We pulled into Duluth, MN and I started to squeal. We hadn’t even arrived at our destination (details in the next post…) when I saw it! A laker, parked at the marina among a bunch of pleasure boats. You could literally touch it. I did!
The ‘Simply Superior, part 1’ title for the earlier post started out as a joke – I saw it on a roadway sign and thought it sounded cool. Yet, there is decidedly an eastern and a western UP – we’re not sure where the line is. We clearly crossed the line somewhere between Munising and Marquette, MI. Both halves share the beauty of Lake Superior and its shoreline, a penchant for winter sports (the locals talk wistfully about snowmobiling and ice fishing all summer), and the highest average daily spotting of tourists driving around in RVs since we started this adventure. The Hiawatha National Forest with its endless views of flat terrain, scrub pines and wetlands dominates the eastern half and most of the towns cater to tourists whether lake or snow related. The western half is all about mining (and evidence of its related current or former prosperity) and higher education. The terrain becomes hilly and the forests more deciduous. Hard to explain, but palpable…
A quick scan of the pantry revealed that we were getting low on grains. As Vermont-hippy-vegetarians, grains are of course a mainstay of our diet and we needed to find a natural food store to replenish. I googled it and found two natural food stores in the UP, the nearest an organic grocery in downtown Sault (pronounced Soo) Ste Marie, the other a coop in Marquette, a few days west. We’d gone back and forth on whether or not to visit The Soo, another post-industrial-turned-tourist city, but nevertheless we needed food and we set a course…
Although we’re not much for planning our itinerary, we did plan to stay at Straits State Park on the shores of the Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Straits, and visit Mackinac Island on a weekday. The State Park is a destination in itself – gorgeous views of Mackinac Straights, Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge just a few steps from our campsite. It’s also walking distance from downtown St. Ignace, home to 3 ferries, 2 Native American museums and several nice restaurants.
Hailing from Warren, VT – the Fourth of July Capital of the Universe – we’re thinking of friends back home today. Hoping everybody has a great 4th!
Recall from our last post that selecting a place in MI to spend the 4th of July weekend was a bit like throwing a dart. It (mostly) worked! We’re celebrating in Harrison, Michigan, on Budd Lake, right in the middle of the state (or the knuckle at the base of the middle finger, if you’re from here).
‘Nobody ever visits the Thumb!’ said the manager at the Lighthouse County Park Campground. That’s why we’re here.
When we first started talking about this trip, many people suggested their favorite places in Michigan to visit. We put them all on a map and noticed suggestions for everywhere except the Thumb. (Look at a map and it’ll be obvious. Or ask anyone from MI and they’ll start pointing at the back of their left hand.) Our wish list included most of the suggestions, visits with a few friends and a couple of concerts. To make it all work, we had an open week, and it included the 4th of July.
We opted to head for the Thumb, see what there was to see, and take some time to figure out what to do for the 4th.
Well, it’s not really true… There’re actually 1,864 islands (this year) within a 50-mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River between Ontario and New York State. The border zigs and zags among the islands, intentionally keeping each island wholly within either the US or Canada. Although there is a greater number of islands in Canada, several in the US are larger, rendering the total acreage of all the islands about even. The count changes periodically since there are rules to qualify as an island. Each land mass must have at least one square foot of land above water level year-round and support at least two living trees. Some of the smaller islands come and go.
Doug and I lived in the Albany area when we were first married, 30 years ago. We were quite active with the cycling community back then. As we drove out of Albany, we had a rush of memories as we recognized familiar roads we’d biked so many times, so many years ago. We both suddenly remembered that the greater Albany area was simply awesome for bicycling.
Getting together with my Bates College classmates from 40 years ago was a total blast. The college and ’76 reunion committee set a new standard for reunions with this gathering.