We might have found a new home. OK, we won’t be retiring the bus anytime soon but this town really rocks! A couple of days turned into a week, new friends, and serious consideration of the U.P. as an eventual stopping point. Great downtown, awesome breweries, waves crashing along the shore of Lake Superior, miles of running and biking trails, fishing, paddling, skiing, hunting – it’s perfect… except for the mosquitoes that will carry you away in the summer. Still.
Backing up a step – on the way out of Houghton we stopped at the Adventure Mining Company to explore an old copper mine. There’s no electricity in the mine so you have to wear a hard hat and headlamp. Our guide, a recent graduate in chemical engineering from Michigan Tech in Houghton, took us through two levels of the old mine. We were all excited to see bats hanging on the walls and ceiling, then there were more bats, and more bats, and more bats. At the last annual official count of bats in this mine, there were 25,000! We turned off the headlamps and saw the interior by candlelight, tried our hand at pounding boreholes with a hammer and steel rod, then rappelled down an 80-foot mineshaft to the second level, some 200 feet below ground. It was good, muddy fun.
Once we hit Marquette, we ate down by the old ore dock, day hiked around Presque Isle, scrambled out along the piled-boulder breakwater to the small lighthouse, and sat there in the sun to watch an iron ore freighter cruising out into the deep waters of Lake Superior. We found some great microbreweries, including possibly the coolest open mic night ever at Blackrocks, hosted by the owner, Andy, on guitar and throwing what felt like an awesome house party. We got our first snow of the season, drove down to see my best friend from grade school, and explored my old stomping grounds. For the record, my driveway really was a half-mile long, even if it wasn’t uphill both ways!
From Marquette we headed over to Munising, just down the road and a great stepping off point to hike in along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We parked the bus in a relatively empty park that is right on the shore of Lake Superior. We had a beautiful view of the waves, some islands, and the shoreline that was just 50 feet from our campsite. Grabbed some pasties to go (pronounced “pass-tee”, a regional favorite!), packed our raingear, and headed for the shoreline. A six mile round trip hike took us past Chapel Falls, Chapel Lake, and Chapel Rock, one of the most beautiful natural rock formations on the Lakeshore. We got a little more Superior beach time, then hiked back up through an amazing beech and birch forest to the trailhead. On the way, we walked right up on a doe and her two fawns grazing just off the trail. After a long while of posing for pictures, they literally high-tailed it off into the woods. We love the U.P!