The Coyles-DNA-X 2012 #3 Who Drew the Map?
We leave the “Soos” behind and aim G west into the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). Ever since grade school when we studied geography and had to color all the states, I was befuddled. What is that skinny piece of Michigan doing up there? It’s not even connected! It should be part of Wisconsin? Or? Little did I know the “Yoopers”, as the regions citizens are called, were trying to secede! This grassroots revolution has been brewing in the hinterland for some time and stems from the independent demeanor of the mainly Nordic, French Canadian and European locals. The rest of the state residing in the “mitten” section would be happily left behind as Superior, the 51ststate, cashed in on the regions wealth of natural resources. The once productive copper and iron ore mines have since closed but forestry and tourism have taken up the slack. Still, with only 3% of the state’s population it’s unlikely the Upper Peninsula will break free anytime soon. The area is clearly “unique” and even though beer drinking and chain sawing could be considered their national pastimes, the Yoopers enjoy over 1700 miles of shoreline on three Great Lakes, thousands of smaller lakes, copious wildlife and forests galore. There’s even a Da Yoopers Band that serenades the virtues of all things Yooper!
Do try the local favorite foods; the pasty (meat turnover) introduced by Cornish mine workers and a Finnish favorite, squeaky (?) cheese. Don’t pass by the quirky roadside attractions as they reveal the DNA of the region in all its glory!
Driving along the U.P.’s shores of beautiful Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, you can also find natural attractions like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the quaint town of Grand Marais with its beautiful beach and giant sand dunes. At some point, with no obvious boundary, we leave the Land of the Yoopers and cross into Wisconsin. The countryside becomes a little less colorful and eventually we find our next stop, Bayfield, on the western shore of Lake Superior.
Sheltered by the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield is an old fishing village turned summer resort. We stay at the tidy Bayfield Inn, a small B&B right on the harbor. With its rooftop lounge it’s a great place to watch the sunset (behind you). Around town the local favorite food is fresh whitefish and we found a restaurant that made us a delicious whitefish dinner and fresh it was! We became instant fans! Activities here include fishing, sailing, kayaking and taking the ferry over to nearby Madeline Island. The Bayfield Maritime Museum has interesting exhibits including a fishing tug which is a strange looking boat still used to fish on unpredictable Lake Superior. This lake has sunk many a ship including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald. Signs around town warn visitors about quickly changing weather conditions and to stay on shore if the “Queen” is “cranky”! Luckily we had good weather for our trip to Madeline Island where we did some hiking, shopping and lounging at the island’s many beaches. Next time we should sail around the Apostle Islands or kayak along the island’s protected harbors, when the “Queen” is in a peaceful mood!