I almost called today “Michigan: Day Twenty-Seven”. But I didn’t finish the day in the state, so I decided to categorize this as the start of a new section of my trip. However, it was a close thing. I spent a good eight hours meandering in the Upper Peninsula before I finally buckled down for the drive west.
The thing is… it’s just such a beautiful place, the scenery was practically begging to be photographed. I kept stopping, and stopping, and, well, I got kind of behind on the drive. I thought I was going to get to North Dakota today, but that didn’t happen. Seriously, though, Michigan is GORGEOUS! Don’t believe me? Behold the first stop of the morning, on the Lake Superior shore:
It was pretty chilly–in the low 40’s–and my breath was steaming. I didn’t let it stop me from taking a bunch of pictures, however. For example:
There was a woman staying warm in one of the cars parked in the lot by the lake. She got out, and we had a quick chat. Turned out that her son and husband were out on the dock fishing. They were visiting from Ohio. She suggested that I go take her son’s picture, but I was too shy to do so. I just wasn’t feeling very social this morning. I wanted to revel in the beauties of nature, which were reflecting a soft quiet that was in my heart.
After about 15 minutes of photography, I left that area. But I quickly got sidetracked at another roadside park. It had the remains of a pig-iron furnace resting in it, as well as a friendly looking bench, and access to a sandy beach. I spent about an hour reading informative signs, taking pictures, and walking in the water.
I started feeling the need to get back on the road, so off I went. On the one hand, the lake was so lovely that it was kind of sad to leave. On the other, the fall colors were starting to show themselves fully, so I had a great view:
I should stop here, and mention that my family has a few “standard destinations” for U.P. trips. They’re either places of natural beauty, or eateries. For a hefty dose of scenery, we like Golden Lake, Loon Lake, and Lake of the Clouds. (Hmm, I’m seeing a theme here. Are you?) Restaurant-wise, there’s the previously mentioned Lehto’s Pasties, but there’s also a pizzeria in Iron River that we like to frequent. They have really great thin-crusts that are cut into squares. They slicing pattern makes for messy eating, but the food’s so tasty, who cares?
It’s silly, but I was torn about what to have for lunch. A pasty? Or pizza? They’re both (unhealthy) foods that start with P, but their flavor profiles and mouth-feels are entirely different. Finally, I settled on a pasty. It’s been ten years since I’ve had one, and they’re practically the official food of the Upper Peninsula. Of course, my favorite shop was well behind me, but I wasn’t worried. Other vendors are all along Route 41. It was just a matter of time ’til I found one. And yes–about half an hour after I made my decision, I came upon Lawry’s Pasty Shop.
Their building looks kind of run down from the outside, but the interior was both clean and spacious. I was highly amused by the sign on their cash register. Apparently they’re fed up with tourists mispronouncing their wares when ordering:
There were tables inside, but it was a nice day, so I decided to keep driving until I could find a park to picnic in. It only took about 20 minutes. The place where I stopped was an ostensible boat launch, but I couldn’t actually find a lake. Maybe it was a seasonal one, currently dry due to an upstream dam or something? I really don’t know. What I do know is that I got to sit on a big rock, amidst a forest of pines and maples, and eat a pasty. A very tasty pasty. And that’s really all I cared about. The air was warm, slightly humid, and redolent of leaves and sap. Crickets and the seventeen year cicadas were out in force. It smelled of fall, sounded like summer, and tasted like childhood. It was a few moments of perfection.
The first bite of pasty was warm and savory. The crust was flaky and buttery. The vegetables were cooked to a ideal texture, and the meat was tender. The overall seasoning was also very pleasant. In other words: this was absolutely delicious. Every bite was a delight. I would definitely stop at Lawry’s again. Hopefully, I’ll get back there sooner rather than later.
After lunch, I had resolved to knuckle down and drive on without further detours. But the further I drove, the more signs I saw mentioning Lake of the Clouds, and well… I just couldn’t resist making one final side trip. Like the extended goodbye to my mother, I couldn’t help but feel my heart break as I was saying goodbye to Michigan. It’s been so long since I’ve visited the Upper Peninsula, how could I not take advantage of even a brief sojourn? Who knows if I’ll get back here before another 10 years have passed? And with that in mind, I detoured north to the Porcupine Mountains, parked my car, and climbed up a set of stairs to get this delightful view:
When I returned to my car, I found this bright birch leaf on it. The contrast was so delightful that I couldn’t resist taking a picture.
Finally, finally, I got down to a serious drive. Michigan passed by my windows, measured in mile markers, crimson maples, and city signs. Eventually I passed into Minnesota. Night descended while I continued my drive, and when I got tired, I stopped at a hotel next to the Bemiji Airport, where I fell into an exhausted sleep. I don’t remember my dreams from that night, but I would like to think that if I dreamed, it was of azure skies brilliant foliage, and the deep, cold lakes of home.
Author’s Note: This post is backdated to the day the adventure took place, but was written long after.