The temperature was dreadfully hot and dry. Faith and Kyle, two friends from college, were already in Houghton to start the fall semester and were interested in going for a hike. I wasn't completely sure where I wanted to take them, with so many newly found waterfalls in the area to pick from, so I decided to go somewhere new. I (and they as well) would soon regret this risky decision.
I drove us down towards Mass City, a pleasant route along M-26 through South Range and Toivola. I wanted to check out Plover Falls, a waterfall I had just missed earlier this month, confused by Sandstone Creek's course. Parking just south of the Ontonagon River we headed along the dry, raspy grass on the overgrown two-track, the drone of insects all around us.
We passed by Sandstone Creek and continued down the track. It was narrowing down to an ATV trail now but was more than enough room for the three of us to walk abreast with Logan cutting a path ahead. A short ten minute walk brought us to Plover Creek, a tiny trickle of water whose flood waters have been trying to carve this path away by the looks of the deep cut and unstable banks. Today the creek barely dripped.
Plover Falls is a short distance upstream, visible from the trail, but I could tell that the water was barely dribbling down the moss. I thought about taking some photos but decided against it, as I planned to return during a wetter time of the year in hopes of seeing, you know, water. We turned around and headed back with occasional side treks to see the nearby muddy Ontonagon River.
Before returning to the car I convinced Faith and Kyle to check out Sandstone Creek. While the water was just as low, if not lower, at least the rock formations were more impressive. Just like my last visit this trek was difficult, climbing over and around downed trees, avoiding the sucking mud and stagnant pools. On the way we found an old, angry turtle that served as a nice distraction from the hot air and rocky route. When we did reach the rocky slabs no one seemed that impressed. The water was even lower than Plover Creek, and my friends wanted to see some waterfalls, not dry rocks baking in the sun.
There were a few places that I could take them before we drove back up to Houghton. O Kun de Kun Falls would be the most impressive by far, but it was much farther south than we had time to go today. Instead I drove us over to Victoria Dam. I had no idea what the falls would look like (or if there was even a waterfall on the dam) but it was a new destination for me and would (hopefully) be an easier hike.
The drive through Rockland and Victoria was pretty and varied, up and down steep hills. I chose the correct fork near the dam and brought us right down to the reservoir. We all got out onto the dry, dusty tracks and headed over to the dam. The setup was pretty neat, with a distinctive Cold-War-big-cement-blocky feel to the dam and a large, heavily wooded reservoir above. An overflow channel reached over on the far bank and emptied over giant sandstone slabs, perpendicular to the natural riverbed and giving us a perfect view of the falls. But the waterfall wasn't there. Instead of water cascading down into the steep sandstone gorge a few tiny trails of water crept down the rock. It was really disappointing.
It was nice to chat with Faith and Kyle today and for Logan to have some company. It was hard to hide the disappointment, though. After hearing some of my epic adventures of getting caught in thunderstorms and visiting dozens of waterfalls, and then seeing three meager drops that barely dripped water, they were not impressed. I didn't end up taking any photos of this adventure, spending my time chatting and catching up instead. There was not much to take pictures up anyways. We drove back to Houghton bummed out, trying to come up with future trips that would be more interesting.