Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Hungry Bear—Enter If You Dare!

          It’s mesmerizing, this steady beat of the windshield wipers as we travel along rain-slicked Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula.  Tim and I are on our way to Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park on a dreary October morning.   
         “We should stop at an espresso stand for hot chocolate on a morning like this", Tim says, “Espresso stands seem to be everywhere in Washington, there should be one around here somewhere.”  
         The rain continues and we motor west along Highway 101, but no espresso stands appear on this lonely stretch between Port Angeles and Forks.  Near the Rialto Beach turnoff we pass an eating establishment—The Hungry Bear Cafe.  It looks good enough to turn around and go back.  
         Halloween flags decorate the front of the cafe; we enter and find a life-sized Dracula inside the door.   A diminutive, grandmotherly woman behind the counter sweeps her arm:  “Sit wherever you’d like.”

Have a howling good time on Halloween!

          “Oh, we’re just here for a couple hot chocolates.” I say, as we glance around the empty cafe.  Whoa!  We’re standing inside “Grandma’s House of Horrors”—werewolves, skeletons, witches and monsters lurk in the corners and beside the tables; severed arms hang from the salad bar.
         The Hungry Bear Cafe is full of the scariest Halloween mannequins imaginable.  There’s Dracula, a pumpkin-head monster, a witch hovering over a caldron containing a severed head, a chainsaw massacrer, a man strapped to an electrocution board, a werewolf, and other spooky creatures. 

Whatever you do, don't order the soup!

Frankenstein reaches out for unsuspecting patrons.
         The cafe’s owner, “Grandma”,  tells us that she and her husband collect the mannequins and her son maintains them.  “We’ve been collecting them for years.  Some of them were quite expensive and several were featured in Hollywood films.”  Grandma steps out from behind the counter and hands us our hot chocolates.  “Go ahead, step on the buttons at the base of the mannequins.”  We do as we’re told.  The mannequins move, talk and shriek; the chainsaw massacre “man” moves and follows us with his life-like eyes.
        This impromptu stop on a misty October day is better than any haunted house. And to top it all off, this creepy cafe’s hot chocolate is delicious. 

I'd think twice about using the restrooms;
these two guard the entrance.

"Would you like a slice of pumpkin pie?"

"Welcome to the Hungry Bear—how about a hug?"

"I think I'll see if I can find something toxic on the menu."

         For me, a serendipitous find like The Hungry Bear Cafe is what travel is all about.  Have you discovered a novel eatery on your travels?  
         If you ever find yourself in the Olympic Peninsula, look up the Hungry Bear.  Here’s their website:

The cafe's benign exterior belies the horrors
waiting within.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." 
                                                                                          ------George Eliot

           The above quote, copied from a recent post on the blog , is an excellent sentiment for those of us enthralled with fall.

          Over the years I've traveled throughout the US and Canada with the express goal of viewing fall foliage.  This past month, in my own version of George Eliot's successive autumns, I've posted photos from Colorado and West Virginia.  This week I celebrate the hardwood forests of the midwest with pictures from the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Along a lonely highway in the UP.

Lake Superior in an angry mood.

         Visiting Lake Superior always feels like coming home; her sighing waters serenade me with songs from a life I long to have known.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along
the south shore of Lake Superior.

Reflections on a pond in Seney National Wildlife Refuge.

Fall foliage in the Upper Peninsula.

Lake Superior is my favorite body of water.  Readers, do you have a favorite body of water?  A place that speaks to you as Superior does to me?

Visit this website for more scenes from the lake the Ojibwe called "Shining Big Sea Water":

Facts about Lake Superior may be found at this site:

To learn more about recreation and travel in Michigan's Upper Peninsula go to this address:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis West Virginia

         The Wicked Witch of the East’s shriveled feet must be under the porch somewhere; I open the cabin door this morning and it’s as though I’ve awakened in the land of Oz, seeing the world in color for the very first time.  Splashes of brilliant red, orange and gold appear over my head, framed by October’s bright blue sky.

Gazing skyward in Blackwater Falls State Park.

          It’s autumn in Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia.  We arrived last evening after dark, too late to notice the riot of color awaiting us.  This morning a fire crackles in the hearth as I plan the day’s activities with sister Diane and friends Shirley, Patti and Tina.  After a breakfast feast of ham/broccoli/cheese casserole we’re ready for a short hike.
Balanced rock trail leaves from the cabin area.  We’re hiking, not on the yellow brick road, but on a carpet of red and orange leaves.  The trail winds its way through deep woods with lush ferns and rhododendrons lining the path.  We arrive at balanced rock and pose for pictures, then cross the road and walk to the lodge for a view of Blackwater Canyon. 
At the lodge we learn it's “Astronomy Weekend” at Blackwater Falls and the park is hosting a star-gazing party tonight.  We listen in on a somewhat boring lecture on meteor spotting and then duck out—we’ll search for real meteors later.
After lunch we drive the park road to several lookouts spots.  A wedding is taking place at one of the overlooks.  The bridal party is framed by colored hardwoods, deep green pines and spruces—nature’s cathedral.  
We find The Falls Trail and descend 214 steep steps to Blackwater Falls overlook.  Leaves swirl in the water below the falls, creating an ever-changing autumn mosaic.

Scene from the trails in Blackwater Falls S.P.
         Back at the cabin Tina cooks braised eye of round with mashed potatoes; homemade applesauce accompanies the meal.  After dinner we treat ourselves to blueberry cake and cider donuts.  As darkness falls we take a short walk around the cabin area, glance skyward, and notice a dazzling, star-filled sky.  As we’re watching the stars two meteors streak across the heavens.  Astronomy weekend’s agenda fulfilled.
As I snuggle under the covers tonight I look forward to another day of wonder—in this technicolor land of Oz.

Cabin in the magical woods of Blackwater Falls State Park.

Country roads, take me home..... near Davis, West Virginia.

Interested in planning a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park next fall?  Check out this website:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Crystal Lake Trail near Lake City, Colorado

          Crystal Lake trail zig-zags across golden meadows and winds through towering aspen and ponderosa pine forests.  Tim and I have hiked 2.5 lung-bursting miles to a huge rock slide by Hay Lake.  From this point we have another mile and a half to go and the scenery becomes even more spectacular—aspen leaves shimmering brilliant gold and iridescent green in the morning sun.
Aspen leaves shimmer in the morning sun.
         After traversing rough, steep switchbacks we hike along a hillside with views of the endless mountains between Henson Creek and the Upper Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.  These southwestern Colorado mountains regale you with glory as far as the eye can see.
The endless San Juan mountains.
         Finally we arrive at Crystal Lake, nestled in a bowl at the base of 12,933 foot Crystal Peak.  At the lake we meet a man from Oklahoma who is planning to summit Crystal Peak.  Today’s weather—blue skies and a few puffy white clouds—is perfect for mountain climbing, but rather than climb another 1200 vertical feet I’ll relax by the lake while Tim fishes.
       Tim and I start a small campfire and sit by it while snacking on zucchini muffins, then Tim rigs his fly rod for a few hours of lake fishing.  While he fishes I start a new book:  “Ranger Confidential: Stories From Our National Parks”.   It’s interesting reading; you wouldn’t believe some of the people and situations that our National Park rangers have to contend with.  Well, maybe you would.
Campfire in the shadow of Crystal Peak.
          Crystal Lake makes an excellent destination for an overnight backpack.  Unlike the terrain around many other alpine lakes there is plenty of level ground, a mixture of woods and meadows, and a variety of vegetation and landforms.  I walk around to explore the territory and discover a hammock strung between two trees; nearby a Northface backpacking tent is tucked among the pines.  What a glorious place to stay, an authentic alpine motel.
        Earlier today, as we were climbing up the trail, we met a backpacker hiking down  trail. He and his Dad slept here last night and had a wonderful time.  He assured us there were plenty of fish in the lake—just what Tim wanted to hear.
        When Tim returns from the lake he tells me that he hadn’t had a single bite.  Maybe that young man and his Dad caught them all, or scared them all away. 
Crystal Lake and Crystal Peak.
          On the way down the trail we stop numerous times to take pictures of mountain views and golden aspens.  It seems more aspen leaves have turned from green to gold since we hiked up this morning.  Also on our return hike we hear the unmistakable sound of an elk bugling—either that or it’s a hunter blowing an elk whistle.  I’m hoping that it is a real elk and that he’ll avoid hunters this autumn and live to bugle another year.
         We return to the car and we’re in Lake City five minutes later; how wonderful that a trailhead to such a rewarding hike exists only minutes from town.  If only Tim had caught a few fish, it would have been a perfect day in the mountains.  Actually, even without any fish, it was a picture-perfect day at Crystal Lake.
         Information on Lake City and Crystal Lake Trail can be found on these websites:
Golden Aspens and blue sky.

Hiking to Crystal Lake on a picture-perfect day.