The Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Every year my mom heads to Empire, MI to fish, walk the beach and hunt for cool rocks. The UP has all of this and more! Needless to say I did not have to work hard to convince her to let me give her a tour.

We planned on spending 4 or 5 nights traveling. Here is a brief summary of what we did on our trip:

Day 1 (Sunday, June 5)
Whitefish Point
Tahquamenon Upper and Lower Falls
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Sleep: Hotel in Munising (AmericInn)

Day 2 (Monday, June 6)
Bond Falls
Porcupine Mountains
Sleep: Cabin near Porcupine Mountains (Superior Shores Resort)

Day 3 (Tuesday, June 7)
Porcupine Mountains
Keweenaw Peninsula
Sleep: Cabin in Copper Harbor (Bella Vista)

Day 4 (Wednesday, June 8)
Copper Harbor
Sleep: Cabin in Copper Harbor (Bella Vista)

Day 5 (Thursday, June 9)
Drive from Copper Harbor to Munising
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Drive from Munising to Detroit

The shoreline between Whitefish Point and Munising is a great place to hunt for agates. There is also a beautiful lighthouse and a shipwreck museum. Unfortunately for us the moment we arrived at Whitefish Point it started raining really hard so we had to abort our plans of rock hunting that day.

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Lighthouse at Whitefish Point (photo from previous year when it wasn’t raining)

We continued on to Tahquamenon Falls in the hopes that the weather would cooperate once we arrived. If you are going to the UP this is the one place that everyone should visit. There are two park areas. You can visit both the lower and upper falls. I would recommend going early in the year as the cedar swamps that drain into the river colors the water brown and makes for quite a sight. Late in the year the water slows down and is mostly clear.

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Tahquamenon Falls (photo taken from a previous year when it wasn’t raining)

If you are into hiking there are a number of great trails that connect the two park areas. The forest here is beautiful and I can’t wait to get back up there and explore the forest.

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Luckily the rain slowed and we were able to see both parks in our rain gear. Once we finished there we continued on to Munising. We were going to check into our hotel, have a nice birthday dinner for my mom and visit two easily accessible Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stopping points (Munising Falls and Miners Castle).

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Miners Castle

The next day we headed further west to see Bond Falls. This is one of my favorite waterfall areas in Michigan. There is a beautiful boardwalk that allows you to walk all around the front of the falls. On each side you can climb up to the upper portion of the river and if you continue up the river you can see more small waterfalls or take a break on the large exposed slabs of rock that lie in the river.

Our next stopping point was to check in to our cabin and then head over to the Porcupine Mountains to see Lake of the Clouds. Upon checking in to our room the owner (Don) talked to me about our agenda, recommended some great places to eat in the Keweenaw peninsula and loaned me some books about the area.

Before heading to the Porcupine Mountains we stopped to hunt for rocks on Lake Superior at Green Park. We had to go there because the water level of Lake Superior is really high this year and totally washed away the beach at our cabin. We found a number of great stones and after about and hour we continued on our way.

It was still raining a bit so I was a bit concerned about going to see Lake of the Clouds. Luckily for us it was beautiful there (despite the rain). Once we arrived we were greeted with a nice view of the lake and valley below. We witnessed fog slowly rising up out of the trees and pouring into the valley. It really made the whole landscape look more dramatic.

We then stopped at the Konteka Black Bear Resort for dinner before heading back to our cabin for the night.

On day 3 we enjoyed coffee while packing up our things. We headed into the Porcupine Mountains and went to the Presque Isle River area. It is on the western side of the park and a perfect place to explore and  view the river, waterfalls and beautiful forest. If you are in the area I would strongly recommend stopping here. The landscape is nothing like anything I have seen in other areas of Michigan. There is also a nice beach at the end of the river to hunt for cool looking stones. We probably spend about 2 hours here.

On the way out of the park we picked up a hitch hiker we found on the park road. He had been on a backpacking trip with his family and had to abort due to all of the rain. The rain caused flooding and two of the bridges they intended on taking washed away. We talked with him and in about 15 miles dropped him off at his car. Next stop was the park visitors center where we learned about the animals that you might see in the park. I also took a look at the yurts and cabins you could rent while backpacking the many trails of the park.

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We left the park around noon and continued on our way up to Copper Harbor. On our way up we stopped to get mom a pasty. What trip to the UP is not complete without a pasty?!

I was also able to get a stamp for my national park book at the Keweenaw visitors center, some cool rocks (Green Calcite and a few sandstone drill cores) from Prospectors Paradise. Alex Fogotti owns the rock shop and I always like stopping here and hearing his stories. He reminds me of an older Norm McDonald.  We drove up on highway 26 and were greeted by some really great views of Lake Superior. There are also a few great roadside parks to take photographs and climb rocks before continuing your way.

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We checked into our cabin in Copper Harbor, unpacked then headed out to try to find a good place to go fishing. We drove around to a few of the lakes in the area and had no luck.

Nothing was biting but eventually we found ourselves at the top of Brockway Mountain. We were blessed with a tough decision of viewing 180 degrees of Lake Superior or 180 degrees of a great valley. I can only imagine how beautiful it is up there in the Fall. There was also a hut at the top of the mountain to protect individuals that are up there March-June to count migrating raptors. Raptors are birds that feed on other animals so we are talking about birds like eagles, falcons and hawks.

After descending the mountain we exited back into Copper Harbor and went back to our cabin to have dinner, watch tv, look at our rocks and finally crash for the night.

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We began Day 4 with coffee and a morning hike at Estivant Pines. It is one of the last few areas that contain virgin pines (never logged) in the midwest. It is a beautiful and short hike (2-3 miles) that is not too challenging. We then stopped by Lake Manganese to see if it would be a great place to fish. While mom was fishing we spotted a bald eagle across the lake. I picked up my camera and decided to hike towards the bird to try to get a picture. Unfortunately he flew away but I was able to find a pretty good set of tracks that I am sure was made by either a small bear or mountain lion. I submitted the photos to the DNR and hopefully will get an expert opinion on what they might be.

About 10am we visited Fort Wilkins. It was built originally to maintain the peace between settlers flocking to the area to mine for copper and the local indians. We had lunch at a nice restaurant in town and then went to explore Hunters Point Park. It is a unique park that had a lot of beach areas, rocks and a hiking trail that you can take to the end of this skinny little peninsula. There are also a lot of great photo opportunities and rocks to climb on.

One thing you need to know about Copper Harbor is that there is no cell phone service there. The only way to get service is to head to the top of Brockway Mountain. After an afternoon nap mom said she would like to go up there and check and post some photos on Facebook. I didn’t complain because I wanted to take some more photos.

That evening we decided to try to give fishing another shot. We went to Lake Fanny Hooe. There is a nice public dock near the Fort. We arrived around 8pm and talked to a couple from Ludington who had just caught (but lost) a splake. A splake is a hybrid fish consisting of part lake trout and park brook trout. So… there was hope of catching fish up there. In about 90 minutes we managed to catch one spake, 3 walleye and at least one rock bass. You should have heard my mom hootin’ and hollarin’ when she caught a fish. She was so happy.  After a long day of fun we went back to the cabin to relax and organize things so we could head out early in the morning.

We headed out of Copper Harbor early in the morning and made it to Munising at around 10am. My mom had made a few comments about the casinos up there so we stopped at Kewadin Casino. It is was a tiny place but in about 90 minutes I had taken them for $140! Next stop was 12 mile beach campground to look for rocks.

Instead of staying for the night again in Munising we decided to suck it up and make the long drive back home. On our way home I took mom to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. There is a nice bald eagle nest and they have binoculars where you can get a nice view of the nest and eagles.

We had such a nice week together and I hope that in the future we can do something like this again. =)

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