Besides the U.P. pages linked from the main navigation buttons on the left, please check out Malia's Miles Blog posts about Michigan and public Facebook picture pages. I had fabulous times in "God's area code" – the most special Upper Peninsula!
Trying to find the right words to describe just how spectacular and special this area of Michigan is was one of my biggest frustrations once I got there and really "got" it. I don't know if I'll ever find the "definitive" words and not even my best pictures convey the awesomeness, but for now, here are some of my favorite comments from people I met in the U.P. as they explained why they lived or visited there as often as possible:
My favorite comment: "People in the U.P. are more resilient than those raised in metro areas – they picked berries, canned, chopped wood. It’s a true “melting pot” of people who moved here. So many people moved after coming here just for visit – saw it, fell in love, knew they didn’t have jobs but still came and hoped for the best – and they’re still here."
From Carol's daughter, Judy: "When we were little and as we were crossing Mackinac Bridge coming into the U.P., mom would say, “Open all the windows and let’s bring in the U.P. air. You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth!” The pictures above and to the left were taken from Straits State Park, a great choice of campgrounds for a lot of U.P. destinations, and also a fantastic vantage point for views of this beautiful bridge.
From Paul, the owner of North Star Brick Oven Bakery: "I moved here from Detroit, where people are always running, crazy traffic, stress, road rage. Here you’re likely to see signs on local businesses that they’re closed because the fish are biting. And forget about finding a plumber during deer season. It's a whole different perspective on life…"
From Stefan, who worked for the Calumet Police Department: "There’s something about the beauty here and truly knowing your neighbors.”
From Sam, working at the Michigan House Cafe & Brew Pub: "What makes the UP special is Lake Superior. It’s so cold, clear and clean, it puts something out into the air. At certain times you can even smell it. We call her “Mother Superior” or “Mom Superior” – her tendency for sudden changes in disposition always keeps life here interesting."
Sam's dad, Vick Foerster, wrote a book about Isle Royale, “Naked in the Stream.” Sam quoting his dad: “One main difference between downstate and UP is Isle Royale – being there is a 'life changing experience – it’s the next step.'"
From Donna and Richard, who I enjoyed sharing sunset campfires with at McLain State Park. They moved to Calumet in 2004 from L.A. (now that's what I call 'culture shock' for real)! They said they have never breathed one breath of regret about the decision to move here. But after their first winter, their comment to each other (reminiscent of 'Jaws') was, "We need a bigger snow plow!" Her favorite Valentine's present that year was a snow blower!
Their further comments: “The whole U.P. is one big park full of fun – winter and summer.”
Even when there's a big snow, if you make your way to the store, people are smiling, talking, singing, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Even when below zero degrees, the feeling of "We’re all in this together" – it creates a bond. They never hear complaints from others about the winters even when skies are grey for months. When a sunny day comes along, though, everyone is super happy.
And even though the days are very short in the winter, at night it’s neat because snow reflects light – the shadows in the trees are so pretty. In the daytime we love how the sun glistens on the snow.
They also educated this southern gal about the different types of snow: Wet snow from the south is heavy. Lake effect snow – cold air across lake is like powder and has a dryness to it. I never even thought of anything like that before.
They’re sometimes surprised at how happy they are even after spending an hour or two digging their car out of snow. “We don’t shut down here.” In California, if it’s smokey, no mail, sometimes even if it’s rainy, no mail. Here the mailman not only delivers the mail to the mailbox, sometimes will bring it to the door so we don’t have to trudge down to the box. Because you can’t just walk out to the mailbox – it’s a long process to get dressed to go outside – you really have to “earn” it and want to go badly.
"We don't mind the winters. If it wasn't for our winters, there would be so many people here, we'd be like LA!"
My favorite comment from my friend Vi, a native Michigander from Bay City after seeing some of my pictures of the U.P.: "OMG, so beautiful, I am ashamed I haven't been to these places and I have lived in Michigan my whole life, but when we come back here next spring we are going to make it a point to see this awesome wilderness called the U.P.! Thanks for waking us up and showing us how truly beautiful our home state is!"
Without exception, I found Michigan people to be friendly, open and welcoming. But the best examples of that anywhere were people who came to my rescue when I was really needing help. Like Bruce, who I call my "Soo Angel" who helped me when my axle fell off my car as I was making a turn in Sault Ste. Marie. He stuck with me until everything was taken care of and not only was able to keep me calm when I felt like freaking out, but afterwards, emailed me these words of wisdom:
“Sometimes I have found that life sends us calamity so that we can appreciate the quiet times. Or so that we are made stronger for navigating through them. I sense that you are a navigator.”
And then Brimley State Park Ranger Tricia Gilray, who was born and raised in Brimley and showed me around places I probably would not have seen on my own. I loved that day! And then on her day off, called to send someone over from the park to my RV to make sure I was okay when she heard about what had happened with the car.
Whitefish Point – Be prepared to spend at least an entire day here. Besides the sobering and fascinating Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, you can tour the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, the oldest active light on Lake Superior. But just the Lake Superior beachfront for exploration and agate hunting makes it worth the trip, And the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is not just for bird watchers. During my visit to the gift shop here, I was told they get just as many "rock hounds" due to the abundance of agates here. Plus you can get great tips on how to detect a real agate. Definitely don't miss this complex!
And the amazing group of people who helped me while I was staying at Indian Lake State Park and during a day trip to Fayette State Park, I lost my keys. I wrote about that on my blog "Best Intentions and Keys Lost." I'll never forget the feeling I had when I looked around at a time when I was totally stressed and saw 7 faces, all having spent a lot of time (after hours) helping me, keeping me calm and even assuring me I wasn't being the problem I felt I was. It was Randy, the Park Supervisor, who said one of the coolest things I've ever heard when he was driving me back to my RV: "Part of our job is to be here to help people have fun – and sometimes just to help people period.” Not only was that comforting, but I thought pretty profound.
A truly profound experience for me was finally getting to visit Mackinac Island – a dream destination of mine since I saw the movie "Somewhere in Time" – because of that, the Grand Hotel was the main attraction. But I was delighted to discover that the entire island was utterly fascinating and so much more than just the location of that fabulous hotel.
"Every Rose Has Its Thorn…" and to continue that theme with "Even Paradise had its snake," first I have to say that my trip around Michigan was blessed in more ways than one. I only encountered a few of those biting flies one time while exploring Presque Isle in the Porkies. From what I've read, that was a miracle in itself!
According to comments from Yoopers on the UpperMichigansSource.com post, "Black Flies: A Losing Battle," black flies and stable flies can't be beaten by the same spray. Even Deet doesn't work on stable flies. A comment there from Jimmy Newkirk, a Park Ranger at Union Bay Campground: "Fastest way to evacuate a campground…have the stable flies show up."
If any Yoopers use anything to ward these pets away, please share by commenting below.
And again, I say, thank you to the great people of MI, and especially the "Yoopers" who shared their home so freely with me!
Pasty.com (Fresh from the UP – new every day)
Upper Peninsula (Pure Michigan website)
UP Travel.com (Upper Peninsula's Travel and Recreation Assn. website)
Kid Rock’s “Born Free” video shot in UP – features Pictured Rocks
I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: