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Up North (Michigan)

Up North (Michigan)
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By Juanita Wood ~

In the stifling heat of summer in South Carolina, one can only think of a cooler place where the humidity is low and temperatures are in the 70s. Ordinarily, people conjure up thoughts of New York, Connecticut, and other states in the Northeast. Think again. How about the area in Michigan that all natives of that state refer to as “Up North,” the Upper Peninsula, the home of the Yoopers?

After crossing the Mackinac Bridge, one can stop in St. Ignace, Michigan, and take a boat ride to Mackinac Island, where time has stood still and no cars are allowed. All transportation is by horse and carriage or bicycle. In June, Mackinac Island celebrates the Lilac Festival, when many varieties of lilac are scattered around the island with some of the trees being as tall as the houses. Fragrance abounds. Other sites to see on Mackinac Island include The Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, and the many shops in the downtown area. While there, be sure to get your sample of Murdick’s Fudge, the Original Mackinac Island Fudge.

After leaving St. Ignace, signs along the road advertise a variety of goods from fudge to jerky to smoked whitefish, and, of course, a Michigan pasty (pass-tee). In case you are wondering, a pasty is a meat hand pie introduced by the Cornish miners who settled in the Upper Peninsula. This dough pocket usually contains beef, rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, and onions, and has become very popular in the area with a Pasty Festival in July.

The highways in Upper Michigan are mainly two-lane, albeit a wide two-lane with room on the side of the road for snowmobiles. The roads are straight with a grid in the middle to alert you if you are crossing the center line.

Life moves slowly here and time seems to have stopped in the 1950s. You can enjoy a stroll through the woods when stopping at a rest area. One such rest area includes the Cut River Trail, which wanders down the hill to the shoreline of Lake Michigan. In addition, food and gas stops need to be planned as restaurants are few and far between in the Upper Peninsula. Chain restaurants are rare. Don’t be surprised when you pull in for gas if you see an actual “service” station where one can get the oil changed in the car. These service stations are not the food marts common in our area, although you could get a pack of gum or a soft drink.

Our destination on this tour of the Upper Peninsula was the small town of Munising with a population of approximately 2800. By the end of summer, nearly one million people will have been there to visit. The most popular attraction in Munising is Pictured Rocks, a group of sandstone cliffs along the shores of Lake Superior that can only be viewed by boat. This place of beauty was designated the nation’s first national lakeshore in 1966 to preserve the shoreline, cliffs, beaches, and dunes. The colorful cliffs come from ground water oozing out of the cracks. The dripping water contains iron, manganese, limonite, copper, and other minerals that leave behind colorful stains as the water trickles down the cliff faces.

Another area to visit in the Munising area is the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the protection and production of migratory birds and other wildlife. There is a walking trail around some of the water areas and a one-way seven mile driving tour, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of the wildlife. Sightings during our visit included swans with cygnets, loons, bald eagles, deer, beaver, and a Sandhill crane.

Other sites to see in the Munising area include marshland trails, the beach on Lake Superior, and the many waterfalls. Next summer, if you are looking for an escape from the heat and humidity, consider a visit “Up North.”

About the author:  Juanita Wood is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes and a regular contributor as a writer and photographer to Living @ SCCL magazine, where this article was originally published.  It is republished here with permission from the author.

Photo by Aaron Burden.