Fall colors were out in full force in the crisp October air. Katie and I planned a quick trip south to find some waterfalls and overlooks in Ontonagon. I wanted to revisit some spots from a month earlier, a trip that I didn't take any pictures during, and we both were itching to get out and enjoy the autumn weather.
We took M-26 and US-45 down just past Ontonagon River and parked at a now familiar two-track leading west off the highway. With a leashed Logan we headed down the track, colored leaves crunching underfoot and the dry grass giving way around us. I didn't want to waste any time at Sandstone Creek, well aware that the falls would still be bone-dry.
We eventually reached Plover Falls by just staying on the grassy ATV trail that parallels Ontonagon River. The creek was little more than a trickle down sandstone slabs, with one overhanging loosely counting as a waterfall. It was still fun, teasing Logan with the crinkle of the leaves and breathing the rich autumn air. I took a few quick photos of the trickling creek and made a mental note to return during spring thaw.
On the way back we took our time, checking out a few pieces of junk left along the trail as well as the big brown river next to us. The murky waters combined with the tall sandy cliffs have captured my imagination for a while. How hard would it be to wade across and climb up the banks? And what could one see up there? Military Hills probably block most views, but it would be cool to see West and South Branch come together.
I had a few more waterfalls to check out today so we headed up and over through Rockland. As we drove down Victoria Road Katie mentioned stopping at Old Victoria, a restored historic mining town along the road. We were lucky when we stopped: this was the last day of tours for the town. It was interesting to see the tiny log cabins and artifacts but between Logan's puppy brain and our desire for more remote adventures we snuck away from the tour early and headed down some of the paths through the woods. These wooded paths led past old foundations and some rock piles and no mines. After getting our fill of Old Victoria we continued the drive to the dam.
The tall dam and basin were nothing new for me, as I had made several stops by the dry slabs of sandstone hoping to see the water overflowing, but I figured that I might as well get a few pictures. Katie and I spent most of our time wandering around the dam and reservoir, only briefly checking out the deep gorge. Before we left I decided to get a little crazy and head down to the base of the dam. Maybe, just maybe, the dry sandstone wall looked more like a waterfall from the bottom. The climb down was tough and I got my answer: no, the trickling walls did not look like waterfall from the bottom.
There were a few more spots close by. Driving west down the poorly maintained Victoria Dam Road that reaches over to Norwich I kept a close eye out for anything that resembled a path to Gleason Creek Falls. There was nothing. The only promising track was down on Whiskey Hollow Creek, with a large white truck blocking the route. We gave up on this destination.
I had another idea. We continued west to Norwich Road and parked at an access point for the North Country Trail. Taking the path across the road we climbed up the steep Norwich Bluff. Katie only made it a half mile before turning around, winded from the slope. I stubbornly continued on. A small, crazy, part of me hoped that I could follow this path to Gleason Creek Falls, follow the creek down to the Ontonagon River, cross it, and then find Sandstone Falls on the other side.
When I first reached the outcropping the view I got was incredible. Fall colors stretched away in the far distance, rolling over hills to the south and west. I stopped and took it all in, breathing in the colors like a heady vapor.
Forgetting about the ridiculous plan to cross the muddy river below I stormed on, hungry for more views. The path continued to climb, slower now, and then I came out on another outcropping. This was awesome.
A half hour had passed since I left Katie behind. I knew she would be bored back in the car by herself so I reluctantly turned around and headed back down the trail. Going down was easy and I half-trotted down the slope. Later I would learn that the ambitious route to visit both Gleason Creek and the distant Sandstone Creek Falls was over eight miles (one-way) and probably too far to attempt without better navigational tools. Even without these two waterfalls completed we had a lot of fun today. Katie and I headed back to Houghton, our stomachs hungry and legs tired, content with the day.