The Upper Peninsula of Michigan contains 29% of the state’s land, but is home to just 3% of its population. While a handful of roads meander across the peninsula, connecting coastal communities and tiny interior towns, the vast majority of this heavily forested land mass has remained wild. The peninsula is commonly referred to as the U.P. and folks who reside there are known as “Yoopers” (derived from “U.P.ers”). We visited three distinct locations after crossing the enormous “Mighty Mac” bridge between Mackinaw City and the U.P.:
First up, the tiny town of Munising, which is located at the western edge of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The park, which borders the southern shore of Lake Superior, is about forty miles long and covers an area of almost 75,000 acres. Authorized in 1966, Pictured Rocks was the nation’s first National Lakeshore. Its most famous section is the 15 miles of shoreline that feature colorful sandstone cliffs and formations that tower 50 to 200 feet above the lake. Because the best way to view the scenery is to get out on the water, the NPS has contracted with a private vendor to provide narrated cruises that explore the cliffs.
We took the last tour of the day, the sunset cruise, however, our advice would be to sign up for an earlier one. While the sunset cruise was great, it was extremely crowded and, therefore, difficult to move around. We saw an earlier boat go out (for the sunset cruise, people start lining up over an hour before departure, so we were actually there when the earlier tour left the dock), and that boat was only about half full.
Regardless, the views were striking.
We spent the next several days exploring the inland trails and viewing areas. While the trails were rather ho hum (the ones we explored were relatively flat paths through the forest), the coastal scenery was fabulous.
Miners Castle, one of the park’s most popular formations, features another example of Michigan’s absolutely stunning waters.
Just up the way from Miners Castle, visitors are treated to sandy beaches, forested trails, and one picturesque view after another.
We continued our good luck with campgrounds in the area, staying in an enormously large, private, heavily wooded site at the KOA.
During our visit, we saw numerous reminders of just how cold it gets during winter:
In fact, we got a taste of it in the middle of August!!
Fortunately, the cold snap was short lived and we had plenty of firewood to keep us toasty.
Our explorations of Marquette were limited by the fact that we have a German Shepherd. For those of you new to the breed, Shepherds are known for 3 things: 1) their loyalty; 2) their ability to shed their weight in dog fur every blessed day of the week; and 3) their ridiculously over-sensitive stomachs.
Beyond the normal Shepherd belly issues, when we adopted him, Thor was suffering the effects of two different types of intestinal parasites. It took weeks to get his digestive system cleared up and properly functioning, but he’s never really been 100%. Indeed, this whole year could be subtitled “Veterinarians Across America.” We’ve been in a seemingly endless loop of diarrhea, vet visits, bland diets, antibiotics, probiotics, special foods, etc.
It has been miserable for him and exhausting for us.
And I know what you’re thinking: “When I signed up to receive this blog, I did not expect to be hearing details of dog poop,” but… here we are.
Prior to arriving in Marquette, he, once again, had a flare up and, we, once again, took him to a vet who, once again, gave us a prescription for Metronidazole, the standard medication for dogs with persistent diarrhea. This particular vet, however, also suggested that we consider buying a new prescription food that had just gone on the market. The price? $63 for a 16 pound bag.
I literally LOL’ed in her face.
By comparison, his regular food (which was also special food for dogs with sensitive stomachs) cost $50 for a 30 pound bag.
Needless to say, we did not buy the fancy pants magic dog food…
…until this past week when we couldn’t take the endless diarrhea anymore and were willing to try anything.
Fortunately, we’ve already seen significant improvement, so we’re cautiously optimistic that this new food might just do the trick. Either way, I’ll keep you posted – whether you care or not.
When not on 24-hour poop watch, we did explore the city a bit. Marquette is a college town featuring many of the things we tend to enjoy – a nice bike trail, some peaceful waterfront views, and a collection of unique and impressive restaurants, shops, and bars in the downtown area.
One of the standouts was a completely unexpected Cajun/Creole restaurant in the heart of the main shopping district. Lagniappe doesn’t look like much, a windowless basement level room with low ceilings, dark paneled walls, and an assortment of Mardi Gras decorations. But the food was a legit “Wow!”
To find such flavorful Cajun/Creole cuisine all the way up at the very top of the Upper Peninsula, about as far as from Louisiana as one can get, was a complete shock. But it was so good, and so reasonably priced, we actually visited twice.
Marquette Tourist Park
Our Marquette campground had the potential to be awesome, but we landed a rather crappy site. First, our site featured the world’s largest fire hydrant right in the middle of it. Behold:
It almost looks like I photo-shopped Thor into the picture, but alas, he’s really there and the hydrant really is that much larger than him.
I’m not sure what kind of fires they have in Marquette, but apparently, the fire department really wants to be prepared.
Thor: If a fire hydrant is 4 times the size of a regular one, does that mean I get to pee on it 4 times as often?
Me: Have at it.
second, our site was full of sand while everyone else had grass or packed dirt. Sand sucks. It gets all over everything and makes a mess; third, in this park, there’s only one water spigot for every two sites. Our site was one of the unlucky ones which meant we had to run 75 feet of water hose under our rig, across our patio, and over to our neighbor’s site (see the blue hose between Thor and the “Hydrant of Doom” above); and fourth, as one final insult, somehow, some way, no matter how empty the park was, we always, always, always had neighbors on both sides. They changed every night or two, but in a campground that was 80% empty, we always had someone sitting outside our windows.
The view throughout the entire campground:
…except for our section which was like a parking lot. A parking lot that featured a comically large fire hydrant planted on a sandy beach with a stupid blue hose running through it.
On the other hand, when intense storms rolled through – which was a frequent occurrence during our visit – I think the neighbors might have actually helped block the wind from the trees that surrounded our RV.
While the larger park suffered plenty of storm damage…
…we escaped unscathed. So I guess I should stop complaining about having neighbors.
As we made our way south, we stopped for a quick two nights in Newberry, which is located in the middle of the U.P. Our quick stop gave us enough time to check out a state park that had come highly recommended (Thanks again, Jackie and Gwynn!)
Tahquamenon Falls State Park protects a series of lovely waterfalls. The falls are accessible via an easy paved path, however, you can make your visit more interesting (and fun for doggies) by checking out the park’s trail system.
We can only imagine how gorgeous this park must be when the Fall colors explode.
One nice thing about our time in the U.P., especially in the days following Labor Day weekend, was this:
Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, we’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Unfortunately for us, we just ran out of time.
And with that, we pointed Barney’s nose south and headed back for the main part of Michigan. Next up, we have far too much fun in the super fun town of Traverse City.
Where we stayed:
Pictured Rocks KOA, Munising, Michigan
Marquette Tourist Park, Marquette, Michigan