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Friday, May 25, 2012

From the Mackinac Bridge to Michigamme . . .

The Mackinac Bridge spans five miles, with Lake Huron and Mackinac Island on your right and Lake Michigan to the left as you enter Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  After paying your toll on the far side of the bridge, you can stop at the rest area, located immediately beyond the toll booths.  There you can pick up brochures, maps, travel guides, etc. on any area of the state.  The friendly and helpful staff will usually be able to answer any of your questions.  Of course, clean bathrooms are available also!  On our way towards the Keweenaw, we stop here, in the St. Ignace area, for a fast-food lunch from Subway, Burger King or McDonald's.  These are located west of the Bridge on Highway 2.  To the east is the town of St. Ignace for more lodging, camping and dining options.  The State Park has an amazing view of the night-time Bridge!

After eating, we continue west along Highway 2.  The view of Lake Michigan is magnificent and there are areas to pull off and take pictures of the Bridge.  People like to stop on hot days for a dip in the Lake or to just enjoy the sandy beach in the sunshine.  There are many campgrounds to choose from along the way.

Not far past Brevort is the town of Epoufette.  There are restaurants on each side of the highway.  The one on the north is a little more pricey and upscale, but the one on the south has a great view, as it is perched high above Lake Michigan.

We like to turn north on Highway 77, at Blaney Park.  From there it is only 17 miles to Highway 28, which will ultimately take you along the Big Lake, Superior.  Blaney Park prospered in the twenties and thirties as a thriving vacation area, frequented by big-name mobsters! Now there are antique shops and bed and breakfasts.

My favorite UP bathroom stop is the Visitor Center at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, located on  your left on 77 after the town of Germfask.  This is a great place to stretch your legs and browse the exhibits.  Then go out the back door and enjoy the view of the ponds.  You'll probably see swans nearby.  A high-powered telescope can be directed on the osprey nest across the water.  Walk around the outside perimeter of the building, or down one of the short trails, before getting back in your car.  There is also a 7-mile "scenic" drive, but I never really saw anything on it and 7 miles takes a long time to travel when going 15 miles per hour!  As you continue north from there, you will see several ponds on your left.  You will definitely see swans there!
When you turn left on Highway 28, there will be a rest area on your right.  Michigan rest areas are quite clean and nice.  You are now entering the "Seney Stretch", which people complain about as being so boring to drive.  But, hey, it's a half hour of your life!  Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife (a moose or wolf would be great to see!) or an eagle perched atop a pine tree or swooping down for roadkill.  Always have your camera right next to you in the car!

The next good-sized town is Munising.  There are many restaurants and ice cream shops there.  (Hardee's has strawberry shakes with chunks of strawberries.)  You can catch a boat in the middle of town for the Pictured Rocks cruise.  There are also a few major waterfalls here.  Be sure to check your waterfalls book by Penrose for more information.  This is THE bible of Michigan waterfalls and is a must-have!  Write notes in the book as you visit the falls.  You won't regret it later!  The view of the bay dotted with sailboats is beautiful on a sunny day.  However, I can't imagine what it's like to attend the high school there and watch the sights on the bay from your classroom:  those sailboats, fog creeping in (very common there!) or fat UP snowflakes floating down.

After leaving Munising, you will see Grand Island on your right.  Lots of Indian history there.  A little farther on your left is the casino in Christmas, Michigan.  Another possible bathroom stop if you are so inclined.  Not far from there is the Rathfoot Rest Area on your right.  Directly across the road from the rest area is Scott Falls, a small falls, but a nice photo op.  You can even walk behind the waterfalls there.  Back in the rest area, you can look for the Indian pictographs on the cliffs.  http://hunts-upguide.com/au_train_scott_falls__the_face_in_the_rock__rathfoot_roadside_park.html
There is good information on those pictographs at that website, but I have not visited them yet.

Marquette also has a large log tourist center on the water on your right before you enter town.  Every year flowers are planted along the roadway leading into town. No one does flowers like Marquette!  In the picture below you can see the "roundabout". If you go straight, you will be in downtown Marquette.  All along the water there is the Tourist Park. Every summer there is some big event there, often featuring the local Finnish heritage. One summer, wooden chairs lined the roadways for miles, painted brightly by UP residents. The wooden chairs were a sign of welcome to travelers. Another summer, hundreds of doors were painted with pictures of women who contributed in some way to UP life.   To the left at the roundabout, the highway continues on.  There are many opportunities for lodging and dining.  It is a college and tourist town and all kinds of shops and restaurants are located along the highway or inside the city.  Major chain restaurants and stores are located on the highway.  There is a Wal-Mart for forgotten supplies. If you'd rather eat at one of the local favorites, just turn north off the highway and go into the city and see what looks good! 

Traveling on westward, you will pass through Negaunee and Ishpeming, which is a winter playground hosting a 1200-foot iced toboggan slide or you can take the ride of your life trying out the luge run at Lucy Hill.  Next comes Michigamme, home of the moose release.  Approximately 60 were brought in by helicopter in the mid-eighties.  It's a thrill to spot a moose along the highway.  It's a rare sight, so have your still and video cameras ready!  Van Riper State Park will be on your left for camping, swimming and fishing, and the remote Craig Lake will be to the right for fishing and hiking.  Camping there is rustic.  Brewer Frederick Miller managed 307-acre Craig Lake to encourage muskie and northern pike.  There are many smaller lakes in that immediate area, named after his children.

To travel on, see my blog: From Three Lakes to Chassell.

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