Did I mention that, as the keepsake coffee mugs say up here, “I yoosta be a Yooper!” back in grade school? Lots of fun memories from back then: going to a really small school (only 4 other kids in my grade and 3 teachers for grades 1-10), walking a mile and a half home along a country road, ice skating on the frozen river that runs through town, building snow forts. The list could go on and on.
We drove down to see my old stomping grounds, stopped in at Camp Sagola, and met up with Aaron Berger, my best friend from those years, and his family. We had such a good time that when they invited us to come down to their farm we happily agreed to turn the bus back toward the Lake Michigan shore.
We got to Wilson just in time to help with the evening milking on their third generation family dairy farm. It was amazing! Aaron, his brother, and their dad welcomed us in, answered all of our questions, gave us a great “behind the scenes” tour, and even let us help with the milking. Really, I don’t think I can adequately describe how smooth, efficient, and well thought out their milk parlor is but it was very impressive. They milk about 70 cows in just over an hour, use well water to cool the milk, then use that heated water to warm and wash the barn. After the chores it was Reuben pizza, remote controlled cars in the driveway, looking at grade school yearbooks and family photos, and catching up. It was funny how the years just seemed to fall away, even though we both have boys now who are about the same age we were when I moved away. It felt like a family reunion and we’re already looking ahead to the next time we can get together.
Aaron and Cindy recommended the Straits Park in St. Ignace as our next stop. It’s right on the northern end of the Mackinac Bridge, the third longest suspension bridge in the world and the only connection between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the rest of the state. It’s pronounced “mack-i-naw” thanks to the early French influence here. Also, Carson built an awesome model for his science and engineering class last year based on this bridge, so it was cool to finally see it in person. The Mighty Mac is also the reason Yooper’s refer to their fellow residents from down state as “trolls” – they live under the bridge! We parked the bus within sight of the bridge and hopped a ferry to Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, a fudge mecca and site of Fort Mackinac on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. No cars are allowed there, even for locals, so we rented bikes and rode the 8 mile loop all the way around the island on M-185, the only state highway in America with no cars and trucks. We stopped along the shore to mark our passage with a rock cairn, re-energized with some famous fudge, and caught the last ferry back to the mainland.
No visit to the U.P. would be complete without a stop at The Mystery Spot! The lore surrounding this geographical oddity is that some surveyors in the 1950s discovered a 300 yard oval of land here where their equipment didn’t work right, their sense of balance was thrown off, gravity acted funny, and water ran uphill. Could it be the rich deposits of iron ore in the ground? A supernatural nexus of some sort? The reality is that is was just as cool as I remembered from visiting some 30+ years ago, we saw water run uphill, and Carson seemed to grow a foot right before our eyes. 🙂 We were literally climbing the walls before we left!
Mystery Spot – check!! On to the next adventure…