The “Yooper,” as northern Michiganders call the upper peninsula, is a beautiful area. A mix of forests and lakes gives this region its unique identity.
The drive from Milwaukee to our destination in St. Ignace was quite enjoyable.
Once we crossed the state line into Michigan, you could see the difference from being in an urban setting to the rural. The trees grew taller and fuller. The small towns dotting the landscape were actually nice to drive through. Usually, travelers dread having to slow down in towns, but I found this part of the drive relaxing – new things to look at and discuss with Lisa.
We made a planned stop near Vulcan, MI. It is home to the Iron Mountain Mine and Museum. We took an hour-long tour into a mine shaft. Ore was the mineral mined at Iron Mountain.
After donning our yellow raincoats and protective helmets (mainly for show), we boarded the mine train and off we went. The tour goes about 2,000 feet into the side of the mountain. We went from about 80 degrees outside to 43 degrees at the bottom of the mine.
The train ride through the cave was interesting. At one point, you are only inches from the wall. And most of the ride is in dim lighting. Then, when you get off the train for the walk to the final digging spot, you have to watch your head. I can certify that suggestion.
The train goes a few hundred feet into the cave. Then, it’s walking time. The tour guide would stop periodically and point out significant information about the mining days, such as the equipment they used or the actual working conditions.
At one stop, he turned off the overhead lights. It was pitch dark except for a small candle he held. This, he said, was all the lighting the original miners had to work with. When dynamite was used to help open some holes, the explosion would suck all the oxygen, pinching a candle’s flame. It was total darkness for the miners until they were able to light the candles again.
Two main mining areas were used. The first slope, as it was called, was the least productive. The mine’s owners gave up at that point and sold the mountain. The new owners started a dig a couple hundred feet away from the original slope. The “Big Slope” scored tons and tons of ore. It ended up being a good purchase for them.
The mine was a fun stop, and was high on my must-do list.
Afterward, we looked around the gift shop, which had an odd collection of items. You could buy rocks, comic books, knick knacks, and other ‘souvenirs.”
Back on the road, we headed east on US Highway 2.
A couple of hours later, we were passing through the town of Manistique. The view of Lake Michigan was breathtaking. We pulled over to an observation area. We took a short break from the drive and headed to the lake shore. Walking among sand and rocks, we admired the beauty of the lake.
The view was just so different from Milwaukee.
As we were walking back to the car, we noticed a couple of moose dressed up across the highway.
The town apparently dresses moose statues in business clothes. One moose was dressed as Bob’s Big Boy at the restaurant. Next door, a moose sculpture was dressed in a butler’s tuxedo. Done the road, we saw one in a pink nightgown at another hotel.
Back on the road, about 90 minutes later, we came across another beautiful distraction. We pulled over to an overlook near an exit for Epoufette.
We admired the view of the lake behind a tree line. A boat was anchored in the lake not too far away from it.
The blue sky and water just provided a beautiful break from the highway.
Well, it was then time to head out again. The rest of the drive alternated between woodlands and views of Lake Michigan. I wanted to stop several more times. But, if we had, we’d probably still be on the drive to St. Ignace.
The Best Western Harborview hotel is centrally located in the area. It has three main buildings. We stayed at the lower level building. Our building resembled an old motel rather than a multi-floored hotel building. It was a nice room. Well kept and clean.
Our “partial lake view” was far from “partial.” We had a full view of Lake Huron. This was the last of the five Great Lakes we needed to visit. Check that off the bucket list.
About 100 feet from our room was the nightly campfire and marshmallow roast. The hotel staff starts a nice campfire and provides the marshmallows and forks to toast them with. Quite a few families gathered to roast some mallows or just visit with other guests. Everyone we met was friendly.
Before that, Lisa and I drove to a local eatery for a bite to eat after a long day of traveling. Our hotel clerk recommended The Galley for dinner. It was the right choice. With a nice view of the harbor, as well as an awesome menu, we had an enjoyable visit.
Lisa had the whitefish dinner, which is one of the restaurant’s best dishes. I usually do not eat steak outside of Omaha (for obvious reasons), but they had a nice ribeye special. One of the best steaks I have ever eaten – in Omaha or elsewhere.
After dinner, we walked around the hotel’s grounds before the campfire. We took some sunset photos of the lake. The clouds were a slight pinkish over the water. It was a beautiful and breathtaking view.
During our stay in St. Ignace, we took in more of the harbor area. We visited the lighthouse at the end of the harbor. A few tourists were there, taking pictures of each other. It was an enjoyable walk.
Our last night at St. Ignace marked a change from a small fishing and tourist community to an over-packed town of car nuts. The town was hosting a car show that weekend. It started the day we left for Minnesota, so we would miss the bulk of visitors and activities.
More than 3,000 cars were expected to participate. The town expected about 60,000 people to visit the car show over the three days. So, our little hamlet gave way to overcrowding.
As we drove back from dinner, people were lined up along the street watching the show cars drive through downtown. A police car gave some cars an escort during a makeshift parade. Some of the cars were being parked on the grassy areas downtown. Part of me would have liked to stay and take in the show. The other part of me said, “60,000 people!”
So, besides seeing our little fish town turned into Detroit car show of the north, we had a wonderful time in St. Ignace, and the rest of the Yooper. We have vowed to return in the near future.