Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Leaf Peepers Peak Season - Sun., Sept. 28

Today's drive was very short -- only about two hours -- from Sayner, Wisconsin to Bessemer, Michigan.

We are spending two nights at Alpine Campground in Bessemer as our base to go leaf peeping and waterfall hiking in the western Upper Peninsula. Alpine Campground is run by a friendly German woman who has three adorable dogs. She personally led us to our site in her golf cart. Our huge electric and water site was on a grassy lawn with picnic table and fire ring. Only four other campers were in the park. If you stay here, be aware the narrow paved road is full of potholes. Some sites are level, some are not.

Alpine Campground, Bessemer. Michigan
Alpine Campground, Site 11, Bessemer. Michigan
And what can I say about the weather? It's gorgeous, sunny and 82 degrees today, Downright balmy. Perfect for our destination of Black River Parkway waterfalls.

As we drove down Black River Parkway (Hwy 513), our eyes feasted on the changing leaves. Greens gave way to reds, oranges, yellows and browns. So pretty!

Black River Falls Parkway
As we tooled down the road toward five major waterfalls, a sign for Copper Peak Adventure Ride beckoned us to follow a side road. In fact, our campground hostess mentioned it to us and asked if we were going there. "Waterfalls are our destination," we told her. But off we went to Copper Peak, and boy are we ever glad we did.

First view of Copper Peak Adventure Ride
Copper Peak is the only ski-flying facility in the Western Hemisphere. The ticket center was open and we bought two tickets to the top. A ski lift took us up the mountain and from there we rode an elevator 18 stories up the tower.

A chair made from old skis.
Not ski jumping...ski FLYING!
Only the top 100 ski jumpers qualify to "fly."

First the ski lift...
Copper Peak chair lift
Up we go
From the top of the chair lift it's a short walk to the tower.

At the top of the hill
 Next is the slooooowww elevator up 18 floors.

Once you're out of the elevator, you get to climb up a bunch of stairs to the very, very, tippy top of the structure. Not only that, but once you get to the steel part of the structure, the grating is open so you can see through to the forest below!!

Looking down the ski ramp to the landing area
Open grate - fall colors way down there
Holding on for dear life!
Looking down to fall colors.
Upper Peninsula fall colors
Bob is coming down the narrow wooden stairs on the left. The benches in the center of the photo are where the ski fliers sit before they slide over to go down the ramp.
Bob coming down stairs.
Have you ever seen a sign like this on an elevator?
Looking up at jump.
Fall colors.
I thought I'd give ski flying a try.
 Bumper sticker I'm holding says I made it to the top of Copper Peak!

I made it to the top!!
Next we continued on Black River Parkway to five waterfalls along the Black River. First two were Conglomerate Falls (1-1/2 miles round trip) and Potawatomi Falls (1/4 mile round trip).

Beautiful forest trail
It's fall!
One side of Conglomerate Falls
A loony loon? Or a merganser?
Both sides of Conglomerate Falls
Looking downriver from Conglomerate Falls
Potawatomi Falls
Me at Potawatomi Falls
Our next stop was Gorge Falls (1/4 mile round trip). From here through the next two waterfalls we did our super-duper, stair-stepper workout...lots and lots of stairs!!

Part of the stairs to Gorge Falls
Gorge Falls
Next we drove a short distance for a 1/2 mile hike to Sandstone Falls. The day was so warm and beautiful. We loved hiking through the fall colors on the trees, and arrangements of leaves on the ground. All leaf-on-the-ground photos are natural. I did not "arrange" leaves.

Stairs to Sandstone Falls
Autumn leaves of all colors
Sandstone Falls
Bob downstream from Sandstone Falls
Cool juxtaposition of log and rocks. (Click to enlarge.)
And last was Rainbow Falls (1 mile round trip). It wasn't easy to see the whole thing. We noticed a number of photographers on the opposite bank. A better view of the falls to be sure, but a man standing on our viewing platform told us they're taking pictures of trout  trying to jump up the falls. He said if we watched for a while, we'd see fish jumping too.

Top part of Rainbow Falls
Looking down into the middle of Rainbow Falls
Well I'll be darned if I didn't catch a fish jumping! Enlarge the following (blurry) photo to see the trout trying to jump up the falls.

I caught a fish out of water!
Singular beauty
Came down? Got to go back up!
Piece of cake.
With all the waterfall hikes done, we had to go to Black River Harbor at the end of the road. Thinking there would be a town with a restaurant, we were ready to eat. Let me be the first to tell you, the only things at Black River Harbor are a park with trails, restrooms, and a marina. No food unless you brought your own. No gas station, no grocery store. You are in the middle of nowhere.

The shadows were long as we hiked across the suspension bridge out to Lake Superior. Notice how calm Lake Superior is. Remember this and compare to our next day's visit to Lake Superior!

The Nancy Jean
History of The Nancy Jean launch
Fall colors are lovely.
Suspension bridge at Black Harbor
Hard to believe placid Black River just came from five frothing waterfalls upriver. The black color of the water is from tannins leaching from the roots of trees.

Black River flowing into the harbor
Black River Harbor
Lake Superior shoreline (it doesn't always look like this!)
Did you know the Great Lakes are really not lakes at all? They're really inland seas. (Yes, they're that big. And they create their own weather.)

The suspension bridge reflected
Trees, cliffs, rocks, and Black River
Black River Harbor
Black River Harbor
Autumn colors in Black River Harbor
The red maples are my favorite!
With that we headed back to Bessemer for a Dairy Queen dinner. On the way back to town, we had one last glance at Copper Peak Adventure Ride as dusk descended.

Travel Bug out.


  1. What a beautiful and full day of exploring! That sure is frustrating to arrive at a spot hungry and find nothing at all to eat!

    1. Yes, it was a beautiful and eye-opening day. We love days when we find something totally unexpected.

  2. I had to read this post because I could not figure out what a leaf peeper was...now I know the rest of the story.
    I would have to send Paul by himself up Copper Peak. My knees are weak just reading this post!
    What a gorgeous hike with awesome falls. I love all the colors. Just don't see that here in Houston!

    1. Don't feel bad, Bob didn't know what a leaf peeper was either. Now he is one! LOL

      Believe me, my legs were like jelly up there. It is so high up. I hung on to every railing I could find and really watched my step!

  3. Great pictures, but the one you titled "trees, cliffs, rock and the Black River" is absolutely amazing! Sounds like a wonderful trip!

    1. Oh, thank you. Glad you like that one. I thought it was a pretty special spot.

  4. OOOOh you guys hit the peak colors in the UP for the season. How lucky you planned it that well. I have been up on Copper Peak Ski Jump when I was a kid, but I can't do heights like that anymore comfortably. Sure looks like you are getting a good dose of Autumn in the Woods!

    1. Yep, the peak colors continue to amaze. So many places in Copper Harbor area where the trees make gorgeously colored leaf tunnels to drive through.

  5. Ohhh, glad you got the peak! Great captures Susan, all lovely. You are so darn brave to go to the top!
    I will just enjoy your photos since we skipped this one when we were there!

    1. When I do stuff like the Copper Peak Adventure, I always think of the song, "We may never pass this way again," so I like to take advantage of being healthy enough to do these things while I still can...fear or no fear.

  6. You sure found some great reflections! Haven't been here, will have to add it to my list.


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