The Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour & Toonerville Trolley Wilderness Train Ride are owned and operated by Captain Kris Stewart and his wife Dixie(who keeps everything and everyone running smoothly). The Riverboat Tour is the exclusive ride to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. After arriving via the Toonervile Trolley board the riverboat for a 21 mile cruise of the Tahquamenon River. Enjoy all the wildlife and nature that only Upper Peninsula can offer.
The Train Ride on the Toonerville Trolley takes you on the longest and one of the oldest 24 inch gauge railroads in the country. Take a 5 1/2 mile ride through the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula. Be on the lookout for Black Bear, Coyotes, Sandhill Cranes, Grouse and Deer just to name a few, and a possibility of a wolf or moose sighting.
Michael and I have enjoyed many a trip with Captain Kris who has run this Riverboat Tour for twenty-nine years. He shares his knowledge of wildlife and nature along with a historical commentary of the area as he navigates the river. We have shared our love of photography and nature which lead to where we are now- in a 'bear blind' along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley.
Kris and Dixie have opened their arms and their property to us. They have taken extra pains and shared their valuable time to help us prepare the blind. Words cannot express our gratitude for their kindness and generosity.
So we are glad to share our experiences and photography with all of you. Hope you enjoy! If you get a chance check out their website www.trainandboattours.com or check them out on Facebook-Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour and the FamousToonerville Trolley Train Ride. We will be sharing photos with them to use on their sites-so enjoy!
Soo Junction Journal October 8, 2012
It is always a sad day when we have to take down our bear blind along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley. But we had our new friend Marty the Moose with us so that made it more fun.
Marty is a plastic moose one of my Facebook friends sent me. I have been taking Marty all around the U.P. to take pictures of him to post on his page ‘The Moose is Loose’.
Marty really enjoyed the speeder ride in. We went back to the docks to show him the Riverboat Hiawatha. He got to meet Captain Kris and Dixie Stewart the owners of the Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour and Toonerville Trolley Wilderness Train Ride.
We had left donuts back by the blind. By the time we came back through big Bubba had already been out and ate them all!!
Well, there is always next year. We hope to see the return of all of our furry friends along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley especially my favorite, Shadow.
Soo Junction Journal October 1, 2012
Another gorgeous fall day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!! We head down to Soo Junction to check on our black bears along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley. We haven’t been for the last two weeks due to weather and breakdowns. L
With the changing of the weather though the bears are changing their eating and sleeping habits. So we decide to head in just before the train leaves in hopes of catching a glimpse of our bears.
As we get to our blind we are greeted by a beautiful mature bald eagle flying right down the tracks towards us. It is coming from the north heading south with the sun shining directly on it!! What a way to start the day! Even if we don’t see any bears, we at least had this moment.
Well, we watch ravens carrying on with each other. A pair of white-tailed does comes out to feed to the north of us. Blue jays, yellow –rumped warblers, and even a migrating flock of bluebirds twittered amongst the fall leaves.
The red squirrels were busy gathering treats to stash for the coming winter….even though they will probably forget where they stored them. They fight with each other and they even chase the blue jays away from the treats. So we were entertained… for the most part.
The train came through around 11:00am. No bears…we wait till noon…no bears.
I work on my laptop till 1:00pm…no bears…2:00pm…still no bears. By 2:45 we decided we might as well pack it in for the day. The wind had picked up…and we know the bears don’t like the wind…too hard to hear danger especially this time of year.
So basically this is the last time we will be in our blind. We might come in on Saturday before the last boat trip that we are taking. But the neighbors will be up so we don’t think the bears will make an appearance. Then on Monday we are taking the blind down to store it till next spring. Maybe we will get a glimpse of one of our buddies then.
Soo Junction Journal September 10, 2012
We wake up to sunshine and cold temperatures in the high thirties to low forties. As we head to the Soo Junction we run across some ground fog.
As we head back to our bear blind the ground fogs starts to lift. We have sandhill cranes at #1 and #2 but no sign of bear. We get settled in and wait. We can hear the crew coming miles before we can actually see it. The air is so still and heavy from the fog.
We do have two bald eagles in the trees down at #2 after crew goes through. I could see from my photo that the one has a right band on its leg indicating a banded Lower Peninsula bird. It is interesting that it would come to the U.P. It must like it up here, too. LOL!
Shortly after crew goes by, Scar-let and Cubby come out of the logging trail from the east. Scar-let is getting huge and Cubby is just a roly-poly. They both definitely look healthier than they did when they arrived along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley. Poor little Cubby was near starvation. It is so nice to see them doing so well.
Scar-let eats for a while then she stands guard. Knowing that Big Bubba is in the area has made her very cautious. She is watching and listening and smelling for any signs of danger. She is a very smart momma bear. Those instincts have and will continue to keep her and her cub safe.
Unfortunately, they don’t come down far enough to get in the sunlight that is filtering through the trees. But I am just glad to be able to get some shots of them both. Knowing they are doing well is worth the early morning trip.
We had hoped to see Shadow or even Big Bubba but I guess with the cool weather they are enjoying sleeping in. Smart bears! LOL! Their eating and sleeping habits are starting to change with the season. It won’t be long and they will be saying good bye till Spring.
Our main concern is that they stay safe. Bear hunting season started today. We can only do our best to keep food in the area so they don’t wander off.
We found out from Dixie that the train saw Mr. Bubba out in the marsh. He showed himself to them and got his treats. So it looks like he is a wise bear and knows where the safety zone is.
Soo Junction Journal September 2, 2012
We headed to the U.P. around 4:30am to visit ‘our’ black bears along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley. It is a beautiful morning, cooler with a little ground fog.
As we head back to our blind, the first bear we found was Big Bubba waiting for us between #1 and #2. We drop him off some treats as he steps off the tracks. He eventually comes back out and eats.
We get to our blind without meeting any other bears. As we settle in another bear pops out at #2. It is definitely a yearling. Of course, I am hoping it is Shadow. It’s been almost three weeks now since we found she was injured. I am hoping to find her doing well.
Sandhill cranes came in down near Big Bubba. It is so interesting how they have no fear of the bears. After Big Bubba disappears we spot a doe and her still spotted fawn down past #2 to the south.
Around 9:00 Shadow finally popped out of the woods from the east. She looks good and her injury looks to be healing very well!! Yeah!!! I have been so worried about her. She has become a very special bear to me. She is so intelligent and gentle; I would feel just awful if something happened to her.
She eats quite a bite before disappearing to the east just before crew comes through. It’s quiet for a while except for the ravens. I had some fun shooting the ravens; a few actually flew right by the blind.
Then the sandhill cranes landed to the north of us. They were acting squirrely. They are starting to get social again. They will be gathering for fall migration soon. Rudyard, MI is actually a fall staging area for them in the Upper Peninsula. We have seen over 5,000 sandhill cranes gathered there waiting for the thermals to be right to take them south over the Great Lakes.
Around 10:00 Big Bubba popped his head out at #2. He eventually worked his way to us slowly swaggering back and forth, check for treats as he went.
He finally made it up to us eating as he comes. He doesn’t eat everything. He is very picky. He actually will just lick off the ‘good’ stuff and leave the roll. I guess you can eat what you want when you’re as big as he is.
After he’s done he gets a drink of water and disappears, as usual, into the woods to the west. Well, before too long out pops our little Shadow. She actually comes down from under her hiding tree. She eats for a while but get nervous and disappears into the woods to the west just before the morning train comes through.
Right before the train comes we spot another yearling down near #1. Hopefully it will hang around for the train to see. Well, we not only have one morning train but two morning trains!! That’s awesome! That means they have more than 140 people for the riverboat ride.
We don’t think the first train saw any bear but we definitely know the second train did. Momma Scarlet and her cub came out right before the train got to #1. Then out they popped after the train went through. It’s always nice when people get to see the bears!
Ok, now all we need is for Momma Scarlet and Cubby to head up to see us but…we wait and wait and wait…to no avail. The heat is building up so we probably won’t see any more bears for today.
I work on pictures while Michael watches but the noon train comes through without seeing anything else. We hop on the speeder and head back to the river. We are leaving Dixie the speeder so we will ride the noon train back out to the depot.
Soo Junction Journal August 25, 2012
After a ‘bad’ week the boss gave me an extra day off. So we decided to head up early to visit the black bears along the Toonerville Trolley on Saturday instead of our usual Monday. It is a gorgeous day with sunshine and 70 degrees at 8:00am.
We almost had ruffed grouse for dinner. There were seven young ruffed grouse sitting on the tracks. Now if I was trying to get a photo of them they would have flown off but...they just sat there. Michael was pulling on the brakes but couldn't stop. Luckily they all managed to get off the tracks in one piece. Whew!!
We were greeted by the one bear I truly wanted to see today, Shadow, the yearling. When we saw her on Monday she had a huge chunk of hide missing above her tail right down to the muscle. She looked like she got too close to ‘someone’ who didn’t like it.
Well, she came out not only once but twice. She is still walking and eating like she is healthy. We couldn’t see any infection. So we can only hope and pray she can stay free of infection. She is one odf the truly gentle bears out there. We have grown extremely attached to her. I think it started this spring after her momma, Blaze, kicked her out. She was S-O frightened of everything!! She would spend most of her time in a tree. She has become quite a beautiful young ‘lady’.
We have several sandhill cranes to the north and especially the south of us but they don’t last too long. They seem to be gathering already preparing for fall migration. The sandhill cranes gather in large quantities at ‘staging’ areas waiting for the thermals to be conducive to long flight time. We have such a staging area in Rudyard here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have seen upwards of 5,000 sandhills at one time!! It is definitely an amazing sight to see>
Before crew came through we spotted a big bear along the tracks to the south of us. It just sat waiting. We couldn’t tell if it was Big Bubba aka VW or Blaze. Then we had another big bear show up at #1
Well, this one had a cub so we assumed it was Scar-let and Cubby.
The big bear decided it wanted to head down to #1. Oh, no, now what will the momma do. Well, she continued to eat. The cub ran into the brush to the east but eventually came back out. At that point we decided the big bear must be Blaze. From what we know about black bears the momma would never have gotten so close to the male bear with the cub. Last week we were surprised that they were within 50 yards of the male bear.
Just before the train came through they all disappeared into the brush. Hopefully, one of them will come back out when they hear the train.
Then all of a sudden to the north of us appears Shadow. She eats a little then walks down to get a drink out of the spring. She gets startled by something just before the train can she her. Bummer! We think maybe the big boy is around and about to the north of us and that’s why the girls are staying to the south.
After the train comes through the big bear we think is Blaze decides to saunter up to #2. She takes her time getting there. She proceeds to eat a little then disappear again into the woods. Hopefully she will head out way. We decide to wait and see.
The temperature is increasing into the 80’s and humidity is building. We decide to wait till noon and see what happens. Well about the time we decide to leave, Scar-let and Cubby decide to head up to #2. So we decide to wait till 1:00pm and see if any of them appear closer to us.
Well, as the time slowly ticks away all we have is birds and squirrels to entertain us. Even the Sandhill cranes have disappeared. So we decide to call it a day. Even though we didn’t have more bears in down by us, at least, we got to see our little Shadow.
Next week will be different, too. The tour runs on Sunday instead of Monday due to the Labor Day Weekend. So we will be here on Sunday to check on our black bears along the tracksof the Toonerville Trolley.
Soo Junction Journal August 20, 2012
We headed back to the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley to partly cloudy skies and temps of 48 degrees.
We had several sandhill cranes on the tracks but not much else. We got into our blind without a hitch. And then we waited. We did have a doe and button buck come right near the speeder and head north to the corn. A bald eagle also graced us with its presence and flew right by the blind!!! Sweet!!
We didn’t have to wait too long before Big Bubba popped up at #1. There was no doubt about it. Well, he s-l-o-w-l-y made his way down to #2 where he stopped to eat the few treats we had dropped. He then had to sit down to recover from his ‘long’ walk. LOL!
Then as Big Bubba was messing around out pops Momma Scar-let and Cubby to the north of us. Uh-oh! This could be trouble. We hoped that Scar-let and Cubby would make it down in time to get some treats before Big Bubba.
We watched as both parties slowly converged near our blind. Big Bubba stayed to the south of the blind eating his treats while Momma Scar-let tentatively worked her way to the treats to the north of us. It was interesting to watch momma trying to decide what she should do. She and her cub were hungry and there was food to be had so…she took the risk.
At first she grabbed a treat and took it quickly into the brush to eat followed by her cub. Then she became more daring. Big Bubba actually had his back to them laying down eating without a care in the world.
So Scar-let and Cubby just kept eating along the tracks while Big Bubba ignored them. Eventually though another bear appeared to the north of us. Well, that put Momma Scar-let in a quandary. She didn’t know what she should do. Should they leave? Should they head east? Should they head west? Finally Big Bubba had enough to eat and waddled off to the west on the logging trail. So Momma was able to come down and eat a few more snacks before the other bear came in from the north. Momma Scar-let and Cubby headed to the east and disappeared. The other bear from the north was our precious yearling Shadow.
While she was eating she turned and we noticed a HUGE hunk of skin of her back right above her tail!!! Oh, no!! We were so worried about her. She appeared to act fine. She was walking fine. And she hadn’t lost her appetite which made us feel somewhat better. But the hole was the size of a hamburger!!!!
Once we could get a good look at it, it looked like it was starting to scab over. Hopefully, she will be able to stay free of infection. She got to close to ‘someone’ that she shouldn’t have, poor baby. Now we will have to keep a watchful eye on her to make sure she stays healthy.Well, she ate what she wanted then disappeared to the west of us. That was pretty much the end of our bear sightings. The morning train went through without seeing any bears. But, of course, they had just gone around the curve to the north of us when out waddled Big Bubba. He got a drink at the watering hole then sauntered down to smell the corn. He then disappeared to the east. That was the last of the bears on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley for us till next Monday.
Well, we thought we were done for the day but….Big Bubba had other ideas. Actually it worked out very nice. He showed up to the north of us just before the noon train came through. He waddled down looked at the speeder then proceeded to eat treats. He especially liked the jelly filled donuts. LOL!! His huge belly looks like he has eaten one too many! Of course, he had to lie down to eat. It was so comically, when he tried lying down. He had difficulty getting his feet down at the same time of his belly. LOL!
We were so sure he was going to get up fast enough to get off the track before the train came through. Needless to say everyone got to see him. He popped off the track next to the speeder but reappeared before the train got too far. Even the last car of the train got to snap a picture or two of him.
Well, that left just us and Big Bubba on the tracks. We were his hostages until he decides he’s had enough. Besides that it started to rain, so we weren’t leaving anyways.
Big Bubba sauntered down by our blind looking up at us then back to eating jelly donuts. He basically ignored us after that. When the rain started he grabbed some donuts and went under a tree to eat them. Funny, it’s not like too much moisture was going to soak through to his skin. LOL!! After a few more donuts he wandered off to the west disappearing into the woods.
We waited for the ran to stop and enough time for Big Bubba to get somewhere else before we headed out till next Monday on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley.
Soo Junction Journal August 13, 2012
We slept in a little longer hoping the weather would improve. We decided to go for it and headed to the Toonervillle Trolley travelling through fog to get there.
We were greeted by only one bear, yearling Shadow. She was down near our blind when we arrived.
She waited till we got all settled in before she came out to enjoy the treats. She has better manners than her momma Blaze and big sister, Bella.
She eventually left heading to the east. We then had a big bear step out at #2. At first we thought it might be Blaze but….this bear was huge!! He sat down trying to decide which way he wanted to head. Well, he decided to come down to us.
Wow, what a swagger on that boy’s behind!! He was so big his feet and ears appeared small! His head was probably 16-18 inches wide!!! He was so fat that his fur had rolls. He just strolled along eating what he thought was the best and left the rest.
While he was to the north of us laying down eating, Momma Scar-let and her cub popped out to the south of us. But once Scar-let caught a glimpse of the big boy she headed her cub in the opposite direction.
Poor little Cubby looked back as if to say ‘can’t I have just one?’ The big male had his ‘arm’ encircling the rolls as if to say ‘they’re all mine, kid’.
Unfortunately, when the male bears are around the mommas and cubs keep their distance. The male bears will kill the cubs in order to mate with a female. Sad, it could even be their own children, but nature is nature and some things can’t be changed.
Well, after big boy finished what he wanted he went into the woods to the west probably to take a snooze.
A little later another new bear popped out to the north of us. It looked like a scrawny yearling. It was a little nervous. It stayed down by the corn and ate. The poor thing had one ‘broken’ ear. The ear was bent forward as if it had been broken and healed that way.
When the morning train went through the first car was able to catch a glimpse of the young bear. After the train passed us, Momma Bella and her three little cubs came out of the trail to the northwest of us. The passengers on the last car got to see them. They shouted with glee!!
We didn’t think we would see the little buggers this week with the big male around. So it was a real treat to have them there. Buddy took his treats to the tree he likes to hide under. It’s so cute because that is the tree his Aunt Shadow likes to hide under, too.
Cissy was enjoying her treats. Ally wanted to take her treats somewhere else to eat but didn’t know where so she just ate them on the tracks. Momma Bella was on her best behavior. She looked up at our blind but kept on going making sure her babies got all the sustenance they needed.
Finally Momma Bella’s ears perked up! She must sense the big male bear around again. She was looking in the direction that he had disappeared. Little Cissy stood up to see if she could see anything. Then Momma Bella stood up. She then turned and took the little cubs to the south away from the danger. The cubbies weren’t happy to go. They still had things they wanted to eat…but safety first!
Sure enough the big male came back out on the tracks to the north as Momma Bella and her cubs headed south. He didn’t pay any attention to them. He just headed down to eat some corn before disappearing into the east this time.
So, everything was quiet till it was time for the noon train to come through. Luckily for them another one of the yearlings popped out for treats. We decided to head out but before we leave the yearling Brownie popped out. We had left her plenty of treats so we said good bye till next week along the tracks of the ToonervilleTrolley.
Soo Junction Journal August 6, 2012
Gorgeous cool comfortable day with temperatures in the 50’s as we head to the Toonerville Trolley. When we arrive at #1…no bears…but further down we have Momma Bella and her three cubs waiting for treats.
We manage to get to our blind without any ‘guests’. Michael was able to get the speeder off the track while I put out some treats for the bears. We settled in to wait for Momma Bella and the cubs to finish their snack and hopefully head our way.
It wasn’t too long when a single bear came out on the tracks and headed our way. We knew it was one of the yearlings by the size of it. So we waited. As it gets closer we could tell it is Shadow. She seems to hang near where ever Momma Bella is.
Well, since Shadow is heading our way Momma Bella decides to head down to us, too. It’s interesting that Momma Bella is letting Shadow lead the way. Shadow gets to the treats and digs in. When Momma Bella finally arrives Shadow grabs a donut and heads into the trees with it.
Then Shadow comes back on the tracks further down where there is more treats. Well, Momma Bella decides she wants to check those treats out, too. So a little squabble takes place with one of the cubs walking in the middle of it. But no one really got too upset. It is still interesting that Momma Bella is allowing Blaze’s yearlings to eat near her and her cubs. We are pretty sure they are all related to each other.
Shadow decides to head to the north to see if there is any corn. So, of course, Momma Bella has to head that way, too. Well it didn’t take them long to discover there wasn’t any corn for them so…back they came.
Shadow first followed by Momma Bella and the three little cubs. This time through Momma Bella decided to stop and check out the speeder. She really didn’t do anything to it. The cubs thought about doing the same thing but got distracted by the treats.
Shadow eventually wandered off into the woods and Momma Bella and the cubs wandered back down to #2.
Momma Bella and the cubs are hanging out at two when another yearling came from the south. The yearling decides to wander down to us to check to see if there are any goodies. Well, by that time crew had come through and dropped off some more treats. We found out it was Brownie, the yearling. She enjoyed some treats before Momma Scar-let and her cub arrived from the north.
Momma Scar-let and her single cub enjoyed themselves. It is so nice to see the cub looking so healthy. The first time we saw it, it didn’t look like it would survive the summer. But thanks to the treats along the tracks and a very good momma it should make it just fine.
Momma Scar-let and her baby wander down to where crew left corn to the north of us after they had had their fill of sweets. As they head that way a doe pops out of the woods. We haven’t been seeing deer along the tracks like we have in past years. So that was a nice to treat to see.
Momma Scar-let disappeared to the east but eventually showed up down the tracks at #1 before the morning train came through. Brownie came back out at our blind and actually waited till the train came through. Everyone was so happy to be able to see the bear.
We also saw a big buck down toward the #1 area and a fisher dodging in and out along the tracks several times today. One time we even saw the fisher with one young one. Cool!! They are a very vicious little animal though being related to the wolverine.
Well, after the train went through, Momma Scar-let showed back up around #2. Then out popped Momma Bella and her three cubs. Oh no, now what?! Well, Scar-let and her cub decided to come down to see us again and Momma Bella made her three little cubs walk all the way down to #1.
We had brought extra food along so we could keep the little ones fed. So Momma Scar-let and her little baby were able to get some sustenance. They eventually disappeared to the northeast.
Momma Bella and her bedraggled cubs came back all the way from #1. Lucky for them we had more treats to put out for them. The cubs devoured everything in a matter of minutes!! Momma Bella though got herself in trouble. She came up the hill and circled our blind like she has done in the past but…this time she stood up and touched the backside of it. She was looking right up at us. Michael yelled at her then blew the air horn (which we had purchased for just such an occasion). Well, needless to say, she didn’t like that very well. She tore through the brush, stood a little ways from the blind and growled. One cub was actually up around the blind with its momma but it didn’t really get upset till she growled. Then up a tree it went. The other two were on the tracks eating. They could have cared less about the horn but when momma growled up the tree they also went.
Before long the two cubs came back down out of the tree and onto the tracks. Momma Bella came out of the brush to the north of our blind with her other cub. She immediately headed north away from our blind. LOL!! We could tell she was not a happy camper!! The cubs didn’t really want to leave. They sat down at the watering hole. The little girl I am now calling Cissy (meaning little sister) actually sat in the water. She stayed there as long as she could but then finally had to follow her momma. It was so cute to see her little wet tushy waddle down the tracks.
They sat and ate corn for a while then they disappeared into the west. That was around 12:30 and the last of the black bears on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley…till we headed out through the marsh. Unexpectedly a big bear ran across the tracks. At first we thought it was Blaze but…it ran away from us. Blaze would not run away from the donuts I had just thrown out! LOL! We watched and it did eventually come back out on the tracks. We think it was a big boar. They usually are loners. So we saw nine black bears today! That’s a good day any way you look at it. Can’t wait to get back out here again next Monday!!! Hopefully we will get to see Momma Beulah and her cubs, Lylah and Lilly.
Soo Junction Journal July 23, 2012
It is a hot and humid day with not much of a breeze when we get to Soo Junction. We wait for Clarence to come to show us how to run the new and improved speeder. We head down the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley around 8:15am.
We have a pair of sandhill cranes in the marsh. As we round #1 we have two of the yearlings waiting for us. Blaze and the other yearling are waiting further down the track.
As we near our blind it looks like we are clear. If we have bear we told crew we would leave the speeder on the tracks till they got back there to help out.
Well, just as Michael was slowing down the speeder stopped. Out pops big scarred momma from the east logging trail followed by her cub. Michael puts some food out quickly before she came toward us. He kicked some food down the tracks as another bear comes out of the woods to the east right where the speeder is suppose go! Well, the speeder will just have to sit on the tracks till help comes along.
So we scurried up the ladder into the blind as big scarred momma and her cub are devouring the food. The yearling from the east is coming along by the speeder smelling as it goes.
Then from the logging trail comes another yearling. This one comes along behind the blind and goes to the north of us on the tracks. The momma with her cub sends it up the tree as yet the third yearling joins the group. They must have run down from #1 to get here so quickly.
Now the big momma is not sure just what she should do. She wants to eat but she has three yearlings around her. It is interesting to think that such a big bear can be intimidated by three yearlings…but I guess there is strength in numbers.
The two yearlings on the pile are growling as big momma comes up to steal a few goodies. She does this several times. The yearlings have their mouths packed full as they growl and just keep eating. How cool it is to watch. There were never any real fights just growling and chomping of teeth. The poor cub was up the tree the whole time licking its lips like it was wishing it could be down eating too.
Then from the north another bear comes into the fray. We weren’t sure at first who it was but eventually figured out it was Bella. She had abandoned her cubs to the north while she came down for food. She then sauntered down to #2 before finally coming back down to retrieve her cubs.
The three cubs actually started to come down to us but were deterred by the sight of the speeder. Then two of the yearlings decided to head down to the corn north of us. The cubs ended up popping into the brush along the tracks. The two yearlings sat down and ate corn.
Finally momma Bella came back down to be headed off by big momma. But big momma decided to let Bella go by. Bella headed to the north where her three cubs were waiting but…between Bella and the cubs were two of the yearlings. As Bella approached the yearlings stepped out of the way. But as soon as Bella was reunited with her cubs the yearlings joined them. They all laid down eating corn along the tracks.
Then…along came Big Blaze…waddling down the tracks from the south. She is one big girl!!! We had a few extra bagels that we had thrown out after the other bears had left. Well, she wasn’t really happy about it but she did eat a couple (of course, she had to lie down to do it). Then off down the tracks to meet up with Bella, the three cubs and the two yearlings.
We think that Bella and Blaze must be related because bears don’t usually eat together. When Blaze arrived down near Bella the cubs didn’t run off the tracks like they usually would. It was like they were saying ‘hi grammma’. This is what makes what we are doing so interesting. We are seeing how bears interact with other bears, how the hierarchy of the bear world works.
Well, after a while Bella and the cubs head down toward us. It was so cute Blaze popped up to watch them like ‘where are you going?’ Well, they have had enough corn they want to see what else is down the tracks. Also we are sure Bella knows that the train will be coming soon and she wants first dibs at the treats for her cubs.
The cubs scrounge around for the bagels we had thrown out. They eat a little. Bella takes off with one cub following her. Our pretty girl is eating a bagel when her brother comes up to try to bat it away from her. A squabble starts and momma comes back to see what is going on. Well, brother got the bagel but really didn’t want it. So typical of siblings, one wanting what the other has but not ‘really’ wanting it. It is so interesting to see the similarities between humans and nature. When Bella came back to check on the cubs she decided to check on us, too. She came up to the blind and sat down looking up at us. We didn’t stick out cameras out or let her see us. We don’t want her to get use to us being there. She walked around the blind looking up as she went. Finally she decided everything was fine and went back to get her cubs.
Well, Bella and the cubs wander down the tracks to #1 meanwhile big scarred momma and her cub pop out at #2. By the time the train comes through Bella and the cubs are between #1 and #2. They run in front of the train then come right back out behind it once Wayne has dropped them off some treats.
The passengers were hanging out of the train taking pictures. They were all smiles when they went by us waving. Then Big Blaze gave them a show walking in front of the train, just stepping off then right back on the tracks so the last train car could see her. Cool!
Well, we decide it’s now or never. Michael heads down to get the speeder while I watch for bears. Two of the yearlings step back on the tracks to the north along with Big Blaze. Further down Bella and the cubs are still eating. So we pack up and start to head out…when the speeder stops! Crap! Michael was able to get it going again quickly. As we went by Bella and the cubs they just sat there and watched us as we dropped off the remainder of the bagels. So till next week we say good bye to our black bears along the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley.
Soo Junction Journal July 9, 2012
We headed back with the crew around 9:00am. It is a beautiful day, mostly sunny and comfortable.
We are greeted by Blaze at #1, of course, along with a bald eagle and some ravens. A little further down we have one of the yearlings pop out. At #2 a momma and cub popped out then right back in. Several sandhill cranes were north of our blind. It looks like it’s going to be a great day on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley.
We no sooner get settled in our blind when one of the yearlings comes out on the tracks. It is Brownie. She looks so much better than she did this spring. In fact, at one point I didn’t think she had survived. But she was chowing down and looking good.
Next bear to come down the tracks from the south was who we thought was Beulah. But when we had a good look at her we found she had a scar on her nose. This was definitely not Beulah. She didn’t bring her cub down that we had seen at #2. Mommas don’t usually travel that from their young. Interesting.
Well, she ate her share of donuts then headed back down the tracks but disappeared into the woods to the east. Meanwhile Bella pops out at #2 with her three cubs. We hoped she would come our way but she got a whiff of the other bear and decided to head south to #1.
While Bella was heading south, another yearling cub popped out of the marsh between her and #1. We knew Blaze was at #1 eating what crew threw out so we will see what happens.
Then we had Shadow come out and eat some treats till the morning train came through. As the trained rounded the bend we noticed bears we on the tracks behind it. It looked like Blaze and Bella and the cubs might all be sharing the same space. Interesting!
After the train went through, we had momma and one cub heading our way but they veered into the woods to the west. Behind them was Blaze and behind her were Bella and the three cubs. It was so cool to see so many bears on the tracks at one time!!
Well, Big Blaze is the one that made it to the treats first. Needless to say she didn’t leave much for anyone else. By the time Bella and the cubs made it down to us the picks were slim to none. Bella wasn’t too happy about that. She actually came around to the side of the blind I was on and looked right at me. It was like she was telling me to feed her something which we would never do. Once a bear knows you will feed them they will always expect you to feed them. Not good for you or the bears.
Even without much to eat the cubs were quite entertaining!! They would run into the woods then back out again. They actually stayed longer than momma wanted them to. She had head down the track to check out the corn but…the three cubs didn’t follow. In fact, when she started to come back for them, they all three ran into the woods. Well, let me tell you, Momma Bella ran like the dickens to find the little rascals. We didn’t hear any fighting so we assumed everyone was all right. I didn’t blame the poor babies, it was quite hot on the tracks and they had walked several miles that day in the hot sun.
Well, we figured that was probably all the excitement for one day. We had an extra bag of frozen donuts that we put out on the tracks before the noon train came through.
To our surprise Chubby the last of the three yearlings came out from the north. He enjoyed the treats we had put out. He didn’t eat everything because the momma with one cub came out to the south of us with her cub. They came in and ate a few of the tidbits that were left. While the momma was heading down with her cub yet another bear came out to the north of us and lay down to eat corn. It was two year old Ole.
Well, the momma with one cub scrounged whatever they could. The baby was really hungry. Poor thing it was digging in the grass for every morsel it could find. The momma headed toward the north to the corn. She finally stopped and sat down to wait for the cub. Afterwards I noticed it didn’t have a scar on its nose like the first new momma had. Wow!! Does that mean we have yet another new momma bear and cub on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley?? Time will tell.
But we won’t know for two weeks. We are going to take our 7 ½ year old great niece, Noel, and 4 ½ year old great nephew, Bodie, back to stay at the cabin next weekend then take the riverboat ride back to the Falls.
Soo Junction Journal July 2, 2012
We headed out with crew again this morning around 9:00am. The sun is shining and the temperature is warming up.
Blaze meets us at #1 station to see if we have treats for her. Then as we head toward #2 we are greeted by Ole, the two year old male. Further down Shadow the yearling cub is waiting at #2.
We have a half of dozen sandhill cranes on the tracks around our blind. They, of course, fly off as soon as we stop to get out. We no sooner get settle in when Ole comes down to eat. He enjoys himself for quite a while.
Then we have a big bear come down from the north. It’s Beulah but she doesn’t have her cubs with her. Strange…then about five minutes later…out pop the twins from the west. They beat feet it down the tracks spooking the sandhill cranes as they run. Bam! They are on the donuts so fast, you’d think the poor little buggers hadn’t eaten in a week (which of course they had).
While they are eating Ole decides he wants to check to see if they treats are better than his. But he doesn’t get too far before Beulah tells the cubs to get up the trees and she charges him. That stops him so he goes back to his own pile of treats.
The one cub went up a tree to the east but the other one went into the west on the trail. Beulah actually ignores them as she continues to stuff her face.
We can see Blaze down the tracks to the south slowly making her way to us. The cubs come down from the trees to grab a donut. Then they head back into the trees again. The one still went to the west while the other one went to the east. Then Ole decides to head into the woods to the west. Oh, oh, we hear some crashing around. We are worried that Ole might do something to the cub. Beulah gets upset and goes into to see what’s happening. She saunters back out, without her cub, and continues to eat.
All of a sudden, we hear more crashing from in the woods. Beulah pops back in to check on the cub. Then Shadow comes out on the opposite end of the trail and Momma Beulah and the cub on the other end. Shadow gets to eat some treats before Beulah decides she needs to try them. So poor Shadow crashes back into the woods.
The cubs are actually now in a tree just to the right of the blind. They don’t stay up long. They come down grabs some donuts and go back under the tree to eat. Then Momma decides she’s had enough so she starts sauntering down the tracks to the south of us. Finally, the babies decide they have to leave the rest of their treats and follow momma.
They pop into the woods to the west and disappear. So we now have eight sandhill cranes to entertain us. They were actually very fun to watch. We had one pair that was running everyone around. The one actually kicked another one. Cool! Then a little later it almost ran another one over. Sweet! More fun than television any day!!
Meanwhile, another very tall lanky bear comes out on the tracks to the north of us. It lay down to enjoy some corn. We think it might be a three year old of Beulah’s that we had visit us last year at the begin on the year. The posture and build reminds us of that bear.
Well, the morning train finally comes through. Actually, they have to take two trains in this morning!! The first train got to see the male that was north of us. They also had another bear pop out after they passed the #1 station. It’s always nice when the train gets to see the bears.
Well, after the trains were gone, Blaze pops out of #2 and meanders down our way. Well, by that time there isn’t too much left for her to eat. She’s not too happy about that. She actually comes up near our blind and gives us a dirty look, like where is my food!! We were afraid she might try and touch the blind. If she did we would have had to yell at her to stay away…if that didn’t work we would have to use the pepper spray on her. We never want to resort to that if we don’t have to.
Well, she leaves us alone and goes cleans up what few morsels she can find then treks on down to eat some corn to the north of us.
The second train comes back through because now they are running a noon train trip. As the train goes by us, Shadow pops out of the shadows in hopes of getting some treats. Unfortunately, the engineer didn’t have anything for her. She was quite depressed about it but scrounged around and found a donut the twins had left under a tree. After she ate that she headed back to #2 and eventually popped into the woods.
We actually have a bald eagle land on the tracks down by #2. It appears to be eating something interesting. The ravens are hassling it to see if they can get any.
We had Momma Bella and the triplets down at #2 but instead of heading to us she heads down to #1. Momma Beulah and her cubs also pop back out around #2 but they disappear back into the woods.
We have a little break in the bear action so I decide to turn on the laptop and edit my photos. I got some sweet shots! Can’t wait to share them!
Finally the noon train comes along. They are greeted by Momma Goofette and her two cubs (so Dixie reported to us from the train). That is so cool we were just talking about her and wondered if we would see her. She isn’t as big as the other mommas so size does matter in the momma-bearhood. LOL!!
Well, after the train goes back to the river things pretty much come to an end. It is getting really warm and humid so we figure the bears are going to find some place shady and moist to rest. It has been a great day on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley!!! Can’t wait till next Monday when we get to do it all over again. Who knows who or what we will see!
Soo Junction Journal June 25, 2012
We headed back with crew this morning since ‘our’ speeder is getting a new engine. It is a beautiful morning 50 degrees with a northern breeze, perfect for the bears and us. The skies are blue with a few fluffy clouds.
We are greeted by a mid-sized bear before we even get to the marsh. We’ve never had one out this far. We think it may be the one that paid the depot a visit to check out the trash cans. It tried to get in the ‘bear bait’ container Michael built. You could see where it attempted to pry it open to no avail. It did manage to chew off part of the lock button that has to be pushed in to get the top open.
As we approach #2 we had one of the yearlings popped out to greet us. It stood up to see if we had something for it. I started throwing out PBJs for it to lure it down to our blind. Crew drops us off and heads back to get the boat ready for the tour today. One of the dock crew will come back around 1:00pm to take us back out to our car.
Momma and her triplets come out at #2 but head down to #1 to check it out. Before she gets their Blaze comes out at #1 then heads down to #2. So Momma Bella and her cubs pop into the west. Chubby and Brownie, Blaze’s yearlings come out at #2 and nose around. Brownie picks up the trail of pbjs and heads down to us.
While Brownie is enjoying her treats Blaze shows up. Brownie crammed as many donuts as she could in her mouth and paws and headed into the woods. Blaze comes in and lies down to enjoy her treats. While she is eating momma Bella and the triplets come down to us. She sends her cubs into the woods while she growls at Blaze and heads under our blind to the treats on the other side. Blaze doesn’t make any attempt at stopping her.
They both enjoy themselves until the cubs start calling for momma. Momma Bella starts back toward Blaze but decides to crash through the woods in front of us to get around Blaze and to her cubs.
While Bella went to check on her cubs Momma Beulah comes out of the east marsh north of the blind with her two cubs. One of Beulah’s cubs gets side tracked and heads into the woods to the west. Momma Beulah charges in after it and disappears.
By then Blaze has had her fill, so she walks by us and heads into the trail to the north and east of us.
Yearling Brownie comes back out to clean herself but the Momma Bella surprises her and she takes off. Momma Bella followed by two of her cubs. She goes back to find the other one when Momma Beulah comes out with her two cubs to the south of us.
So begins the chaos…Momma Bella sends her cubs up a tree after she finally finds her third cub. They don’t stay up the tree but come back out to the track to grab some treats. The one took a donut right up the tree with it. OMG!! Michael and I laughed so much!! It was hard to contain ourselves!! This was the best “Reality TV” I have seen in a long time!!!
Beulah sent her cubs up a tree farther south while she came down to check things out. Beulah started eating donuts when Bella came back out from the woods. Beulah charged Bella with them both gnashing their teeth and growling. But the problem was that Beulah chased Bella back to where her own, Beulah’s, cubs were. Oh, my gosh!!! It was mayhem!! We didn’t know which way to focus our cameras!!
Then Beulah’s cubs came out of the tree and came down to the donuts but Beulah had gone into the trail to look for them. They came and grabbed some donuts and headed into the same tree as the other cubs. So we have five cubs in the same tree!!! Bella’s cubs are clear up in the tippy top of the tree trying to stay away from the other ones. What a hoot!!
Poor Beulah went down to the tree her cubs were supposed to be in and couldn’t find them. Needless to say she got a little upset and started it to go a little crazy trying to find them. She went to the north of us but they were still just under the tree now. They came back out to the tracks but didn’t see momma.
Oh my goodness, I am so confused by now, I can imagine what the poor near-sighted bears must feel.
Bella was trying to get her cubs out of the tree when Beulah’s cubs went back to the tree. Momma Beulah spotted them and took off after them. Bella’s cubs had to climb clear back up into the top of the tree again. By this time the train has just came around #1. We were hoping the cubs would still be around for the people to see.
Beulah finally came and got her cubs and took them back to the north then east. Bella got her cubs down from the tree just as the train was approaching. Unfortunately she took them into the woods to the west so no one got to see them. They did get to see Shadow who was down around #2 waiting for treats from Dixie.
After the train went through no other bears came out on the tracks. We did have mature eagles and a 2nd year eagle flying overhead along with eight turkey vultures and some sandhill cranes. Other than that everything was quiet. But oh, what an amazing day on the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley. It is one of those days that Michael and I will not soon forget!!!
Soo Junction Journal June 8, 2012
We headed to Soo Junction to meet up with Dixie and the crew. Michael has pre- built an out building to take back to the cabins. It is in sections and he needs crew to help him get it there and an extra had to put it up.
I am going back to stay in the blind until Michael is down. He will then pick me up and we will head out.
When we get to #1 Momma Blaze is on the tracks ready for her treats!! Two of her yearling cubs, Brownie and Chubby, are also there. As crew gets out to drop off the donuts, Momma Blaze wants first dibs!! But the cubs think they need them, so we have a little controversy. Brad throws the bag and lets them ‘fight’ it out. Actually Momma Blaze lets the cubs know that she is bigger so they back off. We head out ASAP and on to #2.
No one is there to greet us at #2 so off to our blind. Crew puts out a few donuts along with the treats I threw of hot dogs and bologna sandwiches. I head up into the blind and just start to open the windows when our new momma and her three little cubs pop out from the northwest!!!! Yeah!!!
I immediately start snapping pictures!! Without the speeder to spook them, momma brings them right by the blind!! I was able to get some cool shots of the little ones. Michael and the rest of crew came through with the train so momma popped into Spring Hill. But as soon as they went by they were right back out eating treats.
They hadn’t quite had their fill when out of the northwest pops Momma Beulah and her two little cubs!! The new momma takes her young into Spring Hill to let Big Momma Beulah have her turn. What a great morning!! They, too, walk right by the blind!! I haven’t been able to get good shots of these two little guys because the momma keeps them in the woods. So this was a very special treat!!
Momma Beulah makes her cubs wait in the woods though till she has had her fill then allows them to come out and eat. What a witchy pooh. They eventually head into the lumber tail to the east when they are done eating.
Well, while the mommas and young were eating I saw a smaller bear down at #2. Then I am sure Momma Blaze came down to #2 later. Eventually Brownie and Chubby show up together at #2. Maybe I will see them down here.
I am entertained with the ravens, red squirrels, chipmunks, sandhill cranes and other creatures. Finally, Momma Blaze’s other yearling, Shadow, popped out from Spring Hill. She seems to be doing much better than she was a couple of weeks ago. She is not a jumpy as she has been. No climbing trees this time!
She eats quite a bit then as she is sitting there, out pops the new momma! Shadow didn’t seem alarmed at all. We think she is staying close to this momma for a little protection but not enough to bother the momma and her cubs. The babies pop out after their momma and head down the tracks to the south and #2.
Momma and the triplets finally get to #2 when out of the east pops Momma Beulah and her twins at #2 also. Well that seems to be the extent of the bears for the day.
I decide to start my computer to process some of the pictures when I catch a glimpse of something. It is the fisher!!! I see her not just one or two times but at least six times!! I am sure she is a mother gathering food for her young. This is so cool to watch!! She crams her mouth full of hot dogs etc.
Finally Michael comes to get me. Just as we are leaving out pops Momma Blaze for some treats. Sorry have to wait till tomorrow, Momma Blaze!
Soo Junction Journal May 27, 2012
We headed into our blind on a beautiful morning around 8:30am. Unfortunately, we were not greeted by any bears at #1 or #2 or our blind. Bummer!!
When we finally got settled in we did spot a bear at #2. Yes!! It is the momma of the new triplets!! Hopefully, she will come our way. We left goodies from #2 leading down to our blind but…. She took the babies and headed down to #1.
I was so sad!! I thought they will never come back. It is such a long trek for such little legs. But Michael told be to patient! Hahaha, me?
We were treated to a very special guest…a fisher!! It came out and actually grabbed a bagel!! Fishers are related to the wolverine and are vicious carnivores!! So having one sitting on the tracks with a bagel in its mouth was a very rare site to see!! We saw it cross the tracks once to the south and then again to the north before the day was over. We think it might be a momma foraging for food for its young. It would be really cool to see the young!!
Anyways we waited and waited and waited and eventually momma and the triplets made it back to #2. But as momma was ready to lead her young down our way out steps big Momma Beulah and her two little cubs. Good and bad. Momma Beulah intimated the new momma so she went back into the woods. Momma Beulah only came so far down then popped into the woods with young. So we wait again.
Luckily a single Sandhill crane took a leisurely stroll up and down in front of our blind. I was able to get some cool close-ups of it. And it kept me entertained while I waited for baby bears to appear.
Then out of the woods to the north pops Momma Beulah with her two cubs!!! She walks cautiously crossing the tracks then heading into the swamp to the east. Urgggghhhhh!!
Well, it wasn’t too long and she appeared to the south of us off the lumbering trail. She came out and ate and ate and ate. All the while her babies were crying and crying and crying just out of sight in the woods. She didn’t seem to really be concerned at all. Finally she had her fill went and got her babies but never showed them and wandered off into the woods. URGGGHHHH!! I was so upset!!! I couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t bring them out to eat!! Meanie!!!
Luckily it wasn’t too long and out of #2 came our new momma with her three little cubs!! They milled around for a while down at #2. For a minute I thought she was going to go into the woods again but…slowly they made their way down to us!!! Totally AWESOME!!!
The babies were so fun to watch as they wrestled each other and chased each other all the way down the tracks!! Momma was so patient with them. She would stop to check on them then continue on her way to where the treats awaited them.
Michael and I were both able capture some great footage of our new little family of Toonerville!! They feed for quite a while before the babies got tired and went into Spring Hill to rest.
Finally yearling Shadow showed up. It was good to see her. She was much less skittish then she was the last time we saw her. If she is staying close to the momma bear she should be ok.
We caught a quick glimpse of Chubby, too, but he didn’t come while we were there for any treats. We decided we should head back to the cabin to let Kris and Dixie know the good news and show them some of the pics we got.
Can’t wait to get back but it will be at least nine days before we do!!! The babies can grow so fast in that time. And hopefully, the Hiawatha will be able to be launched into the very low Tahquqmenon River to start their 85th season!!
Soo Junction Journal 5-20-2012
Headed back to the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley around 8:30am. We were greeted by Scar Nose, a big male black bear at #1. Behind him was who we found out to be Momma Blaze.
At #2 young two year old male Ole was hanging out. We were able to throw enough treats out on the tracks to keep them busy while we got to out blind.
We waited a little while before out came Shadow, one of the yearling cubs. It seems momma has kicked them out. It is a little early for breeding season but…nature knows when the time is right. That would answer the question of why she was at #1 with the big male bear.
Poor Shadow, we called her that because she was literally her momma’s shadow. Now to be on her own is quite a hard thing to deal with. She spent most of her time up a tree. She was afraid of the red squirrel.
When you Ole came down, she scampered up the tree, snapping her jaws the whole time. It is their way of warning that they aren’t happy.
When Ole finally had his fill, Shadow came down to eat her share. Before she was done, brother, Chubby, made his appearance. She hid for a while then took off back into the woods.
Chubby ate his fair share then he too headed back to the west into the woods.
Sadly no sign of Brownine, he looked like he had the mange that last time we saw him. Nature takes care of Nature for the good and the bad.
No sign of the babies this time, probably because the males were out and about. The male bear will kill the cubs to breed with the momma. Sad. So a good momma hides her cubs around these bad boys.
We headed back to the river to say hi to Kris and Dixie. There I got a chance to shoot a pair of Cedar Waxwings that were courting along the banks of the Tahquamenon River.
Soo Junction Journal May 13, 2012
Woke up to a beautiful day, it is mid-thirties but sunny. Heading to the Toonerville Trolley to check on the black bears to see who has returned and who may be new. The hummingbirds were out feeding. There was a male and female ruby throated pair.
We headed back around 8:30am. Dixie and Kris were at their cabin. They said when they went back yesterday that the bears were waiting for them at #1 station. We decided to just throw a few things out there and at #2 and then the rest near our blind. Well, no one was waiting at #1, no one was waiting at #2 but….before we could stop the speeder and dump the donuts we had Momma Blaze and her three cubs heading toward us. Michael quickly got the blind opened and his equipment up. I, of course, am taking pictures of them all!! Then a young male bear comes out of Spring Hill closer to us then Blaze. He was so happy to see us. He kept coming and coming until Michael said, “NO!” So he finally turned and went back into the wood. After we got settled Momma Blaze and the cubs came out to feed!!
They ate for until the young male who had gone down to #2 came back toward us. Well, Momma gave a snort and off they headed back to the woods. Mr. Ole, Goofette’s cub from two years ago was the young male. He enjoyed eating the jelly filled donuts and the frostings off the others. The blue jays are migrating through. We had some stop over and entertain us. One even tried to attack poor Ole. After O had his fill he, too, wandered off.
Well, about a half an hour later…a big bear stepped out on the tracks to the north of us. I said I thought it was Goofette. And sure enough out popped not one but two little tiny cubs!!!! Yeah!!! We were hoping she had babies!!! She stayed down to the north of us for over 45 minutes eating corn and just plain resting. She eventually went back into the swamp to the east. So we decided to head back to the cabin to say Hi to Kris and Dixie and let them know about what great things we saw!!
Soo Junction Journal March 25, 2012
Headed back to the tracks of the Toonerville Trolley to do some brush cutting along the tracks to give us better viewing of the black bears when they come out for treats. Owners Kris and Dixie Stewart were kind enough to offer their help and hospitality. We cut the brush in record time then spent the rest of the day exploring around their cabins on the Tahquamenon River. Spent the night at the cabin where we were given a show by the ‘piggys’ otherwise known as white-tailed deer that enjoy the corn that Kris gives them. A couple of does got in to a little boxing match which was a blast to watch. The next day we put the blind cover up ready for the black bears to wake up from their winter hibernation. Can’t wait!