Pure Michigan! The catch phrase of Michigan in every sense reflects the beauty of the people (they call themselves Yoopers!) and its stunning landscape along the Great Lakes. Enchanting small towns, old growth forests, natural cliff formations, little shops that are attractive stopovers, historic mines and authentic restaurants, all of these and more along the water’s edge in the Upper Peninsula (UP). It leaves you baffled at times, is it an ocean or a massive river?
A weeklong road trip along Lake Superior in UP is all about scenic stopovers and inhaling endless bouts of fresh air. Along the shores, there are miles and miles of undisturbed beaches, no people, and no dwellings, just beach, and water. There are mountains, not the kind of Western heights but an endless stretch of rolling hills. I shivered in summer when I was told the average snowfall in UP is 350 inches a year. Water is plentiful! And as I passed through on US-41, a sign showed the record snowfall of 400 plus a few years ago. Yoppers have learned over the centuries how to deal with those vast accumulations of snow.
The northernmost part of UP jetting into Lake Superior is the Keweenaw Peninsula. I saw the richness of the culture, the architecture of the 19th century, and the economic boom and doom in the little townships of Laurium, Calumet, and Hancock. The long chutes from the scattered copper mines standing in the middle of the vast landscape held an eerie silence since closing in the middle of the 20th century. The 19th-century Calumet Theater still inviting performers was a reflection of the fine times people of the mining era enjoyed and later left behind.
In the little town of Houghton, the ‘lift bridge’ connecting the Keweenaw waterway is an engineering marvel that inspires in the middle of nature’s grandeur. It is only apt that Michigan Technological University that competes with the best in the world overlooks the marvelous bridge. The quaint little town of Marquette sums up the passion and fine living of the people of UP. On the shores of Lake Superior is where the neo-rich from Chicago, Boston, and New York visit for sailing, skiing, and golf. With museums, restaurants, and microbreweries open whether summer or winter, this part of UP is a transformational retreat in the heart of Midwestern Americana! Neighboring Canada is a stone’s throw away from Sault Ste. Marie popularly called Soo. Since 1855, Soo Lock has remained one of the busiest lock systems allowing more than 10,000 vessels to pass the locks. It connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron allowing ships to safely traverse the 21-foot drop that separates these two bodies of water.
And that’s not all of UP by any stretch. In the midst of these small and charming towns are the protected areas; Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Keweenaw State Park, Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore providing an extraordinary glimpse of the Pure Michigan and its passion for life.
A visit to UP is not complete without landing on Mackinac Island. When I crossed the Mackinac Suspension Bridge at the intersection of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron Mackinac Island is the next landing spot. With no motorized vehicles, only two sounds reverberated around, the click-clack of finely bred ponies and the trin-trin sound of cyclists. Yes, if you don’t prefer to walk around the four square kilometer island, only other options are horse carriages or bicycles. The island is a picture-perfect panorama with a time lapse of its own, unlike anywhere in America taking us back “Somewhere in Time.”
I didn’t see a wild moose, didn’t get to see the majestic green stone of Isle Royale, nor did I go kayaking on Lake Superior. I compensated with picturesque views of miles of blueberry and corn fields and acres of vines interspersed by tall red barns and stands of pine, aspen, and maple. I visited colonial forts, sunken shipwrecks, Native American history, and stood witness to the changing times of the region and the spirit of human adventure only challenged by the waters of the Great Lakes. Leave aside your gadgets, detach from the current affairs of the world; life is just an endless adventure around the dynamic elements of nature and water. Experience the purity of life to the fullest!