Sunday, June 3, 2012

Keweenah Peninsula, May 25-26, part 1

Big Trip, Big Fun!  Joe and I hopped in his brand new car (a maroon Altima named Rasputin) and headed out to the Keweenah Peninsula of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Neither of us had ever been to Michigan, so we were excited about going somewhere new. Our lodgings were three nights in a motel in Copper Harbor, which has the distinction of being even closer to the Edge of Nowhere that I am here on the North Shore. 

DAY 1 - May 25

After taking Thunderdog to play with her puppy friends for a few days (kennel), we set off from my place on the Shore.  Once we crossed over the Bong Bridge in Duluth, we eased onto Highway 2 and enjoyed a beautiful drive on the northernmost east–west U.S. Route in the country

Our first stop was at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.  If you're ever up that way, I highly suggest you stop the car and check it out!  It's more than just a roadside stop: they have a great little museum about the North Shore of MN/ South Shores of WI and MI, a beautiful view, all sorts of stuff.  If we were not in kind of a timecrunch, we would have lingered longer. 

Our next stop was a quick visit to the Porcupine Mountains.  We weren't going to have much time to explore, so we headed for the best of the best: the Lake in the Clouds overlook.

I look at the beautiful Lake in the Clouds, while wearing my Piggly Wiggly t-shirt

I almost lose Joe over the edge...or do I almost successfully push him over the edge?  Hmm...
After walking around for a bit and enjoying the picture-perfect late May weather, we got back in the car and continued the rest of the way to our destination: Copper Harbor.  We drove through Houghton (where I went into my first Wal-Mart order to get a Subway sandwich) and then got to the windy road to Copper Harbor.

We got to Copper Harbor around 8:30pm and found our motel.  We stayed at the Bella Vista motel, right on the water.  It looked like it was built and decorated in the mid 1950's, but it was clean and comfortable (and reasonably priced!).  We were expecting to spend a fair amount of time in the room - the forecast was for upper 40's/low 50's and rain - so we brought a lot of games and hoped for the best.  Lucky for us, it was exactly what we wanted!  Our cell phones were out of range and we had no internet either (!!!!!!), so instead of winding down with some Phoning we went out for a walk.

Copper Harbor is a small town.  I think we saw most of it during our hour or so of walking that first night.  I couldn't find exact numbers (it's an unincorporated community) but Joe thought that about 300 people lived there year-round.  I believe it: it's a town based on tourism to those who want to get to the edge of the world.  Long ago there was a military and mining presence (more about that later) but now it's mainly snowmobilers and deck-sitters and relaxers.  We turned in for the night and left the window ajar, to get the nice breeze off the lake.

DAY 2 - May 26

On Saturday morning we went for a hike out to Hunter's Point.  Hunter's Point is the "arm" of the harbor - a natural breakwater against Lake Superior.  We walked out as far as we could (and got lost doing it) so I figure we walked about 3 miles total.  It was beautiful, rocky lakeshore.  It was cool to know that, if my eyesight were strong enough and the earth were flat enough, I could see across to my home on the North Shore of MN.

Red pebble beach, Mergansers, Buffleheads, Canada Geese, and lots of rocks worn into Worry Stones by thousands of years of waves.

Me at the end of Hunter's Point - looking out at the island across the way

Grooving in the woods

Joe deciding which of his many rocks to bring back with us...and which will be skipped and tossed back into the lake.
After the hike, we ate lunch and then drove out to Fort Wilkin, a historical park just a short way east from Copper Harbor.  As we drove by the entrance we saw that it was likely they'd charge us to bring in a car, so we drove down the road to park and walk back.  When we did, we found the end (or beginning, depends on how you look at it) of US Highway 41.  1992 miles from Copper Harbor to Miami!  We saw plenty of Florida cars in Copper Harbor...we hoped that at least some of them had made the whole trip from Miami on 41.

The beginning, according to this sign
Fort Wilkins was established in 1842 to keep the peace amongst the rowdy frontiersmen and miners that flooded into Copper Harbor around that time.  Although it has been long abandoned, there were about 15 buildings that we could walk into - filled with interpretive items and information about what life was like at the Edge of the World back in the mid 19th century.  Boy howdy, we thought it was tough without internet access!!  The isolation of being in Copper Harbor during a long winter back then must have been very, very, very difficult.  We saw a graphic stating that only 1 in 26 soldiers re-enlisted at Fort Wilkin.  I'm surprised it was that many, honestly.  Three times as many soldiers died while enlisted, and it didn't appear that there was any active war going on at the time.

Hello cannonball?

Woe is Joe, locked up in the brig

Fort Wilkin is on the shores of Lake Fanny Hooe.  Interesting lake, interesting name.  Joe was amazed by the fact that a lake the size of Fanny Hooe could exist within just a couple hundred feet of Lake Superior.  I was amazed that they'd name a lake Fanny Hooe.  Although we didn't figure out why a lake was there (and not, over time, worn away or otherwise annexed to Lake Superior) I did find out about one Miss Fanny Hooe.  She was a sister-in-law of one of the officers assigned to Fort Wilkins.  Stories differ, but whether she disappeared one day while picking berries or was "merely admired" by the men, they decided to name the lake after her.

Fog on Lake Fanny Hooe
After leaving Fort Wilkins, we went back to town.  We saw a sign that said "Brockway Mountain Drive".  Joe said, "Do you want to take that drive?" and I said, "Okay!" so we turned off on that road...and went up...and up...and up.

Plenty of amazing overlooks: we could see the most incredible valleys, Lake Fanny Hooe (I never get tired of saying/writing that), cliffs and mountains in the distance.  We stopped at what we thought was the overlook, and gazed at a tall mountain in the distance with a radio tower on it.

You can kind of see the itty bitty radio tower - tallest spire on top of the cliff.
Well, as we were looking at the cliff we SUV drive right over the top of the cliff and down the side of the hill!  The cliff turned out to be much closer than we thought (the radio tower was smaller than we thought) and, if we kept on our road, we would soon be driving the same terrifying path as the SUV.  We were both just gobsmacked at our lack of depth perception and the frightfulness of the road ahead.

Car on the Cliff of Insanity
We steeled ourselves (I closed my eyes and thought happy thoughts) and kept going.  Once to the top of the cliff, we discovered a gift shop, signs and maps, and a lot of people enjoying the great view.  There were families, people trying to fly a kite (it was very windy) and a happy dog that came with the German woman who ran the store.  There were some raptor watchers doing a bird survey.  The place was happening!

It felt like much more than 726 feet above lake level!

Photobombing the Highway to the Cliff of Insanity
According to the woman at the gift shop (who LOVED to talk to people, guess it would be an occupational hazard of a person who hung out at the top of a mountain all day), the land we could see across the lake was Isle Royale - 55 miles away.  WOW!!

After we descended to lake level (a much less dramatic road than the way up, thank goodness), we grabbed dinner in Eagle River...and then headed back to the motel to play cribbage and reflect upon how much we did in just one day. 

Days three and four, on the way...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a beautiful getaway. Can't wait to hear more! :)