Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) is a section of the state located north of Wisconsin and sandwiched between the beautiful coastlines of Lake Michigan (to the south) and Lake Superior (to the North).

While originally a site for trapping and lumber, and by the 19th century, especially mining iron and copper, it now primarily serves as a base for paper manufacturing and wilderness tourism.

Join us as we explore some of the most scenic spots in our next blogs of both of these coasts and a couple of small towns.

Munising Michigan

Munsing Michigan is 2,500-person city that is one of the state’s primary Lake Superior tourist areas. The city has a number of waterfalls, a national recreation area (Grand I-land) and access to a national forest (Hiawatha). We, however, had another agenda. Our primary reason for visiting Munising was to explore another national site—this the country’s first national lakeshore.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is 380 miles long, 160 miles wide; Overall, it is about the size of the state of Maine. With a maximum depth of 1,300 feet, it contains enough water to cover the 48 contiguous states to a depth of five feet. It is responsible for turning this timber (now used to make paper) and fishing site into a tourist attraction.

The cliffs consist of two different layers of sandstone. The lower Munisian layer was created by the pressure of the last Ice Age and consists of relatively soft rock. The upper capstone layer of Dolamitic sandstone is harder. Fierce lake storms buffets the shoreline. The water permeates the softer sandstone, freezes and creates cracks which erode the lower rocks more rapidly than the upper rocks. This creates dramatically shaped cliffs that erode from the bottom, creating sea caves and irregular shapes that are often covered with overhangs. The sand, meanwhile, consists of different minerals each of which oxidizes to form different colors. For example:

  • Iron creates reds and oranges;
  • Copper turns blue and green;
  • Manganese (not to speak of the tannins from decaying trees and plants) forms browns and blacks; and
  • Limonite is responsible for whites.

The result is 13 miles of captivatingly shaped, rainbow-colored cliffs (interspersed with a few fully eroded crystalline beaches and pocked by a few waterfalls) that rise 50 to 200 feet above the surface of the lake. The combination creates dramatic and colorful features. There are monumental headlands, such as the 80-foot Miner’s Castle, 180-foot Indian Head and 200-foot Graham’s Portal. Deep, rainbow-hued sea caves such as Chapel and Rainbow Caves, coastal waterfalls, such as the delicate Bridal Veil falls and flat surfaces, such as Rainbow Rock that might be mistaken for the canvas of an abstract impressionist painter. Then there are oddities, like the mushroom-shaped Chapel Rock, about ten feet into the lake, but topped by a large tree whose nutrients come from a root that is suspended, like a telephone wire, from the top of the rock to the top of mainland cliff.

While many of the cliffs can be viewed via a coastal trail the best way to see the carved shapes and the colors is by boat, or for the adventuresome (especially give the 46 degree waters when we were there), by kayak.

We took a boat tour, followed by walks to a few waterfalls and along the coast from Miner’s Castle. While the coast is certainly dramatic, the inland portion of the park, with its expanses of northern forests, meadows, inland lakes, waterfalls (including Miners, Wagners, Horseshoe and Munising) and colorful patches of wildflowers offers their own, very different rewards.

DSC01670Bridalveil FallsMiners Beachpainted rocksoverhangIndian Head rockbattleship rock rowchaptel rockDSC01635archDSC01665

Munising Restaurant

One cannot, however, live by beauty alone. We had dinner at what was generally agreed to be the best restaurant in the area, Foggy’s Steakhouse.

After considering a local fried perch dinner, Tom decided to take advantage of the restaurant’s reputation for steak by ordering a 16-ounce ribeye (with salad and baked potato; plenty not only for dinner, but also for the next day’s lunch) For $28.99, it sounded like a bargain. That until he moseyed over to the grill and saw what looked like half a cow. Although listed on the menu as a 20-ounce bone-in Cowboy ribeye ($38.99), this was far larger than 20 ounces. The chef said that their supplier was out of the 20 ounce and offered the restaurant a number of 38-40 ounce steaks for the same price—a discount the restaurant passed on to the customer at the price of the 20 ounce. Who could pass this bargain up? Especially after another patron assured Tom that it had incredible taste. Throwing caution and discretion to the wind, he ordered the monster and was very, very glad he did. Not only did he have an incredible dinner that night, but the leftovers gave him  three lunches for less than the normal cost of a 12-ounce rib-eye. Wow!  Given the virtually non-existent wine list (two reds and three whites by the glass, from two liter bottles), hechose a local, 51K IPA.

While Tom made a good choice, Joyce did not fair well. As she doesn’t like steak, she tried to get something else. But the restaurant was out of both her choices of BBQ pork ribs and prime rib. She ended up with a very disappointing pizza (with ham, sausage, peperoni and mushrooms) and equally disappointing glass of pinot gris.

Munising Hotel

We stayed at the Roam Inn in Munising Michigan. We were nervous when we pulled up at this property but were pleasantly surprised with the room. The lobby is in the restaurant/bar area. But we were greeted warmly and given lots of information. When you stay here, you also get 10% off at a couple of other places with the same owner. This includes gas at their Hill Country store…which is great because gas is expensive in the area. The room was very large with a separate living room area. Microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker were all in the room. Bed was very comfortable. It is a very nice place to stay if you are in the area.

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