Pictures worth millions of words

My last day in the Upper Peninsula. I went on the Picture Rocks Boat Tour. It was a raining morning and the fog was thick in Munising Bay but just as we reached the outlet to Lake Superior, the air cleared and we had a great trip. This is only a sampling of the pictures I took on this tour.


My Summer Vacation, Part 2

Sunday morning, I was up and on my way to Houghton but first Lunch!  Looking through the guidebook at the hotel, I found several places that caught my interest before finally deciding on Sweetwater Cafe

The Sweetwater Cafe is located in the Village Shopping District.  This neighborhood is home to many stores that cater to the students of Northern Michigan University.  Sweetwater Cafe serves an eclectic vegetarian friendly bill of fare and the menu changes periodically.  On my visit,  the vegetarian soup of the day was Country Tomato.  It was labeled soup but was more like a stew- big chunks of tomato, barley and just a hint of something spicy.  For my main course, I chose the smoked salmon sandwich- a big chunk of salmon with cream cheese served on a dark pumpernickel bread.  The sandwich was a little dry but still tasty.  I accompanied my meal with a glass of the Cafe's renowned mint lemonade. 

Due to my lunch hour visit, I did not partake, but the restaurant does have a full liquor license.  I did grab a couple of gingersnap cookies for the road, intending to share with Karen when I arrived in Houghton.  Intending....

Before leaving Marquette, I did a quick drive through the downtown area.  The movie Anatomy of a Murder was filmed here, primarily in the Marquette County Courthouse. Unfortunately, it was closed while I was there but the outside is beautiful too.  The building, dedicated in 1904 is built of native sandstone, some from Marquette and the distinctive red sandstone from the Keweenaw Peninsula.  As more pictures appear here, you'll see more and more of this red stone. 

The old Marquette City Hall is also beautiful, built locally in 1893 after the city raised $50,000 in bonds.  The decision to build was made by Mayor Nathan Kaufman after a nationwide financial panic closed the mines.  The construction of city hall put the men back to work.


After leaving Marquette, I made a brief stop at the Da Yooper Tourist Trap where I was tempted by many cheesy gifts and a couple of really cool local crafts but left without spending a penny.  No cameras allowed so no pics of the Yooper Tool Box (small wooden chest with roll of duct tape only) but you can buy any of it on-line at their site.

I arrived in Houghton in mid-afternoon, checked in to the hotel then checked in with Karen. Our hotel was a little iffy with a very strange odor on the rooms.  For a number of reasons, we decided to call the office on Monday and find a better location for the next two weeks.  The hotel did have a great downtown location, within walking distance of the courthouse but not worth the musty disinfectant odor.    Karen and I decided to do our own thing for awhile then meet for dinner. 

I chose to explore across the lift bridge, in the "real" Keewenaw Peninsula.  First I went to the Quincy Overlook which promised a view of Houghton, Hancock and the Portage River that divides them.  However, the trees have grown a bit too tall for viewing.  I also made a drive thru viewing of the Quincy Mine.


Later, Karen and I had dinner at the Library Restaurant and Brew Pub. We decided to walk and very nearly tried to walk in to the city library before we found our way to the right place.We had a nice meal with a nice view of the Portage River.  During the next two weeks, I ate at the Library Pub at least 3 times.  It was definitely one of the better restaurants in Houghton-Hancock.  Despite my original concerns, there were plenty of decent or interesting places to eat in Copper Country.   A little walk on the riverfront after dinner then it was back to the smelly hotel for the night.  Tomorrow, we actually have to go to work!


How I spent my summer vacation- Part 1

The Michigan Supreme Court sent me to Houghton, MI, in the Upper Peninsula, for the first 2 weeks of June. My fellow co-workers and I are implementing the 97th District Court on to the JIS software system. This is my first time in the UP since college and I'd never been this far north.
Although "The Yoop" is not someplace I'd normally choose for vacation, I'm going to make the best of this trip by exploring the area as much as possible. I will spend most of my time in Houghton, at the base of the Keeweenaw Peninsula. But first, I have to get there.

I left June 2 with plans to spend Saturday night in Marquette. This is about 5 1/2 hours of driving. First photo stop- the Bridge, of course. I was also instructed to stop and put my feet in the lake immediately after crossing the Bridge. Apparently its a JIS tradition.

The Mackinac Bridge, celebrating 50 years in 2007 :

The Mackinac Bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in the world with a total length of 26,372 feet. The idea for a bridge or tunnel across the Straits of Mackinac was initially proposed in 1884 after attempts to provide year-round transit by boat failed. In 1923, the Legislature ordered the Highway Department to create a ferry system across the straits. Within 5 years, traffic on the ferry route was so heavy that Governor Green ordered a study on the feasability of a bridge. Financial concerns kept the bridge project on hold and World War II and the Korean War both contributed to further delays. The bridge was officially begun amid proper ceremonies on May 7 & 8, 1954, at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. The bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957 according to schedule, despite the many hazards of marine construction over the turbulent Straits of Mackinac. The last of the Mackinac Bridge bonds were retired July 1, 1986. Fare revenues are now used to operate and maintain the Bridge and repay the State of Michigan for monies advanced to the Authority since the facility opened to traffic in 1957.

Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel’s "Dirty Jobs" visited the Mackinac Bridge in May to film an episode showcasing the work that bridge maintenance crews perform each year on the "Mighty Mac." The hour-long Mackinac Bridge episode, entitled "Bridge Painter," is tentatively scheduled to air on Tuesday, August 7, at 9 p.m., on the Discovery Channel. The episode is airing in conjunction with the bridge’s 50-year anniversary.

The first part of the trip through the Upper Peninsula is along US 2. When you first start on US 2, there is a large signing warning drivers that "THIS IS NOT A HIGHWAY!" and the speed limit is only 55. Other than the final 50 miles of I-75 from Saint Ignace to Sault Ste Marie (the Soo), there are no interstate highways in the Upper Peninsula. There are a lot of roads marked "seasonal" which are not plowed by the Dept of Transportation in the winter. There are also 100s of miles of dedicated snowmobile trails. Occasionaly you may start driving down a trail/seasonal road only to discover it has become impassable due to a fallen tree or extreme decay. If you are lucky, you can turn around without driving off the dirt, otherwise its time for reverse driving.
Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes wholly within the borders of the United States; the others are shared with Canada. It is 5th largest lake in the world. The word "Michigan" was originally used to refer to the lake itself, and is believed to come from the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami, meaning "great water."

My travel through the UP continues on US 2, winding along the Lake Michigan Coastline (many stops at scenic views) until I reach State Rd M-77. There isn't a whole lot to see on this stretch but you do go through the town of Germfask (2000 Census population 491) which seems like a really cool town name. Something Finnish or German perhaps? No- its the initials of the last names of the town's eight founders. Germfask is a an excellent place to stay if you are visiting the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. After an hour along M77 and M-28, you will arrive in Munising. Munising is the homebase for the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There will be more about this town and the Lakeshore in a later post.

From Munising, M-28 sticks pretty close to the Lake Superior shore. Just north of Munising, there is a scenic overlook which includes Grand Island. As it was raining and overcast on my trip, the view was dimmed by a moderate mist over the water. Shortly after passsing through Munising, the sun came out and the heat caused the moisture on the road to suddenly rise up in to an enveloping foggy mist. This mist coated my windows and even the windshield wipers coudn't clear it away fast enough. It was a spooky experience.

Lake Superior, is the largest of the Great Lakes. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and is the world's third-largest freshwater lake by volume. Many will also say it is one of the cleanest lakes in the world and I can personally attest to the quality of the whitefish (which I ate a lot of on this trip). In the Ojibwe language, the lake is called "Gichigami" ("big water"), but it is better known as "Gitche Gumee" as recorded by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Song of Hiawatha. Lake Superior is referred to as "Gitche Gumee" in the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot. There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover the entire land mass of North and South America with a foot of water. Annual storms on Lake Superior regularly record wave heights of over 20 feet.

Sunset over Lake Superior

Global Warming Note: According to a study by professors at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior has been warming faster than its surrounding climate. The increase in the lake’s surface temperature is not only due to climate change but also due to the decreasing ice cover. Less winter ice cover allows more solar radiation to penetrate the lake and warm the water. If trends continue Lake Superior, which freezes over completely once every 20 years, could routinely be ice-free by 2040.