehow his statement didn't make me feel overly safe! "Oh, boy," I said, without really being conscious of having said it out loud.

After 10 minutes or so, we came to an even smaller "road." It wasn't really so much a road as a lack of trees.

"That's the scenic route," Art quipped.

Nadja started imagining all sorts of things.

"You know that someone probably just posted information on the website to lure people up there - and then they'll be there to kill us," she said.

Katie chimed in that the area had the feel of "Jurassic Park" or any other scary movie where you never know what's just around the corner.

Suddenly, we came to a point where a single car could turn around with some difficulty. There were no further signs of a road ahead.

"This is the parking spot!?" Art said, his words sounding like a combination of a statement and a question.

With the engine off, we could hear water rushing to our left. A trail so narrow that branches grabbed a person from both sides headed off in that direction. The kids and I followed Art and soon came to the top of Spring Falls. While it was pretty, we didn't tarry and hurriedly returned to the van. The mosquitoes apparently hadn't been fed recently and seemed intent on making up for lost opportunities. But Art, who isn't much bothered by them, took off in another direction, looking for the base of the falls.

About 15 minutes later, he was back, grinning widely with the image of the falls on his cell phone screen pressed to the window. We were impressed, but even more glad we didn't have to go searching for him in the mosquito-infested woods.

Katie and I told him to get in the van quickly while Tim squished the pesky mosquitoes wherever he found them.

After several attempts, Art was able to turn the van around and we began to slowly retrace our path.

Always one to come up with a quip, Nadja said, "OK, I want to go on the scenic road now." A bit later, she pointed out that the mud blobs on the back of the van looked like spots of blood.

We soon were back on the gravel road. A short time later, we passed some bear hunters.

"See, they're going up to that waterfall now," Nadja said. "They're hunting for humans instead."

Soon we were on County Road C - "'C' for civilization," I said to no one in particular.

"I've got another falls marked on the Potato River?" Art asked.

"We're good," a chorus of voices replied.

Left: left-to-right: Katie, Tim and Nadja at Superior Falls; right: Spring Falls as seen only by Art as the others were hiding in the van from the mosquitoes.

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