Despite our love affair with Ely, Minnesota, we dragged ourselves away from the beauty of the Boundary Waters, the fun Ely crowd, and the sound of wolves howling across Fall Lake. Destination? Michigan! More precisely, we were headed for the Upper Peninsula, known up here as the U.P.
A few quick facts about the U.P. –
– contains 198 of the 199 waterfalls in Michigan
– has the largest Finnish population outside of Finland
– has a regional dialect/accent known as Yooper that features a heavy Scandinavian influence
– received a record 391.9 inches! (995.4 cm) of snow in the winter of ’78-79
– was where I started first grade and lived from 1977-80
We spent a week in Houghton exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula (yes, another peninsula!) that protrudes north into Lake Superior, the biggest freshwater lake on the planet. We ran and skipped rocks on the beaches, hiked to waterfalls, and drove thru fall colors that made us catch our breath at nearly every turn. Seriously, the boys got completely jaded after the umpeenth time of, “Oh, look at that red! And that orange across the field!” On Michigan highway 41 driving up into Copper Harbor we were literally driving through a tunnel of fall colors, with birch, maple, and oaks reaching out from each side of the road to meet overhead.
On our final night in Houghton, we were having a beer at a local brewery called The Library when we heard and saw a ripple of excitement go around the room. Ayrril asked the bartender what was up. He told us, “Northern lights. You can see them right now if you step outside.” We immediately headed out to join the locals down by the river just a block off Main Street. We watched the dancing, waving green lights off and on for the next hour or so, ducking back inside to finish our IPAs. We had to laugh — after a week near the Arctic Circle in Sweden and Norway last January, we finally saw the aurora borealis in Houghton, Michigan. It was just amazing.