Tag Archives: Northern Michigan University

Engaging Upper Peninsula

For such a sparsely-populated area, this are of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a surprising number of things to do. When we weren’t hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or biking Grand Island National Recreation area, we went exploring the Munising and Marquette areas.

Marquette is the epicenter of Upper Peninsula civilization. Home to Northern Michigan University, it is a medium size town with shopping, restaurants, and a lovely network of bike trails. Similar to Bentonville, we were able to park at a trailhead that offered access to paved trails (for me) as well as mountain bike trails (for Jeff). We spent several days on these trails as we each got our respective work out!

030Marquette was originally a significant port city for the iron ore shipping business. In the mid-1800’s, the industrial revolution was in full swing with an insatiable need for iron ore which was mined and smelted along the Great Lakes shores. Originally, cargo ship loading was a laborious several-day process involving 20 to 30 men and wheelbarrows. To improve efficiency, a pocket dock system was developed which loaded a series of holds (pockets) atop a long dock which could be rapidly emptied into ships below. This reduced loading time from days to hours, and several ships could be loaded at the same time. Remnants of a giant pocket dock stand proudly in Marquette’s harbor. Historical artifact? Industrial art? Eyesore? You be the judge!

031We always check theater offerings wherever we go, and lucked into a performance of “What a Wonderful Feeling” on the WMU campus as part of their summer theater schedule. The musical takes place in a rehearsal studio during the filming of “Singin’ in the Rain” and brings to life the little-known story of the tempestuous love triangle between Gene Kelly, co-director Stanley Donen and their assistant, Jeanne Coyne. The play director was also the playwright and did a fantastic casting job. The one-set, 5 actor play (6 actors when you add the piano player) was set in a tiny 100 seat theater, but the singing, acting and dancing was amazingly professional. There were loads of fantastic tap dancing and jazz choreography, in period musical style. Kathleen and Jay – you would have Loved It!!

Along the way, we stumble into the most offbeat gems. Such is the Lakenenland Sculpture garden, located between Marquette and Munising. The owner has built dozens of giant sculptures out of scrap iron and planted them along a half mile trail for viewing – for free! Curious, we stopped in and meandered through the trail,  awestruck of the scale of the works that range from whimsical to artsy to downright political. Later that week, we stopped back in for a music festival held on the property. We listened to a surprisingly good hometown band play country music favorites to a local crowd. The best things in life are free!

A small fishing fleet still resides and operates near Munising so we stopped in several times to stock up on fish dip, fresh-caught lake trout, and smoked whitefish. Yum!

We’ve really enjoyed our time here in Yooper land. Aside from a couple of rainy days, the weather was mostly fantastic with cool nights and warm sunny days. The lake views are just beautiful. Living so close to the ocean for so many years, the lake plays with my head. It looks like ocean, but doesn’t have that slight salty/fishy tang that I always associate with the sea.

But, it’s time to move along. After spending the better part of 2 months in Michigan, we’re moving on to Wisconsin – a new State!