Michigan’s Upper Peninsula over Labor Day

September 13, 2018

How to Turn a 5 hour drive into 8.

John headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to do a site visit for one of his faculty whose practice site happens to be in the Frozen North (Marquette, Michigan). So John and Linda decided turn it into a long weekend over labor day.  

  • We started just a bit late
  • We were soon running later, due to a stop for breakfast at the Blue Heron. Creative menu, good Sumatran coffee, but we came in right after several other people and it took 45 minutes to come. On the positive side, the local mushrooms were interesting and turned out not to be poison.
  • Back on the road we decided that the more scenic route through Petoskey would be much nicer  AND  only add 30 minutes  compared to rushing over to I-75. RIGHT and WRONG in that order!  We cruised by the Mackinac Trail Winery and we looked at each other and said ” We are already running late, why not?”  Turns out that was a good decision unless you wanted to get to Munising on time. 

How to Make an 8 hour Drive Pleasant

I’m not sure if this is common, but both owners of the Winery were working.  We struck up a conversation about travel to Italy and as soon as they saw us gravitating to the the better reds, they brought us, I think, 3 extra reds to try.   I honestly told them that their Cabernet Sauvingnon was the best Michigan Red I ever had.  The conversation wandered to the vineyards they had purchased and the ins and outs of the Winery business.  One small problem is that good Michigan Reds are significantly more expensive than good Reds from California etc.  However….. we bought 3 bottles of wine, including the fabulous Cab.   Fun conversation,  great wine and a nice break about halfway to end of the day’s drive.  And we saw a bald eagle up close flying over. 

Munising and Pictured Rocks

Munising, the gateway to the Upper Peninsula Pictued Rocks is not a happening place.  YET.   Here is our superficial observations  Check out our Upper Peninsula Pictured Rocks Photos

  • Very sparse choices for food including a restaurant with bad reviews called  “387” and an OK restaurant called Dogpatch (super nice waitress though)
  • Not many places to stay and many older motels
  • A coffee shop in desperate need of air conditioning
  • Pictured Rocks has doubled from 400,000 to 800,000 visitors per year.  Actually a positive, BUT parking is is a disaster.  check out our creative parking that kept us from having to hike an extras 1/2 mile to START the hike to  chapel rock.
Hopeful Signs:
  • The new Roam Inn  is an incredible redesign of an old style Upper Peninsula building into a Scandinavian beauty. 
  • Tracey’s restaurant in the Roam Inn appears to be first class although with the big prices and everything a la carte, we gave it a miss this time.
  • Taco Primo: only in the UP can you have a Mexican restaurant with no Latinos involved.   But surprise, surprise, it was very good.  the biggest surprise was the “street corn” on the cob coated with mayonnaise, sour cream, green onions, cilantro, and cotija cheese coated with chili powder.  Totally LEGIT !   But lest you forget you are in the Upper Peninsula, the young gal behind the counter told me they did not put meat in their Queso con Carne because they have vegetarians as customers. 
  • I told her Queso con Carne meant Cheese with meat and she just shrugged.
    chapel rock

    Chapel Rockt cheese with meat and she just  shrugged.  

  • New shops being developed by the same guy that created the Roam Inn. 

Six Mile Hike

We have been in the area before, so this time we decided to hike a loop we have never done.  It goes past Chapel Falls to Chapel rock and

looping back another way for a total of 6.1 miles.   Chapel Rock is a very cool erosion story with a 200 foot pine tree surviving atop the remaining piller with roots stretching through the air to a the neighboring cliff 8 feet away !!

With John still out of shape from the crazy 2017 year and Linda still trying to overcome her herniated disc,  it was a little brave.   We made it !  And I am proud to say we suppressed the urge in the last half hours  to ask hikers from the other way ” Are almost back to the cars?” .  However, getting out of bed the next day,  was another story…..

Gluttons for Punishment

After getting various muscles and joints to work again, we fooled our bodies by doing 2 or 3 shorter hikes.  However, they still added up to over 5 miles. One hike to the Sable Light House was more forgiving being along a flat access road.  We had to placate our complaining muscles by feeding them better than average ice cream cones from the General Store on our way back along the pictured rocks road, and then we we werre on to Marquette.  

Marquette, Michigan

Marquette seems to have changed quite a bit in the two years since we were here last.   A google search turned up a few promising restaurants and they were open on Labor Day weekend.  Unlike last time.  We opted to try the Iron Bay Restaurant.  They have a tap room with 20 craft beers with a very good variety.  The food menu is like a gastro pub.  The food was ….. pretty good.   Nothing to write home about, but ….pretty good.  

On Labor day we decided to just ” head west and explore”  when we got to Big Bay , we were literally at the “End of the road”.   After a quick peek at the Big Bay Lighthouse, we  found a beach just west of the Big Bay Safe Harbor.  It was 75 degrees, sunny, and the breeze kept the flies at bay.  Perfect.  We dragged out our folding chairs and had a light picnic lunch and soaked in the peace and quiet.  Our second  bald eagle of the trip  flew over to make sure we knew we were really at the end of the road.

Monday night we returned to the Sol Azteca for dinner.   Oops !  Now they are closed on Mondays now.  So we went down the street to Digs Marquette.   A self proclaimed gastropub.  Yeah well, we aren’t here for the gourmet experience.  

After a Tuesday visiting my faculty , we headed south again .   But we’ll be back


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