Last year I took a two-hour riverboat trip on the E.V. Clinton out of Lake Erie Metropark. It was a “discovery cruise” designed to combine a boat trip with a learning experience and was entitled “Eagle’s Eye Nature Cruise” and I really enjoyed it. You can read my post about the trip here if you would like.
On that cruise, we explored Lake Erie and part of the Detroit River to check out eagles and eagles’ nests. So, as a past Summer Discovery Cruises “cruiser” I was e-mailed information about a brand-new Fall cruise being offered by Lake Erie Metropark with a similar destination.
Well, I jumped at the chance to sail again and check out the Fall foliage and be part of the raptor migration for which Lake Erie Metropark is renowned. Most Fall weekends at this venue, you will see photographers with long lenses, or folks with high-power binoculars, watching the skies for a myriad of raptors which fly over the boat launch area from September through November. There are so many raptors that are in this annual migration, that they keep score of the totals and their species.
So I made a reservation the same date I got the e-mail, August 22nd.
Though we had spectacular weather two weeks ago, this past week’s weather has been a bit of a dud. We dipped to near freezing two mornings and had extremely high winds. I felt like a tumbleweed as I did my laps around Council Point Park. On the other side of the Mitten State, the gales of November came early, with 13-foot waves crashing about and knocking back 20 feet of the Sand Dunes.
I had already decided that if the winds did not subside, I was not going on this boat trip – no way. I don’t know how to swim! Luckily, the winds were calm for the 10:00 a.m. trip, but it was cold when I left the house at 9:00 a.m. as you see below.
I debated what to wear as the day would eventually warm up and I wanted to spend the afternoon walking around Lake Erie Metropark post-boat trip. On the other hand, I wanted to sit in the stern where it was all open to take photos without being obstructed by windows. Do I take along another coat or a hoodie? Honestly, I fretted more than a teenager getting ready for prom night, but finally settled on a Winter coat, wool hat and my fingerless gloves with the flip-back mittens for taking photos.
I arrived at the marina early enough to get a few pictures of the calm water and the remaining boats which were not shrink-wrapped or out of the water for the Winter season. It was picturesque and still.
We assembled at the dock while the crew was still squeegeeing the boat’s windows from the heavy dew which you see glistening on the grass at the marina.
We got on the boat at about 10:15, allowing for one passenger who arrived late – Carol was teased by the crew and passengers mercilessly, but it was all in good fun. We walked up the metal gangplank, which swayed slightly, then each of us were given a hand and helped aboard by Captain Joe, who was also our Captain on the last cruise. After we were seated, Captain Joe pointed to the life jackets stowed above and said “you won’t need them but here they are” and also asked that we not all sit on one side during the trip as the boat would list to one side. Then he added “oh, and by the way – no Titanic poses on the bow either, okay?”
As we pulled out of the marina and up a narrow passage into Lake Erie, the foliage colors we left behind were jewel toned and spectacular along the shoreline.
We were humming along, churning up the water from my vantage point in the stern. Occasionally, fishermen standing up in their boats would give us a friendly wave.
As we glided on, the Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant was in the distance, easy to locate from the plumes rising out of the twin 400-foot towers.
The blue skies belied the fact that it was really late October, and, if not for the chilly morning, it could have been a mid-Summer cruise as we went past the Grosse Ile Yacht Club.
Our interpretive guide was Paul Cypher. I’ve had Paul for some trail tours in the past, and his interpretive lectures are very thorough. He has worked in the Metroparks system for 25 years. This is a picture of Paul as he was doing show-and-tell with an Ovenbird. (This is a small, brown-speckled songbird in the Warbler family, not a turkey by the way.) The duck decoy on the wall is a Canvasback duck. In the background is Captain Joe in the wheelhouse demonstrating “look Ma – no hands” for a split second as he turned the wheel loose. (No, the boat did not run away from the Captain.)
We learned about the migration of the Monarch butterflies to Mexico, and, if we didn’t blink, we could have seen two Monarch butterflies that flitted right past the boat. These beauties should have donned their long underwear on this cold morning. We saw photos on how to distinguish male and female Monarchs and a photo of them swarming together.
Though it is smack dab in the middle of migration, we only saw Turkey Vultures. Paul said there were thousands of them migrating through. I saw a few far away, but didn’t take any photos of them.
It is always exciting to see freighters on the Great Lakes and most times, if you’re down near the Detroit River, from April through November lay-up, you’ll see a few if you’re lucky. So, we were very lucky and saw three while “at sea” Saturday. Paul had an app on his phone and was able to tell us the specifications about the freighters we saw. We were really impressed with the MV Saginaw, which sails under the flag of Canada. It is 639 feet (194.84 meters) long and carries up to 20,200 tons. Here are two photos showing the bow and the stern.
We watched as she slowly disappeared from the area we had shared only moments before.
Here is another freighter on the horizon.
The cruise was over by 12:15 p.m. and I headed three miles down the road to Lake Erie Metropark where I spent the afternoon getting my steps in at that venue. Peak leaf peeping here in Southeast Michigan is another two weeks away this year. So, just like the shoreline, the trees were not totally vibrant colors yet, just the occasional pinky-red or yellow-orange leaf was scattered along the trail, but the trails were dry, which was welcome as the Cherry Island Trail was quite muddy and soggy the last time I visited from our incessant rains earlier this year. I will write about my marsh meander in a separate post.