Houghton, MI – June 2016

Did Drew escape to the Great White North never to be heard from again?  Well, sort of. Truth is, Child Unit 2 has fallen in love with the UP.  Upper Peninsula, that is.  Michigan. Lake Superior.  We are talking north of the 47th parallel, so it is closer to Santa’s workshop than it is to a Corona beach on the equator.

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10:15pm – still plenty of light out!

Can’t blame him. Drew is working on his undergrad in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech, and this summer is working by day for his professors, and by night as a bartender at the Keweenah Brewing Company (KBC). Can I get an amen? The best part of our trip, though, is we got to see him!! Yeah! Sure proud of that boy; what a terrific young man. And he has some great friends that I have no doubt will be lifelong buds.

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Command Central

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Drew behind the bar at the KBC, trying to deal with an unruly customer

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Note the beautiful mural done on the outside wall of the KBC by the owners wife Margy

If you haven’t been on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP), you are missing one of this country’s hidden gems. It is nothing less than stunningly beautiful, and it is a sportsman’s paradise.

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Rich history of mining in the area

People who live here self-identify as Yoopers.

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We camped at the Houghton City RV Campground, which is right on the banks of the Portage. We had flat out spectacular weather. The Portage, so you know, would be known in any other place as a river. Or a lake. Here, it is just the Portage. Consider this campground to be in Position A if you visit the area. The campground has terrific sites, full hookup, congenial host, walking/bike riding distance to town for a meal or a beer. This is where you want to be.

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While there are many great characteristics of Houghton, the city could easily be defined by the Portage Lift Bridge. Connecting Houghton to Hancock and the Keweenah Peninsula, it lifts in warm weather to allow boats to pass underneath, and come winter (you know, the other 48 weeks) it gets lowered to allow snowmobiles to pass on the lower section (where trains used to run).

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Lower level for snowmobiles

Snowmobiling on the UP is an institution and there are trails EVERYWHERE!

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We got a chance to go to dinner with Drew and a couple of his roomies Josh and Peter for a terrific night of food, fun and laughs.

Drew arranged for us to see the inner workings of the Keweenah Brewing Company. How awesome is that? Greeted by Paul, one of the owners, we then received a first rate tour by Luke, who was extremely knowledgeable about the ingredients, processes and procedures for making top quality brews.

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Hops come in to start the process

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First vat where hops get rinsed

 

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Sometimes there are brewing issues and you need to dig in to fix the problem

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Brews either get canned or kegged

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Where the magic happens.  Luke, our esteemed guide on right.

The afternoon took a bit of a downturn, as Drew took me out to the Michigan Tech golf Course and proceeded to whip my ass. In truth, he didn’t beat me as badly as I beat myself. Not pretty. Just gives me a reason to come back.  But no matter – we had a blast.  Fortunately, no pictures.

One of the other perks for Michigan Tech students is use of Mont Ripley for skiing. The ski area is owned by the university and provides students free skiing (you do have to pay a student activities fee – minimal). Located across the Portage in Hancock (designated the 3rd snowiest city in the US), it is super convenient and a great ski area. Further up the Keweenah Peninsula is Mount Bohemia, which I am told has some very challenging slopes. Interesting note: Michigan ranks #2 in the country for most ski areas within the state (2nd to, of all places, New York!).

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View of Mont Ripley from Drew’s house

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Last year was an “off” year for snow, with less than 20 feet of snow for the season. How lame. Must be global warming. The record is 390 inches of snow, and on average the area gets about 240 inches per year. That, my friend, is a ton of snow.

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To top off a perfect day, we headed up to Eagle Harbor on the Keweenah Peninsula for dinner at The Fitz (Fitzgerald’s Restaurant in the Eagle River Inn). Think Edmund Fitzgerald. Imagine sitting at a table overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Maine, but instead of the ocean it is Lake Superior. Same size – less salt.

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Another destination up that way is Copper Harbor, and beyond up to Horseshoe Harbor (this requires 4 wheel drive and a small amount of hiking, but well worth the effort).

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Views from Copper Harbor

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End of the road – 4 wheel drive needed from this point on

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Beautiful hike to Horseshoe harbor

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Views from Horseshoe Harbor

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If you haven’t been to the UP, you need to figure a way. The UP is absolutely one of the most beautiful places this country has to offer. If you get up to Houghton, make sure you look up Drew at the Keweenah Brewing Company in the center of town for a cold beer!

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One response to “Houghton, MI – June 2016

  1. John and I visited Houghton 2 summers ago while returning from Alaska. We camped at the city campground as well. It is a beautiful area and we enjoyed your photos and narrative! Safe travels!

    Like

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