Friday, June 17, 2011

CPE Nationals Trip 2011: Munising, MI

P1030461We spent the past week taking our annual summer vacation/road trip to compete in CPE Agility Nationals.  This year they were being held in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  The last few years we have tried to visit a couple National Parks during these trips, but this year we decided to have a vacation in our home state of Michigan.  By taking a slightly longer route to Minnesota, we were able to travel through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and visit several beautiful attractions up there on both legs of the trip.  It ended up being one of our favorite and most memorable vacations to date.

cade sandy point With Django, Maebe, and Cadence in tow, we spent the first two nights in Munising, MI, home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  On our first afternoon, we hiked some of the few dog-friendly areas on the mainland (most of the lakeshore trails are closed to dogs).   Still, we were able to visit a waterfall, and hike along a quiet, remote beach at Sandy Point.   Cadence as always was fascinated by the water, and had a great time splashing at the waves on Lake Superior. P1030464

The next morning, we took a short ferry trip over to Grand Island, and hiked about five miles with the dogs.  They again had the chance to wade in Superior and to catch glimpses of the Pictured Rock cliffs across the bay.

IMG_0956 We returned to the mainland by lunch time, and decided to look into renting a pontoon boat for the afternoon so to better see the cliffs from the water.  Superior was smooth as glass, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  We checked weather from the dock before we left – predictions remained absolutely beautiful, and there wasn’t a blip of rain on the radar anywhere in the UP. 

IMG_0970 Lowell drove us out along the lakeshore, where we had amazing views of the cliffs and beaches.  Everything was perfect, and the dogs were having a great time lounging around the pontoon.  After an hour we reached Spray Falls, where we had been told by the rental company we needed to turn around.  As we steered the boat back towards Munising, we suddenly felt a shift in the wind and things began to suddenly change.

The smooth waters of Lake Superior were growing increasingly choppy.  The breeze was now cool, and ominous clouds were gathering.  The dogs became nervous.  As we began to be bounced around more, I started to gather the dogs on leash to hold them near the center of the boat, and experienced one of the worst 30 seconds of my life when I suddenly couldn’t locate Django on the boat.  I was scanning the lake and screaming for him, when he suddenly emerged from an under-seat storage compartment that had come unzipped.  Clever guy had found a very tiny safe spot for himself to hide in, and gave me the scare of my life. 

We began to hear claps of thunder.  Lightning was striking ahead of us.  Waves broke over the boat and drenched all of us with water that was still less than 50 degrees in temperature.  When the hail started, it just felt like adding insult to injury.  The boat rocked violently.  With just sheer cliffs alongside us, there was nowhere to pull in and get off the water at the height of it.  I have spent a lot of time in boats and on water in my life, and am a strong swimmer, but I can say I’ve never been more scared in my life. 

We fought our way back to shore during what seemed like an eternity but was probably a bit over an hour.  At the dock, the staff looked at us, dripping wet and shivering, and perplexedly asked if we’d been rained on.  The severe storms that were sweeping along the lakeshore cliffs had not caused even a drop of rain at the inner part of the bay.

IMG_0877 We decided our new policy is to not rent boats when the neighboring business charters guided glass-bottom boat tours of shipwrecks in the bay.  Perhaps not a good sign.

In hindsight though, we had an amazing view of a spectacular lakeshore, and have a great story to tell.  We experienced first-hand the extreme and sudden changes that Lake Superior is famous for, so I guess we got the full Superior experience.  The dogs probably won’t want to get back on a pontoon boat any time soon, but they were great troopers during the whole ordeal.  When things got bad, they curled around me and laid still, just quietly waiting it all out though I know they were scared as well.

The rest of the day passed quietly.  We drove a bit farther up the shore on the mainland in the evening, and walked along the beach at our campground.  Our experience of Pictured Rocks was amazing, and we hope to return, though next time we will stick to the commercial guided tour of the cliffs in the really BIG boat!

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