Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Upper Peninsula of Michigan’

Explore Canadian Wilderness on Agawa Canyon Tour Train

Agawa Canyon Train

Agawa Canyon Train

Want to spend a day in the wilderness? The Agawa Canyon Tour Train will fulfill that desire. Starting early in the morning, passengers board for a one-day rail adventure that leads to the beautiful Agawa Canyon in the heart of the Canadian wilderness.

In the upper peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste Marie is the place to begin. You will first cross the International Bridge into Ontario, Canada where you board the all-day excursion to the back country of Canada. Everyone settles in to watch the scenic view pass by the  large windows of the excursion train. Lakes, waterfalls, and many pines give a feast to the eyes as mile after mile of this 228 mile journey relaxes your mind. A knowledgeable tour guide delights travelers with stories of local history, Ojibway, fur traders and explorers. For breathtaking views along the way, monitors throughout the coaches are connected to a camera mounted on the front of the engine.

School children wave to the Agawa Canyon Train.

School children wave to the Agawa Canyon Train.

Around nine o’clock, the train gives a whistle as it passes the elementary school where students line the track waving to the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. The guide said the children look forward to this break in the morning, while the teacher attempts to involve them in the history of their area.

Although this is a wilderness area, some people still live here. Every few miles the train will stop at a small depot to leave mail and packages. Once in a while, a passenger might board for a ride farther into or out of the canyon. Locals are accustomed to the arrival of the train as the tracks were laid in the canyon during the winter of 1911-1912.

Towering trestles provide spectacular views of the valleys below and once in a while you can catch a glimpse of the end of the train as it curves around the valley walls. It is thought that Agawa Canyon was created from a fault, which occurred over a billion years ago.

Waterfalls at Agawa Canyon Park

Waterfalls at Agawa Canyon Park

At the farthest end of the tour, the train sweeps down to the floor of the canyon stopping at Canyon Park. There are only two ways to reach this spectacular park area : by train or hiking. Great views of the waterfalls appear from the canyon floor, so this is the perfect time to stretch your legs and do a little exploring. The Overlook is a great place for breathtaking pictures while the train stops for about an hour.  As you might imagine, there is a Souvenir Car here in case you want to purchase a special memory of the excursion.

As you get closer to Agawa River you notice that the color is rather unusual. It has a near rusty color caused by staining of tannic acid, which comes from the roots and bark of the many cedar trees in the area.

Agawa Canyon Overlook

Agawa Canyon Overlook

A box lunch on the way back settles everyone in their turned around seats to enjoy the scenery from another direction. Although many small animals live in this area, none were seen on this particular trip. The larger ones have two reasons for avoiding the canyon: the walls are too steep and the train is too loud. This is truly a day for relaxation and visiting with friends and new acquaintances.

For those who enjoy the sound and feel of a train ride,  Agawa Canyon Train Tour is a great, relaxing experience.As David P Morgan said, “Things that move are a lot more exciting than things that stand still.” I agree!

Agawa Canyon Tour Train can be reached in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario across the International Bridge from Michigan. Boarding takes place at Bay Street along the St. Mary’s River. The train runs from June – October on its regular daily runs. However, the Snow Train operates only on Saturdays from late January until early March. Check ahead for changes in schedule.

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Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch Michigan Home for Rescued Cubs

Black Bear RanchOn a trip through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, commonly called the UP, a sign for a Black Bear Ranch appeared along the road. Bears are a symbol of courage and bravery, having appeared in many Native American legends. All my life this gypsy has been attracted to bears and their habitat, so this was a bonus find along the way.

Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch is the largest strictly bear ranch in the United States. Located on the back roads near Newberry, Michigan, it has become one of the top ten family attractions in the area.  Owned by Dean and Jewel Oswald, this family affair began as a rescue operation for black bear cubs. Dean brought them to his ranch, fed them, and gave them loving care. Once word spread of his love for bears, people from all around the world would call to say they had found a small bear cub, but were no longer able to care for it. Then Dean would bring it to its new home.

Tyson BearThe main attraction in the early days of Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch was Tyson, the largest black bear in the United States and possibly the world. Although the name black bear suggests the color black for all those bears, their colors range from cinnamon to dark chocolate to jet black. Tyson weighed in at 880 pounds, but the Oswalds believe he reached 1000 pounds, before taking his last breath in 2000.

Those curious about bears are free to walk throughout the property – outside the fences of course. It’s an enjoyable stroll to encircle one of their four enclosed areas and view the bears as they lumber along. This experience is more personal than a visit to a zoo, since visitors usually get closer to a real bear than they have ever been before. Today they have added a trolley for older or handicapped visitors, who aren’t able to make the long walk, but would still enjoy seeing the bears in their wilderness habitat.

Baby Bears Play AreaTwo little bear cubs enjoyed playing with an old swinging tire in their cage. They amused themselves for quite some time pushing it from side to side and sometimes getting on it for a ride. The cubs seemed quite pleased with themselves while swinging. Nearby was a big pool of water where they bathed and splashed each other, exactly like two children might do.  Cute is the word that best described their antics. Each year a contest is held in the local area to name the newest bear cubs.

Bear Waiting for SnackAnother favorite activity involves feeding the bears. The larger bears might be fed apples, while the younger ones prefer Fruit Loops.  Eagerly awaiting their snacks, bears bravely approach the fence. These small cubs, all under the age of four months, received many gentle rubs and even hugs, as it was permissible to pet them during a previous visit. However, last year the government stepped in and now prohibits touching the bears or taking pictures with them. Some still feel Dean Oswald lets visitors a little too close for comfort, but the children and young at heart certainly enjoy being allowed this close contact.

Black Bear HibernationThe older bears lived in a large fenced in area with a half mile perimeter to roam. The high fence protected visitors but still gave the bears freedom more closely resembling the wilderness where bears usually live. At the back of the fenced in area were cement block houses for winter hibernation. With straw covered, wooden floors inside, bears had a comfortable environment for their winter sleep.

Today there are 27 bears at Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch. Of course, there is also a souvenir shop for those who want to take home a memory. My treasure was a warm flannel nightgown with Oswald Ranch written among the black bears. It feels like getting a warm, soft hug from a bear!

Oswald Black Bear Ranch is located just 20 minutes south of Tahquamenon Falls, or from Newberry go 4 miles north on M-123 towards Tahquamenon Falls. Turn left at 4 Mile Corner (Deer Park Rd., Muskallonge Lake, H-37 H-407). Then it’s 4 1/2 more miles to see the former home of Tyson Bear .

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