Mary Beth Writes

I adore the Niagara Escarpment and you probably do, too.

A while back Len and I spent a gorgeous afternoon hiking in Wisconsin’s High Cliff State Park (on the upper right side of Lake Winnebago). A sign near the parking lot informed us that the impressive cliffs at the edge of the lake and through the woods and under the Indian mounds that are there, are the edge of an ancient sea that covered much of the middle of North America. That rim of limestone, as you can plainly see on the map, creates a limestone rainbow in the middle of North America. Len and I have occasionally talked about a “dream trip” around the Niagara Escarpment. The afternoon we hiked on Manitoulin Island we realized we were doing exactly that.

See where the red line goes through a lacey mess of islands between the upper peninsula and Ontario?  That is a wild and beautiful conglomeration of big islands, little ones, swampy peninsulas, and sparkling rivers finding their way to Lake Huron.

I knew Manitoulin and Mackinaw islands (the Ottawa called it Michilimackinac, which I can’ pronounce). These sizeable islands were places where First Nation people would meet to trade what they had grown or gathered and to negotiate problems and maintain peace.  These two islands were to northern Indians and the first European immigrants what Sicily and Crete were to the people who plied the Mediterranean.  Places everyone passed by, stopped in, caught up on the news, learned parts of each other’s languages.

The “Cup and Saucer Trail” is a somewhat famous hiking trail on Manitoulin.  We decided to hike up to its famous cliffs overlooking miles and miles of lake and woods. 

We never made it.  Canada doesn’t go out of their way to make their parks accessible. We hiked an hour, made it up several runs of “steps” which are outcroppings of rocks one scrambles up. I’d already done two of these crazy climbs on my butt and knees while hanging on to side rocks with my hands.  Len is more agile than me but even he was surprised at that 10-foot rise that we were supposed to scramble up next. Disappointed, but not fools, we turned around. 

Still, we hiked nearly two hours on a skinny, rocky path in an ancient forest. It was stunning, though next time I want to stand ON the Niagara Escarpment for a long view, I’m going back to High Cliff.

Here are some of our pix from that day.

This was one of the easier places to climb up ...

That's the limestone escarpment, peeking out.

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