Pure Michigan- The Upper Peninsula (part one)

I can’t remember when I first set my sights on finding my way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Years ago I heard how remote it is… how pristine and beautiful… green and lush… surrounded by water. I’m sure my roots in Washington play a part in my desire to be surrounded by nature, and most especially by trees and water. It’s that desire that drew me, that and the desire to discover something new.

I headed north out of Petoskey early in the morning, and was well beyond the Mackinac Bridge before sunrise. It was a peaceful, easy drive and I shared the road with few others. My only complaint would be that the most beautiful imagery was behind me to the east as I headed west, hugging the shoreline of Lake Michigan on my way to Iron Mountain. I took advantage of the lack of traffic to pull off the road to enjoy some spectacular scenery a few times. Iron Mountain was on my list of stops because yet another photographer friend, Carl Caylor, lives there.

Sunrise in my side view mirror

Sunrise in the midst of the mist in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Gentle sunrise along the southern shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

After a great tour of the area Carl escorted me up the road to his childhood stomping grounds, Sawyer Lake. After an afternoon filled with stories of our younger years spent tromping freely through the woods it seemed appropriate that I would find an old rope swing hanging out over the lake a short distance from where I camped for the night. The scene can’t help but bring visions of childhood reeling back to me. I can literally hear the laughter of my brothers and friends, and feel the cool water and warm sun on my skin.

Sawyer Lake

After an extremely peaceful night on Sawyer Lake I headed up the highway to Houghton, a quaint little town at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. There I found a campsite in their small but well maintained city owned RV park. The park sits right along the canal that spills west out of Portage Lake. This narrow canal runs from east to west all the way across the peninsula, literally separating it from the UP. Just across the water is another very quaint old town called Hancock. The entire Keweenaw Peninsula is rich with mining history, and it’s not hard to imagine these towns in their prime.

From my campsite at the City of Houghton RV Park

Portage Lake canal between Houghton and Hancock

Once settled, the girls and I took a drive up the western side of the Peninsula. On the way I drove around the town of Calumet. I was stunned by the beautiful old architecture here, and wished I could do away with the power lines that zigzagged throughout, blocking great shots in all directions. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t often “shoot” unless I’ve got a shot. Calumet is worth seeing though, and definitely worth mentioning.

My path led me out the Eagle River to the western shoreline of the peninsula. The girls and I lingered between the towns of Eagle River and Eagle Harbor. The area is beautiful, and with Labor Day behind us, and school back in session, it’s extremely quiet and unpopulated. I continue to be amazed at the sensation of standing along an ocean shore. Even the incoming storms remind me of the Pacific Coast.

Storm brewing at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

It was well past sunset by the time I drove back across the bridge into Houghton, but the beauty did not go down with the sun. From the city park where I was camped I enjoyed the dazzling lights of Hancock across the canal and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

And the following morning came to life just as gloriously! After running out for some sunrise shots I promised myself a day of work, which means sitting tight inside my motorhome. Not an easy thing for me to do when I’m surrounded by so much beauty. I can’t even sit outside to work since most of what I have to do is on my laptop and the monitor is difficult to look at in the daylight.

Sunrise on the canal between Houghton and Hancock

Sunrise along in Houghton Michigan

I must confess though, that I did sneak out for just a bit to take a drive through the trees that beckoned me to the south.

Gateway of trees

The following day I took a different route up the peninsula to Copper Harbor, and from there back along the same shoreline I’d driven the day before through Eagle Harbor and beyond. I hugged the shoreline where I could and followed the road inland when it was the only way to go.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Eagle Harbor

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Remnants of The Delaware Mine

The road took me to McLain State Park at the southwest edge of the peninsula where I found yet another lighthouse. Actually I think this would be categorized as a Light Tower. I’ve always enjoyed lighthouses. They are all unique, and the history behind them and the people who lived in them and “kept the light on” is very intriguing. Because Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, and has more shoreline than any state except Alaska (3288 miles worth!), it’s not surprising that it also has the most lighthouses.

Light Tower at McLain State Park

Another cool old barn near Hancock

Near Hancock is what remains of the Quincy Mining operation, once a booming copper mine. The girls and I took some time to snoop around the old buildings and ruins before settling in for one last night camped on the waterfront of Houghton.

Quincy Mine

Portage Lake Bridge and Houghton from Hancock

Much more of beautiful Michigan to come!


16 thoughts on “Pure Michigan- The Upper Peninsula (part one)

  1. Reading your blog and looking at your marvelous photos, bring memories rushing back to me of our “neighborly” shared trip. I will bookmark the page and will return to it again…looking forward to part 2.

    • Thank you so much Michael! Glad you enjoyed. Hope to get part two live in a few days. In the mean time, I should tell you that you can sign up for an email notification when I post a blog, which I probably average less than once a week. That may be easier than checking back. Just look for the green email icon at the top of the main screen.

  2. Fran, absolutely beautiful. I kept saying “oh, that’s my favorite shot!” The tree filled lane or road, the same shot during the day then at night. I always look at your posts, but I guess this one particularly grabbed me! Loved it!
    Sounds like you’re well, and that is great! Margaret

    • Thanks Margaret. I kinda felt the same way while shooting them. I get so excited to find these gems, and when I find a lot of them, at every turn in the road (literally) I get downright giddy!:-) This place is amazing!

  3. I JUST mentioned to my boyfriend that I wanted to head to Michigan. I had seen it in a Coastal Living magazine recently and was amazed at the shoreline and lighthouses. I wouldve never guessed. Im so glad I get to enjoy your stunning shots in the meantime!

    • It’s a must Michelle. I’ve got one more post on the UP, and a bit more of Michigan beyond that. Stay tuned for more of the amazing beauty!

  4. Fran….you continue to awe me with your camera eye!!! Beautiful pics!! Brian lived in Michigan as a teen and said these bring back memories….beautiful!!

    • Sweet. Thanks. I should have asked Brian about Michigan. I think I’ve seen a good many great places here though. The ones I haven’t give me a reason to come back soon!

  5. WOW! I completely see what you mean about the lakes reminding you more of the ocean than anything. Even though I don’t live too far, I haven’t been to see any of the lakes around Michigan yet. I’ll have to work on that! (I also love lighthouses, and can’t wait to see what cool posts you come up with when you hit New England!)

  6. I love the abandoned buildings. That’s the type of thing I enjoy shooting. Those images leave the mind to wonder what life was like then, who worked there, what happened to the town, etc. Thanks for continuing to share your journey.

    • I feel the same way about ruins, old barns, ghost towns, old lighthouses… all leave you wondering about a different era, when life was happening there. Thanks Marla. I’m glad you’re enjoying the journey with me. Truly.

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