Monday, August 17, 2015

North of The Mitten: Pure Michigan

Upper Tahquamenon Falls, U.P.
I was born and raised in "the Great Lakes State"of Michigan, where people point at the palm of their left hand to show you where they live or where they've been, but that's just the lower peninsula. "Up North", at the top of "the mitten" is the Upper Peninsula, or U.P., for short. When you cross the nearly 5 mile long Mackinaw Bridge, you enter "Yooper" country, where you'll find nearly 200 waterfalls, the shores of 3 Great Lakes, 130 year old copper mines, and old growth forests that are hundreds of years old and hundreds of feet tall.

Beautiful is a start, but "majestic" is more like it! Hiking, biking, and paddling are my favorite activities up there, but we saw so many people touring the area on their motorcycles... you can view the scenery lots of different ways! Many roads travel alongside a great lake and there are many motels, hotels, and cabins available for rent in addition to all the campgrounds that we passed along the way. We visited 7 different campgrounds during our 19 night "loop" from our home in the lower peninsula, around the U.P. and then back down across the bridge again.

Rule #1. Do your research and talk to the locals!
I know my family, so I know that the kids start to go batty in the car after 4 hours, so I planned our campground visits accordingly. I read campground reviews on and made sure there were things to do and see in each area. I relied on a website I found called "Things to do in the U.P." along with a Facebook page called "Upper Peninsula Travel" when considering our options and making our plans.

What one person considers a "must see" might not suit your family. For example, there is a restaurant in Munising that many people said was great, but after trying it twice, we know we'll never visit there again! Basically, you know your family's likes and dislikes, skills, abilities, and ages. Read maps closely and check mileages, for both driving and hiking! If you need a stroller, consider that some hiking paths are wide and smooth, while others are narrow, hilly, and bumpy with tree roots. If you can't find the answers to your questions via Google, then call or visit the local visitor's center for detailed maps, attractions, and information. The best visitor center we visited was the Keweenaw Visitor Center, who offers a free smartphone app for all the local restaurants, attractions, and activities in the Keweenaw Peninsula! The Munising visitor center has maps of all the waterfalls, and I can't recommend strongly enough that you should purchase a detailed map of just the Upper Peninsula with mileages between towns. Gas stations and restaurants can be few and far between, and will elevation changes, your dashboard gas estimate may not be as accurate as usual!

If you're going to spend a day sightseeing, be sure to pack EVERYTHING. Swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, snacks, lunch, water, bug spray, sandals, walking shoes... and don't forget the camera!!! My favorite thing about the U.P. is the untouched wilderness... the silence of the forest path and the crashing of the waterfalls, the breathtaking beauty of the Keweenaw and Porkies where you feel like the only person for miles. Here are some of my pictures but, honestly, the real views are so much better!
Harbor Springs Marina (Lower Peninsula, near Petoskey) Lake Michigan

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Oswald's Bear Ranch, Newberry Michigan (Yes, those are Fruit Loops!)

Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Lake Michigan view at the Tunnel of Trees (if you love to motorcycle)

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point (Edmund Fitzgerald site)

Horseshoe Falls, Munising 

Laughing Whitefish Falls, Munising

Chapel Rock, Pictured Rocks, Munising

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Munising
Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains, Ontonagon

Bonanza Falls, Ontonagon
Estivant Pines, Old Growth Forest, Copper Harbor

Horseshoe Harbor, Copper Harbor (tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula)

Sunset at Lake Superior, Ontonagon (Porcupine Mtns in distance)

A rainbow over our camper in Ontonagon

Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring), Manistique
Exploring a historic Copper Mine, Ontonagon

Mackinaw Bridge (Lake Huron)

Arch Rock, Mackinaw Island

Sugar Loaf, Mackinaw Island
I hope that my children appreciate the beauty of our home state, and continue to travel and explore it's far reaching corners. There's more than just beaches here... and while they did their fair share of complaining about the hilly hikes or lack of wifi, I'm pretty sure that we made some lasting memories along the way.

Please, by all means, if you have questions about Up North travel, just let me know! I'm happy to share more of our experiences!