Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park (The Waterfalls)

Yesterday, I wondered why people travel distances and spend money to see good vistas. I’m included in such people. Today, why do we do the same to see waterfalls? Why is Niagara the attraction that it is (was)? It can’t be on the strength of “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” alone.

Rugged and well-watered, both Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park and the surrounding Ottawa National Forest feature a lot of waterfalls. Not long after arriving near the park, on the afternoon of the 30th, we sought out Gorge Falls and Potawatomi Falls on the Black River, which flows through Gogebic County and into Lake Superior. From a parking lot off Black River Road — a National Forest Scenic Byway, and justly so — a looping trail of about a third of a mile takes you to both.

Gorge Falls.
Gorge Falls, MichiganThe Black River above Gorge Falls.
Black River, UP MichiganPotawatomi Falls.
Potawatomi Falls, UP MichiganAnn was determined that we walk further upstream from Potawatomi Falls, saying that “I’ve been in a car all day.” True enough. It was a good path. I made sure that she knew that a blue diamond, or sometimes a rectangle, marks a trail.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkPorcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkThe next morning we drove to up M-519 to a parking lot on the west bank of Presque Isle River. Go down a fair number steps on a boardwalk and you soon come to a wooden suspension bridge across the river.
Presque Isle River bridgeThe other side of the bridge is described as an island, but it looks like a peninsula on the maps. Whatever its geographic classification, it was pleasantly wooded on the approach to Lake Superior.
Presque Isle River islandLake Superior at Presque Isle RiverBack across the suspension bridge, the trail on the west bank of Presque Isle River leads to Manhabezo Falls.
Manhabezo FallsThe trail at that point is also part of the North Country Trail, which we’d happened across a number of years ago in Manistee National Forest, in that other part of Michigan. The trail goes all the way from upstate New York to central North Dakota, or vice versa, some 4,600 miles, with a fair chunk of it through the UP.

We’d planned to take the trail to another parking lot along the road, and then walk on the road the short distance back to the parking lot where we’d left our car. A bridge crossing a small gully allows you to do that, except when it’s been hit by a falling tree.
Trail near Manhabezo FallsNot sure when that had happened, but it couldn’t have been too long before. So we scurried down the side of the gully and back up again, crossing a stream small enough to step over, and encountering a lot of mud on the way. At one point the sticky mud was so thick it pulled Ann’s shoes off. What’s a hike, even a short one, if you don’t get a little (or a lot) of mud on you?

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (The Vistas)

What is it about vistas that people like? Assuming we can agree that vista refers to an aesthetically pleasing view from a high position. People drive distances, climb stairs, take elevators, pay money and sometimes even take risks for a good vista. I do those things, though the risks are never that great. I like a good vista, but I can’t quite say why.

That question triggers others. Did Petrarch really climb Ventoux for the view? Or is vista-awe actually a more recent invention, maybe a sprig of the Romantic movement or a Victorian fixation? These questions aren’t so burning that I’m going to do much research, but I do wonder. I suspect the feeling is fairly modern, and probably not universally shared even now, any more than a taste for coffee or soccer or rock and roll.

And it doesn’t just apply to views from mountains. Now that manmade towers are so plentiful, so are those vistas. At Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the UP on July 1, we enjoyed one vista of each kind: a tower top, though that was atop a high hill reached mostly by walking, and a view from a the bluff of a high hill, though we reached that mostly by driving.

The park has a lot of hiking trails through a lot of wilderness, about 59,000 acres with a Lake Superior coastline. The mountains of the name aren’t really much in the way of mountains, but it is rugged terrain: dense old-growth forests, never logged because of its inaccessible ruggedness. I read some years ago that the area was to have been a national park, but the federal government was too distracted in the early 1940s to get around to it, so the state of Michigan went ahead and created a state park in 1945.

I can’t pretend we did any serious hiking in the Porkies. The time and energy weren’t there. But we did some excellent short hikes. Off the South Boundary Road, a side road plunges into the park and ends at a parking lot for the Summit Peak Tower Trail. It’s only half a mile to a lookout tower atop a high hill.

Summit Peak Tower TrailThe trail rose gradually for a time. Except for muddy spots, no difficulties.
Summit Peak Tower TrailEventually, the grade increased and sometimes there were boardwalks and steps.
Summit Peak Tower TrailI had to rest for a minute or two a number of times — and my family kept getting further ahead of me — but before long even I’d made it to the tower. A sign at the base warns: Keep Off During Thunderstorms. Well, yes.
Summit Peak Tower TrailMore steps to the vista we’d come to see. It was worth the effort, even if it’s romantic moonshine invented by the Romantic poets. I’m all in.
Summit Peak TowerSummit Peak Tower TrailThe other vista we decided to see is in the north end of the park, easily accessible by road: the Lake of the Clouds. A sign outside the park along M-107 pointed the way.
M-107 SignAs for the End of the Earth, it didn’t look like anything special. Talk about anticlimactic.

From the the Lake of the Clouds parking lot, a trail only a fifth of a mile leads to the first of two grand vistas.
Lake of the Clouds, MichiganNote the people somewhat higher. The trail continues to that level, which is a rocky surface behind a short wall, overlooking for one of the fine vistas of the UP.
Lake of the Clouds, MichiganLake of the Clouds, MichiganIt’s a wow. The Lake of the Clouds view reminded me of some of the exceptional Canadian vistas we saw in ’06, though those were among mighty mountains, rather than picturesque hills.
Lake of the Clouds, MichiganAnn pointed out that in the fall, the view would be entirely different, and I think entirely worth the risk of running into early-season UP snow to see its multicolors.

UP ’17

For someone who grew up in Texas, I’m unaccountably fond of the Upper Peninsula. A little, probably, since I first saw as a lad its fine ragged outline on a map, and a lot more since my first visit, solo, in 1989. Maybe my appreciation came into full flower on H-13, a two-lane road through Hiawatha National Forest, as I drove north a little faster than strictly necessary, my cassette player playing a little louder than usual, zipping between walls of pines. It was a Be Here Now moment.

Also, I’ve never grown tired of gazing out into the vastness of Lake Superior, as I first did that year and most recently on July 1 at the mouth of Presque Isle River.

Lake Superior, Presque Isle RiverThe shore was rocky at that point, with smooth white driftwood beached on the shore. Not only that, people had built small cairns there, mostly on the wood, something I didn’t notice until I did. Then I started seeing them all around. I built one too, though not this one.
Lake Superior, Presque Isle River
We left the northwest Chicago suburbs late in the afternoon on June 29, spending the first night in Madison. From there, it’s a straight shot north through central Wisconsin, for much of the way on I-39 and then the slower but more interesting US 51. On the last day of June, we made our way north to the western reaches of the UP.

As I wrote 14 years ago: “At the northern end of I-39, which runs like a spine through most of central Wisconsin, US 51 takes over, though for a time it’s a divided highway of four lanes, and thus exactly like the Interstate. Just north of the wee resort town of Tomahawk… the road narrows. By this time, the driving visuals were compelling anyway, and all the narrowing of the road did was bring the scenery that much closer.”

Near Hurley, Wis., US 51 meets US 2. Unlike the 2003 trip, this time we headed east on US 2 into Michigan, into new territory for all of us — me, Yuriko and Ann. Staying at a modest but charming non-chain hotel in Wakefield, Mich., on the nights of the 30th and the 1st, the focus of the 2017 trip was the western UP, especially the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. We also visited the Keweenaw Peninsula, but time didn’t allow a fuller look at Keweenaw.

Evenings were cool and days in the 70s F. and partly cloudy most of the time. Weather forecasts had spoken of rain, but the closer we got to the trip, such forecasts were revised, downplaying the chance of rain. In the event, only a little fell on us on July 1 as we drove back toward Wakefield in the late afternoon. On the evening before, just before sunset, patches of thick fog clung to the Black River Road near Potawatomi and Gorge waterfalls. Ann commented on its eerieness.

Walking was an important part of the trip. Essential, as far as I’m concerned. On the first day of July, Yuriko thought to check the app on her phone that counts steps. We took over 14,000 steps that day. Many of the steps were on forest paths like this.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Or this.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

A lot of the steps looked like this.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

I felt my age. I usually brought up the rear, and took more breaks than I might have 10 or 20 years ago, but I got through.

Since time was short and distances, while not great, did involve miles to cover, driving was important, too. Also an essential experience on the trip, in my opinion. Tracing a course around the southern edge of the state park, the utilitarian-named South Boundary Road snaked through the intense summertime UP greenery, made all the more flush by a rainy spring, up and over hills, encountering few other cars. Light traffic on a two-lane road like that is the difference between an enjoyable time and constant white-knuckle dread. It was car-commercial driving. I got a kick out of that road.

Other roads in that part of the UP, routes through Ottawa National Forest and up into Keweenaw, were more developed and traveled, but had their attractions as drives and for their roadside sites. Though I know they represent a backstory of hardship — the UP must be a difficult place to make a living for a fair number of people — the area’s abandoned buildings were strangely fascinating. Such as a derelict store with gas pumps near (in?) Silver City.

Silver City, Michigan 2017

Detroit has no monopoly on abandoned Michigan structures. I suspect no root beer has been served at this former Wakefield drive-in in some time.

Family Root Beer Drive In, Wakefield, Mich 2017

In Wakefield, I made a point of taking a picture of a couple of Lake Superior Circle Tour signs.
Lake Superior Circle Tour signs, Wakefield, MichThe Circle Tours are networks of roads that, as the name implies, go all the way around each Great Lake, and in this case Superior. The idea was obviously hatched to promote tourism, and not that long ago, in the 1980s. To that I say, so what? The signs sit there quietly, but make a grand suggestion to passersby all the same.

I saw Lake Michigan Circle Tour signs in the late ’80s, as far south as Illinois, and on a sunny September day in ’89, on M-28 headed west to Marquette, I first saw a Lake Superior Circle Tour sign, which I hadn’t known existed. To me, the sign said — still says — Drop Everything and Drive Around the Lake. I’ve managed to drive around Lake Michigan, clockwise and counterclockwise. Lake Superior, no.

Peace Arch Park

One thing to think about at Peace Arch State Park in extreme northwestern Washington state is the last time the United States invaded Canada, namely the bungled campaigns of 1812 and ’13. Bungled from the U.S. point of view, that is, though of course there were some successes, such the battles of the Thames and Lake Eire (“We have met the enemy and they are ours.”).

The War of 1812 was the last bit of fighting along the U.S.-Canada border, not counting spats over fishing, so it’s reasonable that a bi-national park on the border commemorates the long peace. Peace Arch Park is that place, 22 acres south of the border (Peace Arch State Park) and nine hectares north of the border (Peace Arch Provincial Park).

I arrived around noon on August 25, driving up from Bellingham, Wash. You take the last U.S. exit on I-5 (or maybe it’s the first exit) and park nearby, just south of the border, and then walk to the Peace Arch, which is slap on the border, meaning it’s also exactly 49 degrees North, as well as in the grass median between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway (the meeting of I-5 and BC 99). Since traffic stops on each side of the border, crossing the road on foot there isn’t very risky.

Peace Arch, August 25, 2015On the U.S. side, the Arch is 67 feet tall; on the Canadian side, 20.5 meters. It’s been standing for there for 94 years, built at the behest of Pacific Northwest business tycoon Sam Hill (1857-1931), who also had a replica of Stonehenge built in another part of Washington state, and who was an avid advocate of road improvement. (“Good roads are more than my hobby; they are my religion.”) Presumably Hill would have been happy that a major road linking the two nations passes around the Arch.

The border’s also marked by a number of concrete posts.
US-Canada borderThe International Boundary Commission (Commission de la frontiere internationale) put the plaque at the bottom of the post on the occasion of its centennial in 2008. I figure most Americans, and most Canadians, have never heard of the commission. I barely remember reading about it some years ago in the context of the Alaska-Yukon border.

According to the commission’s web site, “Officially, the Commission’s work is described as maintaining the [U.S.-Canada] boundary in an effective state of demarcation. This is done by inspecting it regularly; repairing, relocating or rebuilding damaged monuments or buoys; keeping the vista cleared, and erecting new boundary markers at such locations as new road crossings.”

My italics. This is the body that’s responsible for clear-cutting the border between Alaska and Yukon — a 20-foot (six-meter) swath all the way along the 141st meridian. Since I read about that some years ago, I’ve since pondered the usefulness of doing such a thing. The commission asserts that “the boundary vista must be entirely free of obstruction and plainly marked for the proper enforcement of customs, immigration, fishing and other laws of the two nations.” I’m not quite persuaded, but anyway, more about the line is here.

The border posts have four sides: UNITED STATES on the south face (visible in my picture), CANADA on the north face, and INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY and TREATY 1925 on the other two. I wondered about that. The commission references it too.

The treaty’s formal name is: “Treaty Between the United States of America and His Britannic Majesty, in Respect of the Dominion of Canada, to Define More Accurately at Certain Points and to Complete the International Boundary Between the United States and Canada and to Maintain the Demarcation of that Boundary, Signed at Washington, February 24, 1925.”

I made a point of crossing and recrossing the border a number of times near the posts. Now I can accurately say I’ve been to Canada more than a dozen times, including the six regular check-your-passport visits, plus the half-dozen (maybe more) crossings at the Peace Arch.

Black Hawk & John Deere 2003

In April 2003, we took a short trip to north-central Illinois. We made a stop at the Black Hawk statue, whose formal name is “The Eternal Indian.” As I wrote then, “the statue, made of concrete, is about 50 feet high and stands on a bluff overlooking the Rock River and some of the town of Oregon. The head and neck represent an Indian, looking pensively off into the distance. His arms are folded in front of his chest, and from there on down the statue is less representational, but is clearly a human form.”

BlackHawkWe also took a look at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, featuring a blacksmith demonstration.

Deere“The re-created smithy was… the exact size of John Deere’s original Grand Detour shop, not including a latter addition, and presumably the original didn’t devote about a fifth of its space to a railed-in section where tourists stood. Otherwise, it was an evocative re-creation. A lot of iron & steel tools and implements on shelves, hanging on pegs, scattered around on various tables and benches. A bellows and a coal-burning furnace, which was glowing. A real anvil and some mean-looking, anvil-beating tools at hand.”

James “Pate” Philip and His State Park

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources tells us that “first-time visitors to James ‘Pate’ Philip State Park (formerly Tri-County) may initially wonder what the area’s specific feature is. After all, the land is predominantly farmland that had been tilled and grazed for years. The north branch of Brewster Creek flows through the property, but most of the streambed had been channeled to move water away from former agricultural fields. Along the north boundary of James ‘Pate’ Phillip State Park, starting in the east, a row of houses rises up like a wall against a sea of grasses. Further west along the boundary is an active gravel pit and by the Bartlett Park District sport field. To the west of the park, across Route 25, is a landfill in the process of being closed.”

I wondered something along those lines on Saturday, when we went to take a walk at James “Pate” Philip State Park (Philip is a retired state politico; I’ve never read an explanation for the nickname, but he’s always referred to by it).

I’ve seen the park on maps as a green blotch for some time now. It was created about 10 years ago. I assume it had been farmland until then, though housing development probably came close in the 1990s. Now the idea is to return it to prairie, and dechannelize the creek.

Seems like a good idea to me. The Prairie State doesn’t have quite enough prairie. Since we had cloud cover and only warm temps, it was a good walk. The park is mostly flat and lush in early July, with grasses almost as tall as a grown man and a lot of wildflowers – including clusters of tiny gorgeous orange blossoms that I don’t think I’d ever seen before. My natural history knowledge is meager, so I might not ever know what they’re called.

I was also intrigued by the fact that the park is within three counties: mostly Du Page, but also Cook and Kane. The tri-county border is, in fact, within the park. I don’t know if there’s any kind of marker, and we didn’t feel like walking far enough to see it, but maybe I’ll go look someday.

We also visited Pratt’s Wayne Woods on Saturday, just south of Pate Philip’s State Park, and took a walk around one of its bodies of water. It was to have been part of a state park, but that didn’t happen, and it’s now a part of the Forest Preserve District of Du Page County – at 3,400-plus acres, the largest chunk under its authority, in fact. The district says, “Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne is located on the outwash plain of the West Chicago Moraine. Made up largely of wetlands, this landscape combines calcium-rich water with wet sandy soil to support plant life more commonly seen near Lake Michigan.

“Today, the forest preserve is home to over 1,000 species of native plants and animals. Below the savanna’s widely spaced oaks grow dogbane, pale-leaved sunflower and smooth yellow violet wildflowers. In the marshy areas, explorers can view great Angelica, marsh marigold, shooting star, nodding ladies’ tresses and spotted joe-pye weed as well as egrets, great blue herons and wood ducks.”

We saw a lot of plants and a few animals, probably including some of those listed above. But the district forgot to mention what a swell habitat the park is for mosquitoes and especially gnats. It’s been a good year for gnats.

Tri-State Leftovers

Cool for July 2, but I know the heat will return. Such are Northern summers. Tomorrow isn’t a holiday, but it ought to be. Back to posting on Sunday.

The bridge that crosses the Mississippi from Savanna, Illinois, to Sabula, Iowa, is exactly wide enough for two vehicles, and no wider. It’s a steel truss bridge, and more than 80 years old. These facts alone make it a thrill to drive across, but a conscientious – make that sane – driver isn’t going to take in the view of the Father of Waters while crossing; he has to leave that to his passengers.

The main steel structure on the Iowa side eventually gives way to a much longer and slightly wider causeway that passes through high waters and lush green islands. At that point it’s Iowa 64, and also US 52. The last time I drove over such watery lushness was in Louisiana bayou country.

North from Sabula to Dubuque is also US 52, and a branch of the Great River Road. At this point, Illinois 84 (and a bit of US 20) is the branch of the Great River Road on the opposite bank, in Illinois. We spent a fair amount of time on both roads the weekend before last, and I can say one thing: bikers are fond of the Great River Road. We saw a lot of them on the roads and parked in various towns along the way. They weren’t usually young men, but mostly wizened fellows, probably out for the weekend.

The Great River Road is actually a chain of state and local roads passing through 10 states from Louisiana to Minnesota, or vice versa if you travel the other way. It’s a National Scenic Byway totaling over 2,000 miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Signs along the way look like this (and in fact we drove past this exact place).

We stopped for a moment in Bellevue, Iowa, on US 52 to take a peek at Lock & Dam No. 12. There’s a small roadside park that offers a nice vantage of the structure. Lock & Dam No 12, Mississippi River, June 2014As I got out of the car to look at the dam, I noticed a young family – husband, wife, child of three or four – also standing in the park, seemingly admiring the structure with more intensity than people usually devote to infrastructure. Odd. (My own family members were in the car.) Maybe they were a couple of young engineers. For the record, the dam creates Pool 12, with a total capacity of 92,000 acre ft. The US Army Corps of Engineers completed it in 1939 and still operates it, and the structure’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004.

The campgrounds at Mississippi Palisades State Park are well-designed and expansive. They don’t cost that much, either: $10 per night for a tent site. But the wet spring and early summer, and probably the close proximity to the Mississippi and many smaller pools of water, also meant we were in close proximity to a lot of bugs. This bothered Lilly and Ann in particular – you should have heard the commotion when they discovered a spider hitchhiking a ride in the back of the car. In the vicinity of the campground itself, mosquitoes mostly weren’t the problem, or maybe our DEET kept those away. Gnats were the biggest nuisance.

By night, they’d all calmed down and the fireflies were out. Gnats = nuisance. Fireflies = joy to behold. They don’t get in your face and they put on a show.

Tri-State Summer Solstice Weekend ’14

Late on Friday morning we drove west for a few hours – and enjoyed a remarkably long in-car conversation among ourselves, no radio or other electronics playing – and by mid-afternoon arrived at Mississippi Palisades State Park, which overlooks the Mississippi River just north of Savanna, Ill. The plan included bits of three states in three days. My plan, really, since my family humors me in such matters, and lets me think up the details of little trips like these.

Friday was Illinois. We camped at Mississippi Palisades, which is an Illinois State park and incredibly lush this year, and we spent time in Savanna, a little river town on the Great River Road, mostly to find a late lunch. Toward the end of the day, we made our way to Mount Carroll, Ill., which is the county seat of Carroll County and home to a good many handsome historic structures.

On Saturday, we ventured into Iowa – it really isn’t far – and first saw Crystal Lake Cave, just south of Dubuque. In Dubuque, lunch was our next priority, followed by a visit to the Fenelon Place Elevator. Which is a funicular. When you have a chance to ride a funicular, do it. The last time we were in Dubuque, I remember the Fenelon Place Elevator being closed for the season (uncharacteristically, I don’t remember when that was — the late ’90s?). Anyway, this time I was determined to ride it.

Afterward, we headed west a short distance to the town of Dyersville, Iowa, home to the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, but better known for The Field of Dreams movie set, which still draws visitors. We saw both.

Today was mostly about getting home at a reasonable hour, but I had to add a slice of Wisconsin by navigating a number of small roads until we came to Dickeyville. It would be just another rural Wisconsin burg but for one thing: the Dickeyville Grotto, which actually includes a main grotto, smaller grottos, shrines, a church and a cemetery (and a gift shop, for that matter). Like funiculars, grottos demand our attention, especially such as striking bit of folk architecture as the Dickeyville Grotto.

Red Bird

And just who was Red Bird? An early 19th-century warrior of the Winnebago, or as they call themselves, the Ho-Chunk. To my ear at least, that double naming works out well, since Winnebago is a fine name for the major lake in Wisconsin, and Ho-Chunk is a fine name for the tribe’s 21st-century casinos, which are in Wisconsin Dells and other places (and which advertise a fair bit in the metro Chicago market).

There’s a large statue of Red Bird facing Lake Winnebago at High Cliff State Park.

Its plaque says the statue was “designed by Adolphe E. Seebach” and “executed by Sculpture House, New York.” Seebach was apparently a Wisconsin sculptor who died in 1969, but a cursory look for him doesn’t uncover much more.

The Banta Company Foundation paid for the work; information on Banta isn’t hard to find. It was a large printing company based in Menasha, one of the Fox Cities, in business for over a century until R.R. Donnelley swallowed it in 2006. Why the company foundation decided to sponsor a statue of Red Bird in 1961—the date on the plaque—I couldn’t say. But there he stands, supposedly depicted as he was in 1827.

The Wisconsin Historical Society says of Red Bird: “Wrongly informed that the U.S. had executed two of their warriors, and thinking other tribes would support them due to widespread white incursions on Indian land, a party of Ho-Chunk from LaCrosse [including Red Bird] attacked settlers near Prairie du Chien in the last week of June, 1827. They killed two men and assaulted a child before returning to their village. On June 30th, a keelboat passing that village was attacked because the Ho-Chunk believed it was the same one whose crew had recently abducted and raped several Indian women.

“In response, the U.S. Army moved troops up from St. Louis, local militia units were hastily formed, and a total of ca. 600 soldiers assembled at Prairie du Chien. Another 100 militia were gathered at Green Bay, where 125 Menominee, Oneida and Stockbridge warriors joined in support of them. In late August these two forces converged from different directions on the assembled Ho-Chunk near Portage. On Sept. 2, 1827, Ho-Chunk tribal leaders surrendered the warrior Red Bird and five others, and further bloodshed was avoided. Red Bird died in prison and the other warriors were tried, sentenced to death, but ultimately pardoned.”

Elsewhere I’ve read that Red Bird dressed in his best finery to surrender – which is how he’s depicted in the statue – and expected to be put to death immediately, as he might have been by another tribe. To his bewilderment, he was chucked in prison, the sort of place in which you might die of dysentery, rather than experience a warrior’s death.

High Cliff Graffiti

On the northeastern shore of Lake Winnebago–the largest inland lake in Wisconsin–is High Cliff State Park, whose name ought to be a clue that it offers vistas of the lake. But it’s more than any old cliff. The Wisconsin DNR says that “the park gets its name from the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which parallels the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago.”

It wasn’t the first time on this trip we’d seen the escarpment. County Road B in up the Door Peninsula has views of cliffs. According to Door County Coastal Byway, “Door County’s Green Bay side has the true escarpment, with exposed dolomite rock 200-250 feet high. At the base of these rock faces are remnants of the chunks of stone that fall from the cliffs to form ‘talus.’ ”

I wouldn’t know talus if I stubbed my toe on it, but the cliffs were evident, especially at George K. Pinney County Park, just off County Road B. At High Cliff State Park, the vantage is from on top of the cliffs, though trees block the view in some places. Maybe that’s why a wooden observation tower rises above the trees.

A plaque on the tower says, “THIS TOWER is dedicated to WILLIAM M. WRIGHT, spirited leader and longtime friend of High Cliff State Park. Built in 1984 with private funds from Kimberly-Clark Foundation Inc. and High Cliff State Park Association Inc.”

The plaque doesn’t tell you how many steps it takes to get to the top. An unusually helpful graffito at the bottom tells you that it’s 64 all together.

And it is. Eight flights of eight steps each. As you ascend, the helpful graffiti continues all of the way up.

Until you reach the top. You’re rewarded for climbing 64 steps with a broad view of northern Lake Winnebago, which isn’t so large than you can’t see the opposite shore, where Appleton, Neenah, and the other Fox Cities are located.