Tahquamenon Falls | Paradise, Michigan
I’ve always wanted to explore the upper peninsula of Michigan. I’ve heard about the many amazing and beautiful sights to be found along that route many times. And now, after much nagging and begging on my part, we were finally doing it! You would probably think that because I’ve wanted to explore the UP for such a long time that I would have been more properly prepared. I would have probably thought that too. However, I quickly found that I actually wasn’t prepared for a single thing.
As I glanced down at my bleak cell phone, that now without any service was more useful as a paperweight to keep our map from flying out the open window, I sighed. What if the kids or babysitter needed us? What if I need to get in touch with someone else? What if I find something to take a photo of and I can’t update it to Instagram – like that tree or that tree. 🙂 I felt a bit unnerved at our complete detachment from the world. After all, we were driving through uninhabited land in a 1950 Bel Air and hadn’t seen another driver, home or business in hours. Anything could go wrong! We could break down or worse – hit an elk! Totally – there were seriously signs warning of elk crossings!
After about 45 minutes of worrying through the “what if’s”, I started to give in and pay attention to what I was missing around me. I started to breathe in the fresh cedar filled air that was billowing through my window. All I could think is “this is unlike anything I’ve ever smelled before“. It was unreal – so clean and nature-y. From my window I slouched back into my seat, laid my head back onto the neck rest and watched the trees dance by in beautiful silence.
This is breath-taking.
I took a moment to calm my thoughts and suddenly I realized that the only noise being made was the hum from our tires on the empty road. I looked over at my husband and smiled.
This is nice.
We were on an adventure. Who cared if we were prepared. We’d figure it out.
When we pulled in to the lower falls (there are two separate falls to see) we first stopped at the park ranger booth to gain entrance. As I started to roll down my window, I stopped. The man in the booth was completely surrounded by mosquito’s! Like thousands of them – it was a black fog and it was moving! He had a bug repellent pik burning beside him but other than that he seemed entirely un-phased by the current situation. I, on the other hand, was completely taken off guard. Where did all of the mosquito’s come from? He must have thought I was completely crazy as I looked on in horror and panic watching the bugs fly around him. He tried to talk to me through my rolled up window, but my attention was deflected. Obviously! I glanced wide eye’d at my husband who looked wide eye’d back at me : I didn’t bring any bug spray.
We both decided that seeing the falls was worth it to us. Even though it was 70+ degrees outside and muggy we pulled our hoodies over our heads to cover any exposed skin and darted from the car towards the path. As I ran I could feel the mosquito’s chasing me. They were in my face. I was spitting them out of my mouth left and right. Phew! I looked over at my husband who was ducking and running in a zig zag motion for freedom. Of course this made me laugh and I began to ingest even more mosquito’s.
As we reached the viewing platform of the lower falls we spotted a small building next to it – forget the falls, it was a store!! We ran in the door and bought the first can of bug spray we could find, then started spraying down our clothing with reckless abandon. Feeling triumphant we went back outside and walked over to the area which overlooked the lower falls – laughing in the face of the mosquito’s. Even though the mutant mosquito’s they breed in the UP were laughing back at us for our attempt to defeat them, we stood there in silence observing the overwhelming beauty that is the Tahquamenon Falls.
After seeing the lower falls, we simply could’t go home until we’d seen the upper falls. If this small lower fall could be this beautiful, we could only image what the larger fall would look like. Besides, we had already started to make peace with the locals (a.k.a mosquito’s) – we even named a few.
By looking at a map we could see that the upper falls were just a few miles up the road. However, being the inexperienced hikers that we were, we decided to get back in our car and drive over to them. Just like at the lower falls, the path to the observing deck was paved and wide. Within moments we were at the first viewing area for the upper falls. Through the trees we could see the beautiful brown and white water crash over. I could hear it’s roar of assertion as it pushed onward. I was not prepared at all for how amazing this sight was going to be or how I would feel at the very moment I saw it.
Further up the path was another viewing point – this time from a slightly different angle. The hike brought us within the presence of several more viewing areas just like these. Each time we stopped to gaze out over the falls it seemed like the first time seeing it – my amazement and gratitude never faded.
Did You See That?
After spending quite some time wandering through the paths around the falls, we decided to head back to the entrance to check out the on site restaurant. We were starving. We walked a little ways towards the front; feeling as though we were in a daydream from what we had just witnessed. In a calm and casual voice my husband said “What do you suppose this is” as he leaned over looking at something on the trail. It has just been raining for several days so we assumed they were going to be more bugs than typical around. I leaned over looking at the weird yellowish slug thing not moving on the path. “I dunno” – a slug maybe? We took a few more step. “Look, there’s another!”.
One moment we were talking casualty – the next we were running and screaming as we realized those slimy creatures were attaching themselves to the back of our legs! Ahhh! What is this??
While in our minds we were under attacked by tiny ninja leaches, in reality we realized that they must have been kicked up with the mud by our shoes. It was quite rainy and muddy. Either way, it was horrifying and we were jumping and brushing them off in a wild dance of hysteria. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the flying mutant ninja slugs!
Rest assured we made it back to our vehicle in one piece and with several beautiful photos of our lovely adventure with nature. Would I go again? In a heart-beat. Even though our adventure was full of unexpected trials, that we just weren’t prepared for, so is life. Although it’s not about the surprises- those we work through. It’s about the reason we went. The memories we made. The photos we have to share.
Tips For Tackling the Tahquamenon Falls
Of course, I learned all of this the hard way. 🙂
- Bring bug spray and sunscreen, because it’s nature.
- Start out with the lower falls – just because its smaller and easier to navigate.
- Entering the falls area requires a state park pass. Passes can be bought at the entrance gate and the price varies per license plate renewal. Ours was under $15 and got us into both parks.
- Wear good hiking clothing and shoes. The paths are paved, but they are lined in nature and it’s a bit of walking.
- Be aware of your surroundings. I saw this along the way. Eek!
Have you ever visited the Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? Tweet us your best picture over on twitter to @raisingdickjane or share them with us on Instagram! We’d love to see them and we’ll do our best to retweet and comment!