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.
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.
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.
People who live here self-identify as Yoopers.
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.
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).
Snowmobiling on the UP is an institution and there are trails EVERYWHERE!
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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).
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!