Sunday, July 19, 2015

Porcupine Mountains

Manabezho Falls - Presque Isle River
Our next stop in the U.P. was Ontonagon so that we could visit the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The Porcupine Mountains are a densely wooded state park that borders on Lake Superior on the north side. There is a history of mining, logging and fur trapping that dates back to the early
1800s in the area. It became a state park in 1945 to protect the large stand of old-growth forest and is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest. It is a beautiful area with the contrast of Lake Superior, with a rare sandy shoreline, and the green mountains of the Porkies.

Presque Isle River
The highlights are the series of water falls on the Presque Isle River, the Lake Of The Clouds viewpoint and the Summit Peak lookout. There are a lot of hiking trails allowing an intimate experience with the wilderness. Ontonagon also has a nice sandy beach so you have a choice between hiking in the woods or walking on the beach. We had some nice weather and a nice stay.

Lake Of The Clouds from overlook

View from Summit Peak overlook tower

Ontonagon Lighthouse

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


St Paul the Apostle Church
We moved from Copper Harbor down to Houghton for 6 days. From this new base we visited Calumet again. There is a new Calumet Visitor Center that was opened by the National Park Service since our last visit in August 2011, which was formerly the Masonic Temple. They did an excellent job of telling the history of the area with an emphasis on the people, their lives, their heritages and the living conditions. We walked around town, off the main street this time, to see what we could find. We went in the St Paul the Apostle Church  and were amazed (again) that this town has such an extravagant building (I didn't take any pictures inside, you have to go there and check it out). The copper boom certainly left some gems behind (pun intended). At the height of the boom there were 34 churches in the area representing all the various ethnic groups and religions of the immigrants as the population of Calumet Township peaked at around 40,000 (the town of Calumet was called Red Jacket at the time). Unfortunately as you walk around off the main drag most are no longer in use and are falling apart as the population of Calumet Township is now around 6,500. Of course, we had to have our favorite pasties at Connie's Kitchen. They are still great!

Laurium Manor
Laurium is a town right next to Calumet. There are some old homes and buildings their too. We decided to do the tour of the Laurium Manor, known also as the Thomas H. Hoatson House, which is a restored mansion built in 1907-8. It is currently operated as an Inn but they also allow self guided
tours. The manor has a number of unique features that we found interesting like a room "papered" with elephant hide. The owners have done a great job of restoring the home and it was admitted to the National Registor of Historic Places in 1994. We enjoyed our tour. Be sure to click on the link and watch the slide show of inside pictures.

These are just a few of the Keweenaw Heritage Sites that have been opened in the western U.P. as part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park. There are Keweenaw Heritage Sites as far south as Rockland. It is really neat to see this partnership with the National Park System in order to save these wonderful historic sites and keep the heritage alive. The area is well worth the visit.

We also walked around Hancock and Houghton and enjoyed the old architecture. Both cities have self guided walking tour pamphlets available. We walked the trail along Portage Lake (on the Houghton side) several times and enjoyed the cool breeze and variety of boats that go by. Portage Lake is the natural part of the Keweenaw Waterway which allows boats and ships to pass completely across the Keweenaw Peninsula. Because of this waterway, some people call the land north of the waterway Copper Island. Since the waterway is partially a man-made canal this is not an officially recognized name.

A note for the picture below. The Ranger III is operated by the National Park Service to service Isle Royale. It also does some local trips in the summer.
Portage Lake as viewed from the
Michigan Tech campus

The bridge deck raises for the
Ranger III to pass

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Isle Royale National Park

Fort Wilkins - Copper Harbor
After our stay in Marquette we went up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor. Copper Harbor is the northern most city in Michigan as it is at the top of the peninsula on Lake Superior. It is a tiny town and the site of Fort Wilkins which was established to keep peace at the start of the copper boom in the 1840s. The Fort is very well preserved with most of its original buildings still existing and well maintained. It's worth a visit if you are in the area.

While staying in Copper Harbor (btw - no cell signals there) we visited the fort, did some hiking, and finally completed a long time bucket list item of visiting Isle Royale. Isle Royale is an island in Lake Superior and the entire island is a National Park. Don't be fooled it you see the address as Houghton, Michigan, that is just the mailing address for the park headquarters. It is obviously remote so it is the least visited National Park due to accessibility. We took the Isle Royale Queen IV from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor.
Isle Royale Queen IV docked in
Rock Harbor
We stayed in the lodge and did all of our hiking from there. It is very peaceful, has great hiking trails along the shore, there are no roads or vehicles and is not commercial in the least and yet the lodging and eating is fine if you aren't into backpacking. The park is celebrating its 75th anniversary but you wouldn't know it if it weren't for the little newspaper they hand out. Check it out online:  Greenstone.

As we got off of the boat the Park Ranger told us there were only 3 wolves left on the island (a male, a female and a pup) and about 1250 moose. It makes sense that the wildlife would not be near the area where there are the most people (Rock Harbor) when they have so much land. However, we were lucky and saw a cow and calf moose within an hour and a half of being on the island as we took our first hike.

We absolutely loved our 4 days there.

View along Rock Harbor trail

View along Rock Harbor trail

Moose - notice baby hiding in trees

View along Scoville trail

Copper Harbor lighthouse as we enter
the harbor on return trip