“So where are you going on vacation?” one co-worker asked me. I replied “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” Inevitably, the next question arises, “Well, what’s up there?” We Midwesterners don’t realize what we have in our own backyards. For some reason many of us seem to think we have to travel thousands of miles to find natural beauty when all we have to do is turn around.
Instead of explaining what the UP has, I will describe what it doesn’t have. The UP doesn’t have large amusement parks, nor does it have a congested interstate system that criss crosses the land. There aren’t any vast cityscapes, air or noise pollution (unless of course you consider songbird’s noise pollution). If you’re the type who enjoys all those things I mentioned before that’s great however, I wouldn’t recommend the Upper Peninsula to you.
Several descriptive words come to mind when I think of the Upper Peninsula. Unique is the first word that comes to my mind. Unique in that three of the largest fresh water lakes surround this piece of land. These lakes, of course, are Huron, Michigan and the largest, Lake Superior. Unique that this landmass contains mountains to the west (the Porcupines), pristine forests (Hiawatha National Forest), beautiful rocky shorelines that rival any found on the east and west coast (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore), huge sand dunes (Great Sable Banks), lighthouses (Marquette Harbor Lighthouse), and don’t forget the large shipyards of Sault Ste. Marie.
Rugged is another word that comes to mind. A ruggedness only found in the Upper Peninsula. Take a hike on one of the many trails found in the Hiawatha National Forest and you’ll discover how rugged the land is. Because of deforestation in the UP’s history, many of the trees found today in the UP are young compared to, say, the Sequoias found in Yosemite National Park. Still, I wonder if what I see around me on these remote trails is what the pioneers discovered all those years ago.
Water. You might ask yourself did she just write water? Yes, you can’t think of the Upper Peninsula without thinking of water. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a perfect example of how water, more specifically Lake Superior, affects the shoreline. Over time water has beaten down the surface of the shoreline creating a smooth surface on the cliffs as well as creating unique (there’s my favorite word) ridges found along the shore. Water isn’t limited to the shoreline, however. Inland there are thousands of manmade and natural ponds and lakes as well as one of my favorite subjects to photograph, waterfalls. There are an estimated two hundred waterfalls found in the Upper Peninsula. All of these falls vary in size from small cascading waterfalls found along side the road (such as Alger Falls found along M-28 just entering the city of Munising) to Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, found in the eastern part of the Peninsula. All these waterfalls are distinct and beautiful.
Beautiful. Simple enough. Every aspect of the Upper Peninsula is beautiful. From the mountains to the shoreline, the Upper Peninsula is truly a hidden gem of the Midwest. Crystal blue streams, wild Lake Superior, emerald green forests the UP is one of my favorite destinations. The next time you’re pondering a travel destination that is a little rough, unique and truly away from it all, consider the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While it might not be considered an exotic destination, it will be a memorable one. Then, the next time someone asks you what’s up there, you can tell him or her exactly what he or she is missing!