Sunday, September 2, 2007

(29) Hancock to Grand Marais Michigan

Hancock Michigan
Ojibwa Casino II, Marquette Michigan
Grand Marais, Michigan

My last couple of days in the Copper Country were fun. I attended the Houghton County Fair, a truly small town fair, with horse contests, 4-H displays, Monster Truck shows, a mid-way with all the fair rides and characters that come along with it. I particularly enjoyed the music of two groups, Fiddlehead and a country singer, Tom Katlin. Tom was particularly good with a great husky voice and a deep sounding guitar.

The next day I drove around the Keweenaw Peninsula in search of light houses. I got to three of them, The 5 mile Lighthouse, The Eagle River and Eagle Harbor lighthouses. I believe the 5 mile lighthouse has been featured on T.V. It’s now a B&B and when I got there, there was no one around, so I just snooped in and around the place. Filled with way too much stuff from antiques to just old stuff, but fun looking around and the setting was gorgeous. The Eagle Harbor lighthouse comes with 4 museums for the $4 entry fee and is worth it. The views of the lighthouse, sitting on top of those rock outcroppings is quite spectacular. One of the museums has a 1927 Chrysler from The City of Bangor freighter. A really “cool” story of how the car got here. But if I told you, you’d have nothing to explore and find out for yourself.
If anyone would like full mega pixel pictures of it, I can send them out separately.

My sister Ann and I had one last evening together and we stayed up all hours of the night trying to catch up and share experiences with each other. Her new adventure begins in Oct and I can’t wait to hear from her on her move to Minneapolis. If anyone has any good contacts for her in the Minneapolis area for a job in elder care, senior living communities, she’d make a great manager. She has a degree from Marquette University and is eager to get into a great new facility that can utilize her talents.

I’ve driven to Marquette and I’m staying for one night at the Ojibwa Casinos. They have 6 campsites, first come first served, with electric and it’s free. I believe you can stay for about a week for free. No check-in or anything. I LOVE free! The drive from Houghton was smooth. Many of the roads up here have recently been newly paved. The trees are already turning color along the way. Fall comes early in the U.P.

The U.P. is truly an undiscovered area of the country. I used to live up here and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of discovery. After leaving the Ojibwa Casino this morning, I drove for miles along hwy 28, passing by acre after acre of national forest land, Hiawatha, state forests, Lake Superior State Forest, and Seney N.W.R. Each blending one into the other, creating huge tracks of forested lands with only the occasional cottage hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior. Driving through the small communities of Au Train and Christmas bordering Lake Superior, I was stunned by the beauty of the lake. Hard to miss it, with dozens of way-side parks and scenic vista stops along the way. Munising is where one can get aboard a tour boat to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or hop a ferry to Grand Island.

I traveled another hundred miles east and due north on hwy 77 which is really a country road. Actually, 25 miles of country road with virtually no houses or structures until you reach the end of the line, Grand Marais. Talk about a hidden gem! A small village with harbor, Lake Superior and the Grand Sable Dunes. It’s easily 60 to 75 miles to the nearest town and surrounded by rugged forest and grand views of lake Superior. Church bells chime every hour and half hour adding charm to a peaceful setting. Hardware store, grocery, a couple restaurants, small white churches and a bar complete the setting.

A really fun structure, the Pickle Barrel Cottage, sits in the center of town and once belonged to the Teenie Weenie cartoonist William Donahey. He and his wife summered in it for 10 years. But with so many visitor wanting to see the barrel cottage and the author, they finally gave it up. Come on up here to learn the full story of why it was built in the first place.

My buddy Ron tells me that building cottages along the shoreline is a long process requiring many permits. Once the permits are obtained, the home or cottage can only be used as a temporary dwelling, not a permanent residence. That’s why small established communities like Grand Marais are getting to be a bit expensive to purchase homes in. The lady in the pickle barrel told me that many of the homes are now owned by retirees having moved into the area. Making the school harder to maintain with less and less children living in the area. Their high school class had a total of 6 graduating last year.

Bordering Grand Marais is the Grand Sable Dunes, the highest dunes I’ve ever seen. The views from on top the dunes, overlooking Lake Superior, really gives a clear view of how crystal clear the lake is. We were able to see the lake bottom from our vantage point 500 feet above. Sable Falls is tucked in there and has quite a long stair step and boardwalk viewing area leading right down to the sandy beach. I saw where there was a log slide coming down off of the dunes with just a glimpse of the Au Sable light house. We weren’t able to get close enough for good picture taking but the views along the shore line are just spectacular. Almost the entire forests of the U.P. were harvested back in the late 1800’s. Now completely re-grown, hiding hundreds of smaller lakes within the forests.

No comments: