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Published: June 21st 2018
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Copper Harbor, Michigan
We did indeed drive west and north, a total of about 180 miles. We took 28 west to around Marquette and then caught 41 and followed it all the way up to the very end of the road. We are at Copper Harbor, a small town at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lake Superior is less than a half-mile away. If you look at a map, the Keweenaw Peninsula is a fairly large peninsula that juts north off of the main Upper Peninsula. It is historically famous as a center for copper mining. It isn’t clear to me how much of that remains here, but I suspect we will find out more when we explore this peninsula next week. It is definitely still a logging area as we encountered numerous trucks hauling freshly cut logs.
And the reason for that is the forests. If we thought they were abundant further south, there is no question that we are in the Northern Woods now. Trees are tall and dense. There seem to be a lot of hardwoods, especially beech trees. But that would make some sense as beech is a
pioneer tree that overruns a freshly clearcut area. Eventually, though, the spruce and firs make their way back, after several generations, and become the mature forest.
The other industry the area supports is outdoor sports. This is a hunting, camping, and fishing paradise. Kettle lakes (carved from melting blocks of glacier ice) abound on both sides of the road, and, of course, being a peninsula, Lake Superior is on both sides.
Drive up was mostly just a pleasant punch through the dense forest. Although we did pass through Houten (pronounced HOOT-en). We didn’t know much about it, but Houten is the town that got hit by massive flooding last Sunday. We noticed a lot of dirt on the roads, and an unusual amount of road maintenance going on as we approached the town, but we didn’t realize the scope of the disaster until we talked to the people at the restaurant we stopped out.
The town saw nearly seven inches of rain in less than two hours. Built on a slope, huge boulders came crashing down with lots of mud. Sadly, one small boy was killed, and several businesses and homes were flooded out. One of the highways along the east side of the peninsula was totally destroyed. (Fortunately, we were planning on the road up the middle.)
We learned all of this while eating a fabulous lunch at Joey’s Seafood Grill, right on the main drag through Houten. I had the all you can eat chicken and popcorn shrimp platter, and Joan ate the coconut shrimp salad. I suspect their specialty, fish, would have been terrific, but I can’t eat fish, so I didn’t try. (Not sure why Joan didn’t!). But the shellfish was excellent - the breading was light and the frying was perfect. We gave it five stars on trip advisor. (Only problem is finding parking for the big rig. We lucked out again and took a double spot on the street, but I’m not sure what we would have done if it were busier.)
After lunch we just kept going and going and going, straight up the peninsula. The Fort Wilkins State Park is a great little park literally at the most northern point of mainland Michigan. The campsites are large and, with all the trees, there is a lot of privacy. If you want to explore the great Northern Forests, this would be a good place to start.
We have a special weekend planned and will be spending today getting ready for it - things start in earnest early tomorrow morning. But wifi may be spotty where we are going, so posts may not get out until next Tuesday. Weather is looking pretty good, although Lake Superior is known for quick and dramatic changes, so hopefully things will go as planned.
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