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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Keweenaw Area

Houghton and the Keweenaw area feature many restaurant, lodging and recreational opportunities.  Entering Houghton from the south, you will see the popular Pilgrim River Steakhouse on your left.  If you're ready to take a walk, the Nara Nature Preserve is on both sides of the road, running along the Pilgrim River.  I've taken one of the walks on the right and enjoyed the wildflowers there.

Continuing on, you will travel through the Michigan Tech campus.  The campus also extends to the south.  There are hotels in the city and many nice shops and restaurants.  I like to browse in Book World, which features a large section of Michigan books.  My favorite restaurant in Houghton is The Ambassador, known for its tostada pizza, pictured above.  It's a popular restaurant with the college crowd and their visiting parents, featuring old-time murals on the walls and a view of the lift bridge, so make sure you sit by the window!  That bridge connects Houghton to Hancock in the Keweenaw Peninsula.  The center section can be raised to accomodate tall sailboats and ships.  Snowmobiles can cross it at the lower level in the winter.

Plan to spend the night in Houghton, or all the way north in Eagle River, Eagle Harbor or Copper Harbor.

Crossing the bridge, you will find yourself in Hancock, which has a strong Finnish heritage.  Finlandia University is located there.  Finn Fest, a huge summer festival, will be held there in 2013!  There are also popular Finnish and Italian restaurants.

Continue north on 41, passing through many small, old mining towns.  You will see the Quincy Mine, which offers tours with temps inside in the forties! Nice on a hot day! Next comes the side-by-side cities of Laurium and Calumet.  Calumet is home to many old and ornate churches, often with open doors so you can go in and check them out.  Copper World, located on Fifth Street, is a must-visit shop of many UP-made items.  There is something there for everyone: books, home decor, Christmas decorations, fudge and clothing.  You will enjoy your time there!  A little farther, on Sixth Street, is the Opera House (pictured below), where Sarah Bernhardt, Lon Chaney, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.,  and John Phillips Sousa performed at the turn of the century.  This year performers include Judy Collins, Burton Cummings of the Guess Who, and the Lowrider Band.  A sketch of the inside of the theater is located here:   Lots of money was flowing at the height of the copper mining era.  The population of Calumet approached 100,000 at that time.  Today it is 800. 

A fire in Calumet on December 24, 1913 is referred to as the Italian Hall Disaster.  Seventy-three men, women, and children, mostly striking mine workers and their families, were crushed to death in a stampede when someone yelled "fire" at a crowded Christmas party.  The party-goers ran down the stairs, where the doors opened inward, and were crushed.  There was no fire.  To date there has been much debate about who cried "fire" and why. The most common theory is that "fire" was called out by an anti-union ally of mine management in order to disrupt the party.  A Woody Guthrie song immortalizes the event:  A movie has also been made about the disaster.   1913 Massacre follows singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie to the town of Calumet: 

After spending time in Calumet, continue on up Highway 26/41. If you'd like to check out the panoramic 360 degree view, turn left at Allouez and upward to the tower (you can drive all the way up).  It just takes a couple minutes to reach it. You can see the mining towns dotting the landscape and enjoy the colors from there in the fall.

Continue following the highway to the town of Phoenix and turn left there.  After making the turn and passing all the buildings on the right, you will go around a curve and there will be an unmarked area with room to pull off and park.  This is known as Ten-Foot to the locals. You can see the river cascading over the rocks from your car, but of course you'll want to take the few steps farther and enjoy it close-up. 
Next you will come upon Eagle River. Eagle River Falls are on your right. You might like to turn left, where you will see the Big Lake, a restaurant (but you will wait to eat in Copper Harbor!) and a sandy beach.
Next stop is Jacob's Creek.  There are three places you'll definitely want to see here.  Park at the Jampot, began by monks about 25 years ago. At that time, the monks lived in tiny cabins on the cold shores of Superior, carrying their water up from the Lake. In the Jampot you can purchase jams and jellies, baked goods, truffles and more, all made on site by the monks. Online orders are available at My favorite purchases are the pear cinnamon jelly, truffles and hermit cookies (Loaded with everything that should be in a cookie! I call them Breakfast Cookies, big enough to make a meal with a large glass of milk!)  Many of the ingredients are grown there, too. I remember seeing a picture of a huge bear standing on his hind legs and peering in the front window of the Jampot!

Jacob's Falls are just a few steps before the Jampot.  The monastery is across the road.

Back on the winding road, you will cross Silver River and then there will be a fork in the road. (See the picture below of the sign there.)  I like to go "up" on my way to Copper Harbor and take the Brockway Mountain Drive.  Beautiful views are coming your way!  In the fall, it is amazing!  At the top is a small gift shop with many affordable things.  In late spring, the Audobon  Society has a booth (outhouse-size) set up to document the migration of raptors, in particular, crossing through the Brockways before they traverse Superior. Bald eagles documented there in 2012 numbered 800+!  Golden eagles are spotted, too.  Birders visit to see the many kinds of hawks, peregrine falcons, and more.  Visit this site and scroll down to see the numbers :  Take your time going down the mountain.  Near the bottom is a parking area where everyone likes to take pictures from above Copper Harbor. I once heard a story about a couple who were viewing the Copper Harbor fireworks display from there on July 4th. While their attention was riveted on the fireworks, a bear snatched their pizza from the hood of their car!  You'll see the lighthouse beyond the town and maybe a freighter or two on the lake.

As you reach the bottom of the hill, the marina will be right there.  If you want to hike a little, Hunter's Point is to the left, I believe. The town is to the right.   There are many nice shops. Turn down to the lake and enjoy the sights. 
As you continue along that road, you will ultimately arrive at the Harbor Haus, my favorite restaurant anywhere! They open at 4:30 and that is a good time to plan to arrive.  You'll want to sit by the window (which is where the waitress will invariably seat you). If it's busy, due to a festival or weekend, any seat will still give you a good view. I always take my camera in and my binoculars. You will see freighters and the lighthouse. One time tourists took the lighthouse tour boat out, but could not get off the boat, because a bear was sitting on the lighthouse steps! Scan the treetops with your binoculars and you might see an eagle. Scan the shores and look for bear! A meal for two here will be around $50.  My husband's favorite meal is the planked whitefish and mine is the beef rouladen.  Even the accompanying salad is the best ever!  We LOVE their vegetables, lightly flavored with garlic butter.  After your meal, walk out the dock and sit awhile!  At 6:00, the boat comes in from Isle Royale, and all the waiters and waitresses rush out to do the can-can to greet the arrivals!

Back in your car, proceed farther east through town on the main road.  On the left will be a "lighthouse overlook", another enjoyable spot to sit a bit.  This is another place not to miss!  On the right is the state park and Fort Wilkins.  At the end of the road is Horseshoe Harbor.  The Nature Conservancy has preserved a beautiful and geologically interesting area here. It is a superb hike through thick woods and along Lake Superior shoreline.  Take US-41 until it ends and turns into a dirt road.  Go .9 miles after the pavement ends and turn left.  Head down until you see the Nature Conservancy signs.  There is one at .5 miles from the trail and another at the trailhead/parking area.  As you hike, you will hear the waves before you see them, and the temperature will drop as you approach the shoreline.  Nice!

When you've had your fill of Copper Harbor (you might enjoy spending the night there) head back the way you came, but do not go up Brockway.  This time travel along the shoreline.  Stop at Esrey Park and explore.  Many like to look for agates along the shore. 

If you have more time to spend on the peninsula, check out Manganese Falls, Bete Gris for unspoiled Lake Superior shoreline and Lac La Belle (there is a restaurant located there).  Haven Falls (pictured above) is also there. 

McLain State Park is a great place to stay for the sunsets alone!  Every night the campers sit along the shore on one of the many benches awaiting the sunset.  When it sets everyone joins in the applause!  It is located just north of Hancock. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Three Lakes to Chassell

After leaving the Marquette/Michigamme area, you will pass through Three Lakes on your way to Baraga County, home to many beautiful waterfalls.  Before you get to Tioga Falls, begin watching in earnest for moose!  There is a small rest area here with clean pit toilets and a beautiful stream with falls.  Many moose have been seen around here and at the juncture of 141, where you will continue on to the north.  Watch the swamps!  That is prime moose viewing!  Also watch for them to cross the road along here.  A few have been hit in that area, and that is not a good thing for your car or your life. 

A popular Baraga County waterfall is Canyon Falls, on your left before Alberta and 15 miles before L'anse.  This is an impressive and easily-accessible waterfall, with a boardwalk much of the way.  The trail is one mile over level terrain.  The amazing old forest is my favorite part! The falls are located at a box canyon, called "Michigan's Grand Canyon".   On a hot summer day, you might see locals cliff-diving if you follow the path which continues on after "the end" of the trail.  Look on youtube for videos!

At Alberta you will see a museum, showcasing Henry Ford's sawmill for making boards to side his "woody" station wagons. He wanted to create an idyllic model sawmill village where millworkers would grow a good deal of their own food. To earn a living, Ford employees in Alberta were to farm, as well as work in the village sawmill. The elderly Ford had the resources to turn his dreams into first-rate reality. When he built Alberta in the wilderness, he installed a new water and sewage system, sidewalks, lighted boulevards, a church, a school, and a fire department.

Just before L'anse is the Hilltop Restaurant  (and adjacent motel).  The Hilltop is renowned for serving the "world's largest cinnamon roll"!  It's a good place to eat and many baked goods are available to purchase and take with you. Just after the Hilltop Motel is the L'anse Motel (which someone who knows told me is the nicer of the two, but they're both good). Not far from there, the highway will continue on (slightly to the left) as the road into L'anse veers to the right.  At this point, you'll notice the Baraga County Tourist and Recreation Association building on your right.  Definitely stop here and see Tracey (tell her Marsha sent you!) to pick up waterfall brochures and more.  This sunset picture is at the L'anse Park (straight into town from the tourist building).  Thursdays in the summer feature concerts in the park at 7:00, much of the music having a Finnish flavor.  The best!

Baraga County has lots to see and do!  A good website to view before and during your trip is  Everything you'd want to know is right there and this would be a good area to spend the night.  There is so much to see and do here! Just north of the town of L'anse is the L'anse Township Campground.  You can watch beautiful Keweenaw sunsets from the park every night! 

When traveling next to Keweenaw Bay, keep an eye on the tiptop of pine trees and you could very well see an eagle. They are numerous and easy to spot!
Your Penrose waterfall book will feature many Baraga County waterfalls.  My favorite in the entire U.P. is Silver River Falls, northeast of L'anse on Skanee Road. (There is also a Silver River Falls in the Keweenaw, so don't confuse the two.) This is the BEST place for waterfall pics!  When you exit your car, you can walk all along the river, enjoying several falls.  Be sure to inhale the scent of cedar as you imagine Indians walking the same paths as you, as they went to their favorite fishing site.  It's even better in the fall!

Also in this area is Michigan's "high point", Mt. Arvon.  You can park not too far from that point, so the walk is not very long.  Be sure to sign the log at the top!  The above eagle shot was taken in the Arvon area.

Farther east on Skanee Road are Witz Marina (in Skanee on Huron Bay) and Big Erik's Falls (and campground), not a "major" falls, but a pretty area.  I have to visit Witz Marina every summer. Such a serene spot in the early evening with the approaching sunset. There are other falls, also on Skanee Road.   Check your waterfall guide for locations.

This peninsula is LOADED with deer, so watch your driving!

Another must-visit spot, at the tip of this small peninsula, is Pte. Abbaye.  We were treated to a moose sighting, close-up, a year or two ago on our drive out to the point.  After you park your car, be sure to walk around the entire point for a view of the Huron Islands and the Huron Island Lighthouse, which is being restored.  Another perfect photo-op!  Be sure to grab a large stone or two for your home garden or pond.

Also on the Abbaye Peninsula is Pequaming, another one of Henry Ford's company towns.  This was where the wood was harvested for his woody station wagons.  You will see the old school buildings and more as you take the short drive to the end of that road, where Ford's "Bungalow" is on the left.   The Bungalow can now be rented out for overnights by groups. There was much excitement when Henry Ford was coming to town! Everything was spruced up and rocks were placed along the roadside and painted white, just as he liked them.

Make plans to visit Aura on the third weekend of every July for the Aura Jamboree.  This annual music festival features the best in traditional music with a Finnish flavor.  Stroll around the shady grounds, listening to musicians under every tree or onstage inside.  Accordions and banjoes abound!  Saturday night is the Old-Time Dance.  Such fun to watch the dancers!  Visit us on Facebook!

Almost back to L'anse and just north of town (off Skanee Road) is the Pinery Indian Cemetery.  This is another beautiful spot in the fall.  Here you will see the Indian spirit houses that mark the graves.  In each spirit house the Indians placed things they thought their loved one would need on their trip to the Happy Hunting Grounds, such as bows and arrows and food.

After passing through L'anse again, seek out the Powerhouse Falls on Falls River.  Locals say there are fifty falls on this river.  You can drive right up to the falls.  A good spot for a quick video! The below pictures show the Powerhouse Falls in summer and autumn.

Continuing north on Highway 41, around the head of Keweenaw Bay, you'll see the statue of the Snowshoe Priest, Bishop Baraga, rising high up on a sandstone cliff. There is a nice gift shop and park up there.

In Baraga, we enjoy thin crust pizza at Irene's on Keweenaw Bay. The cheese is put on last for a delicious pizza! 

Also in Baraga are a State Park, old-fashioned drive-in restaurant (with root beer!) and a casino with lodging, restaurant and pool.

After heading on around Keweenaw Bay, you will arrive in Chassell, a pretty little town with antique shops and the Einerlei, a very nice shop of mostly household decor items.  On the right is a good ice cream shop, too!