In fact, for awhile we had a streak of going to the Keweenaw area at least once a year through 2008. (this was no small feat during the seven years that we lived on the East Coast). I told my husband it was time to start visiting other parts of the country, and we had a great time traveling west, south and northeast for our vacations.
But now the tide has turned - it was time to go back and revisit the Keweenaw area. So what follows is a bit of what we saw and did during a trip last week. There's no way this blog could recount all the scenery and history of this unique part of the state - what follows is just a brief summary!
Above, the Fish Basket food truck in Munising. My husband learned about this place on Yelp. Fresh-caught Lake Superior fish and French fries made to order - what's not to like? Fresh fish is a real treat, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here.
Our first stop to take photos of Lake Superior; taken at a roadside rest area off M-28 near Au Train. Not sure, but that might be Au Train Island off in the distance.
Driving across the UP is a bit of a lesson in patience, as there's no freeways once you leave I-75 north of the Mackinac Bridge. Over the years, we'd pass the time by looking for various "landmarks" near the roads. As I'd said in the beginning of this post, it's been several years since we were last this way, so we were curious to see what was still around.
Alas, the Laughing Whitefish market, down the road from a river of the same name, appeared to be closed. I hope that its sign, with its caricature of a laughing whitefish, lives on somewhere else. Love the name of the river, loved that sign!
Also gone was the giant cactus statue that stood out in the front yard of a house in the Marquette area. I suppose that the cactus went along with the Spanish-style exterior of the house, but both seemed incongruous in an area more known for woods, lakes and long, snowy winters.
Additions: a few more art galleries and studios here and there, and a number of traffic circles have been constructed in Marquette (to take the place of traffic signals, I think). Not really a fan of the latter, but it is what it is. A lot more chain stores in the Marquette area than there used to be too.
Finally we arrived at our destination, a Country Inn and Suites in Houghton. We can remember when this hotel wasn't even there. Since we'd been in the car for several hours already, my husband suggested walking to the downtown for dinner. It wasn't that far - about a mile - but since the hotel is atop a steep hill, the trip back from dinner meant going up that hill. No need for using the hotel fitness center's treadmill here!
Spied this sign while in downtown Houghton:
A display of kayaks blocked part of the sign, which read "Houghton County Snowfall 286.6". That's a lot of snow, but not unusual for the area. My sister said that 299" had fallen during one of her winters there; folks said it might as well snow one inch more so they could say they'd gotten 300" of the stuff. But it was not to be.
No sign of snow while we were there, of course - but also no sign of normal temps for the time of year. In fact, one day during our visit Houghton was just one degree shy of tying the record high for the date. It was in the low 80's during our stay, well above the norm.
Saw a number of boaters out enjoying the waters of the Portage Shipping Canal, a waterway that divides Houghton and the neighboring city of Hancock. Saw members of the Michigan Tech sailing club:
It looked like they were having a great time!
We hadn't gotten enough walking in while making our way up that steep hill back from dinner; no, the next day it was time to set out on foot again. This time, we were heading to the Porcupine Mountains Wildnerness State Park, near Ontonagon.
We've been to the "Porkies" many times before, and have hiked most of its 90+ miles of trails. But this jaunt would be just for fun. As it was going to be a hot, humid day, we planned on doing a short hike. Armed with water bottles and lunch (trail snacks from Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock), we set out toward the state park. As we'd done yesterday, we looked to see what has come and gone along the route. The biggest difference we noticed, besides a few more new businesses on the outskirts of Houghton, was the route changes in South Range and Ontonagon. Before, you drove through the commercial districts of both towns, now you drive past them if you're staying on the main road. Bummer - I always like going through small towns, just to see the houses and businesses there.
The Porcupine Mountains, at least, are the same: forests, rivers, hills, waterfalls, and the Lake Superior shoreline. The latter would be our destination for lunch.
A few pics:
We started out on the Pinkerton Creek Trail, which connected to the Lake Superior Trail.
Lunchtime along Lake Superior. Although there were several cars parked at the Pinkerton Creek trailhead, we saw no other people on this hike.
We returned on the same route we'd taken, which led to this photo of Pinkerton Creek:
Very typical scenery for the Porkies. I was glad Pinkerton Creek had a footbridge for its crossing. I'd been on many a watery crossing in the park that involved stepping on wet stones or cautiously navigating on logs several feet above a river. I always feared falling off one of those logs; although I can swim, I didn't relish getting wet in my hiking clothes and boots. Thankfully, that never happened!
This day's hike was only six miles. Back when we were much younger, over 30 years ago, our hikes here were much longer distances and often included rugged terrain. We can still recall the Memorial Day weekend hike of 1988. Like this most recent hike, it was abnormally hot and humid, but that didn't stop us from hiking 16 miles. The excursion included going up to the 1,850 feet Government Peak, second highest point in the park. My husband's brother had come with us and he insisted after that climb that he would die of hydration. But he's still around.
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park does have a few niceties that it didn't have in the earlier years of our visits: a bigger visitor center, a folk school, an artist-in-residence program (we saw past works from this program on display at the visitor center), and a music festival. But I don't think much else has changed over the years - it's still a great place to visit, whether you want a challenging hike or an easier one. Well worth the travel time from Houghton! (over an hour)
In my next post I'll talk about what we did on the rest of our vacation.