miners castle from afar

Day 219 – Upper Peninsula Drive

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Day 219 of Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

With a little bit of a late morning start (lost an hour in Michigan), VANilla, Petey, and I motored up Highway 2, through Hiawatha National Forest, and toward Fayette Historic State Park.  To get to the park, we turned south at Garden Corners, followed a road along Big Bay De Noc, and passed by an old house, covered in peeling white paint with “FREE STUFF ->” spray painted in large, black freehand. 

Next to it, a smaller phrase in black spray paint demanded, “Don’t put anything here without my permission”.  I’ve passed a handful of quirky signs over my last 48,000 miles of travel, but many times I forget to mention them.  Glad I remembered this one on our Upper Peninsula Drive.

fayette historic state park on michigan's upper peninsula

Fayette Historic State Park

The Fayette Historic State Park features a 19th-century iron industry community.  About 100 years ago, Fayette was a bustling company town where barges delivered ore and ships took away tons of pig iron – the product of Fayette’s giant smelting furnaces.  The furnaces and many other original buildings still remain including a hotel, houses, the town hall, and remains of the company store.

In addition to exploring the historic buildings, visitors may take a variety of trails that follow along the bay and through the dense forest.  A handful of caches are hidden in this park in an effort to increase traffic to the area.  I found the virtual cache and one of two containers I set out to find.  Not finding the second one was disappointing. Petey and I originally set out on a low path which led to a dead end…we should have taken the overlook trail. 

At least we got to enjoy a nice view and see a deer.  Speaking of deer, I think I might be able to claim I’ve seen one in every state when I’m finished with this trip…or at least the lower 48.

deer on Michigan's upper peninsula

Palms Book State Park

After visiting Fayette Historic State Park, we turned north along Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Soon we reached Palms Book State Park known for its 45-foot deep natural spring, Kitch-iti-kipi, which is also a virtual cache. Kitch-iti-kipi is an Indian word meaning Mirror of Heaven. The crystal clear water that appears emerald green due to mineral deposits maintains a temperature of a cool 45 degrees. 

The spring features a wood raft that visitors may climb aboard and using a guide cord pull themselves across the 200-foot-wide pond.  The center of the raft is made of clear windows so that tourists may watch the aquifer pump 10,000 gallons of water a minute and spot oversize trout gliding among the limestone-coated branches of fallen trees.

Picture Rocks National Lakeshore

We spent a short time in the park before moving on to the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to enjoy Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Pictured Rocks extends forty miles along Lake Superior from Munising to Grand Marais and encompasses a fascinating wilderness:  dense forest, multihued sandstone cliffs, unique rock formations, waterfalls, rivers, and sandy beaches.   

pictured rocks national lakeshore on Michigan's upper peninsula

Miner Falls

Our first stop along the Upper Peninsula National Lakeshore was at Miners Falls.  Petey waited for me in VANilla on our first cool afternoon in about a week while I hiked along a well-maintained gravel, interpretive trail to Miners Falls.  The thick forest of trees kept most of the spitting rain from landing on me.

Miners Castle

By the time I had returned to VANilla, the sprinkle had subsided.  We turned up the gravel road toward  Miners Castle, a rock formation that stood above the sandy shores and striped sandstone cliffs.  As we bounced along the road, a wolverine crossed our path.  I’m not sure if that is common or not.  In fact, I’ve never seen a wolverine, and wasn’t exactly sure what it was.  It sort of looked like a badger or a giant, brown raccoon three sizes too big.  I had to do a little Wikipedia research for verification.

Little Beaver Lake

After visiting Miners Castle, we went in search of a campsite.  I didn’t expect to have much luck given it was late on a summer Saturday.  I had planned to explore some campgrounds outside the park, as generally they don’t fill up as quickly as campgrounds within the park. Tired of driving, however, I tried my luck at Little Beaver Lake which required maneuvering a 3 mile twisting, hilly dirt road that was off limits to vehicles in excess of 36 feet.

I couldn’t believe that the very first site was available, especially given this tiny campground only had six to eight spots in total.  I felt so lucky that I didn’t even care that my site was the one that people lugged their canoes across to get to the lake!  It was so nice to find someplace cool too…an incentive to turn on my computer rather than to lie motionless holding a fan two inches from my face. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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