Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Blueberry Picking at Rush River Produce

Now that my travel series to Michigan's Upper Peninsula is over,  I will be spending the next few weeks highlighting some of our local travel adventures.  I know it's January and not the time of year to go blueberry picking, but with all my summer gardening chores, I really do not have time in the summer to write up these kinds of posts.  Plus, I figure why not allow my readers some time to read about them now, so they can plan for next summer?  I did have one reader comment recently how nice it was to see pictures of flowers on my blog during the dreariness of winter, so that's another good reason!  You will see lots of gorgeous flowers in this post!  So let's settle in, put the winter blues aside, and start dreaming of summer shall we?

Every year my husband and I go blueberry picking.  I pick enough blueberries for the year.  I don't can them or anything, I just freeze them to use in smoothies and other recipes.  We normally go to the same orchard, but this year a friend recommended another place so we decided to give it a try.  This one is located in the rolling hills of Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.  The beautiful country drive is worth going here alone!

When we first pulled in to Rush River Produce I could not believe how crowded it was!  There were cars and people everywhere!  "Where did they all come from?" I wondered "This place is in the middle of nowhere".  The family run farm must get this amount of business every year because they had plenty of parking with signage to boot!  

We started walking, eager to pick our berries, but I immediately became distracted by all the beautiful flower gardens!  Oh my!  It was a feast for the eyes!

This purple poppy seemed to dominate the landscape.  I don't know what variety it is, as I've never seen anything but an orange or red poppy before, but it was gorgeous and so prolific!

Beyond the poppy gardens are the blueberries.  The farm grows 14 different varieties of Blueberries, and you are allowed to taste test before you pick away!

I grew Dill in my vegetable garden for the first time last year and I was amazed at how easily it grew and what a beautiful plant it was.  So I was not surprised at all to see Dill used as a border plant in these flower gardens.

The vegetable garden was equally impressive.  Just look at all that colorful lettuce!  And those onions!  I couldn't believe the size of them.  Mine never grow that big.  I kept wondering what their secret was because their soil didn't look all that great and they don't even mulch!

In addition to poppies, they had lots of tall hollyhock too!

After strolling through the flower and vegetable gardens we headed out to the blueberry fields.  My oh my!  It was huge!  Where did all the people go?  We didn't know where to begin.  Rush River Produce has nine acres of blueberry plants!

The rows between the blueberry plants are nice and wide so there is plenty of space to move around.  The ground was a worn down lawn so I never felt uncomfortable, like I was walking in weeds or brush.

Even though we brought our own buckets, the farm lends you these easy to use carriers to aid you in your blueberry picking!

We had no problem finding lots of blueberries to pick.  I like to pick mine when they are still light, like in the photo below.  Other people wait till they turn that dark purple and are slightly mushy.  To me they are over-ripe at that point.  These will ripen more at home as it takes awhile to process them.  If I pick them to plump and purple, they can get mushy.

Hubby worked diligently picking away, but I still was the faster picker and picked a lot more blueberries than he did.

A ha! There's some other blueberry pickers!

After we filled two pails of blueberries we went to pay for them.  On the way out we saw more beautiful flower gardens.  Just look at the size of these clematis plants!

This garden was a mixture of hollyhock, poppies, tall Asiatic lilies, iris, and petunias.

We had so much fun picking blueberries and strolling through all the beautiful gardens at Rush River Produce.  However, I don't think we will go back as their blueberries are a lot more expensive than our usual place.  It was a fun adventure, and it was good to try someplace new, but we pick blueberries for economical reasons and not just for the experience.  

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Chapel Loop Trail in The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: A Hike of a Lifetime!

This post is the final post of a travel series to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.   To start at the beginning go  HERE.  The remaining posts in consecutive order are HERE , HEREHERE,  HERE, HERE, and HERE!

On our last day in Michigan's Upper Penisula, my husband and I took the hike of a lifetime:  the Chapel Loop Trail.  I first saw this hike advertised on Instagram and knew I had to take it!  However, it was 10 miles long.  I wondered, "Could I even hike 10 miles?"  The longest trail we ever took before was probably 6 or 7 miles, and those were tough.  But those trails all involved steep inclines, the author who reviewed this trail said it was all flat terrain and said not to fear it.   I've been having issues with my hip (I've since had hip replacement surgery) and my husband has frequent knee and back issues off and on, so we were hesitant.  What if we got half way through and felt we couldn't make it?  It's a loop, so there's no point in turning around.  In the end, we decided to give it a go.  We would just start at dawn and take it nice and slow, or so we thought.

We knew we were in trouble at the trailhead when the second we exited our vehicle we were attacked by mosquitoes.  It was insane!  We jumped back into our vehicle to change instead of gearing up outside the vehicle like we usually do.  Then we sprayed, and sprayed, with the strongest mosquito repellent there is.  That helped keep them off of us, but it didn't stop them from buzzing around us.  We noticed other hikers get out of their vehicles, start the trail, and then turn around and go back, so it wasn't just us.

I was so determined to hike this trail, I would not let the mosquitos deter me, so we ventured into the woods.

This hike has it all:  two waterfalls, riverside walk, beaches, scenic views, and Lake Superior.  You start and end the hike through a forest.  This was one of the most beautiful, magical forests I had ever seen in my life.  It is filled with glorious ferns, rock covered moss, and fascinating mushrooms.  I only wish I could have enjoyed it more.  We ended up RUNNING through the first forest because even with all the repellent, the mosquitoes were eating us alive!

This is Mosquito River, which empties into Lake Superior and Mosquito Falls.

The forest path is a very narrow dirt path filled with lush ferns.

This cute wooden bridge went right over the falls.

Just look at how Mother Nature thrives in this cool, wet climate.  Those mushrooms and ferns are incredible!

Eventually we made it out of the mosquito infested forest and onto the beach where thankfully we didn't experience anymore mosquitoes for the rest of the day.

The middle portion of the loop runs along the edge of the Pictured Rocks.  We saw many of the famous sites that we saw on the boat tour the day before, only this time, we were on top of them instead of in the water and we could get a lot closer to these natural wonders. The photo below is of "Lover's Leap".

The views from this hike are incredible!  However, there are no railings anywhere, so be careful and don't get too close to the edge.  There are steep drop offs right into the shallow water below.

It was spring, so we saw spring wildflowers everywhere!

The water is so beautiful and clear in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area.  The blue green color reminds one of water one might see in the Caribbean, not in Michigan!

Remember in last week's post when I shared how part of the cliff collapsed into the water?  Well now here we are right on top of that collapsed cliff!

Even though it was scary knowing that part of the cliff fell away a few years earlier, we thought it was the perfect spot to have lunch!  It was so peaceful, and the warm sun felt wonderful.

To give you an idea of the enormous size of these cliffs, that is an adult male hiking on top.

While I rested a bit, hubby walked a little further to explore more. 

"Grand Portal", another famous site we saw the day before, is pictured below.  I couldn't believe we walked this far! I was quite impressed with my 60 year old body.  This is not a popular hike.  I think the distance frightens most hikers away.  We only ran into one other hiker who planned to go the distance and a couple of group of hikers who were hiking this trail as part of a much larger trail system.  Most hikers just hike the three mile Rond trip trail Chapel Falls or the 6.1 mile round trip trail to Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach.

We saw one of the boats that we had taken the day before.

We also saw lots of kayakers.  It was so quiet and the acoustics were so perfect that we were able to hear every word they said and talk to them.

This is Chapel Cove;  the same cove our boat pulled inside of the day before.

We finally made it to Chapel Beach!  We were more than half way through our hike at this point.  It was beautiful here.  It was great seeing the waterfall up close that we saw from our boat tour the day before.  Here the Mosquito River empties into Lake Superior.

And here is a little video of this same waterfall emptying into Lake Superior:

Somehow we got off the trail and couldn't find it again.  Even though were experienced hikers, for some reason, getting lost on trails is a habit of ours. 😂. Part of the reason is that people always create side shoots or short cuts on their own and it's hard to know which way to go.  We weren't particularly worried on this trail, because we knew it followed the lake, so we just had to keep the lake on our left side until it was time to go back into the forest again.  We saw the beach from the top of the cliff and we knew Chapel Beach was part of the trail and we'd be fine if we just got down to the beach.  So we decided to climb down this slope (you can see the slope in the center left of the photo below), but I ended up falling and slipping down on my hands and arms.  I got pretty banged up and was quite bruised the next day.  Once we were down on the beach and were walking towards the waterfall, we saw the stairs that led to Chapel Beach.  Stairs would have been a lot easier than sliding down a cliff.  😂

I was pretty proud of myself that I was doing such an adventurous hike with a bad hip and all!

We got a nice view of Chapel Rock from the beach.

And it was pretty exciting walking across the bridge that I had seen from the boat the day before.

This is the view from the bridge above the waterfall looking out into Lake Superior.  So cool!

Chapel Rock was so much better to see in person than from a boat.  The root system of the tree on top of the rock goes across the sky to the other rock formation.  Isn't that incredible?

Here you can see the root system from another angle.  God the creator is amazing, isn't He?  

Now it was time to finish the loop and go back into the forest again.  We were pretty nervous about running into all those mosquitoes again as many hikers that only did the 3 or 6 mile trail versions said the mosquitoes were horrendous.  But thankfully,  the mosquitoes were all gone!  It was late afternoon by this point and it must have gotten too hot for them.  We were able to walk the rest of the hike to our car pest free and we enjoyed hiking through the forest instead of "running" through it.

Once again we saw lots of tall, glorious ferns!

The tree canopy of this trail is amazing.  The tall trees surround both sides of the trail and seem to touch each other at the top allowing only a bit of sky to poke through.

The third waterfall we saw on this hike was the grandest one of them all;  perhaps that's why the Chapel Falls hike is so popular.  We ran into lots of hikers on this trail.  This waterfall is 60 feet high.

Just like the Mosquito Falls trail, the Chapel Falls trail had lots of pretty bridges to stop and take a picture!

There are two different viewing decks to give you different angles of the falls.  By the time we reached this deck and saw a bench, we stopped and sat for quite awhile.  We explained to all the other hikers that we had hiked the entire ten mile loop, and everyone we lamented too was quite impressed with us.  😂

I saw one last grouping of wildflowers I just had to take a photo of before we were finally in the parking lot.

By the time we got to our car we were dirty, muddy, bruised, and the most exhausted we had ever been in our entire lives, but it was so worth it!  Wow! What a hike!  It was one of the top five trails I have ever done in my life.

And that concludes the end of my Upper Peninsula travel series.  Next week I'm going to start covering some our more local summer adventures so you can start planning your summer trips!

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!