Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Hiawatha's Footsteps

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

the Upper Falls from the platform

The Tahquamenon River (rhymes with phenomenon) flows north into Lake Superior, after winding nearly 100 miles through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to empty into Whitefish Bay. From swamps lined with hemlock and spruce, their tannins having stained its rushing waters brown, it passes here, over the Upper Falls in Tahquamenon State Park, falling 50 feet from a magnificent rocky bed, 200 feet across.
A viewing platform holds visitors from the edge and steers them along a partially paved, intermittently boarded walkway, scattered with signs and heavily treed with birch and dense evergreen.
Years ago, the Ojibwa walked these woods—traveling this river in their birch bark canoes, hunting these woods from its shore.

the Lower Falls,
Tahquamenon State Park

We stepped from the boardwalk, leaving the hollow footsteps of galloping children at the river’s edge, and entered the dark and quiet woods. A narrow, marked trail crossed a small feeder stream then climbed up a hill where patches of sunlight fed an assortment of ferns on its bank, and heavy moss grew soft on fallen logs beneath their shadow. Though still September, already the leaves of poplar and birch were fading and fallen—the winding trail, no more than an earthen path between them. And our footsteps, barely heard.

From behind a small hemlock, scurrying steps suddenly stopped. And we peeked beneath its lowest branch to see three dark birds, just off the trail, several feet in front of us. Not rising in the flurry of flapping wings as I would have expected, the small group of Ruffed Grouse barely moved, disappearing in their stillness against the shaded leaves. And as I sat squarely on the dirt, inching forward with my camera, they stayed, perched on the low branches, peeking back at me. Then in no hurry, stepped off and crossed to the other side of the trail, following the hillside past the patches of sunlit fern.
Here, on a quiet trail in the land of Tahquamenaw, it was as it could have been, in years past.
As if I walked in Hiawatha's footsteps.

Ruffed Grouse

From an assortment of sources, I have learned that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which was written based upon legends of the Ojibwa and other Native American peoples, refers to “the rushing Tahquamenaw,” a spelling variation coming from an Ojibwa word meaning “dark berry.”
Written in several forms, some dating back to Jesuit maps published in 1672, this word has varied in spelling from Outa koua minan to Otikwaminang, Outakwamenon, Tanguamanon, Toumequellen and Tahquamenaw.
From Wikipedia:
"The current name for the Tahquamenon River in the Ojibwa language is Adikamegong-ziibi, "River at where the Whitefish are found." This name is also the naming basis for the Whitefish Point and Whitefish Bay, both known earlier as Tahquamenaw."


Pearly Everlasting

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Lisa at Greenbow said...

I saw my life Ruffed Grouse in the UP. It was a male standing on a log drumming. My heart went about as fast as his wings. This brought back such wonderful memories of some of my trips up north.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Oh my goodness - how beautiful are those waterfalls!

And the grouse - remind me of photos of hoatzin!

And I just saw your slide show of the baby hummers! How lucky you were to have them right by your door! When did their beaks finally grow to adult length?

Sylvia K said...

Fantastic photos! And what gorgeous waterfalls!

Enjoy your day!


Carolyn Ford said...

Amazing waterfalls! Great post...

Susan said...

"On the shores of Gitchi gumi
by the sparkling big sea waters"
Lovely photos, I especially like the ferns. Beautiful!

Gayle said...

Grand photos. Thank you. We have pearly everlasting in San Diego, it smells like maple syrup. Does yours?

Feathers said...

Another great post--we talked about going to the U.P. this summer, but never made it---next summer, for sure!!! We do have Ruffed Grouse in our woods, but no waterfalls, nor "big sea waters".
Thanks for sharing. :-)

Feathers said...

Another great post--we talked about going to the U.P. this summer, but never made it---next summer, for sure!!! We do have Ruffed Grouse in our woods, but no waterfalls, nor "big sea waters".
Thanks for sharing. :-)

Arija said...

Nina, another of your enchated posts, from the roar of the waterfalls and noise of tourists to the stillness of the forest path. The river is so very beautiful and the life of the native people co-existing with nature must have been good. Such a piity that the overpopulation and greed of the world had to disturb the balance.

moongipsies said...

gorgeous photos.. from the river to the ruffed grouse...beautiful

Jay said...

What a lovely post! The photos are gorgeous, and I love the way you write about it, too. I felt I was following in Hiawatha's footsteps too!

The birds are very sweet. How nice of them to let you photograph them!

Deborah Godin said...

A very special spot indeed. I was told by a Cree speaker that Tahquamenon meant "good berries" or perhaps "a place for berries" - must be blueberries?

MObugs said...

Absolutely Spectacular! Gorgeous photos of Mother Nature at her best!

Tumblewords: said...

Spectacular scenery and photographs. Thank you!

Q said...

Dear Nina,
I hope some day to see a Ruffed Grouse! Thank you for sharing your trip up North. I think I will need a road trip next summer!

EcoRover said...

One of the best "nature walk" posts I've ever read (AND SEEN). Thank you for sharing a beautiful place.

Roger Owen Green said...

Must say I'm a sucker for a good River picture.

Susan Gets Native said...

My life Ruffed Grouse was at New River. Impossible to see. Unless you're Nina. Who can crawl up to their faces and do an entire professional photo shoot.


RuthieJ said...

Beautiful photos and beautiful story. Thanks Nina, I felt as if I was there with you.

WoodSong said...

one of my most favorite places to visit, but I haven't been able to do so in way too long. What an enjoyable read with fabulous photos Nina.. it is such a special area :)

Julie Zickefoose said...

Thank you for taking me back to these special falls, whose waters were not nearly so cola-colored as they were when I saw them in May. I love to think that you've stood on the very corner I have, and let the rush of the falls take your imagination away.
Those are some incredible blues you've captured in Superior. What a delightful series of posts. I'm all for after-the-fact posts, especially when gray November clamps down. We need those blues and greens!