Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Monday, January 13, 2014

Indian Lake State Park…Something for Everyone!

There are so many beautiful and fascinating places in America to explore!  Because my vintage Airstream needs to be treated with lots of tender loving care, I never get to see those places.  The old tin can just isn't up for long road trips.  The good news, though, is there are still lots of places right here in Michigan that I haven't seen, and the Mitten State offers endless opportunities for camping, lodging, outdoor recreation, and breathtaking scenery.  In just the last two years, Michigan has given me ice climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, mountain climbing, and winter survival skills.  Last summer I stopped in at Indian Lake State Park for one night, and ended up changing my travel plans to stay there four days.

Indian Lake State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has something for everyone.  Looking for a Great Lakes Beach?  Got it.  Looking for the 4th largest inland lake in the U.P.?  It's there.  Don't have a camper?  Stay in a cabin.  Want to hike or kayak?  Done.

The campground itself is diverse, with a few sites offering privacy, and many suitable sites for families and friends to camp together.  It has the usual S.P. amenities of a modern campground with electrical hook-ups, water and dump station, clean bathrooms and showers, and a semi-modern area with electricity and vault toilets.  For those without camping equipment, modern cabins are available as well.  The landscape is a mix of wide-open spaces with tree-lined sites in between.  The entire campground sits on the south shore of 8400 acre Indian Lake, offering stunning sunsets and sweeping views of water and distant shores.  I found it is an excellent place to also watch an approaching storm.

But it was in venturing only short distances from the campground that I found all the gems of this trip.  First up was Kitch-iti-kipi.

The brochure I found at the campground said Kitch-iti-kipi is one of the U.P.'s Seven Natural Wonders (which makes me wonder what the other six are, and have I seen them?), calling it Mysteriously Awesome!  and a Mirror of Heaven.  It sounded a bit like a tourist trap, but the campground DNR ranger encouraged me to go, so I did.

A quick 7 mile drive had me pulling into the parking area of Palm Books State Park, which does not allow camping or fishing.  You'll find out in a bit why the no fishing thing could be a big deal to some people.  Walking down a very short path to the edge of the Big Spring, I got my first glimpse and was highly intrigued.

I have never seen water, or anything else for that matter, the color of Kitch-iti-kipi.  You know those sticks you can buy to throw in a bonfire and turn the flames colors?  It was like someone had thrown one of those in the water, except the informational plaque assured me the color was natural.  From the brochure I learned that the Big Spring is two hundred feet across and forty feet deep.  An even more amazing fact is over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone at a year-round constant temperature of 45 degrees F.

Stepping onto the self-guided observation raft, I immediately saw a burst of sand from deep below, looking like a volcano eruption without the fire.  The sand swirled and rose, and I could actually see the water pushing up from below.  It was an awesome display of nature.

As if the color, depth, and eruptions aren't enough, there is an even more amazing feature of Kitch-iti-kipi; the trout.  Hundreds of massive trout swim in its depths, sometimes suspended in time, sometimes drifting lazily, and occasionally darting to and fro.  Looking down through the opening in the center of the raft, I could barely comprehend how deep the trout were below me, while being able to see every mark on them through crystal clear water.  I could only imagine that it would just about kill an avid fisherman to stand there and not drop a line!  But these trout are protected from sportsmen, which might explain their massive size.  Or perhaps its that the fresh water surging into the spring from deep in the earth provides the most healthy of environments for them.  All I know is the trout are magnificent!

I met a man as I was leaving the raft, who inquired about my camera.  We chatted, and it turns out he is a writer from a secret society in the middle of the desert.  Seriously.  He lives in a small community in the desert which its citizens prefer to keep a secret.  They love their little town and do not want its beauty to be ruined by interlopers.  He is writing a book about the flowers of the desert, but has been asked by his community not to publish it, for fear they will be found.  Only I could meet a secret writer from a secret town with a secret book.  If the man had not been so warm and genuinely nice, I might have been a little creeped out.

I visited the gift shop, and bought (on sale 60% off) a lap blanket for my friend Debbie.  It had a big bear on it, of which Debbie is terrified but now uses as a bear and people repellent.  I bought a matching one for myself.  I also left the gift shop happily licking away at an ice cream cone.  I do not normally have ice cream when camping in the U.P. so it was a big deal, trust me.

This morning, I came across a photo on the internet by U.P. photographer Tiffany Trepanier, of the observation platform at Kitch-iti-kip on a cold winter's day.  It looks much different, but what a beautiful photo!

Credit:  Tiffany Trepanier
After leaving the Big Spring and arriving back at Indian Lake State Park, I was rather dismayed to find the wind, which was pulling a massive summer storm across Lake Michigan, had destroyed my artfully arranged campsite.  My camp chair was in the woods, my vase of wildflowers shattered and flowers strewn everywhere, and the ground mat had blown beneath the tin can.  The first flash of lightning lit up the sky, so I went straight to the tin can to wait out the storm.  It was a wild night, with winds rocking the Airstream and thunder echoing, but I stayed warm and dry while I slept deeply.

The next morning I stepped out of the tin can to find myself in a shallow lake that was not there the day before.  The single backpacking tent on the site next to me was floating in the flooded field.  Had it not been for the spectacular sunrise I was greeted with, I might have been worried.  As it was, the 40 mph winds would most likely dry the campground out by noon, and I had more places to go!  Check out my next post in which I will introduce you to centuries-old sawdust, a sneaky storm, and Hiawatha.  Like I said, something for everyone!

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