Porcupine State Park

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My brother Jim and I and our children with the Lake of the Clouds in the background.

The Porcupine State Park, with 93 square miles of protected forests, small mountains and a big piece of Lake Superior lake shore is one of the nicest places in the Upper Peninsula (UP). We spent the afternoon and early evening exploring the park and had a delightful day. It was a bit sad to drive through Ontonagon, White Pine, Bruce Crossing and other small towns to see how the area is economically depressed and depopulating. With so much scenic beauty, I am surprised that there are not enough ways to make a living in this part of the UP. However, for those people who do get up there, they have the place to themselves and after living in Japan and spending summers on the east coast of the USA, it is nice to have so much quiet and room to breathe.

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Ocean does her best Matthew Stafford impression.

After a few bouts of rainstorms on the drive up near Lake Gogebic, the skies cleared as we parked the car just inside the park border for an afternoon swim. The water was clear and relatively warm and the long beach almost empty. We tossed around the football and buried Owen in the sand. It was so nice even Nadia got in. She only does the turquoise, sandy bottom warm water if it is not a pool, so it must have been good conditions.

Hike to Lake of the Clouds

We followed that with a hike down to the Lake of the Clouds. The mosquitoes were formidable, but it was a pleasing walk down to the lake through some old growth forests. The porcupine mountain state park protects a pretty large forest of old growth trees, especially the hemlock-maple type forest. Absolutely beautiful! I think on our next visit we’ll spend the night and maybe do a Porcupine / Apostle Islands / Duluth – Lake Superior Super Tour!

We finished the day by hitting the buffet at the Lac Vieux Desert Casino on the Ojibwa Indian reservation just north of Watersmeet.

 

Visit to Marquette, Michigan

We drove 90 minutes up to one of my favorite places on the planet, Marquette, Michigan. We wanted to see Lake Superior and to also talk to the admissions office of Northern Michigan University to check out in-state versus out-of-state status of our family. With Owen starting high school next year, we are already looking at universities and with the world to choose from, we need to consider the possibilities starting now.

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I love Marquette because of its progressive culture and intellectual might of a university, while still being in the rural Upper Peninsula. Lake Superior, the pine forests and fresh air are absolutely refreshing to one’s spirit and it is a very peaceful lifestyle. The one drawback is the cold weather, but with lots of snow due to western winds coming off Lake Superior, it is ideal for cross-country skiing. I find the people of Marquette not as friendly as other towns of the UP, it might be because it is the unofficial capital of the UP, although it only has around 20,000 inhabitants.

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The gale force winds created huge waves on Lake Superior which made swimming a lot more exciting. The water was warmer than the air. The video on the top of this post shows the Kralovecs swimming and the lifeguards in blankets. We hiked to the top of Sugarloaf to take in the views. Stunning! We also toured Northern Michigan University, including running in the Superior (Yooper) Dome, the largest wooden structure in the world. All in all another fun day in the UP!

Boys sprinting at Superior Dome

Indians Defeat White Sox

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The Kralovecs at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago

The entire family went to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago to watch AL Central Division foes, the Cleveland Indians defeat the Chicago White Sox 9-3. It was the Indian’s eighth consecutive win.  Indian second baseman Jose Ramirez was the hero with four hits and 3 RBIs. Cleveland has a solid lineup from top to bottom and is well-managed by Terry Francona and it showed. They had runners on base the whole game.

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We had good seats on the first base side

My big takeaway from the game was realizing that baseball is healthy and its popularity is not lessening. It was a fantastic night out for the family! Most of the people in attendance are not really into baseball, but they are there for the food and beer, the between inning entertainment and just an excuse to sit outside on a cool summer evening. Baseball at the stadium is really a restaurant and bar business, supplemented with clothing sales, parking, etc. The kids were loving trying to catch a foul ball. At the end of each inning, they sprinted down to the first row, hoping the first baseman would flip them the ball as he trotted to the dugout. They were not in luck.

We took the train from Andy’s apartment downtown and it was quite convenient. We are Detroit Tigers fans, but it was our only chance to see an MLB game this year. I wanted to see the Cubs game the previous evening, but tickets were too expensive. It was “Christmas in July” theme night and after the game, fans enjoyed a firework show to Christmas music.

Kids trying to get a ball

I hope Cleveland does well in the playoffs since we watched them. Francisco Lindor was smaller than I expected. He is also extremely flexible and several of the Cleveland players performed some pretty amazing stretches before the game. Danny Salazar pitched five no-hit innings. The first place Indians are 2.5 games ahead of Kansas City in the AL Central and should hold off the Royals to win the division, but we’ll see. The Astros and Red Sox will be tough competition.

 

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Post game fireworks

 

The Mysterious Paulding Light

 

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The boys and Uncle Jimmer are awed by the Paulding Light

 

This past week I spent the week visiting my hometown of Caspian, Michigan for the first time in over 5 years. I will be uploading posts from the week as I get them completed. We had slow internet at my house and I am working on a project for my doctorate and had limited time to write. I hope to get several posts up reflecting on our trips this summer.

One of the attractions that everyone should see when they are in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is seeing the mysterious Paulding Lights.  This is a natural or unnatural phenomenon, depending on who you believe. The lights were first reported by teenagers to the police in 1966, and ever since, it has been a tourist attraction. The lights were featured on a SyFy channel program. They are similar to the Marfa lights in west Texas.

Paulding is a tiny, unincorporated village located about a 40-minute drive north west of my hometown of Caspian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mysterious lights, hovering and bouncing in the distance horizon above the trees could be seen at the end of a side road off Highway M-45. We have been there several times, both in summer and winter and there are always a few people there. Paulding is not exactly easy to get to, but tourists and locals from northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. On this trip, some guys in a truck were getting stoned and another family was recording the lights with their phones.

the light

This time my brother and I took the kids for the first time, so we played up the unnatural phenomenon theory. A train employee was run over while working on the lines and ever since then, his ghost swings his lantern to warn others. Others speculate UFOs or I heard some other stories. We had the kids good and scared when we approached the dead end, marked by a roadside metal fence. There is an ATV trail that leads towards the lights, so we hopped the barrier and walked to the lights. About 200 yards from the barrier, there is a small bridge above a beaver dam and after about 30 minutes, we turned around. We saw the lights, but couldn’t work out with the naked eye, what exactly was causing them.

Michigan Technological University researchers discovered that the lights are car headlights and tail lights from passing cars on M-45. An atmospheric inversion has a magnifying effect and allows people to see eerie lights hovering above trees in the distance. I am not sure how that works.

It was a classic UP adventure and the kids loved getting scared and walking through the refreshing pine forests at night.

Hickory Run

Hike on Fireline Trail

During our stay in Poconos mountains, we have enjoyed spending time in the Hickory Run state park. The large park is about 30 minutes from Freeland and has 40 miles of hiking trails. It also has a disc golf course and small reservoir for swimming.

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The Fireline trail has some nice views over the Lehigh River. You can combine with Skyline and Gould’s trail to form a loop that takes about 2 hours. We noticed many trees down due to the recent storm. The Poconos are similar to the forests of northern Michigan, although with fewer pine trees and some different species of plants and birds.

Owen is still enthusiastic about disc golf so we play any chance we get. It is a great way for me to get outdoors and spend time with him. Below is a video showing one of the typical holes.

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Visiting Washington DC

 

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Nadia on the steps of the Supreme Court

 

We had a pleasant long weekend in the nation’s capital, my fifth visit to the district. The amount of history and power concentrated in one place is impressive. The city is special to me because my wife Nadia loves politics so much, it is like me going to a professional sporting event. Seeing in person the sites of the American political system in person is exciting. I enjoy watching her delight as much as seeing the sites myself.

 

 

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Catching up with friends on the “Poto-Mac” boardwalk in historic Alexandria

 

Summer evenings are delightful and walking around the National Mall during a beautiful sunset is a great way to spend a night in July. The founding fathers did a good job of portraying the power of this nation. The Roman classical building architecture, the wide expanse of green space and the Potomac River flowing past, it really sets itself apart from European capital cities. There are always a lot of visitors, but it didn’t feel crowded. The Lincoln Memorial captures the spirit of the great president. It was moving to read the words of the Gettysburg Address with his statue just to the side of me. The American Civil War was not all that long ago and keeping together the union has made a better life for Americans today. There are still cultural, economic, social and racial divisions in this huge country, but keeping together is better than splitting apart.

 

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We had to do a “drive-by” of the Trump Hotel

 

The World War II memorial, next to the reflecting pool is also a fitting monument to the people impacted by the war. Both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters are featured and with quotes by generals and presidents, it stirred patriotic feelings in all of us. We made it to Washington obelisk, and it is fitting General Washington received a Pharaoh’s treatment. On a tour of the Capitol Building, Washington is featured on the fresco on the ceiling of the Rotunda, and the Italian artist Brumidi, pictures Washington ascending to heaven accompanied by angels representing liberty and victory. He didn’t conquer the world like Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, but being the first president of the future American empire, puts him in that same group.

 

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American Apotheosis on the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda

 

DC is a very busy city and although we avoided rush hour traffic, the amount of entrance and exit ramps, bridges, multi-laned highways, it was a bit confusing navigating the city. I also don’t like any place with a median house price of over half a million dollars. The amount of culture and intellectual energy in the place is great, but I don’t know how educators could live there. Driving through neighborhoods reminded us of Japan because the homes were so close together and streets were narrow compared to the rural Pennsylvania. Space is at a premium in the city.

 

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A beautiful summer evening on the National Mall

 

We took a short tour of the US Capitol Building. It was interesting to see congressmen walking out of the building into waiting Chevy black Suburbans with secret service drivers. I didn’t realize how vast the space for the inauguration ceremony actually was. The photos from the air during Obama and Trump’s ceremonies were controversial regarding crowd size and it was fun to stand there. On our way home, we made a stop at Chatter, the restaurant owned by ESPN commentator, Tony Kornheiser. I occasionally listen to his podcast and so I wanted to see the restaurant and new podcast studio on the site. The food was reasonably priced and pretty good, so I do recommend a visit.

We also visited an old friend of Nadia’s in Alexandria, Virginia. City officials developed the water front and combined with the historical buildings and lots of restaurants and bars, it was a lively atmosphere. We had a good Thai meal and walk along the water.

I finish this post with a video of Ocean taking part in a street performance. A busker (Aussie term for street performer) called her up to set out the tip hat. I guess using a cute little girl would generate more sympathy from patrons. She of course loves the spotlight and was hamming it up for the crowd.

 

ocean with busker

 

Independence Day #241

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Another great round of disc golf!

I have not been blogging much this month due to my energy being devoted to my doctoral study. We did have a nice 4th of July here in eastern Pennsylvania. We are staying with my uncle in the small town of Freeland. The town has the highest elevation in Pennsylvania and is located in the Poconos Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian chain.

My son Owen’s latest interest is disc golf and there are a couple good courses in a nearby state park. The disc golf course at the Hickory Run State Park is challenging, picturesque and well-marked. I am not a fanatic of disc golf, but it is a nice way to spend 2 hours with the family, in nature, and without screens.

We purchased a bunch of fireworks at a “super store” near Tannersville. The kids and adults loved the explosions. Fireworks have come a long way since I was young. Nadia and Jack cooked a delicious meal, and overall, it was a nice way to spend the anniversary of our independence from Britain.

 

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Nadia shows off her 4th of July cake