Hear about travel to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP) as the Amateur Traveler talks to Jennifer Schuitema from Grand Rapids Michigan about travel to the northern remote part of the Great Lake State.
“The upper Peninsula of Michigan is bordered by northern Wisconsin on the west and Canada to the east, separated by the St. Mary’s River. It’s connected to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan by the Mackinac Bridge, which happens to be the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It has a diverse natural beauty. Within a relatively short distance, you can experience the shores of three of the Great Lakes: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior, islands, rocky lakeshore, and sandy beaches. Inland you have rivers, waterfalls, forests, bogs, and lots of wildlife.”
“There is lots of history there, particularly Native American and early French explorers (the early fur trade). There’s military history also, and then, of course, there’s tons of recreation in the UP also. There’s camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and hunting. If you are into winter activities, there’s snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. One of my favorite things about the UP is that it’s remote.”
We start at historic Mackinac Island, which was the nation’s second National Park. Jennifer recommends a visit to Fort Mackinac, which was built by the British in the Revolutionary War and saw action in the War of 1812. The downtown is a national historic landmark district that is “lovely, quaint and well preserved.” No cars are allowed on the island, so transportation is done with bikes, horses, and feet. The island has numerous festivals, including the Festival of the Horse, the Lilac Festival, and the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac.
From Mackinac Island, we head up to the area around Paradise Michigan on the shore of Lake Superior. “Lake Superior is the biggest and the coldest. There is something mysterious about Lake Superior”. Jennifer recommends a hike to the Tahquamenon Falls, a visit to the historic Whitefish Point Light Station, and the Ship Wreck Museum, where we can learn more about wrecks like the Edmund Fitzgerald.
We end at Sault Ste Marie and Sugar Island. Sault Ste Marie is the oldest city in Michigan. You can tour the Soo Locks, which see about 10,000 ships a year, mostly ships carrying iron ore or coal. You should also visit the Valley Camp museum on a retired freighter. Sugar island provides a quiet getaway just east of Sault Ste Marie.
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry
Grand Hotel Mackinac Island
Harbour View Inn
Main Street Inn & Suites
Mackinac Island Fudge
Mackinac Island Fudge Festival
Festival of the Horse
Fort Mackinac Tea Room
Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery
The Jockey Club
Bistro on the Green
The Woods Restaurant
Chamberlin’s Old Forest Inn
Magnuson Grand Lakefront
Bessie’s Original Homemade Pasties
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub
Whitefish Point Light Station
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Superior Birding Trail
Sault Ste. Marie
Point Iroquois Lighthouse
Askwith Lockview Motel
Ramada Plaza Sault Ste. Marie Ojibway
Timber Ridge Resort
Jennifer Schuitema – PassPorter.com
Haymaker — Adam Schuitema
feedback on Travel to Cameroon – Episode 483
I was overwhelmingly dismayed by the constant derogatory remarks made about Africa by the host Francis and by his patronizing manner with Rejoice, the country’s native. In the many, many shows that I have listened to this was the only episode that I actually felt so strongly about that I had to write. Please do not use Francis again. He is offensive.
We Africans are usually very sensitive when non-Africans talk about our continent and dare to criticise it. Most Westerners come to Africa with their stereotypes firmly cemented – and either views us as “the smiling native”, “the noble savage” or “the corrupt basketcase”. However, I really enjoyed listening to Francis; his love for Africa was obvious, and earned him the right to be critical when the situation called for it.
He’s not made me want to visit Cameroon (and I’m from Nigeria!), but I’ve really, really enjoyed listening to this episode.
Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode 484. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about shipwrecks, 1812 history and the country’s second national park as we go to the UP, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. We’ll be opening up that trip to Cambodia in 2016 pretty soon. If you want to know when that’s happening, get on the e mail list or join the private trip group at amateurtraveler.com/trip. And now let’s talk about the UP. I’d like to welcome to the show, Jennifer Schuitema, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has come to talk to us about the UP. Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer: Thank you.
Chris: And I say the UP and we’ve already gone into jargon. Where are we really talking about today?
Jennifer: The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a peninsula obviously bordered by Wisconsin, Northern Wisconsin to the West, and Canada to East separated by the St. Marys River. And it’s connected to Michigan’s lower Peninsula by the Mackinac Bridge, which happens to be the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.
Chris: I did not know that.
Chris: Why should someone go to the Upper Peninsula?
Jennifer: There’s lots of reasons to go to the Upper Peninsula. Some of my favorites is that it really has a diverse natural beauty. Within a relatively short distance, you can experience the shores of three of the Great Lakes — Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. There are islands, rocky lake shore, sandy beaches, and inland of the Upper Peninsula, you have rivers, waterfalls, forests and bogs and lots of wildlife. And then there is also a lot of history there, particularly Native Americans and early French explorers and missionaries, the early fur trade. This area is really important for the early fur trade. There’s military history also, and then of course there is tons of recreation in the UP. There’s camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hunting. And then if you’re into winter activities, which I’m not particularly but lots of people are, there is snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and dog sledding. And then one of my favorite things about the UP is that it’s remote.
Chris: You mentioned before we were recording this, when we were talking , that we just did an episode on a road trip in Ontario, and we’re just only a few miles away from where that road trip took us.
Jennifer: Yes. So your guest’s western most point on her road trip is about three hours from my eastern most point, to Ste. Marie.
Chris: So this could in fact be the second week of a very long and interesting road trip up in both the Canadian as well as the U.S. — I want to say countryside but that does not sound quite right, wilderness …
Chris: Yes, okay.
Jennifer: My husband is already afraid. I have already extended our road trip another week and he’s very afraid.
Chris: Let’s talk about getting there first of all. If I am flying in, I am probably flying into…
Jennifer: Detroit would be the closest hub airport, and it’s about four hours from Mackinaw City, which is the northern most point in the Lower Peninsula.
Chris: Okay. And usually when people talk about where they’re from in Michigan, you hold up your left hand and Mackinac point would be the top of my middle finger there in the state.
Jennifer: It would, yes.
Chris: There you go. And people don’t draw the rest … when they hold up their hand they are completely forgetting the Upper Peninsula.
Jennifer: Yes, see you have to put your other hand up there too, but …
Chris: Okay, there we go.
Jennifer: And I’m from Grand Rapids, so I am not from the UP. I am further south.
Chris: The lower left hand portion of the state.
Chris: Excellent. So what kind of itinerary would you recommend for us as we explore the Upper Peninsula?
Jennifer: Okay. I did put together an itinerary, taking into account the seven-day rule.
Chris: It is more of a guideline.
Jennifer: My first stop is Mackinac Island and I’d like to spend at least two nights on the island. And then I’m going to take us off to Paradise, Michigan after that, but there’s definitely alternatives to going up to Paradise and still staying in the eastern UP. One of them would be the Newberry and Seney area, and I will mention a couple of things about that, but mainly I’m going to concentrate, I’m going up to Paradise which is on the Lake Superior shoreline. And then I’m going to take us to Sault Ste. Marie and then finally Sugar Island, but I’m also going to offer an alternative to Sugar Island, which is Drummond Island.
Chris: Okay, excellent. And almost all of that in the U.S. and in Michigan, except for Sault Ste. Marie, we’re going to cross over briefly into Canada.
Jennifer: Oh no, no, no. There is Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Chris: I see.
Jennifer: We are going to stay in Michigan.
Chris: Okay. Well let’s do that then a little slowly. You mentioned Mackinac Island and while we were preparing for this show, I mentioned that I have actually been to Mackinac Island and it is one of, if not my first, memory in the world was getting lost on the ferry to Mackinac Island when I was two. And that is the last time I was here. I probably should have you explain why one would go to Mackinac Island and what we would do there, because my memories on that are a little more vague.
Jennifer: Okay. The thing with Mackinac Island is it can be just a day trip, and I think then a lot is lost in a day trip. It can…
Chris: Let’s talk about what Mackinac Island is first. And then let’s talk about whether we should day trip it or spend two nights as you’re suggesting.
Jennifer: It’s an island in the Straits of Mackinac, which is the strip of water that runs between the lower and upper peninsula. Mackinac Island is on the Lake Huron side. It is about eight miles around, so it is not a huge island. You can easily bike or walk around it. And it happens to be the second national park after Yellowstone. It’s no longer a national park, but for 20 years, it was the second national park of the U.S.
Chris: I did not realize that. Why was it named a national park?
Jennifer: There was a fort that was still, I don’t know, manned, I guess, by the U.S. Military, and it was gaining popularity as a tourist destination. I’m not sure of the logistics of it, but because there was a fort that was operated by the federal government, it became a national park first. And that was in 1875. And then in 1895, the fort was no longer being used from the military purposes and it was turned over to the State.
Chris: Okay. You mentioned a fort and you mentioned military history. When I hear forts in this area, I’m guessing they date back to the war of 1812.
Jennifer: Actually this fort dates back to the revolutionary war, but yes, it’s a…
Chris: We did invade Canada once before the war of 1812. We just did a lot more in that area in the war of 1812 was why I was guessing that. Okay.
Jennifer: It did see action, if you want to call it that, in the war of 1812. It was originally built to protect the straits and the fur trade was really important. And that was a route, and the island was part of the fur trade. Originally the French, this is under the control of the French and they had Fort Michilimackinac, which was in current day Mackinaw City. Then the British took it over, I’m not exactly sure what year that was, but they…
Chris: It would have been the, what we called the French and Indian war.
Jennifer: Yes, there you go. When the British took over that fort in the Lower Peninsula, they did not feel that that was a strategic location, so they moved the fort to higher ground on Mackinac Island. It was a British-built fort during the revolutionary war. It was actually built in 1780. After the revolutionary war, they didn’t turn over control of the fort until 1796, to the Americans. During the war of 1812, they re-took the island.
Chris: Okay. And just while we pause here for a second, the European name of that war is “The Seven Years War.” But why should one go today to Mackinac Island? What is different about it?
Jennifer: I still enjoy going to the fort, but there are many reasons to go there. First I just want to say that there’s a downtown main street that is lovely and quaint and beautiful and well-preserved and it’s a national historic landmark district. I just prefer not to spend a whole lot of time there. For a lot of the things that I’m going to mention, bikes are really important, because I should also mention that there are no cars on the island. That’s an important point.
Chris: No cars allowed on the island, we should say.
Jennifer: Yes. No cars allowed on the island. So the main mode of transportation would be bikes or horses. There are lots of horses on the island. But for my itinerary, bikes are really important. We bring our own bikes, but there are rental bike companies on the island. I’d suggest asking about multi day rates, because it can be quite expensive, as can many things on the island. Then we should also mention getting from the main land to the island, there’s three ferry services. I prefer Sheplers, but other two get you there just as well. You can take the ferries from either Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula.
My cousin, Tam, who is also a huge fan of the island, she prefers to take the ferry from St. Ignace. It’s a lot less crowded. It’s much more laid back. It’s just not as big of a service, the parking isn’t as crazy. And I agree with her that going from Mackinaw City sometimes can be a little bit stressful — getting your luggage off, getting it to a porter, getting it on the ferry. It is a little bit more laid back in St. Ignace. Once you get to the island, depending on where you’re staying, depends on how your luggage gets from the docks to your hotel. You’ll want to make sure you know how your hotel handles that transfer.
Chris: That also implies we know where our hotel is before we go, which is what you are recommending?
Jennifer: Oh yes. If you are going to stay on the island, you definitely need reservations.
Chris: And how far in advance in the high season, which is summer?
Jennifer: Months in advance. My mother-in-law, she also loves the island and she marks her calendar every year for when the hotel reservations open up for the one she stays at. And then she calls that day. I have had luck in the past, a couple months before, but there have also been times where I had wanted to stay at this particular hotel, and have had to choose a different one, because they were booked up for the time I wanted to go. It’s not something that you can just call up a week ahead and going to get a reservation.
Chris: When you talk about the hotel you want to stay at, do you prefer one of the great, big, stately hotels that look like they are out of the turn of the 1900s, or they have some of the smaller inns and such, what is your preference?
Jennifer: I think you’re probably referring to the Grand Hotel. And I do love to stay at the Grand Hotel, but that’s not typically where we stay. We have stayed there a couple of times and it’s quite expensive. My personal preference where, if I am not going with a group of people, it’s just my immediate family, we typically choose the Harbor View Inn. It’s not on downtown Main Street, which I like. It’s about halfway between the end of Main Street and Mission Point Resort. I think it’s a good compromise. You’re not in a busy area, but you can still easily get there. You can walk there, bike there very quickly. And in my opinion, for the island, it’s very reasonably priced and it includes breakfast, which is a nice little bonus. If you are lucky you will get a great view of the straits from that hotel.
My cousin, Tam, would kill me if I didn’t mention the Main Street Inn and Suites. She loves it. It is right on downtown Main Street. They’ve stayed there every year. It’s very nice. You get kitchenette, which is not something you would normally get in a Mackinac Island hotel room. They have turn down service. They leave fudge on your pillow.
Chris: Fudge? Okay.
Jennifer: Yes. We’ll get into that too.
Chris: I’m ahead of you there.
Jennifer: It’s very nice. It’s not the spot that I prefer to stay in. And then the Grand Hotel you mentioned is…I do love staying at the Grand Hotel, but when I’m there, I feel…it is a resort. So I feel more isolated, and we paid a lot of money to stay there, so you want to stay there and do the things they have. You want to swim in the Esther Williams pool and play croquet on the lawn and be there, rather than biking and doing all the other things that are wonderful to do on the island.
Chris: Okay, excellent. We have to talk about the fudge.
Jennifer: I don’t actually know the origin of why there is fudge there, but there are several fudge shops, and it is very good. And they make that right there in the front, and it’s great to watch them pour it out on the marble slabs and shape it and slice it. It is kind of mesmerizing to watch. And it’s really good to eat. I always buy some before I leave, and they have other wonderful candies and each fudge shop is basically a huge candy shop as well.
Chris: Have you been to the Fudge Festival?
Jennifer: No. I’ve been to the Lilac Festival and Festival of the Horse is also a great time to go. That’s in early August. They have horse parades. Smaller kids can ride horses within a corral, and there are lots of activities. Mackinac Island has a great, great website that list all the details of their festivals. Then the Lilac Festival is in early June. And then there is also the Chicago Yacht Clubs race to Mackinac, which is in July.
Chris: Okay. From Chicago, one would guess?
Chris: Okay, excellent. Now we haven’t even made it to the Upper Peninsula yet. Are there other things we should cover in Mackinac island before we leave the island?
Jennifer: Oh yes.
Jennifer: Definitely. Now we have a hotel reservation, and when we get to the docks and make sure our luggage is being transferred, we prefer to go directly to the fort. We usually arrive around lunch time, and there is a great restaurant up there run by the Grand Hotel, called The Tea Room. The food may not be great, I mean it is, it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not farm to table or anything like that. It’s just good regular food. But the view is amazing. You’re on a former military fort and it’s right along the edge of the cliff, and you got a great view of the straits and downtown and all the great buildings that are on the island.
When we’re done with lunch, you are now at the revolutionary war fort. You’ve got to spend some time there, and they do cannon fires, rifle fires, marches, kind of living history kind of stuff. And we have an 11-year old, and when she was about 6, I’d say we really started getting more into the fort, because we wanted her to know about the history. And then I was like, “Wow, this is really cool. I’ve been going here my whole life and I really did not know all of this.” And it really is quite interesting. And then with your admission to the fort, you also have access to the historical buildings on Market Street, which is right behind Main Street. I recommend finishing out that tour. There is living history re-enactment. My daughter’s favorite is the working blacksmith. Every time we’ve gone, it‘s been a young woman who is the blacksmith that day, and it’s operational. They’re making things right in front of her. And she thinks it is so cool that a woman is making these awesome things. And you can actually buy the things they make. She thinks that’s really cool.
And then after the fort and Market Street, we typically go back to our hotel at that point. We like to stop at Doud’s Market, which is right at Fort and Main Street. It’s a great grocery store on the island and pick up just something for dinner, and just relax in our room, enjoy the view, and rest up for the next day. As soon as day two comes, we are on our bikes. We either bike around the island and stop at British Landing, where the British invaded the island in the war of 1812, and see St. Anne’s church and Mission Church and all of the great things around the island.
Or we’ll go into the interior of the island and bike the interior where there’s limestone formations to see. Arch Rock is a landmark that you have to see when you’re on the island. You can get to it from biking around the island, from the shoreline. You can walk upstairs, or you can see it from the interior of the island as well. And it’s definitely worth the stop. There’s also the Fort Post Cemetery, which is an old cemetery on the interior of the island, and it’s maintained by Veterans Affairs. It’s very nice and peaceful. I like the interior of the island. It’s quiet, it’s tree covered, it’s not quite so crazy with tourists and busyness.
Chris: Excellent. We probably need to move on to other parts of the Upper Peninsula, so this is added to our show.
Jennifer: Okay. Absolutely. I am just going to wrap up a few Mackinac Island things. You can go horseback-riding on the island. You can kayak on the island. And then just to mention a few other restaurants that we really enjoy — The Jockey Club, which is right Jewel, the Grand Hotel’s golf course. And then also over at Mission Point, which is a really pretty place, is the Bistro on the Greens. It’s outside. You’ve got a great view of the straits. They have an executive putting green, which my daughter loves. So if that interests you, we can do the putting green there while you are over at Mission Point having lunch. And then, The Woods, which is another restaurant run by the Grand Hotel, is out at Stonecliffe. So it’s a little bit more secluded, quiet and the venison medallions are the way to go, out at The Woods.
Chris: Where to next?
Jennifer: If you’ve started in Mackinaw City, you will now cross the bridge and you’ve got a couple of options here for direction. I am going to suggest going up to Paradise, because it’s on Lake Superior. I love to be on one of the lakes. That’s my big thing.
Chris: Now, why Lake Superior, because you had a choice of three?
Jennifer: Lake Superior is the biggest and the coldest and just there is something a little mysterious about Lake Superior, and I can go to Lake Michigan. I can drive 45 minutes and be at Lake Michigan anytime I want. I’ve already been to Lake Huron, because I was on Mackinac island, so I am going to head to Lake Superior next. It would be wrong of me not to suggest that someone could head over to the Seney and Newberry area where there is also wonderful things of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. There is canoeing, kayaking. Bird watching would be a great thing there in the wildlife refuge. And if you are going to head over that area, you’re going to want to stay…
Chris: And where is that area?
Jennifer: That is headed a little bit…you’re still in the eastern UP. You’re just a little bit inland. You’re not on one of the lakes. You’re more in the center of the UP, but still in the eastern UP. You’ll want to stay at Chamberlin’s Old Forest Inn, if you are going to stay in the Seney, Newberry area.
Jennifer: Up in Paradise, it is very small. I don’t even think it’s really like a town, but it has a couple small town motels, I would call them. And then it also has one regular hotel and it’s called Magnuson Grand Hotel. It’s right on Lake Superior and they have access on their property to a sandy beach right on the lake. And they also have a pool, which could be important for families traveling with kids. Kids love pools. And then one other thing, I got to bring this back a little bit, when you cross over the bridge to St. Ignace, if you are interested in trying a pastie.
Chris: Like the Cornish pasties, so it’s a pastry, looks like a calzone or a turnover, that’s filled with meat, cheese, and that sort of things?
Jennifer: Yes. To me, it looks like a calzone, that’s perfect. I like that description.
Chris: Do you know why it looks the way it does?
Jennifer: I don’t know. Why?
Chris: It is the history of it. It has a lip of where the pastry gets folded over itself. It closes it up and the Cornish miners would hold onto that and eat the rest of it and throw that away, because they were tin miners and their hands would be contaminated with the metal they’ve been mining. So they needed some part of it that they weren’t going to eat. That became the handle of the lunch that they would bring.
Jennifer: That’s great. I didn’t know that. If you do want to try one of those, which is like a UP tradition, you’ll want to stop at Bessie’s in St. Ignace. And you’ll want to get the chicken pastie plate, which comes with coleslaw.
Chris: And that’s pretty soon after we get over the bridge?
Jennifer: Yes. St. Ignace is immediately on the other side. And you can Google it and get the address. It’s totally Google-able.
Chris: Okay. I bet anybody there could tell us too.
Jennifer: Yes. And then up in Paradise…the reason I took us up there is because it is very close to Tahquamenon Falls and to Whitefish Point. The main attraction is the upper and lower falls of the Tahquamenon River. There is a four-mile hike between the upper and lower falls. You can drive between the two if you’d like. The upper falls is much more dramatic and they are one of the larger waterfalls east of the Mississippi. But the lower falls are very pretty too. They’re more serene, I would guess I would define them as, and often the water is stained a rusty color. And that’s from the Cedar tannins. Also at the upper falls is the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub restaurant. And it marks the location of the former Camp 33, which is the logging company that originally owned much of that area. And you can eat there. My husband says they have good beer. I’m not a big beer drinker, but…
Chris: I should say since we were hiking four miles here between the upper and the lower falls, what time of year do you recommend for this? I know that sometimes the mosquitoes get a little thick up here and sometimes the snow gets a little thick. So is there an optimal time to go?
Jennifer: I have typically gone during the summer and fall. The fall because of the beautiful color tours, the fall color tour.
Chris: And about when? Early fall, since we are relatively far north?
Jennifer: I believe the peak color season is in the last week of September, and the first two weeks in October. I’m not a real cold-weather person. A lot of people do enjoy being up there in the winter. It’s just not something I’m particularly interested in. Snowmobiling is really big up there. The brewery actually closes down in the late fall and the early spring, but they’re open in the winter for the snowmobile season.
Chris: Oh, interesting , okay.
Jennifer: But in the late fall and then the early spring is kind of the dead zone, I guess I would call it. I’ve been to Mackinac Island in the spring, and it is kind of rainy and cold. And you don’t have the benefit of the colors. I wouldn’t go in the spring, but…
Chris: So summer to early autumn for the UP and for Mackinac Island is what I am hearing?
Chris: Okay, excellent. What else should we do? Where are we to next?
Jennifer: While we are over in the Tahquamenon area, there is also great canoeing, kayaking right on the river. There is rental companies. I know there is a rental company that’s west of the Tahquamenon State Falls Park, but I believe on the other side of the lower falls, you can also rent kayaks. And then there are tons of trials. If you are bored by the falls, walk out on the trails there. There is lots of little lakes and beautiful trails to hike in.
North of Paradise, you’ll want to visit Whitefish Point Light Station, which is another historic site on the National Register. The light tower has continuously operated since 1849, and it’s the oldest operating light house on Lake Superior. And it’s pretty important since all of the freighters leaving and entering Lake Superior pass it by. This area of Lake Superior is known as the graveyard of the Great Lakes, because of the number of shipwrecks right in this area. And Whitefish Point is home to the shipwreck museum.
Chris: How interesting. Okay.
Jennifer: The museum gives the maritime history of Lake Superior, its shipwrecks and most notably, the Edmund Fitzgerald. So the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk about 17 miles from Whitefish Point.
Chris: Got it, famed of song and story.
Jennifer: Yes. And so the museum extensively covers how that happened and the history of that. And if you are really interested in light houses, you can actually stay overnight in the crew quarters of the light house, reservations highly suggested. I’ve never done that, but it sounds pretty cool. After you have toured the buildings and the museum of Whitefish Point, be sure to walk the boardwalk. There is a beautiful sandy beach right on Lake Michigan. And you get a nice view from this point in all different directions looking out onto Lake Superior. One other thing to note about this is the Superior Birding Trail runs from Seney National Wildlife Refuge to the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory at Whitefish Point. And there are 14 sites. And from what I understand, it’s a pretty important spot for migratory birds. I’m going to move onto Sault Ste. Marie.
Chris: Now you say Sault Ste. Marie, and yet when I see this spelled, it’s not spelled anything like that.
Jennifer: It is pronounced Sault Ste. Marie. It is French and I believe it either means the rapids of St. Mary or the falls of St. Mary. And it’s right on the St. Marys River and there is Sault Ste. Marie across the international bridge. So there is Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. We are going to concentrate on Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, or the Sault. And another thing, while you’re driving from Paradise to Sault Ste. Marie, you’re going to want to divert off of 123 onto Lake Superior Lake Shore Drive. It’s a really pretty Lake Shore Drive and stop at Point Iroquois Lighthouse, another great stop along the lake. You can’t miss it.
I would say for most visitors the Soo Locks are the main attraction in Sault Ste. Marie. The locks are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. And they see about 10,000 ships a year. They do close, I think for about 3 months in the winter, because of the ice. The main cargo is iron ore and coal. So it’s like serious business. It’s working, functional, important locks. But you can go through them on a locks tour boat. And I have to confess that I haven’t done the locks tour boat in many years, but my friend, Melissa, she was just up there with her family last month. So I asked her to refresh my memory. And she said it takes about two hours to do the locks tour, and you do go through both the American locks and the Canadian locks. And she thought it was…she also has an 11-year-old daughter, and all three of them thought it was a great thing to do. And her daughter thought it was really cool that she could reach out of the boat and touch Canada.
One other thing about Sault Ste. Marie, it is the oldest city in Michigan.
Chris: I didn’t realize that. Okay.
Jennifer: Yes. It was founded by the French in 1668. Originally, it was a Native American village, and Father Marquette, who was a Jesuit missionary, he left his mark all over the UP and other places as well. He helped establish the first mission in Sault Ste. Marie here in 1668. It became a permanent city, and another important place for early fur trading. In Sault Ste. Marie, I’ve got a couple of places to suggest for accommodations. My friend Melissa, she stayed at the Askwith Lockview Motel while she was there. And she described it as comfortable and affordable. When I have been there, I’ve stayed at the Ojibway, which is a historical hotel. And it is not operated by Ramada, but I certainly would stay there again. It’s not super fancy, but you’re in Sault Ste. Marie, so there’s not a ton of fancy places to stay. At the Ojibway is the Freighters restaurant, which looks right over the locks. I’ve eaten there before. I don’t remember the food much, but I definitely remember the view.
While you’re in Sault Ste. Marie, you’ve got to try the whitefish. And the place you’re going to try it is the Lockview Restaurant. That’s the place to have it. They serve fresh caught that day whitefish. So that is where I go for that. And the other thing about the locks, if you don’t want to do the two-hour boat tour, there’s a viewing platform there also that you can observe the comings and goings of the locks. It’s pretty impressive to see these enormous ships going through.
Chris: I know that I am a nerd, but I do enjoy those. Standing at the locks, whether it be the little locks at the Erie Canal or the great big locks at the Panama Canal. I do find it…If you haven’t done it, you might be surprised at how fun it is.
Jennifer: Yes. It’s totally fascinating. It really is. It’s amazing. The locks, they are getting around the falls at the St. Marys River. The rapids, I am not sure what they qualify as.
Chris: The Sault part of Sault Ste. Marie.
Jennifer: Yes, and it drops…the water does fall 21 feet there. The Soo Locks, they date back to 1855. So they’ve been around a while. Also in the Sault, we want you to go to the museum ship called Valley Camp. It is a museum that’s located on a massive retired freighter. You can explore the whole ship and its exhibits. It is the oldest city in Michigan, so there are historical district, there are businesses that are very old, that the building has been preserved. The main area of that is called Water Street Historic block.
I think we’re going to move on to Sugar Island. That’s the last stop on my itinerary. Sugar Island is where the St. Marys River splits and forms Lake George and Lake Nicolet. And then those lakes wrap around the island and then the river reforms at the end of the island.
Chris: Now we are just off the UP to the east of Sault Ste. Marie. So we didn’t go very far here, to get to Sugar Island.
Jennifer: No. It’s a ferry. You need to take a ferry. There is no bridge or anything, but it’s very close. But it’s surprisingly isolated. I’ve been to Sugar Island, mainly because my cousin has a beautiful old cottage on Sugar Island. And when I was going to recommend people go to Sugar Island, I felt like I needed to brush up on how people stay on the island. I was surprised at how little there is on the internet. It’s like a dead zone for internet research. I called up my cousin to make sure I could make some recommendations on staying there, and she said it is mainly vacation homes that you would need to find on VRBO or puremichigan.org. They have listings there, places to stay. There is one resort. And I’m going to call it a rustic resort, and it’s called Timber Ridge. I would say, I don’t know for sure, but it’s mainly, it seems like it will cater more to fishermen, hunters, boaters, that type of vacationer.
Chris: It sounds like to me, that in general, the reason we would go to the UP from Michigan is that it’s more remote and more… less city, more wilderness. And the reason we go to Sugar Island is because there is just way too many people in the UP.
Jennifer: Yeah. That is a good way of putting it. And it’s an island. I love going to islands. I would call it a locals island, like the bar, the Hilltop Bar, it’s there for the locals. It’s not there for people coming over to stay on the island. And the gas station and the convenience stores are there for the people that live on the island. The reason that I really like Sugar Island is because it’s like one of those places, and there’s not very many, that I just feel like I can just actually relax, enjoy the view, sit on the outer deck chairs, have a fire by the shore or a fire in the fire place, and really kind of get away, which is funny in the UP, because when I am in the UP…
Chris: You have already gotten away.
Jennifer: I have an agenda. But I still have an agenda when I’m in the UP. There’s not much of an agenda when I’m on Sugar Island. If you want go for a canoe ride, you just pull the boat out onto the water, because you are already right there. It is not a big deal to go for a hike or you don’t need a trail map, because you can just walk across the street and walk in the woods. It is all right there for you to relax and enjoy.
There are a couple of points of interest thought, that you just have to mention when you talk about Sugar Island and that is Governor Osborn, who was a Michigan Governor, he had a residence there, and he loved it. He loved it so much that when he died in Georgia, that his body was brought up and buried on Sugar Island, his beloved Duck Lake or Duck Island, and you can go there. His property is now the Osborn Preserve which is open to the public. You can go hike there. There’s eight miles of lake shore. And you can still see the remains of his residence. There is kind of a blocked building there that was his library and there is a chimney there. It is kind of ruins at this point, I would call it.
And then a really early mission, I think that this mission actually predates Father Marquette’s mission in Sault Ste. Marie, and there is the ruins of that also on the island. The Native American history on this island is really, really old. I read one date, and I was like, “I’m not even going to repeat that,” because that is really, really old. And they came there for the sugar maples, which is why the island is called Sugar Island.
Chris: I’m going to guess it could go back easily 10,000 years.
Jennifer: It said 2500BC.
Chris: Sure. I can easily believe that, because you are talking about an area that is right there on the river, where there is going to be plentiful game and fish. And if you’re going to be living in this area at all, it’s kind of a natural place to be, be defensible and those sort of things. Excellent. We need to start wrapping this up. Before we do, you limited the places that we want to go in the UP at my suggestion, because we talked about a one week trip. If we hadn’t limited it that way, we’ve got…actually most of the UP is still to our west from the places that we talked about today. Are there places that you edited for time that are worth mentioning?
Jennifer: Oh yes. There are tons of places that I edited. I strictly limited myself to the eastern UP. But if you wanted to travel west along the Lake Superior shoreline to see Grand Marais, Grand Sable Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Marquette. Those are all great places. But that’s a completely separate trip that you cannot just go see that in a day. It’s amazing up there. The North Country Trail runs right along that stretch of the UP. And then if you really want a big adventure, you can continue on to Houghton or Copper Harbor and take the ferry to Isle Royale National Park, which is actually part of Michigan, but that’s a trek. And I’ve never done that. That’s definitely something that as a Michigander I totally want to do. I am gung-ho for that, but…
Chris: And the Isle Royale being the island that is the northernmost part of Michigan that the Canadian border jogs around to include it.
Chris: Up there by Thunder Bay.
Jennifer: And then as I had mentioned earlier, the Newberry Seney area, the Fox River, the Two Hearted River, Seney Wildlife Refuge, those are all great places. And then if you even go further, there is Porcupine Mountains. It’s a great, great spot to be.
Chris: Okay. Just so people know, people are going to write and say, “You talked about the UP and you missed my favorite spot, which is blank.”
Jennifer: I know.
Chris: It’s true. We did.
Chris: We limited this and some time we’ll come back and do the other half. What’s going to surprise me about the UP?
Jennifer: I think that a lot of people might be surprised by the vastness of the Great Lakes. I think a lot of people, when they hear the word “lake,” they aren’t quite getting what the Great Lakes are.
Chris: That these are the largest inland, freshwater seas in the world, some of the largest ones in the world, especially Superior. That sort of thing?
Jennifer: Right. Yes.
Chris: And I was looking, Lake Superior, in terms of size from end to end, is just a hair short of 350 miles. So that is pretty big.
Jennifer: Yes. And then just one other little surprising thing, this is like 20 years ago. It was the first time that my husband and I had gone to the UP together, and he was nervous about bears. I was like, “Why are you worried about this?” I just thought it was silly. I was kind of annoyed actually, and we are driving along, and the other thing, I said to him, “They’re black bears.” So I was like, “They’re just like big dogs.” And we are driving along and a black bear comes out of the woods, right in front of our car. And I was really shocked. I think he was satisfied that I was proven wrong, and it was nothing like a big dog. That was pretty surprising to me. I don’t like to be wrong, so yeah.
Chris: I just thought of the other fact that is surprising to me about the size of the Great Lakes. Of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes, combined between the 5 of them, have one-fifth of the world’s freshwater.
Jennifer: Yes. It’s a wonderful resource. There is a lot of conspiracy theories about stealing the water and all of that too.
Chris: Well, we would like some of that in California, I will admit, if you could figure out a way to get it here.
Jennifer: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: Anything else we should know about the Upper Peninsula before I get to my last three questions?
Jennifer: I would just make sure that you pack some cool weather clothes. Even if it’s in the summer, it can still get pretty chilly up there at night. And then you’ll want to make sure you pack your favorite form of bug protection, particularly for mosquitoes, flies. I’m always worried about ticks, but I did a little Google search, and they’re not such a big problem in the eastern UP, but definitely ticks are a bigger problem west.
Chris: Okay. Last three questions, one thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in the UP.”
Jennifer: You have to laugh and say, “Only on Mackinac Island, when you have road apple soup spattered on your back, because you don’t have then fenders on your bike, and a local says “told you so,” because all the locals have fenders on their bikes, because they don’t want poop on their back.”
Chris: An important safety tip there, or hygiene tip maybe.
Jennifer: It is. It happens. It really, really happens.
Chris: That just took out a little bit of the fun out of biking on Mackinac Island. Fenders.
Jennifer: No. You still…no. All the rental bikes have fenders too.
Chris: Good to know.
Jennifer: If you rent a bike, they protect you well.
Chris: Finish this thought: You really know you are in the UP, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when… What?
Jennifer: When you’ve eaten fresh caught whitefish, when you have seen a freighter, and when you’ve touched Lake Superior.
Chris: Okay. And if you had to summarize the UP in just three words…
Jennifer: Up north.
Chris: That’s two.
Jennifer: Fresh water.
Chris: That’s four.
Jennifer: And views. I know, I cheated. Sorry.
Chris: I believe you owe me two words here. When you come back on, you only get one word.
Jennifer: But you have to love the views out there. They’re wonderful. And the freighters, don’t miss out on the freighters.
Chris: Excellent. Our guest, again, has been Jennifer Schuitema. Jennifer, where can people read more about your travels?
Jennifer: Occasionally you can find me in the PassPorter Newsletter, or on passporter.com, a Disney travel site, as a guest contributor. And if you’re interested in picking up some reading for your trip to the UP, my husband Adam Schuitema has a novel set in the Upper Peninsula, called “Haymaker.” It was published this year by Switchgrass Books.
Chris: In what genre is the book?
Jennifer: It’s literary fiction.
Chris: Okay. Excellent. Jennifer, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me.
Chris: In news of the community, we had some feedback on last weeks’ show on Cameroon, most of it positive. Let me read the one that was not, and that’s is from Tamara who said, “I was overwhelmingly dismayed by the constant derogatory remarks made about Africa by the host, Francis, and his patronizing manner with rejoice the country’s native. In the many, many shows that I have listened to, this was the only episode that I actually felt so strongly about it that I had to write. Please do not use Francis again, he is offensive.” By contrast, David who is from Africa said this, “We Africans are usually very sensitive when non-Africans talk about our continent and dare to criticize it. Most westerners come to Africa with their stereotypes firmly cemented and either view us as the smiling native, the noble savage, or the corrupt basket case. However, I really enjoyed listening to Francis. His love for Africa was obvious and earned him the right to be critical when the situation called for it. He has not made me want to visit Cameroon, and I am from Nigeria, but I have really, really enjoyed listening to this episode.”
We will not always please everybody with the episodes. I certainly understand where the criticism was coming from. I tried, in the episode, to point out that the criticism that was coming from Francis was from someone who is so much in love with Africa that he is planning on spending five years there. But I can understand that that did not come through to everyone.
With that we are going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler, because I’ve got to pack. We are off on a family trip to Europe tomorrow. If you have any questions, send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com. Or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can follow me on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram as chris2x. And as always, thanks so much for listening
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.