Michigan's Upper Peninsula is picture-perfect

Spray Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan. Credit - Photographs by Craig Blacklock, from the book, Pictured Rocks - From Land and Sea.

After recently viewing the Craig Blacklock photo exhibit at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, I was reminded how beautiful the shores of Lake Superior are. The exhibit contains photos of both the North Shore and South Shore, including the area near Munising, Mich., called "Pictured Rock National Lakeshore." This is indeed a national treasure.

During the last week of August, my husband, Fred, and I spent a few days in Munising and the surrounding area. As expected, the drive through northeast Wisconsin and the western side of Michigan's Upper Peninsula treated us to some beautiful scenery. Fall colors were just beginning to dress the landscape with the sumac, red maples and birch displaying brilliant reds, yellows and rusts. A few detours, missed turns and last minute changes to our predetermined routes added to the beauty and presented us with interesting sights and topics for discussion.

Why were small wire cages on wheels placed at the end of some rural driveways? Our guess was to keep the animals from strewing garbage all over on garbage pickup day. We saw sand hill cranes and several flocks of wild turkeys in fields along the roads both in Michigan and Wisconsin. We saw white tail deer and signs indicating presence of bear and moose but spotted neither of those.

Our route on the way up took us through the little town of Crystal Falls, Mich., the Iron County seat. The courthouse is an imposing castle-like structure built in 1890 and stands at the head of Superior Avenue. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Iron River and Crystal Falls were vying for the role of county seat in 1889. The "Stealing of the Court House" was the topic of much conversation and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, but the Crystal Falls website shares some interesting stories about the controversy.


From Crystal Falls, we drove to Ishpeming — home to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum. Driving from Ishpeming on U.S. 41, beautiful Lake Neguanee welcomes you to the town of Neguanee.

As we drove to Marquette, our mouths were watering for the traditional Yooper delicacy — the pasty. We walked around the Marquette waterfront and asked for recommendations on finding the best pasty in the area. While we were given several options, we chose to drive to Munising to a place called "Muldoon's." The sign outside of the pasty place indicates that Muldoon's has been voted the Number 1 pasty in the Upper Peninsula. We were not disappointed (although we had never eaten a pasty before, so we had nothing for comparison). Muldoon's offered the traditional beef/potato/onion pasty as well as chicken and vegetarian options.

We arrived at the waterfront in Munising and checked our options for the Pictured Rocks cruise. Since we were staying in Munising for two nights, we chose the sunset cruise, and what a picture-perfect night it was! Our cruise was approximately 2-1/2 hours long, and as we were heading back to the Munising Harbor, the sun set in the west with a brilliant red glow on the horizon and the nearly full moon rose in the east.

Craig Blacklock has captured the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's incredible formations with his amazing photography, but seeing the cliffs along Lake Superior's south shore up close is worth the trip to the U.P. The 37-mile cruise passes such points as Lovers Leap, Grand Portal, Miners Castle and Indian Head, complete with legend and lore narrated by the ship's captain. Cruises are scheduled through Oct. 21 and operate rain or shine.

We spent one day exploring the area along H58 east of Munising. There are many hiking trails and most of them provide access to Lake Superior. Good maps are available and trails are well-marked. With the access to Lake Superior from the hiking trails, you can also reach the beautiful sandy beaches.

We drove on H58 to Grand Marais, Michigan, and then south on H77 to M28. We took M28 east to 123 north to see Tahquamenon Falls. In one publication, it stated that Tahquamenon Falls is the largest between the Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls but to juxtapose those two in the same sentence was a bit misleading. However, waterfalls are one of nature's beauties and Tahquamenon Falls and the state park were impressive.

Back in Munising for our second night, we chose to eat at the "Dog Patch" (Lil Abner theme). My plate of lake trout and white fish was excellent. Next to the "Dog Patch" is a local winery which unfortunately had closed before we got back to Munising from our day trip.

The Craig Blacklock exhibit of Lake Superior photos was displayed at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona through Sept. 30.



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