Trip to da UP – Final Installment

I’ve winnowed down my photos from our trip to the UP last weekend; I’ve tried – probably unsuccessfully – to break them up into manageable chunks so I don’t overwhelm you. I’m projecting. It’s really so I don’t overwhelm myself. Regardless, I’ll share a bit more from our excursion and then, I promise, I’ll move on to something else…like the fact that I had just begun to welcome fall when temperatures in the nineties moved in for the weekend. Sigh.

One of the coolest things about road trips is the things you stumble upon in between destinations. We had wanted to check out the Keweenaw Peninsula (didn’t do enough of that and will be back!), and so headed to Houghton out of Marquette, with plans to drive directly to McLain State Park – on the north side of the peninsula. We probably should have consulted the maps regarding which roads go where, since we completely missed a turn that we should have been, but were not looking for. We ended up at the Quincy Mine and Hoist ruins, in the center of the peninsula. We stayed around long enough to enjoy the expansive views and to explore some of the old buildings. We were both immensely impressed with the masonry – note the bricks near the openings of the old shafts.

Two cool things I learned as a result of this stumble: 1) Some of the best copper in the world was found on the Keweenaw Peninsula, and 2) The Quincy mine site was successful longer than others because management recognized their workers would stick around longer if treated well – a lesson some places I’ve worked in the past could learn.

Switching Gears – Tahquamenon Falls

The Tahquamenon (Tah-kwa-men-on) Falls was more or less on our way home from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – especially if you consider the great lengths we went to in visiting the Porcupine Mountains (which were much less on our way anywhere). After the abundant solitude in Pictured Rocks, Tahquamenon felt fairly like a metropolis. Entrepreneurial spirits had set up shuttles between the upper and lower falls, and appeared to be operating with much success. The trails to the falls were wide and paved, and generally very short – though some platforms required 100+ stair climbs. The thoughtful part of me was grateful on behalf of those who are not able to walk easily (or at all – it’s a great place to stop with a wheelchair!). The curmudgeon in me bristled as lazy folks were rewarded with seemingly unearned beauty. Ah well. At least folks were out and about, and I couldn’t blame ’em – I was out there too!

So – the long and short of the crazy weekend? Don’t try it all at once. Pictured Rocks – probably great any time of the year, if your car can make the journey and you are of the winter-wonderland intrepid nature. Lots here for every kind of hiker, from backcountry overnighters to the abject non-hikers we found at Tahquamenon. Porcupine Mountains – best in the fall or spring. Fall for the leaf color splendor and spring for the fuller waterfalls. Tahquamenon Falls – tack it onto a trip. If you’re traveling across the Mackinac Bridge, you can add it to any trip, because it’s not too far from the main arteries up there, but if you’re traveling from the west, I’d add it to a Pictured Rocks trip. Questions about the (sometimes nonexistent) roads up there? Drop me a line!

12 thoughts on “Trip to da UP – Final Installment

    • We were originally planning to wait until fall for our first trip, but then decided to just go. I don’t if we’ll get there for fall color this year – lots of trees are starting to change already 😦 …or 🙂 if that means we’ll get a nice, snowy winter this year!

  1. Your missed turn reminded me when I was a lad, I met a friend for a backpacking trip on Isle Royale. I think we took a seaplane out of Houghton. Great trip. Back to your photos, I thought the color streaks on the waterfalls in some of the photos was interesting. It’s as though there was an iron-rich stretch of the riverbed or something.

    • The geology of this state is intriguing to me, since there’s so much sand in the lower peninsula and so much exposed sandstone bedrock in the upper. I know that lots of the colors in the Pictured Rocks cliffs are from various oxidation states of the iron in the rocks. I assume (and I think I’m right, if I’m remembering and not inventing) that there’s iron in the rocks near Tahquamenon, too. However, if I’m interpreting your statement correctly, I think what you’re seeing is a result of tannins that leach out of the trees, etc. into the water, staining to the color of brewed tea.
      We had half-planned on a trip to Isle Royale this summer, but it got supplanted by another trip. We were going to go by ferry, but a seaplane sounds fantastic!

  2. You have answered my question about the color in the falls – I also suspected iron. I feel now like I’ve been there looking at your gorgeous photos, although I also feel a bit like my appetite to see it in person has just been whetted.

  3. Oh wonderful! For 6 years I lived in Hancock/Houghton and know Quincy well…long before they refurbished it. How nice to see it all spruced up! Was too scary to walk in there before, with open mine shafts and rubble…but should have, it was so picturesque then…still is, but in a different way.

    • We didn’t take the time to go on any tours, but it looked well set up. They allow you to explore and have signs posted simply requesting that you don’t damage the site. The Houghton/Hancock area reminded us of Maysville, Kentucky – the way one side climbs high up some hills on the far side of a river.
      Any recommended downhill skiing in the area? I think we’ll go back in the winter.

  4. So glad you visited our “neck of the woods” and so glad you had such a good time. It’s so hard when you get home from a trip like this with so many photos and have to put them into some kind of order and post them. You did good–I like how you broke it up into the four sections like this. It’s hard to describe to people how remote most of the U.P. really is. How you can sometimes travel for miles and see very few cars. You done good.

    • We’re so glad we visited your neck of the woods! It’s funny that it’s so much more remote than here even – which is desolate by most folks’ standards. Our very first trip to da UP (June ’08) I stood in the middle of US-2 and took photos of the completely empty road, surrounded by nothing but pines. If I could have your remoteness combined with the offerings of Traverse City (okay, and Torch Lake), I think I’d have it all 😉
      Yes – it is so hard to share the cool things from your trip in some kind of sensible order. I started to worry that I was going overboard, and sharing too much, but then I remembered that anyone who isn’t interested can click away 🙂

  5. We took a camping trip to Tahquamenon Falls when our children were young. I remember that we had to keep all the food in the car because of the bears. There were actually people juming off the falls. Of course, my kids wanted to try too. Of course, we said no. It is truly a beautiful place.

    • I think most of the campgrounds now have big poles to suspend food up on out of the reach of bears, but the car might be more easily accessed 😉 We love being so immersed in all the beauty northern Michigan offers. I suspect you’re enjoying your new state quite a bit yourselves though 🙂

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