Further adventures in the UP

4 Jul

After three nights at Fort Wilkins State Park in Copper Harbour arriving back in Houghton felt like stepping back into civilisation. We had unfinished business in Houghton as the town accommodates two brew pubs and only one had been sampled by our intrepid local brew taster (Robert). We were not quite so fortunate in our position on the campground this time being on the upper level and having to overlook RV’s sited below us before our water view, it was however still pleasant to sit in our outdoor area and view the pleasure boats and would be water skiers zooming up and down.

The headquarters for Isle Royale National Park are situated just along from the campground and one of the boats which transports visitors to the island travels along the water here, we saw it return laden with passengers.


On one of our walks along the waterside we were also able to spot the bridge in its raised position allowing a taller boat to pass beneath.


From the campground to the centre of Houghton is a pleasant walk, there and back around a mile. We needed to visit the post office in town and set off in reasonable sunny weather, a few clouds but nothing to worry us. Letter posted the clouds seemed to have thickened and after a browse around a couple of local stores we emerged to discover quite sharp rain falling. We had a choice, half mile back to the campground or two blocks in the opposite direction to the Library Brew Pub? Well – no contest is there!

Now this brew pub I like… it serves wine too… and food. Robert chose to sample their wheat beer which had a very unusual banana smell and flavour. It was around lunch time and the rain was pouring so we thought food would be a good idea, amongst various options on the menu were veggie burgers and chips, not French fries but proper chips! Actually when we got them they were thin pieces of potatoe dipped in very thin tempura batter – yummy. The burgers were good too. Eventually we had to admit defeat, the rain was not going to stop. We arrived back at the campground to be greeted by the manager asking us if we forgot the soap, we were extremely wet.

On leaving Houghton our route took us past Canyon Falls where a short trail leads to the river and gushing water falls. Once more the water was stained with the tannins from the tree debris, giving it a golden syrup colouration.


Looking skyward it was fairly obvious that a storm was about to add to the volume in the river so we quickly got back on the road and pulled in to Van Riper State Park around half an hour later thinking we had avoided the storm. Within fifteen minutes of our arrival the heavens opened sending our fellow campers scurrying for cover, clouds of smoke and steam enveloping the campground as numerous campfires were extinguished by the torrential downpour!

The rain was heavy and persistent for some while  – quite a storm – but nothing compared to one which at the same time was ripping through a campground to the east of the lower peninsula.We learned on the news next day a tornado had overturned RV’s one being blown into a lake with an elderly man being killed and four others injured. We were thankful we only had rain.

Our last stop on Lake Superior was the town of Marquette. A dull morning after the previous nights storms, we stocked up at the local Wal Mart, I visited a yarn store on the outskirts of town (Uncommon Threads – yet another treasure trove of yarn to browse).We had hoped to be able to take a walk around the downtown area but with no suitable parking we did not stop as we had hoped but drove on to stay overnight at Gitche Gummie (Indian for Lake Superior) Campground.


The Lake had been whipped up by the storm winds and white horses were capping the rough waters. It is still hard sometimes to realise this is fresh water – not ocean!

From Marquette we travelled south across the peninsula bringing us to the northern edge of Lake Michigan.This southern part of the peninsula seems much softer, possibly more sheltered from the prevailing wind.

Fayette State Park lies on a small finger of land jutting southwards into Lake Michigan now sparsely populated this was once a bustling industrial area producing pig iron for the steel mills near Chicago and further afield. The park surrounds many old and restored buildings from the towns industrial past, the campground is placed between the historical town and a small beach, access to both being a half mile trail in opposite directions. We decided there was enough to keep us busy for a three night stay.


The trail to the beach made a nice late afternoon stroll. The water is extremely clear here and the beach whilst small has soft sand with a few pebbles. We were luck enough to spot a young bald eagle out looking for his tea.


Later we took the opposite trail towards the town site but walking on towards the remnants of the limestone quarry and the old wharf.


Next day our visit to the historical town site began at the visitor centre where a diorama of the old town takes centre stage. A commentary tells of the rise and fall of the Jackson Iron Works furnaces and associated industries over a period from 1867 until 1890.


Seeing the homes of the workers, the barbers shop, the doctors, the hotel, apart from the huge buildings for the iron works and the area where charcoal kilns stood, it is hard to realise this only had a hey day of 24 years!



Today a picturesque tiny harbour (Snail Shell Harbour) belies the view which would have been common in the late 1870’s, when large barges and schooners would have delivered all manner of goods into the wharf. The stench of the iron furnaces and the charcoal kilns, the hustle and bustle of the saw mill and blacksmith shop the hardship of days without work and no pay were all common place. The evidence suggests many of the families were young immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other European nations hoping to start a new life. When the iron works closed some stayed on and took up farming nearby, we were told by the young lady in the visitor centre many of today’s Garden Peninsula residents are descendants of these settlers. (Her aunt owned the land after the Jackson Iron Works closed).

A large hotel (partially restored) was built by the company to accommodate visitors



The Hotel and its recreated reception area.


Above the doctors and barber shop a large Music Hall saw visits from leading entertainers, their autographs still visible scrawled on the wooden walls behind the wings.



We viewed the various buildings over two mornings, a day visitor would need at least two hours to do justice to the site and take in all the information provided.

With the 4th July week end fast approaching we have to get our campgrounds organised again. What a chore this is to us, our free spirit really does not like being tied down at all these days. We managed to book two nights near Newberry and two nights at Sault St Marie (locally known as Soo!)

As we made our way northeast to Newberry we took a short detour (11miles each way) to Big Spring State Park. We had read in our information that ‘no visit to the UP is complete without a ride on the self propelled raft’. I had some reservations and my imagination ran wild thinking of white water rafts or rustic log platform rafts on muddy water! The actuality was very different.

A short walk from the car park revealed a crystal clear emerald pool, the colour was so vivid and the water so clear I found it difficult to believe it was not managed in some way.






The raft was a large structure with a glass floor in the centre, allowing a view of the pool bottom some 45ft below. It was guided and propelled by a steel cable – a ship like wheel rotated and pulled the structure across to the opposite bank.

This is looking through the centre of the raft to the pool floor below.




Now this one needs careful viewing – the ripples are the surface of the water, the puffy circles from bottom left to middle right are the sand being disturbed as the spring water bubbles up through it.


Water flows into the spring at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, it has a high sulphur content but I have to say I did not smell it. The temperature is a constant 47 degrees.


P1130944I have never seen a natural pool so clear and free of debris or algae. There were some tiny fish, another visitor told us that the pool had been restocked just that day with fish as the return of eagles to the area had diminished its natural fish numbers.

Here you can see the shadow of the fallen logs on the sandy bottom


Well worth the detour!

In less than two weeks we will be putting haRVey in to storage while we fly back to the UK to see  family and friends so, a warm sunny Saturday at the campground in Newberry gave us a chance to carry out some routine chores and just sit back and take in some pleasant sunshine with a cooling breeze.


2 Responses to “Further adventures in the UP”

  1. Liz Staats July 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    I have to tell you I am so enjoying your blog. How I wish I hd made contact w/you on RAV before you left CA. If you are ever back this way, we must get in touch. We are going to head out on our RV down to Central Ca to visit family and some old friends over the next couple of weeks.

    You’ll have to watch our travels when we head over to Italy in September.

    • elainethehill July 6, 2010 at 7:29 am #

      Thank you for your comment – I am so pleased to hear you are enjoying my ramblings!
      I hadn’t found RAV when we were in CA – I wish I had as I missed out on so many LYS over there I could have visited. Please keep in touch, we will be back on the west side at some point after we have explored the east! Do you have a blog for your travels?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: