I'd told my husband I wanted to stop in downtown Calumet, which we hadn't done in years since it means veering off US-41. I was curious as to what changes, if any, had come to that town since our last stop there a good decade ago.
The copper mining boom of the region brought wealth to Calumet, which resulted in niceties you wouldn't typically expect in such a isolated area: a few mansions, a large department store, an opera house that booked first-class entertainment, and more. However, the mining boom is long gone, and the Keweenaw Peninsula saw a decline in population and money.
Calumet was no exception, but things seem to be looking up now, at least a little more. When we first visited the area in 1984, locals had already begun to band together to preserve the copper mining history. Ultimately, their efforts would eventually lead to the creation of the Keweenaw National Historic Park in the early 1990's.
This has resulted in a large number of "heritage sites" throughout the region, which include a broad range of museums, mining tours and other points of interest.
I'm guessing this initiative has brought more money and visitors to the area. Downtown Calumet had more shops and places of interest to visit while we were there than I recalled from our last time through.
Above, the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Co, which is where we ate lunch. I had the Drunken Pig sandwich and my husband had the Michigan House burger. This was easily my favorite meal of our vacation - everything in my sandwich was top-notch, and my husband said his burger was excellent too. Highly recommended!
The building's ambience helped too - it had its beginnings as a hotel in 1905, built by a local brewing company to market its beers in the hotel saloon. Old-time charm still abounds inside:
Vintage chandelier, and more vintage behind it in the form of snowshoes hung on the ceiling.
I would have taken even more photos, but the lighting wasn't the best, and we had other stops to make.
The photo of the Michigan House building was taken from the 3rd floor of the building across the street, the Vertin Gallery. In its heyday, it was the Vertin department store, but is now home to art works and antiques. I figured with such a huge space, there'd be a lot of stuff to look over, but alas, large sections of the 2nd and 3rd floors were roped off, with jumbles of furniture and other things instead of booth displays. So there really wasn't as much to see as I'd hoped. But at least I did get that nice photo of the Michigan House building.
From another side of the 3rd floor, another block was in view:
There's some empty storefronts on this block, but the space on the left houses Supernova Yoga, Gallery & Gifts. I didn't go in this business, but it looked nice.
However, we did go here:
Once a church, now the Calumet Arts Center. The center sells works by local artists, as well as offering classes and hosting cultural events. I like to support local art centers when we travel, so I bought a couple of small pottery items.
We also ducked inside a few art galleries and gift shops. We missed a few more shops and didn't go into local historic sites. Just didn't have enough time to see much. Nevertheless, I went to Calumet's visitor center, which is located on US-41 before you turn off to drive into town. Picked up a bagful of brochures for future visits to the region!
From Calumet, we continued up the peninsula, veering off onto M-26 to drive through the picturesque shore towns of Eagle River and Eagle Harbor. And as we've also done in years past, we drove up Brockway Mountain Drive to take advantage of the scenic overlooks:
That's Copper Harbor down below. On clear days, one can see Isle Royale from the top of Brockway Mountain, but it was too hazy to do so this day. Still enjoyed the trek up and back, even if the driving is a bit hair-raising at times.
Copper Harbor is small but has a number of gift shops and restaurants. We used to always eat lunch at the Harbor Haus - delightful food and a lovely setting overlooking Lake Superior. Unfortunately, it no longer appears to be open for lunch, which is why we'd decided to go to Michigan House in Calumet. But for old time's sake we walked to the shoreline bordering Harbor Haus:
The only shop we checked out while in Copper Harbor was our old favorite, the Laughing Loon. When our daughter was little, it was a tradition to let her pick out a stuffed animal from the shop, and occasionally we'd buy a souvenir t-shirt for ourselves. But we bought nothing today.
Once last stop before we returned to our hotel in Houghton:
A sign marking the beginning of US-41. If you were to travel its entire distance of almost 2,000 miles, you'd end up in Miami. I wonder how many people have done just that? Would be an interesting trip sometime. Besides the UP, we've taken US-41 through parts of the Chicago area and Indiana. But I think that's it!
Reluctantly, we had to leave the Keweenaw area the next day. But before we did so, we had one last meal:
Just outside of Hancock, the Four Suns eatery, run by the adjacent Peterson's Fish Market. The restaurant has walk-up windows for ordering and pick-up, with places to sit at the covered "porch" and a few outside tables. My husband and I both got the whitefish sandwich. It was good, but we agreed that we liked our fish lunches at Muninsing's Fish Shack better.
Four Suns was still worth the visit, though, especially since we had a great view of this across the road:
The Quincy Mine & Hoist property, now a museum site run by the Keweenaw National Park. Have never toured the site, but would like to someday!
It was time to head south toward home, this time through Wisconsin. Again, for old time's sake, we stopped in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We lived there for three years, in the late 1980's/early 1990's, and it was where we had our first house:
This was the oldest house we'd ever lived in (although we looked at 18th C homes while house hunting in the Philadelphia area); it had been built in 1871. It still looks much the same as when we lived there, other than the siding that now surrounds the chimney. Not something you should do to an old house!
We ate a so-so dinner at an Asian restaurant in downtown Stevens Point, which we made up for by going over to Belt's ice cream stand for dessert. We used to live only a seven-minute walk from Belt's, which meant that there were times I'd go there to cool off in the afternoon with a grape slush after a session of antique furniture refinishing - followed by an after-dinner dessert of a flurry (their name for soft-serve blended with mix-ins) while with my husband. Ah, those were the days!
So for the sake of nostalgia I got one of my old favorites, a hot fudge brownie flurry. At this stage of my life, it was too rich and filling to finish, but it was still great. Belt's is a seasonal walk-up place, and it's a tradition to make a point of going there for the first and last days it's open for the year. As these days are in March and October, it isn't unusual for snow flurries to be falling as people stand in line, outside, waiting to order ice cream! Wisconsinites are hardy folks.
After eating all that ice cream, it was time to walk off some of those calories:
A walk along the Wisconsin River at Pfiffner Pioneer Park. Like Belt's, this park was also a short jaunt from our house, so we walked this path often. During this visit, I recalled the time I called in a mail order (no online option back then!) and gave the woman at the other end of the line my Stevens Point mailing address. She thought that the name "Point" meant the town was on an ocean! Guess she didn't have any idea where Wisconsin was (this was no foreign-accented call center worker either). I had to explain that the town was at a "point" on the Wisconsin River.
We spent the night in Stevens Point, but had lunch there before leaving. I'd taken some pics of the restaurant where we ate, the Wooden Chair, but they didn't come out well. But it's a cute spot - one of those places much of the furniture is vintage and much of it doesn't match. Food was good, and it's a fun atmosphere.
From Stevens Point, we continued on to Milwaukee. We got there too late to do much but eat dinner at Jalapeno Loco, near Mitchell Airport. We first ate here in the early 2000's, when one of my brothers lived nearby. It's solid Mexican food; has some of the usual menu items but also some less-common entrees. We've always enjoyed our meals here.
Since we spent the night in Milwaukee and were only going as far as suburban Chicago the next day, that meant I had time to visit American Science and Surplus before heading to the Windy City. AS&S is another old favorite of mine. I'd already visited a couple of the smaller Chicago-area stores run by the business (one has since closed), but was happy to check out the larger Milwaukee store while my brother lived in town. I was in luck this time: the store was having its annual tent sale. This meant even more savings on even more wacky stuff. But I tried sticking to more practical stuff, like more bottles for my DIY kombucha and toiletries, and craft supplies. It's a fun place.
The Chicagoland visit involved dinner out at Rockwood Taproom, plus shopping at a plaza that has a See's candy store (great chocolates and other sweets), a Trader Joe's and a Goodwill. What more do you need? :)
By this time, though, we were getting a bit tired of traveling - covering 1,600 miles in one week will do that to a person, I guess. So after spending the night at our suburban hotel, we left for home, stopping only for gas and lunch. We were back home by mid-afternoon. It had been a nice time though - definitely a "superior" vacation!