I have wanted to visit the “U.P.” since I started reading books by my favorite author, Jim Harrison. Many of his novels are set in the U.P. and center around his fondest topics: Food, Hunting, Sex, Fishing, and Drinking. My women’s book group didn’t really love him when I made them read, “Sundog”, so reasonable minds can differ on his merits as a writer. However, everyone in the U.P. agrees that these are all important activities…or “Lifestyle”, as I have been corrected by Yoopers. Most motels have large signs stating, “Fishermen Welcome”, and some state, “Bikers Welcome”. There are lots of both up here as charter fishing is huge, and Michigan does not have a “helmet law” after age 21, so your long, gray ponytail can fly in the wind off your boat or your bike. Summer activities also include,”Bog-Walking” and fantastic lake swimming, from sailboat anchor rode, to anchor rode. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by area, the third largest by volume behind Lake Baikal in Siberia, and Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. With enough water to cover the entire land mass of North and South America with one foot of water, it can also create 30 foot waves. With less snow/ice cover every year, the lake is warming, and will be ice free by the winter of 2040. That is great for our daily swimming!…but will create even more lake effect snow for the U.P. which already gets DAILY snowfall during the winter.
We stayed within a stone’s throw of Lake Superior for 4 nights along the Pictured Rocks National Seashore. Both in a protected harbor sharing the beach with a seaplane, and in 12 Mile Campground (below) , on a tree-covered sand dune overlooking the Lake. The featured image is of the dramatic, multi-colored cliffs along the Seashore, best viewed by kayak.
We bog-walked trails lush with spruce, aspen, white birch, fir and maples. The maples are starting to turn red even in August. That means the U.P.’s other big attraction, hunting, will begin soon. We would love to come back in Winter, to a cozy cabin, when all those bog-walks become cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails…and all those deer flies, skeeters, and gnats go away.
One of these trails had been converted to the most beautiful 18 hole “Disc Golf Course” we have ever played. Disc golf requires only a small, heavy frisbee for equipment, starts at a mark in the woods, designated the “tee” for the first throw. Usually there is a line drawing to show whether the target (basket) is dog leg left or right out of view, and the yardage to the basket. Then you wander through the forest using arcing, skidding, slicing, and every other throwing skill you have, usually just trying to “get outta trouble” because you are always somehow behind a copse of trees, or down in a shallow fern laden creek.
Finally you see the 2 ft. diameter basket, about 3 feet off the ground; it is made of wire with dangling chains above it to “catch” your disc. Now you start the short game and putting, trying to finesse it into the basket. When you finish that “hole”, you look for an arrow to direct you through the woods to the next tee. Like golf, the lowest score wins. If it is possible, I am even worse at Disc Golf than traditional Golf, but manage to laugh a lot more on this thick, forested course. It is certainly no sillier than using a stick to launch and roll a tiny ball, but it is a lot easier to find a bright orange dinner platter (literally, as we also use these to support our flimsy paper plates), than a stupid tiny white ball that gets buried under every leaf, mud splat, and wrinkle in the earth.
We also couldn’t leave the U.P. without tasting the original Jean-Kay’s Pasties in Marquette. He told us he started cooking these when he was 19 years old, and is proud to tell you that residents of Cornwall, England burst into tears at the authenticity. They are soft cubes of steak, potatoes, and rutabagas wrapped in a thin, tender pastry. Yoopers eat it with catsup; a touch of tomato sweetness only enhances the subtle rutabaga flavor. Nothing more was required. Just don’t call it a “pay-stee” as that it what strippers use to cover their nipples. This Yooper savory delight is a “pass-tee”. Got it?