Fall colors were heating up in the Keweenaw. A group of us got together for a circle drive up around Brockway to enjoy the changing leaves and check out a few easy waterfalls on the way. We all piled into Katie's SUV - Cory and Faith, Emily and James, Katie and Logan - and headed up towards past Hancock.
I pulled into Eagle River around ten in the morning. The sun shone brightly, barely taking the bite out of the crisp fall morning, and a few of us shivered in the fresh air. Eagle River Falls has a nice viewing area far above the river thanks to an old bridge but I was in the mood for something a bit more exciting. Checking the fenced off river banks I noticed a footpath leading down behind a stone monument, right where the chain link fence ended. Everyone except for Katie headed down the steep dirt path to get down to the river… she was content to stay up on the bridge.
Our route was over baked sand, as hard as rock underfoot and with little traction. Carefully inching downward we were all able to reach the hard rock riverbed with no accidents and get our bearings on the bottom of the gorge. It was weird down here, almost alien, jagged and grooved basalt forming a huge scoop that Eagle River flowed over and through. The porprotions of the falls and gorge seemed unreal from the lower vantage point. Even if the falls were barely flowing today, a small stream down the side of the rock face, our vantage point was drastically different than the pedestrian bridge.
Some of us started heading up the rock face along the falls. There is a giant pit of stagnant water on the way that was neat to check out on the way before we reached the old wooden dam at the top. This dam appears humble on a lot of pictures but is actually fairly busy, holding back a large pond above the falls and diverting the waterfall far to the right. Clear waters in this pond gave us a view down to drowned logs and stumps, a view looking back into the past before the pond and dam sat here.
After climbing back up the riverbank and meeting up with Katie we drove down M-26 to the Jampot. Katie wasn't feeling well and sat this trip out, not even interested in the monk's delicious wares, so the rest of us headed up Jacob's Falls. This waterfall is always a fun visit. There are lots of drops above the roadside one that can be reached by climbing right up the steep rocky creekbed. The falls were flowing more than on my last visit, forcing me up a path that follows the east bank when I reached a particularly narrow chute, but I was able to double back upstream and see all the falls. The rest of the group stuck mostly to the this top path, content with viewing the creek from above.
Stopping to purchase some obligatory muffins at Jampot we continued up M-26 past Great Sand Bay. I hoped to get some good pictures of the changing colors on the Keweenaw Ridge before we drove up Brockway so we pulled over at Lake Bailey. This lake was strangely nasty, thick stinking mud lining the riverbanks that smacked and sucked loudly at tossed rocks. The sun shone brightly from the south, washing out the colors and reflecting sharply off the lake. We didn't stay long.
Before entering Copper Harbor we swung over to the Brockway Mountain Drive. This pretty road travels up Brockway Mountain to a nice overlook and gift shop. It was crowded up there today, plenty of other people checking out the fall colors from the overlook, but there was enough room for our group to wander around the south and west slopes and admire the bright hues rolling below us.
Emily had some homework to do this afternoon so we decided to start heading back from here. I wanted to check out the upper reaches of the Copper Falls area, hoping to find a new waterfall today, but as soon as Katie saw the 'Private Lane' sign on Copper Falls Loop she put the brakes on that adventure. Instead we headed south to Lac la Belle to Haven Falls, which had dried to the barest trickle this late in the year.
There was some discussion about circling far to the south all the way down to South Entry and Jacobsville, but the afternoon was going fast. We did end up driving down through Gay and making a quick stop at Brunette Park on the way. This roadside destination usually escapes most visitoris, being a tiny rocky beach on a remote road, but the bright waves and swoops of color on the sandstone lakebed make an incredible contrast against the clear blue waters of Lake Superior. It made for a nice final stop before driving back to Houghton.