Geek Speak – Upper Peninsula Odyssey, pt 6: High Above and Far Below
During the last week of July 2011, I went on a road trip with my girlfriend from the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula. 1,300+ miles were driven, hundreds of photos were taken, and dozens of Michigan beers were drank. Hilarity and misadventures ensued.
Day Six – July 29, 2011
Breakfast was at a little Finnish restaurant in downtown Houghton, Suomi Bakery and Restaurant. It was another recommendation by a friend. I had what they called a “Finnish Pancake”: a sort of baked custard thing called a Pannukakku.
I loved it. Suomi was a great place for breakfast–the staff was super friendly, AND the give you a whole carafe of coffee for your table. My kind of people. I also bought a loaf of nisu, which is a sweet bread. Tasty stuff (it is good for french toast).
After breakfast, we ventured North toward Copper Harbor, and we took the Brockway Mountain Drive–which is something You Must Do. It is a scenic drive to the top of a mountain, and it is a beautiful drive. But, prior to reaching the peak of the mountain, we stopped at the Jampot–a bakery/jam shop run by a bunch of monks (see their no parking sign above). And let me tell you, they do great work. We bought a jar of thimbleberry jam (it only grows in the UP here in Michigan) and a PB & J brownie (a friend’s recommendation). Outstanding.
The view from the top of Brockway Mountain is “drop to your knees, wow” worthy. You are around 700 feet above Lake Superior.
The most impressive thing about the view from the top of the mountain is the trees and water just keep going. There was a dog walking around in the parking lot by the gift shop, and we figured it was just the park ranger. In the store, the woman (with a thick accent) told us the dog was just “the welcoming committee.” And, Steph finally found some greenstone jewelry. But wait–it cost more than we had in cash and the shop could not take credit cards.
What to do? Steph and the lady worked out a deal: she wrote down all of Steph’s information (address/CC number) and told us to go to Grandpa’s Barn, a book store in Copper Harbor. There, they could run a credit card sale. So, she came down from the mountain with a ring, although my mom was disappointed to hear she was wearing it on her right hand. And that she paid for it herself.
In Copper Harbor, we got the ring business out of the way first thing–and got to see a super cute retriever puppy at Grandpa’s Barn. Next was a visit to Fort Wilkins State Park. After finding a place to get pasties for lunch (thanks to the ladies at the State Park for help), we walked out to Agate Beach. It is a hike, but very much worth the work.
I quickly saw how this beach earned its name. It is all stone. Surprisingly, it is comfortable to lay on.
I also quickly learned that if I ever need to keep Steph busy for several hours, I should just teleport her to Agate Beach. She kept herself very busy looking for pretty rocks. And licking them. Yes. Licking them. She claimed this was so she could see the colors and patterns easier. Gross.
I could have walked back to town, spent a couple hours in a bar and she wouldn’t have noticed I was gone. This was the only time on the whole trip where I had to be the one to say “we really need to get going.”
Our next stop was the Delaware Mine Tour. Sweet Mother of Batman. We walked 100 ft (I think) below ground on a self-guided tour. It was 45 degrees below ground, which was refreshing. But–it was SUPER creepy. It didn’t help I kept making Lord of the Rings/Moria jokes. Steph was not amused, and was very scared (I wasn’t doing much better).
Sadly, our Journey Beneath the Earth was cut short when a bat swooped by Steph’s head and she freaked out. Oh well. Side note: the owners of the mine have pet skunks, and they are super-cute (smell thingys were removed).
In Calumet, we went to Shute’s Bar and, thanks to another friend’s recommendation, ordered a Moscow Mule. I did a write up about the experience for The Idler. Bit of trivia: the copper mugs our drinks came in were worth $25, EACH. Fancy drinkware for a $4 drink.
Shute’s, like the Doghouse in Houghton, is vintage from the 1800s and is jaw-dropping beautiful. Did you know Calumet was considered as one of the towns to be Michigan’s capital before Lansing was chosen? Also, Calumet (and a big chunk of the Keweenaw) is part of a National Historical Park. Steph and I ran into a Park Ranger while walking up and down the street.
There are a lot of really old buildings in Calumet, and most are not in the best of shape–but they make for great photos. And there is a microbrewery! I learned about Red Jacket Brewing Company from John at Michigan Microbrews, and it was great. Steph had their oatmeal-espresso beer (10% ABV), which she said was “Coffee, in beer form.” After a sip, I agreed. I had the Pale Ale, which was also tasty. Red Jacket is in the Michigan House Cafe, another historic, gorgeous bar (good chow, too).
Then, we begin the schlep back to Marquette. This was perhaps the longest and most tiring of drives I had to do in one stretch. Hours later, we stopped for a late dinner and a flight of beers at the Jasper Ridge Brewery in Ishpeming.
Once again, we were treated to blueberry beer, which was tasty, as was the pizza (I’m a sucker for bar pizza). Our arrival to Marquette put an end to our very long day, but it was a fun, long day, and perhaps one of my favorite of the whole trip. I went 700 feet above lake level and 100 feet below ground level all in the same day–what’s not to like?
Next: the long drive home, waterfalls, beers and bears–oh, my. Oh, my indeed.