Oliver completed the Apple Blossom Trail for the first time and has now done it twice. Grandpa obtained some extra bikes for the boys and Ollie likes the purple one. He is still riding with training wheels, but he has a lot of potential. He also made strides in the pool and can put his head underwater completely. The little guy is on target to learn to swim and ride a bike.
The trail has been great for the boys and I would like to thank the cities of Iron River and Caspian for making it happen! The trail provides a safe place to bike with lots of nature. We saw a kingfisher, several deer including a big buck, cedar waxwings, rabbits, blue birds, a leopard frog, a dead skunk, and much more along the trail. I hope all of the towns of the UP put in more trails. This could be a biking paradise as the population leaves Michigan and the small towns of the UP.
We also went swimming at the George Young Recreational Complex. The resort was built by George Young, a native of Stambaugh, Michigan (now Iron River), who left for Chicago to seek his fortune. He ended up have a vast fortune from owning brick factories, using UP iron ore. He was a big golfer and as a hobby, he designed holes of courses he played right here in Iron County. When he died, his family bequeathed the land to the county and today it is a non-profit organization that runs the resort that everyone can enjoy. There is an 18-hole golf course, indoor swimming pool, and miles of cross-country ski / mountain biking trails. The kids and Nadia enjoyed the pool.
Yesterday my father helped the boys go fishing for a second time this summer. We went to the nearby Caspian Mine Pit. It is a former open pit iron ore mine. The Caspian Mine had its heydey back about 100 years ago. In the 1960’s, my grandfather and mine employee, Arthur Heikkila, was the last man in the mine and as he shut down the pumps, the water began to fill in. The Iron County Museum is based in one of its buildings and the city of Caspian has turned it into a recreational area. The DNR planted trout in the pit this spring.
We had a few bites off of the fishing dock shown above. Owen is getting good at casting and even Ollie managed to bring a shiner up to the surface. Owen was so excited to get a shiner out of the water. I can imagine his reaction if he ever catches a fish.
It was a very cold and rainy day. Nadia went for a run in the afternoon and took Oliver and Ocean out in the wagon following her. Last night we watched movies.
Earlier this week we took our annual summer trip to Lake Superior. This was the fifth trip we’ve made and we always go with the Bonetti family. I have been friends with Mark Bonetti since our school days, and as well as seeing the best freshwater lake in the world, it is good to renew our bonds of friendship. This year we decided to go to the far east in the UP to stay in the small town of Paradise, and explore the coast near Whitefish Point.
We are shown above at the Centenial Cranberry Farm. Although it looks nice, it was extremely cold with a sharp, northerly wind making us quite chilled. It was the first time I have been to a cranberry farm and learned how they are harvested. The cranberry is native to the UP and it is a small bush that likes acidic bogs. The glaciers made sure there are plenty of bogs in the UP. Our neighbor to the south, Wisconsin, is the number one producer of cranberries in the US. The Kralovecs are fruit fanatics as you can tell from some of my blog posts! Cranberries are traditionally eaten during American Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It was a long drive but well worth it. Lake Superior’s water temperature in mid-July was 57 F (14 C) and quite refreshing. We went swimming on Monday evening despite the cool winds. The tourists from Ohio thought we were crazy, but once you get in the water it is quite nice. On Tuesday we toured the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. The area is a popular stop for birds on the flyway south because the point juts out into the lake, making it a short flight to and from Canada. We collected rocks and driftwood, played in the sand and really had a nice morning at the beach. Nadia and the boys at the Shipwreck Museum
The museum was very interesting. Lake Superior gets huge storms in the autumn and many ships have gone down. Most were in the 1800’s and early 1900’s and mostly due to collisions or storms. The most fascinating story is of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This was an ore carrier that sank in 1975, the last ship to go down with lives lost. Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about it. The event captures the essence of the beauty and danger of Superior. Many ships went down near Whitefish Point because it narrows as it approaches the Soo Locks.
We had a fantastic weekend doing the traditional summer activities. Friday evening we attended the races at the Norway Speedway located at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds in Norway, Michigan. The kids faces lit up as the cars made their first turn around the corner and the blast of sound came into the grandstands. They really enjoyed the spectacle of the cars. One of their favorite movies is Speed Racer and they often pretend to be driving cars.
I wouldn’t go every week but it is something nice to do once a summer. I was surprised at the amount of people there, probably a couple thousand spectators. I know NASCAR is big in this area and it is nice to have an affordable alternative close by. It is good to see the amateurs in action and the kids enjoy it just the same. I know the Formula One is quite expensive. Tickets were $9 for adult and the kids were free.
Ocean Loves the Water / Sand Combination
The kids spend a lot of time playing happily (and calmly) in the sandbox Grandpa built for them. He went all out in preparation this summer to make sure his grandchildren had plenty to do. He assembled bikes, balls, fishing poles, etc. and even constructed a wonder sandbox that they have literally spent hours in. It is worth the cleanup afterwards for some precious moments of peace and easy supervision.
Sunday we ran in the “Run Your Bass Off” race. This is the 29th annual run and I have been running in it since high school when I am home in the summers. It is part of the Bass Festival in Crystal Falls, Michigan, held at the Runkle Lake Park. A bass is a type of fish and the weekend not only includes a fishing derby, but softball games, canoe races, etc. It was a perfect day for running with temps in the low 70’s and a cool breeze. I ran 48 minutes and was quite tired. The course is full of “rolling hills” and some of them in the end just killed me. I finished fourth in my age group. Not bad for me since I have not been getting in the miles of training. Nadia is still resting her knee and she did the 2 mile fun run with the kids. Ollie and Owen sprinted to the finish and I think next year we’ll try to have them run the 2 mile. I think with some training they could possibly to the “half bass” 5 km run. It was a great day seeing old friends and exercising in scenic Crystal Falls. It is a cute little town.
Owen and Ollie are finally hooked on baseball. We are big Detroit Tiger fans and my Dad watches all of the games. Owen found the glove grandma bought for him a couple years ago and all he wants to do it play catch. It was a “Field of Dreams” moment! He is getting quite good. As I was telling my brothers and father, getting a left-handed son (Owen) is a gift from God and we need to develop his talent as a possible Major League pitcher. If he can throw 85 miles per hour, he might get at least a shot. He is my retirement plan. It is funny that he bats from the right side, and Oliver, the right-hander, bats from the left side. Oliver is quite a good hitter!
Yesterday we took the kids to a presentation by the artists of the Pine Mountain Music Festival’s (PMMF) opera performance. The PMMF is a five-week festival that brings classical music, workshops, and master classes to the small towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was started by a former cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that was from Iron Mountain. It is quite an opportunity to see world-class performances in this remote area. I guess the artists enjoy the beauty of the north woods .
The video above shows the performers in The Secret Marriage, an opera written by Italian Cimarosa, a contemporary of Mozart. They did a workshop for kids. We were impressed by the voices of the performers! We hope it inspires our chlidren to develop themselves in the performing arts. The audience got to ask questions and Owen asked the performers if they ever got sick and couldn’t go to a performance. The baritone answered that is how young artists such as themselves break into the business. When the veteran performer is ill, they serve as alternates and get their chance for gaining experience. Most of the performers came from music families, either having parents as music teachers and/or performers.
I was a bit disappointed at how many people came to the workshop. What a great opportunity for kids! I feel bad that I have not been able to support the festival by attending many of the performances. We don’t have babysitters here in Michigan. Perhaps as the kids get older, I’ll be able to. I encourage everyone in the area to take advantage and enjoy any of the performances. I would also like to thank the artists and the organizers of the festival for reaching out to the UP and providing us with this enlightening entertainment.
Yesterday Owen, Oliver, and I ventured to Chicagoan Falls. The UP has many waterfalls and it is enjoyable to make a day of it and visit one of them. The weather was a bit cool yesterday, but the sun was shining and the boys were restless so we took off.
The waterfalls are located near Long Lake, about halfway between Iron River and Crystal Falls. We did the mile hike and the boys absolutely loved it. They were climbing over the rocks, crossing the log bridges, and generally being boys. Owen kept referring to the survivor series on Discovery Channel. The water was surprising warm, perhaps it is in comparison to Lake Superior. There is always some outdoor adventure awaiting us in the UP.
Yesterday we drove up to Marquette, Michigan to go shopping at the Target Store located there. We wanted to buy a duna for Ocean, shoes for the kids, as well as get a new set of pillows and towels for my Dad. Without my mother, he lacks that woman’s touch around the house.
After Target, we hit the beach as you can see. Marquette is my favorite town in the UP. It is the largest at around 20,000, and has a university (Northern Michigan University). It is located on Lake Superior and receives 144 inches of snow per year. It is one of the few places I would come back to live in the USA if I could find a good job there.
Lake Superior is a huge freshwater inland sea. It is the largest of the Great Lakes and always pretty cold. We all got in yesterday, but not for that long. The kids really enjoyed the sandy beach, making sand castles, playing football, skipping rocks, and burying each other.
In the morning we watched the Federer versus Roddick final.
This is the big 4th of July weekend in the USA. Ocean and Ollie are shown above in Grandpa’s garage on the John Deere riding lawnmower. Ocean’s looks are changing every day! I spent the morning with these two as Nadia and Owen went for a run on the Appple Blossom Trail. I took them in the wagon over to the Caspian Community Center playground. In the afternoon we headed over to my brother’s home in Iron Mountain. Shelly was putting on my nephew’s birthday party. She rented a bouncy castle and they set up the swimming pool. Despite the cold water and cooler temps, the kids and I enjoyed swimming. The highlight of the party was the neighbors lighting the smoke stack across the street. There is a 50-meter smoke stack ear Jim’s house that was left by the mining companies. There were many iron mines in the area in the early part of last century. It was known at the Menominee Range and millions of tons of iron ore were shipped to Chicago and Detroit from here. Today all that are left are museums, open pits that have turned into lakes, and huge underground caverns and shafts that are largely unexplored and occasionally cave in. This was an era before the Environmental Protection Agency forced mining companies to clean up and restore the landscape when they were finished.
Anyway, unknown persons lit tires in the bottom of the unused smokestack in honor of a relative who passed away this week. He used to do this occasionally on the 4th. A while later, the Iron Mountain City fire truck came and put it out. I think it was unneccesary as it was not a fire hazard and only causing a bit of pollution. The police asked us who did it and we said we didn’t see anyone lighting it (true).
Owen slept over his cousin’s house and we took his little brother Beau.
I didn’t have the camera with me yesterday (yes, surprise, surprise) but I wish I did as we had a fantastic adventure hiking to Bennan Lake. Jim and I took the four boys (Owen, Ollie, Tony, Beau) as well as Ocean on the Ge – Che Cross Country Ski Trail in the Ottawa National Forest. It is located close to our home in Caspian and is 6 miles long and goes by three lakes, Hagerman, Ottawa, and Bennan. Ge Che means “big lake” in the Ojibwa language.
We started from the car park near the Orville Lunn overlook and we walked the approximately 3 miles to the lake. Along the way we caught a toad, identified slugs, and picked up many ticks. The first half of summer is full of ticks. We had to pick them off several times off of all of us. When we arrived at the lake, several of us went for a swim. It is a beautiful, little lake with only one dock on that we could see. A pair of loons were swimming near by. When we got back, Nadia had prepared some pumpkin risotto and an angel food cake berry delight. What a great end to a great day!
I had a wonderful day yesterday. The cool temperatures have kept most people indoors. The boys went to the movies with Uncle Jim and Aunt Shelly. Nadia was not feeling well, so Ocean and I took advantage of this and went for a bike ride around Iron Mountain. Jim has a bike with a “rickshaw” and we rode around Lake Antoine, visited city park, and went by Iron Mountain High School. We stopped at various parks and had them all to ourselves. I guess it was a Wednesday afternoon and the occasional rain kept people out of the parks. As you can see, Ocean enjoyed it. It was good to spend time alone with my daughter. She is such a loving little girl!
Later, when the boys got back, we had batting practice. Owen is working on getting rid of his upper cut. My brother Jim is an excellent coach and really helped him at Northside Field. We then took the boys for pasties and headed home. All in all, a fantastic day!