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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. 

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