On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I am a long-time reader of BJ (since 2002ish) and occasional commenter. In mid-September I went on a few hikes in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Keewenaw Peninsula, and around Marquette, MI. All are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Superior.
The UP is a fascinating place. It is drop-dead gorgeous, but sparsely populated. A few places are doing OK – Marquette, Escanaba, Sault Sainte Marie – but most of the widely spaced towns are very small and either barely hanging on or actively dying.
The Porcupine Mountains state park is huge – 64,000 acres (100 sq miles, 26,000 hectares) – encompassing several inland lakes, several rivers, and endless old- and middle-growth forest. You can hike the trails for hours and see maybe one or two other people.
These are the Manabezho Falls on the Presque Isle River in the Porcupine Mountains. These are quite easy to get to via auto, or you can hike in.
These are the Overlooked Falls (yes, that’s name). I love this image for its tranquility, and the way the light filters through the trees. It’s about a 30-minute hike to get to them.
This is a section of the Little Carp River. Standing here, all you hear is the running water, birds, insects. You don’t hear any cars, airplanes, or any human-generated noise. So peaceful.
The Lake of the Clouds overlook is one of the most scenic spots in the park. You can hike up a 4 mile trail to it, or you can drive.
This is Eagle Harbor in the Keewenaw Peninsula, which juts off the Upper Peninsula into Lake Superior. There is a small museum there devoted to the Life Saving Service, the forerunner to the US Coast Guard. The Life Saving Service was charged with rescuing the crews and passengers of sinking ships on Lake Superior. The lake can be very treacherous, and the Service was very busy in its day.
This is a view of Marquette Bay from Sugarloaf peak, just outside of Marquette, Michigan
I love the UP. I have quite a few fall pictures from trips with a friend. I’ll have to toss together an on the road submission. “Tis the season for fall color.
I had a crazy hitching trip from Champaign to the Soo and back 50 years ago!
Beautiful pictures, thank you! I’m waiting for more wonderful Raven stories,,,
I expected more snow.
My grandparents had a place on the UP we drove up to a couple times. I remember it was beautiful and that the food in restaurants was fall down laughing huge.
@Laura Too: Arghh. My sister’s boyfriend split to Sault Ste Marie to avoid the draft. I drover her up there in her Volvo and we had a bad blowout in the middle of Michigan on the way up. The rim was shot and the gas station we made it to had one that was close, but not exact, so I bought a rat tailed file and filed the holes out to make it fit. I got her up there and, the next day, set out to thumb back to Champaign. I was hitching at the border crossing and a family from Chicago picked me up and I was in clover. I had really long hair and the border patrol didn’t like that so they made me get out while they checked me out. I had to hang there for a couple of hours and then started out on the US side again when I got picked up by a Canadian biker driving a 58 Pontiac. We headed west and, as would happen in those days, stopped at every bar we encountered. It was getting late and he was trashed so I decided to take my chances and headed off walking and thumbing. It was August but it go really cold so I had to keep walking to keep from freezing! Finally, at dawn, a UPS guy picked me up and took me all the way to Marinette where my pal in Chicago came up a drove me back home!
One of my want-to-do’s after the pandemic ends is to get back to the UP. Thanks for the photos in the meantime!
I went to the UP this past July. It’s amazingly beautiful. Did you go to the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Monument , a little east of Marquette? To me that was the highlight of the visit, with the Lake of the Clouds a close second.
I’m afraid that economically, tourism is the only significant remaining activity in the UP. I hope it is enough
Dorothy A. Winsor
I’m from Detroit and have driven through the UP only once. It’s a long way from anywhere, but it’s beautiful.
One of my Iowa State grad students drove through it and afterward marveled, “The trees came right down to the road. It was spooky.” It was such a good line, I used it in a book.
Nice pictures! Used to ski sometimes up at Porcupine Mountain. It’s gorgeous, but can be extremely cold. I remember getting stuck on the lift for 15 minutes on a day when the high was 5 below. That wind coming off Superior….ouch!
This summer, I plan to cycle around Lake Michigan, so I’ll say hi to the UP across the top. Hope to have a good OTR post out of that.
Nice photos! This post pairs nicely with my UP themed post from a few years ago.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Like in Beaufort?
Great photos. I’ve always wanted to go to the UP. Hemingway’s description of the area in Big Two-Hearted River is a beautiful and healing place.
@J_A: I’ve been to the Pictured Rocks, and yes, they are beautiful! I can’t wait to go back.
Some of my in-laws live in Cable Wi and when we visit it’s faster to go through the UP from Ann Arbor.
Every time I’m sad we didn’t just plot a trip up there.
Gorgeous, but it’s where I learned a dot on the map means different things in different places.
Can confirm about the emptyness though, it’s been that way since at least the 80’s.
As someone said upthread, it gets cold even in August and is just brutal in the winters. But the views man, the views.
Beautiful. Being in the woods is so soothing to the soul.
@J_A: I live there and, no, tourism is not the only economically significant activity here.
But on the subject, the Keweenaw is spectacular, especially Brockway Mountain as you’re coming in to Copper Harbor (which, by the way, is the terminus of a highway that starts in Miami), as is the view as you’re coming south into Houghton-Hancock. I second the comments about the Pictured Rocks, and there are many places worth seeing in the Eastern UP, although it’s much flatter.
@raven: I don’t know if there are enough of us hanging around here to do so but maybe WG could initiate a post on hitching stories. I know I have a couple of good ones.
I really like the UP pictures. I had an uncle who moved to Petosky and my adventurous, camping parents would drive us all there the long way around from the Chicago area up and over the top through the UP. Beautiful country, beautiful pictures, thanks. I especially like the waterfall ones as we now live in a state where waterfalls are unicorns.
@cope: I still have the sign I had trying to get from LA to SF in 1970!
I sense a road trip in my future. Wonderful pictures.
I discovered the Keweenaw in 1981 when I was a medical student; I did a third year family practice rotation there. Got adopted by the doc’s family, made a bunch of friends, and have been going back annually (or more) since. It is one of my favorite places.
It is a gorgeous place, but has been struggling since the mines closed in the 60s. Young people move away to got jobs; many move back when they retire, so the population skews old. Houghton, though, is a college town, and is doing pretty well, along with the towns you mentioned.
Did you not stop at Tahquamenon falls? I stop any time I’m driving through if the weather is good. State park with the second largest falls east of the Mississippi…..and an onsite brew pub. And there are lots of falls everywhere……
@raven: Sounds like Smithsonian material to me.
We did a Lake Michigan circle tour (with a stop in the UP) in 2007. We stayed a couple nights at a bed and breakfast not far from Eagle Harbor (our first and last time staying at a B&B). The UP is picturesque and gorgeous. The really odd couple that ran the B&B said that people in the UP refer to people who live in the Lower Peninsula “trolls” because they live “below” the bridge (that would be the Mackinac Bridge).
I give the highest recommendation for UP entertainment to Adult Swim’s Joe Pera Talks With You, filmed in the UP. Also available on HBO Max. I just found out that Season 3 is airing now. How did I not know?
Was that at the hospital in Hancock? I have an aunt that was a nurse there for years ‘n years.
What wonderful images!
J R in WV
Back when they were mining copper up there on the UP, the miners found solid copper nuggets so large they had to be chopped into pieces just to get them out of the mine. The largest native copper finds in the (known) history of mining. Huge! People collect copper nuggets from the UP, even I have a couple. I’m not big on mineral specimens of native metals…
Great nature pictures, love the waterfalls.
It’s also extremely remote. Like unmapped remote. Mapquest can lead you into a giant swamp.
My son and I visit the UP at least once a year. Mostly Grand Marais on the eastern side of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It is utterly spectacular.
And we look for agates east of Grand Marais.
The down side is crossing the Mackinaw Bridge terrifies me.
I could add my share. Between 1976 and 1981 I put what I then calculated to be 100K miles on my thumb. I have trouble reconstructing the trips to add up to that number now, but I could probably get to 50K w hitchhiking trips I can recall.
I was a cautious hitch-hiker, at least after the first couple of close calls, but I did get in a couple of spectacular car wrecks without getting killed and once got picked up by someone whose picture I was pretty sure I saw a year or so later when they arrested him as a serial killer. So I’d have a story or two to add to the thread.
Those are really nice photos! I’ve really only been to the parts of the UP along the shores of the great lakes. It is nice to see what the interior looks like with those water falls.
When I was 17 in the mid-70s, a friend and I took a bicycle trip North from Alden Michigan across the Bridge, through the UP and into Wisconsin, camping along the way. We followed the shore of Lake Michigan all the way down to Kenosha WI except to cross Wisconsin’s thumb at Green Bay. The UP was already in some economic trouble iirc. Some of the small towns were obviously dying. I remember going into a small grocery store where the shelves were 80% bare with just a few items there for the locals who still depended on it. And on more than one occasion we seemed to be the most exciting thing going on in these towns. I remember being followed by kids a bit older than us in their cars for several miles until they got bored going 15 mph on our tails.
For several days we rode with a couple of older bicyclists who had taken to the lifestyle as a way to live while they lived on their unemployment checks. I remember one of them saying he had to ride to Escanaba (I think) every couple of weeks to get his check. The four of us would ride for hours drafting in each other’s wakes with different people taking the lead. Our tires were inches apart and we managed not to crash. This mattered as we were going into the prevailing westerlies as we rode along the lakeshore.
A formative experience of quasi-independence.
Beautiful pictures. Out here in the droughtlands, it is hard to believe they were taken this year.
Beautiful pictures. Out here in the droughtlands, it is hard to believe they were taken this year.
Oh, man, da UP!
You’re going to make me miss Michigan! And that ain’t allowed!
More seriously, when I was a kid, the first place I went for family vacations was the Upper Peninsula. We were usually on the Lake Michigan side, but did manage to make it up to Keewenaw, and all the way to Copper Harbor, once upon a time, a trip I remember fondly because I was a rock and crystal fiend as a kid, and was able to bag some great specimens up there. I think I was eight or nine at the time.
Now that Porcupine Mountain place is on the bucket list. Along with Isle Royale.
You’re from Alden? I’m from Mancelona. For some reason, my parents elected to have me attend 4th grade in Alden. The school was right up the hill from the lake. IIRC, you Alden kids went to Mancelona High School. Mancelona, where we put the “high” in high school. According to girlfriend that went to Forest Area High School, us Mancelona kids were nothing but a bunch of lowlife, redneck druggies. LOL
@dr. luba: I’ve visited the Tahquamenon Falls on other trips, but didn’t have time on this one. But yes, they are well worth visiting.
My family went to the UP in late August. Tahquamenon Falls were very picturesque. The people were so nice that I thought they were Canadians.
@Jerry: No, in Calumet. Since been bought out by a chain, unfortunately.
It was mostly office practice, with rounds in the hospital and the occasional delivery. The doctor’s office (he was a GP) was in one of the old copper company buildings near the school; it is now an administrative building for the national park.
@Jharp: The Mackinac bridge is incredibly safe, as bridges go. Only one car has ever gone off it–a Yugo that became airborne during a storm.
The south shore is beautiful and a lot fewer tourists than over here on the north shore. They get a lot more snow over there because of the prevailing winds.
@mvr: If you are still into biking, there are a lot of great bike trials in the Keweenaw peninsula, from Houghton to Copper Harbor, and bikers come from al over the country to ride them. The ones up on Brockway Mountain have spectacular views.
(My friends, soon to retire, own a bike shop in Calumet, so I know more about this subject than a non-biker should.)
Thank god for these glorious photos today. I just had a very stressful conversation, and I can feel that my face is flushed.
Stunning pictures in their own right, but they were also perfect for this very minute. thank you!
@MagdaInBlack: I ? the UP!
More UP submissions is good.
@raven: Stopping by late as usual. I am rewarded with a great story from you and added bonus of others. I wholeheartedly agree that there should be a hitchhiking post! I love the stories of past adventures people tell here. On days when I miss my Uncle I can usually find some to cheer me up. He was a master storyteller like so many here. Thanks for sharing Raven! Love that you managed to fix her tire. :)
The UP has been on my list to visit (pandemic aside) since I started reading the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton which are set in the town of Paradise MI. The books are great and paint a terrific picture of the area.
@Jerry: Actually not from Alden but used to spend two and even three weeks up there each summer for vacation on Torch Lake. The bike trip was a trip home to Rockford Illinois with a friend from Rockford who came up for a week with us before we left on the trip. Both philosophy professors now.
@dr. luba: I got old, so I mostly hike and go fly fishing in the mountains. I would bike more but my spouse has trifocals and it makes her dizzy to be on a bike. We’ve talked of getting a tandem so that she could just wear single or no focals. But they’re not cheap.
I do plan on getting up that way again some day.
Yeah I like that series, though as with many series (how do I spell that as a plural?) I lose track of which I’ve read, stop reading until I have figured that out and then never get it back.
Documenting my decline on the internet because my insurance company doesn’t know enough about me yet.