Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Upper Penninsula of Michigan

The U.P. as we Michiganders call it is a pretty out of the way you really have to try to be going here. It's a big strip of land off Wisconsin that juts over the top of the Lower Penninsula of Michigan and which requires crossing a hugely scarey huge bridge called the Mackinac Bridge.

My mother is from the U.P. so we went up fairly often as a kid, although usually to Mackinac Island, which as a kid was my favorite place on Earth. As an adult, not so much. It's a cute little island where only horses and carriages are allowed, tons of fudge is made and you can cycle around the whole island in a few hours.

However, I had never seen my mom's hometown of Newberry, which is how I found myself spending my 4th of July at her 50th High School Reunion.

While the U.P. is beautiful, I have to admit it takes a far more outdoorsy person than me to really enjoy it. I like being able to get cell phone coverage and being able to get on the Internet.

There aren't many towns or cities up there, the largest is Marquette , which we did go to visit on this trip. It is amazingly beautiful and surprisingly cosmopolitan for the U.P. (where the average dress is flannel shirts and hunting gear). This is because it is home to Northern Michigan University.

Although I have to admit, the local grocery store in Newberry had more vegan.veggie, gluten-free and tofu products than any similar size grocery store I've ever seen. Maybe the U.P. is moving on up.  The U.P. relied heavily on logging and mining for years and company recruiters used to go Norway, Sweden and Finland (countries with similar climates) to recruit new workers and residents. Which apparently set up some divisions with the locals so instead of Mexican Town or China Town, Newberry had Finn Town and Swede Town.

We stayed in the lakeside town of Curtis at a place called Pine Bluff Resort. Curtis is a little village but if you are into boating, swimming, off roading, fishing, etc. you will love it.

I, however, am not so much of my week was spent sitting around sweating (we had the worst heat wave the U.P. had ever had and they don't have AC up there) and watching Law and Order marathons on TV.

Although we did do day trips to Marquette and also to the  Tahquamenon Falls, a beautiful waterfall which, due to the wood upstream turns the water copper colored. It's also a State Park and has the only brewpub allowed in a state park, Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub. This brewpub is owned by cousins of my mother and is only allowed because my great-grandparents donated the land around the falls and the state (after putting up a long fight) finally allowed the restaurant to be built.

If you come from the south, after you cross the Mackinac Bridge, you will be in the town of St. Ignace which is worth a day or so, if only to climb Castle Rock, visit the Mystery Spot or eat a pasty.