Saturday, July 22, 2017

Northern Michigan

We’re loaded and we’re ready to go.  No – wait – gotta fix the boat trailer lights.   Now, we’re ready – here we go.  No – wait – gotta stop and fix the burnt out bulb in the “train” back light.  OK, Now we’re finally on our way NORTH!  Our route this year has mirrored our trip last year – across on Rt 50, up Rt 52 and onto Rt 127.  It’s SO much easier than fighting traffic back- ups and potholes on US 23 thru and around Ann Arbor. 
S. Higgins Lake St. Park

Houghton Lake and neighboring Higgins Lake have 3 state park campgrounds with a combined 700 campsites between them – all of which were filled for the weekend so H’s choice for a place to park for 4 nights was West Houghton Lake Campground on Old Rt 127.  While there is nothing special about this unassuming campground it’s best feature is the green grass and the proximity of the DNR boat launch right across the road!  On Weds afternoon, as soon as we were parked and leveled in the lumpy green grass, we launched the Tracker and headed out to explore the southern end of the lake.  On Thursday the wind whipped up so we headed out to survey the surrounding countryside and back roads, leaving the boat and trailer behind.  A drive thru each of the 3 state parks confirmed their popularity!   It’s a good thing we added the Michigan Parks Passport sticker to our van’s license fee this year!  We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of it already – boat ramps and inquisitive drives thru state parks!

Houghton Lake is shallow with olive green water.  Higgins Lake, 11 miles to the north is the opposite with crystal clear DEEP blue water with 22 miles of shoreline.  While Houghton Lake is on average under 10 feet deep – Higgins Lake depths are mostly double digit with the 1st digit being between a 5 and a 9!  We launched at the DNR site on the west side of the north lake and cruised easily around Flynn Island (See the map of the lake!) and aimed the boat towards the state park on the south shore.  A dredged channel with green and red buoys on either side led the way thru the shallow clear water along the shoreline to the protected harbor.   On the cream colored sand, a group of wedding goers were gathering to celebrate a couple’s vows!  Their white and khaki clothing silhouetted against the blue water and the bluer sky!  It was hard for the sweet little girls in their long white sundresses to stay away from the beckoning sand and rocks by the waters edge!
Crossing back over the still calm waters, we passed between several boats that were anchored and fishing.  Look at the map again and see what looks like an island in the southern end – that is a shallow area that is under only 1ft of water!  As we neared it and saw the bottom getting closer – I actually SAW several good sized fish as they darted away from the disturbance the boat was causing!  H pivoted the boat around and we retraced our path back to deeper water and then drifted – casting our favorite lures out and letting them fall deep in the water before reeling them back to the boat.  BAM!   I caught one!  BAM!  H caught one too!  This was repeated until we had enough Rock Bass for a meal!  Those scrappy little fish with the bright red eyes are fun to reel in and even better to fry up in Bisquick and Beer!  Sweet and mild!  Alas – the sun was hot and we were too so we took our day’s catch and headed back to camp.  H had fish to clean!

Saturday’s weather forecast was rain.  The storms that were predicted had passed us by but we did wake up to a gentle rain on the roof.  That meant breakfast out!  Roscommon is north and east of Houghton Lake and east, across US Rt 75 from Higgins Lake.  One of our favorite breakfast spots on trips in the past was a little German CafĂ© right in the center of town. This old building leaned at such an angle that even back then we thought the windows would crack and the building would fall over!  It is still there but is now Roscoe’s Restaurant.  They no longer serve potato pancakes that used to draw us in but their breakfast plates were piled high with delicious food.  Even my weird sounding MEATLOAF Scramble was yummy!
While in town we found a very busy canoe/kayak launch site on the South Branch of the AuSable River.  We watched as several novice groups of landlubbers attempted to climb ungraciously into the narrow, wobbly kayaks.  It was only after the last of them headed awkwardly down the river and we had returned to the van that I realized that I did bring the camera and it was in the van!!  Back to the river for pictures – without any kayak craziness!  That was found farther downriver!  We happened upon another smaller launch site and found that some inexperienced canoeists were stuck cross wised in the river, causing such a traffic jam like 5 o’clock traffic in the big city!  As more and more kayaks, tubes and canoes came downstream – the boat jam got worse!

Houghton Lake

Since H had forgotten to take his drone with us on Thursday’s day of exploration – we needed to go back to the DNR boat launch and take some pictures high up over this end of the lake.  The sky was dark but  - not to worry – this storm passed us over also!  And see the bridal party waiting
to have their pictures taken?  (Bottom left) It must be the weekend for weddings!  It’s also the weekend for us to move farther north!  Tomorrow’s the day!