After six great weeks in Michigan, the time came to move on to keep our date with Duluth, Minnesota, for the 22nd annual Blues Festival. I was sorry to leave the beauty of the U.P. and the many areas we had not yet explored – so we’ll just have to return sometime!
We left Houghton, MI on a Friday – a not-so-smart move during the busy summer vacation travel season! Figuring it would not be a vacationer’s hot spot, we had the Elks Lodge in Ashland as our goal.
By noon (we gained an hour when we FINALLY crossed back into Central time) we had settled into one of the two sloping RV sites in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge, right on the edge of the Lodge-owned golf course (this view out our windows shows the driving range). By 2 pm, Odel was on the golf course and I was cruising around the area in the Jeep, sightseeing.
The Ashland/Bayfield area is a particularly lovely stretch of Wisconsin’s portion of the Lake Superior lakeshore. When we visited back in 2003, we stayed near Bayfield, definitely the more upscale and touristy of the two towns. Bayfield is closer to Apostle Island National Lakeshore, in a hilly area with fantastic views.
Where Bayfield caters to tourists, Ashland appears to be the practical commercial hub of the region. Ashland’s development was fueled by iron ore – the Chequamegon Bay provided the safe port for loading ore from northern Michigan and Wisconsin into the big freighters for shipment to across the Great Lakes. Ashland is clearly proud of its heritage and history, and devoted to preserving and presenting it. They do a GREAT job!
A section of the “Storefront Mural”, representing Ashland’s storefronts from the early 1900’s.
The “Oredock” mural is “under construction” this summer, depicting the Ashland Oredock.
Entering Ashland, the most noticeable structure, huge and mysterious (to us), is the Ashland Oredock, built in 1916 to load iron ore into the freighters that docked alongside. The dock was 1,800 feet long, the largest concrete structure in the world. Now abandoned, it is slated to be demolished within the next couple of years, a controversial decision in Ashland.
This summer’s addition to the truly wonderful Ashland Mural Walk is a depiction of the Oredock and the maritime shipping history of Ashland. We enjoyed watching the artist at work, and viewing many of the other great murals.
We began our day in Ashland with a visit to the two-block farmer’s market, listening to live music as we downed breakfast burritos (eggs, chorizo and spices in a homemade tortilla), then strolled the town admiring the murals and chatting with volunteers running the mural information/fundraising booth. We heard the story of the long fight to save the oredock, aided by a peregrine falcon that nested at the end of the dock, hindered by a drunken college student who climbed to the top of the oredock and fell into one of the chutes (a call to 911 from his cell phone saved his life). Now the oredock is doomed, memorialized in the beautiful mural emerging this summer.
We also wanted to visit Kreher Park, a city-run campground and boat launch right in the center of town. We figured the campground would be crammed with vacationing families over the weekend (hence our decision to use the Elks Lodge parking lot), and we were right.
Wow, was that placed jammed – but the campground had roomy sites and great views, right on the shore in the shadow of the oredock (filed away in our memory banks for some other time). I took this photo from the campground, showing the chutes that were lowered into the holds of the ore ships as they nestled alongside.
Another of Ashland’s charms is the long walk/bike trail through the small parks along Chequamegon Bay. We needed another couple miles to finish up our 10,000 steps for the day, so took off exploring the paved trail. As we neared the oredock from the other side, a small graveled path near half a dozen very elderly boat sheds lead to the water, and to this scene: the “Injoy” bench! (Click on the photo below to enlarge it.)
The Injoy bench, at the end of a trail on the bay.
Odel enjoys the bench near the oredock.
After a huge storm on Saturday night, we took off on Sunday morning for Superior, WI, where we plan a short stay with full hookups before we move to our water/electric site at a marina in Duluth for six days. We have a list of mundane chores to accomplish, and the weather is cooperating – cloudy and foggy, making it easier to stay focused on our to-do list… which is calling my name. Later!