Having started out my day with some pretty spectacular roadside attractions leaving Wisconsin, Michigan was not about to be outdone and provided a few roght off the bat. First up: the world’s largest corkscrew! It’s part of a sign for a liquor store/gas station situation, and had it been open I would have bought some wine there just to say I did, but alas it was around 10am so a photo op with my creepy cat and some box wine had to make do. Next up: super tall Hiawatha statue! Okay, so when it was built and the plaque installed this was the “world’s tallest Indian” as they put it in the ’60s, but the internet tells me there is one technically a bit taller in Maine though less impressive looking. Whatever the technicalities, this guy was pretty big, and welcomes visitors to the Upper Peninsula. Hooray!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, where I wish I’d planned and spent more time. It was just before Labor Day weekend so all the campsites here and even most of the backcountry spots were booked up, but if I even come back this area would be some primo backpacking territory. The waves were crazy along Lake Superior that afternoon and there was some rain predicted later on, but for the time being it looked clear and beautiful, so stopped by the Lake of the Clouds, then to another part of the park to check out some waterfalls. There may have been several occasions where I giggled about porcupines which made me think of Family Feud, and the nickname Porkies which made me think of piglets. I am children.
This trail up and down either side of a small river took me to Manido and Manabezho falls before reaching the outlet to the lake, where some rain was coming down in the distance. Instead of paying attention to that sign, I relied on my weather app radar and decided to go out the other direction to see the Nawadaha falls, too, which meant that halfway down the trail it began to rain just enough to get me pretty damp despite my nice umbrella layer of cedars. Pretty, though! And luckily fresh rain smell is the best. Anyway, I got just far enough to see the falls, turned back, and took off for my evening spot at a site down the road a ways.
This was a nice little spot where I stayed an extra day and contemplated staying even longer since I wasn’t sure it was wise to vacate an actual free established site on the holiday weekend. It was right by a stream where people came to fish, and I had taken the last open spot right by the entrance so people were trekking right behind me to access the trail, so leaving felt right after all.
So after dragging myself away from the cozy comfort of my little bed I continued onward and made my way to yet another excellent attraction, the Yoopers Tourist Trap. This place is hilarious and self effacing and made me feel like perhaps I, too, could someday create such a funky celebration of local quirkiness by raiding a Goodwill and doing some upcycling art. Watch out, DC metro area, give me some cheap land and wait for the Yuppie Tourist Trap to emerge as a beacon to busloads of visitors who get lost looking for the Air and Space Museum.
Alongside the many outhouse, fishing, and hunting jokes, there were a few gems like the world’s largest working rifle, world’s largest working chainsaw, a marker for the local snowfall record, and a shine to Vince Lombardi. All this and a rock shop! Way to be, Yoopers (note to my mother: Yooper=U.P.dweller).
That evening I settled in for a beautiful sunset in the Presque Isle Park in Marquette, which means ‘almost an island’, and checked out the Superior Dome (largest wooden dome!) and the university town before aiming toward the southern side of the peninsula.
My destination was the Kitch-iti-kipi spring, which means ‘big cold spring’ in Ojibwe, and is a gorgeous, stunningly blue natural spring in a state park. A crazy amount of water like 10,000 gallons per minute bubbles up here, and there’s a little raft boat takes people out about 20 feet into the center of the spring powered by a hand turned wheel and cable system. The raft has a centeral cutout where you can look down through the crystal clear water to see the water bubbling up and the giant trout (retired breeders from the fish farm) in the chilly water.
The only downside was, thanks holiday weekend, all the humans in a line to the one boat thing, most of whom were all up in each others’ business, and the super douchey couple behind me with a mansplaining verbally abusive to his girlfriend dude who reminded me way too much of a friend’s terrible ex were a joy to be trapped near. Good times.
The town nearby, Manistique, had a pretty beach where I stationed myself to have some virtual Disney tour fun, by which I mean I facetimed with friends who were streaming an Epcot tour on their tv. Chatting and a cheese plate were not quite a substitute for a food and wine fest in Florida, but an excellent connection. Thanks, friends! Social time to get me through my next leg of adventure.