What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Waynesville: A Journey “Home”)

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In my “Prologue” to this group of posts I wrote about Waynesville, North Carolina. As I read that post again, I realized I’d poured my heart into it and wouldn’t change a word. Here is that text again.

My aunt grew up in Waynesville, North Carolina. I had listened to her talk about her home town for so many years, I felt like I knew it, too. Years later, my parents were offered the opportunity to purchase land on Eagle’s Nest Mountain in Waynesville. A neighbor was involved in a partnership to development a portion of the mountain and offered my parents the chance to get in on the ground-floor at the pre-development prices. They jumped at the chance. I’ll never forget driving up Eagle’s Nest for the first time to choose our lots. I immediately fell in love with the mountain and knew I’d come “home.”

“Waynesville has, ever since, been a magical place for me. Even after our home on Eagle’s Nest burned to the ground in late 1980, Waynesville has held a very special place in my heart. Memories of spending happy times with family (immediate and extended) are part of the reason for this; however, there is just something about the town, and the people who live there, that makes me feel warm and welcome.

Beautiful Waynesville, NC (Eagles' Nest Mountain in the Background)

Beautiful Waynesville, NC
(Eagles’ Nest Mountain in the Background)

Waynesville is the county-seat of Haywood County. The courthouse is right on Main Street.

Haywood County Courthouse Waynesville, NC

Haywood County Courthouse
Waynesville, NC

Main Street has changed quite a lot since we had our home in Waynesville. Most of the storefronts are still the same, but the change is in what’s inside. I was afraid that I would find the loss of the stores I used to visit hard to accept. I was wrong. Main Street, now, has some beautiful stores with artisan-quality goods. There are galleries of all kinds. Some world-class artists now call Waynesville home. There are also restaurants, chocolate shops, and clothing stores. Several real estate agents have offices on Main, as well as several attorneys’ offices.

Banjo & Wash-tub Base Main Street @ Miller Waynesville, NC

Banjo & Wash-tub Base
Main Street @ Miller
Waynesville, NC

Main Street Waynesville, NC

Main Street
Waynesville, NC

Looking Down Main Street Waynesville, NC

Looking Down Main Street Waynesville, NC

Mast General Store (one of several in North Carolina) is also on Main. Mast has a little of everything – clothing, shoes, housewares, furnishings, food, and the largest selection of old-time candy found anywhere.

Mast General Store Main Street Waynesville, NC

Mast General Store
Main Street
Waynesville, NC

I think the biggest surprise for me was that there are now three active breweries in Waynesville! We visited Tipping Point Tavern, but there are also Headwaters Brewing and Frog’s Leap Public House. Those two we will check out on our next visit.

Tipping Point Tavern Waynesville, NC

Tipping Point Tavern
Waynesville, NC

Tipping Point Tavern was a fun place to visit. Their in-house brews are quite good. We tried both the “Hiking Viking” (my Northeast High School friends will certainly understand this) and the “Chunky Girl Amber.” They also have an IPA called “Punch in the Face IPA.” We found the brews quite hoppy, so we can imagine what the IPA must be. Next time…

We had both a lunch and a dinner at Tipping Point Tavern. Lunch was quite enjoyable. The food was quite good – can’t say “great” with regard to sandwiches and beer, but very good. We started with the beer-battered jalapeno poppers which were hot from the fryer and had very good flavor. I had the Tavern Reuben and really enjoyed it. Jim had Fish Tacos. I must say, you really shouldn’t be leaving Tipping Point hungry! They don’t skimp on portions!

Dinner was something of a different story. We had planned to go to The Bourbon Barrel, but they weren’t interested in seating us – even though there were many open tables. I guess that’s a place for locals only. Out-of-towners need not darken their doors. So… we ended up back at Tipping Point Tavern. Yes, the portions were huge (especially the Pulled Pork Burrito)! What was really off-putting was the noise level. We were there on a Wednesday night, so we didn’t expect the crush of people or the noise. Obviously, this is the place for the younger crowd to meet for drinks after work. If we’d been there just for a beer or cocktails (and had been several years younger), we probably would have had a wonderful time. For dinner, well it was rather hard to enjoy ourselves. If you go, it’s probably wise to stick to lunch, or go for their terrific beer and after-work party.

Now for the best meal of our entire trip. It was at The Sweet Onion restaurant on Miller Street. This restaurant would be at home in any large city in the U.S, but it’s nestled in beautiful, downtown Waynesville, NC.

Sweet Onion

Sweet Onion
Waynesville, NC

We had been told by the innkeepers at our bed & breakfast (Andon-Reid) – complete review in a dedicated post coming – that reservations were strongly suggested, so they made them for us. This lovely restaurant was bustling and after our experience, I understand why. The service was superb. We were warmly welcomed and shown to a comfortable table next to the window. Our server took our beverage order and gave us a couple of minutes to take-in the menu. What a menu! It was incredibly hard to decide.

We settled on splitting the crab cake appetizer. This was chock-full of lump crab loosely bound and served with a terrific lemon-basil aioli. Our entrees were amazing. Jim had the Blackberry BBQ Short Ribs. He proclaimed that they were the best he’d ever had. They were fall-off-the bone tender and the sauce was incredible. I had the Shrimp & Grits. Now, these are no ordinary shrimp and grits! The white cheddar grits were topped with huge, perfectly-cooked shrimp and big pieces of bacon. On top of all that lusciousness, there was a delicate, yet flavorful, lobster cream sauce. Heavenly! I even got one of my all-time favorite sides with this entrée. Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad is one of the food items I most closely associate with my Aunt Jean (who grew up in Waynesville). To have this on the menu, and on my plate, brought me nostalgically home with her.

Dessert wasn’t necessary; but, then again, we were on vacation. We decided to splurge on splitting an amazing crème brulee. It was absolutely perfect. It was creamy and soul-satisfying, yet light enough to leave us comfortable. All in all, one of the best meals either of us had ever had.

If you are going to be in Waynesville for any length of time, I highly recommend you make plans to have at least one dinner at Sweet Onion. You won’t be sorry.

 

Up Next: What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Eagle’s Nest Mountain)

 

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (The Drive to Asheville, North Carolina – Day 1)

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Our vacation started very early on Saturday morning, August 17. Before anyone worries, our pups were home with their very favorite baby-sitter (and my bestest friend), Chris. They were spoiled totally rotten. More about that in upcoming posts.

 

Even though it was rainy (actually throughout almost the entire vacation), our drive went very well. I’m blessed to have a husband who can drive long distances without complaining. We made only a few stops on the way down (the usual – gas, a Coke, grab a bite, etc.) I have to give props to XM radio. There’s something very comforting about driving 500 miles with the same radio station playing. It sure makes the trip go quicker.

 

IMG_20130817_150105_099

Heading into MY Mountains!

Rainy Weather - but Still Mountains

Rainy Weather – but Still Mountains

Gray, but Beautiful

Gray, but Beautiful

Here are the first views we got of “my” mountains (the Smokies) heading east on I-40.

 

My heart really jumped up to see that sight. I guess it will always be in those mountains.

 

When we lived in Atlanta, we made several trips to the Asheville area and had visited Biltmore House at least four times. Funny thing, though, we’d never spent any time at all in Asheville. After seeing several travel shows featuring Asheville, we were anxious to see what we’d missed all those years.

 

A special treat awaited us in Asheville. Our dear friends, Eric and Gloria, from Sharps Chapel, Tennessee (where we own some property) planned to meet us and spend a couple of days with us. We were thrilled that they were able to join us for several reasons, but mostly because we hadn’t seen them in several years and we so enjoy their company. Eric grew up in North Carolina and had spent quite a bit of time with his grandmother who lived in Asheville. Eric and Gloria have, through the years, spent time in Asheville and know it quite well. They became our “unofficial” tour guides.

 

Jim with Eric & Gloria

Jim with Eric & Gloria

Did I mention that it was rainy during our trip? Luckily, the rain held off long enough for us to grab dinner at Peck’s Tavern. Peck’s is probably a terrific place to go to meet friends for drinks and it undoubtedly rocks when a big game is on the many televisions. We were all very hungry so we opted for an outside table (with BIG umbrella) rather than the anticipated long wait for a table inside. One hint here…Go to Peck’s for beer, cocktails and fun, but try someplace else for dinner. While it wasn’t awful, there are so many other restaurants in the Asheville area…

 

The bluegrass gathering that had been planned for the neighboring venue was cancelled due to the weather. That was one of the reasons we had decided that Peck’s would be a good choice. We were sorry to lose out on the music, but it did give us several free hours in downtown Asheville.

 

Asheville reminds me very much of European cities I’ve visited. Even in inclement weather, everyone is walking. It’s a really tough place to drive (narrow streets, odd layout, etc.), but there are several parking structures around the center of town. If you’re going to Asheville, park and do what the locals do. Get out and walk. It’s a very easy-walking town. There are lots of shops and sights to see and many options to stop for a beer, a drink, or a meal.

 

Another thing that was clearly evident is that Asheville is a very, VERY, dog-friendly town. Many of the local restaurants (including Peck’s Tavern) have outdoor seating in which your canine family members are welcome. There are even many stores which will allow you to bring your well-behaved buddy inside with you. Gotta love that!

 

After walking around for a while, we decided that dessert was definitely in order. We saw Posana Café, and were charmed by the European look and feel. We stepped inside and decided to have our dessert at their pretty bar. In some places we’ve been in the past, bar staff haven’t been too happy to have patrons who don’t mainly order cocktails. This was absolutely not the case at Posana Café. Our bartender was really terrific. She was uber-welcoming and put in our orders without batting an eye. What desserts those were!! Eric opted for the crème brulee, Jim went for the peach “pie,” and both Gloria and I chose the Chocolate Pot de Crème. Oh, my! Those chocolate desserts were amazing! I decided I really needed a bourbon with my chocolate. (After all, what goes better with chocolate? Can’t think of a thing.)

At Posana Cafe

At Posana Cafe

 

We walked around a little more until the rain started back. That sent us scurrying to our car and back to the B&B. It had been a long day, but a really good one. After checking in to see how the dogs were doing, we fell asleep to the sound of rain. Ahhhhh! I was “home” in North Carolina again, and it felt wonderful!

 

Up Next: Oakland Cottage B&B

 

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WIDMSV – Escanaba (In Da Moonlight?) and Birding the Stonington Peninsula

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We left the Eagle River Inn early to get a good jump on the day. We sure were doing better than the poor soul we saw laying on the beach. Too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. I guess after all the partying the night before, this guy found himself a nice piece of beach to sleep on. (By the way, we know he wasn’t dead because we saw him roll over to get his face out of the rising sun.)

 

On our way out of the Keweenaw, we made a quick stop to pass on a message from one of my high school mates to an old friend of hers and grab a bite of breakfast. We hadn’t planned to stop again until we reached Escanaba, but we saw this giant ruler and sign on the side of the road and just had to check it out. I mentioned this in my previous post, but just in case you missed it…

 

 

Are you KIDDING me??!!

Are you kidding me??? A record three-hundred-and-ninety-point-four inches of SNOW???? I did the math. That’s over 32-½  feet of snow in one season. As much as I love the Keweenaw, winter there would not be for me (or Jim, either).

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

We made good time and arrived in Escanaba right around lunch time. We had read reviews in “TripAdvisor,” and Breezy Point sounded like the place for lunch. As I said in my review on TripAdvisor, it’s a local “dive” bar with a juke box, pool tables, cold beer and really good burgers. Service was slow, but it WAS the day after a holiday and it seems everyone was running a little slow. (Okay, I just have to say it. I’m from the south – y’all know that – and southerners are notoriously dissed for being “slow.” Honey, we ain’t got NOTHING on some of the folks in Escanaba, Michigan.)

Photo from TripAdvisor

If y’all ever decide to go to Escanaba and want to try out the really, good burgers at Breezy Point, I strongly suggest trying to sit outside. The views are really nice. If it hadn’t been record heat, we’d have opted for those tables, too.

 

We headed for our B&B. The Kipling House is actually in Gladstone, Michigan, but it’s close to Escanaba and we are so very glad that we chose this place to stay. As a matter of fact, there’s so much to tell you about this place that I’m giving it a complete post of its own. That will be the next one – the last in the installments of WIDMSV.

 

We set out to explore Escanaba. Most of you won’t have gotten the “In Da Moonlight” reference. Jeff Daniels (yes, THAT Jeff Daniels) is a native son of Chelsea, Michigan. Chelsea is a near-neighbor to where Jim and I live. Jeff Daniels wrote a comedy (play/movie) “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” about Yooper hunters. He has quite a knowledge of Escanaba because his wife is originally from the town. We were lucky enough to catch Jeff Daniels in his one-man show, and he is absolutely hilarious. What a wit! Anyway, we decided that we needed to check out Escanaba.

 

Escanaba is a nice town. It seems, to me anyway, more like a Lower Peninsula town than others we’ve been to in the UP. Perhaps it’s the close proximity to Wisconsin that makes it “feel” different from the others in the area.

Photo from their website

 For dinner the first night, we went to The Stonehouse (http://www.stonehouseescanaba.com/Home.html ). The restaurant came highly recommended, and we know exactly why. Even though it’s going through some major renovations on the outside, the interior was calm and attractive. Service was friendly, yet professional. I had grouper (my very favorite fish) Panko-breaded topped with lobster and shrimp veloute. Jim had the “great lakes platter” (broiled whitefish and walleye with beer-battered perch. It was a delicious and enjoyable meal. We’d definitely go back.

 

From The Stonehouse website
(callout from me)

After dinner, we drove around Escanaba a little more. We drove down by the marina and found the Delta County Historical Society Lighthouse Museum. It was closed for the day, but we enjoyed walking around and seeing some of the static displays outside…

 

like this giant, wooden rudder

 

and this pile of logs (representative of the millions of board-feet of lumber harvested in the Upper Peninsula and sent to build America).

 

The next day, we went birding on the Stonington Peninsula. We were still in search of the illusive boreal species and this was our last chance this trip. Come to think of it, we didn’t even hear the first loon calling. Now THAT’S disappointing! We birded all along 28 Rd! We got great looks at Red-eyed Vireos (they were everywhere), PeeWees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Hermit Thrush, American Redstarts, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Ravens, and a silent empid. Still, no boreal birds, but it seemed everywhere we went, there were deer of all ages, sexes and sizes.

 

From 28 Rd (they have some strange road names up there), we headed down to the boat launch area where there was a gorgeous log home. There we saw an American Bittern, several Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, and one Black Tern.

 

We continued on to tip of the peninsula. There’s a tower that might be a good spot to look for wading birds, but the flats were conspicuously free of any form of bird. Needless to say, we were pretty disappointed, but we really weren’t there in a good “birding” time of year.

 

 

Escanaba from the Stonington Peninsula

We decided to call it a day. The trip home was coming up and we were hot and tired. It was time to start winding down. We went back to the B&B (remember, a whole post on this next time) to clean up, pack, and get ready for our trip home.

 

We went to Hereford & Hops for dinner. The restaurant is right on the main street in Escanaba. I must say that the beer was really, really good. The food (walleye) was, too, except the service was incredibly (and I do mean INCREDIBLY) slow. It was early on a Friday night and the place was still pretty empty. We really wonder how they manage when it starts getting busy (or if it actually does get busy at all). We even had difficulty getting our beer (and they’re a brew pub).

 

It was a wonderful trip. I have become a huge fan of the UP! I’ve heard my sister-in-law, Kathy, talk about it for years and how much she loves it up there. I knew that I would – for the same reasons, but you can’t imagine how amazingly beautiful it truly is. There are so many areas that we weren’t able to visit (the Porcupine Mountains, especially). We’re already talking about our next trip. I think late spring might be an excellent time (as long as the snow is gone).

 

Up Next: The Kipling House

 

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WIDMSV – Visiting Houghton and The Eagle Has Landed

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

After spending a couple of hours birding the Pesheekee Grade, we were ready to eat. There really isn’t any place to eat breakfast in the Michigamme area that we could find, so we headed on to Houghton. As much as I would have loved to visit the KBC brewery, it really wasn’t a prudent place to consider for breakfast.

 

The first restaurant we attempted to go to had been highly rated, but we opted out after a really poor experience. I am not going to name the establishment in my blog, because my southern heritage always taught me that, if I couldn’t say something nice – say nothing at all. Besides, even mentioning it here is giving it more attention than they gave us.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub

 

Luckily for us, we found The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub (http://www.librarybrewpub.com). It wasn’t quite time to start serving lunch yet (it was just around 11 a.m.), but we were courteously seated and given water and menus. Our server, Brian, was very nice and made us feel quite welcome. We opted for lunch and were very pleasantly surprised. I had the shrimp po boy and Jim had a combination sandwich. It was roast beef, cheddar cheese, and a BLT all rolled into one. He loved it. The experience was completely pleasant and the food was superb. They also are one of the innovators and first to use the new bill-paying service called “Tabbed Out.” What a smart idea that is! I hope more restaurants start using it soon. (Automatically pays your tab with your chosen credit card without having to wait for the check. It also computes tip and pays the establishment without passing your credit card around. BRILLIANT!)

Keweenaw Gems & Gifts
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We felt so much better after a good meal that we decided to stop at Keweenaw Gems and Gifts (http://www.copperconnection.com/) to see what kind of wonderful stone and metal arts we could find. What a ‘dangerous’ store. There were so many wonderful treasures, we had to really narrow down our focus. Once again, we could have totally blown our budget. We did make a couple of purchases. One was this lovely polished Petoskey Stone (Michigan’s State Stone) clock for Jim’s desk at work.

Petoskey Stone Clock

I just have to mention Lily, the Labradoodle. Lily comes to the store with her people. She’s the ‘official’ watch dog. Once she actually meets you, she’s a terrific ‘hostess.’ What a fantastic dog!

Lily
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We also purchased some gifts for friends. I just LOVE getting my Christmas shopping done before the Fourth of July!

Look at all the Treasure!
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

From Houghton, it was on to Eagle River. Eagle River is on the western coast of the Keweenaw peninsula. Our destination was the Eagle River Inn http://www.eagleriverinn.com/. We had read interesting reviews of the inn and I had written to the new owners and was very favorably impressed by their positive attitudes and their obvious desire to provide a terrific experience for their guests.

Marc & Mike (Proprietors, Eagle River Inn)
(Photo by Shawn Malone)

The Eagle River Inn is right on the beach. It’s only a few steps from the deck to the water. It’s especially nice because the beach there is nice, stone sand and the water is clear and the bottom is that same sand. Many places on the lake are rocky which makes it difficult to get to the water. It’s even harder when the rocks are covered with vegetation. (I wonder if we noticed more of that due to the extraordinarily hot weather or if it’s a symptom of invasive, non-native vegetation I’ve been reading about.) I will be writing more about the Inn (and their terrific restaurant, Fitzgerald’s) in coming posts. I’ll say right now, though, that I wish we’d scheduled more than two nights at the Inn. Here’s a photo of a sunset we saw our first night. The sunsets there are so breath-taking, you’ll undoubtedly see more photos of them in coming posts.

Sunset – First Night
Eagle River Inn

Up Next: Eagle River Inn and Brockway Mountain Drive

 

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WIDMSV – Munising: Muldoon’s & Open Wings; Marquette: Irish Rover

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

So, when we left you last, we’d just come off the Shipwreck Cruise. Now we are starving! We’d been reading that Muldoon’s Pasties perennially wins all competitions for the best pasties in the UP. It was time for us to find out for ourselves.

 

Okay, so I hear my southern brethren asking, “What the heck is she talking about? Pasties?” No, y’all, not the twirly things that exotic dancers wear. These are delectable edibles. The best description I can give is that it’s like a hand-held pot pie. I believe they originated in the British Isles. Back in the day, miners didn’t get much time for lunch/dinner. So the women came up with a way to bake meat and root vegetables into a sturdy, sealed crust. The “Cornish” pasty was born. When a whole bunch of miners emigrated to the UP to mine copper and iron, they brought their pasties and recipes with them. Today, they are basically the same as they’ve always been, except they are usually served with gravy or ketchup, and mostly they are eaten with utensils. See the photos below.

 

Pasty

 

Pasty with Gravy

 

In our opinion, all those awards given to Muldoon’s were absolutely correct. They are the best I’ve ever had outside of home-cooked. They are very, very filling. Unless you have a huge appetite, it’s probably best to split one between two people. The gravy was delicious, too. Muldoon’s makes beef (which we had), chicken, vegetarian, cherry and apple pasties. The cherry and apple seem to us to be a northern translation of what we (down south) call fried pies. Wish we’d had room to try them, but as I said, those beef ones are mighty filling. I guess we’ll have to wait for our next trip to Munising to try the fruit-filled ones.

 

On our way back to Marquette, we stopped at Open Wings Pottery. What a remarkable place! They actually throw the pots there (and it was SO hot – I can’t imagine trying to work with clay and firing up kilns). Their work was amazing! They also feature art from many different media (jewelry, textiles, and other potters’ works). I could have spent hours and loads of cash in their shop. As it was, we ended up purchasing the necklace below (it’s Lake Superior Jasper and Greenstone)

 

 

 

and the cool luminary/utensil holder (I haven’t decided which I will use it for yet) with the outline of the UP.

 

It was a full day, and we were completely exhausted. We decided to stay right in Marquette for supper. After the huge pasty from Muldoon’s, I really wasn’t very hungry for supper. A nice, cold beer is what I had in mind. So we decided to head to The Wild Rover (http://wildrovermqt.com) . I knew that a pub was the best place to unwind and end the day. I opted for a Black & Tan and stuffed potato skins. Jim chose a KBC (Keweenaw Brewing Company – www.keweenawbrewing.com) Blonde and fish & chips. Our waiter was very attentive without being overbearing. Again, we decided to split a dessert. We ended our meal with an incredible molten lava cake with raspberry coulis. (If you know me, you know I’m a complete sucker for anything raspberry!)

 

We headed back to Blueberry Ridge and prepared to end our stay. The next destination was one I had been anxiously awaiting – the Keweenaw Peninsula.

 

Up Next: Birding in Michigamme and Visiting Houghton

 

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WIDMSV – Big Bay: A B&B in a Lighthouse; Gwinn: Up North Lodge

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Big Bay Point Lighthouse
B&B

WIDMSV? – What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

The next time we go to the Marquette area, we want to stay at Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast (http://www.bigbaylighthouse.com/home3.html). What an incredibly beautiful location! We didn’t go inside, but the outside was breath-taking. The lighthouse still operates (although it is now automated) and it sits on a high bluff. The only sound – even during the heart of the afternoon – was waves lapping at the bluff and birds singing. The grounds were lush with rugosa roses which smell incredible. There were lawn chairs to sit in so that you can relax and enjoy the scenery. We had actually gone to the lighthouse to do some birding. We did find very confiding American Redstarts and Song Sparrows, however it really wasn’t a good time to be birding. It was, however, a great time to find a jewel of a B&B. I have read that the B&B is for sale. I can only hope that it remains a B&B. I would imagine that it has to be a wonderful place to simply relax and to enjoy the stars.

View from
Big Bay Lighthouse B&B

 

One thing worth noting if you go to the Marquette area – most restaurants are closed on Sunday. While I appreciate this for everyone in the restaurant business, it can be somewhat difficult for tourists and vacationers. Thank goodness we found The Up North Lodge in Gwinn, MI (http://www.theupnorthlodge.com).

(Photos Courtesy of
The Up North Lodge)

 

Gwinn is between Marquette and Escanaba (in the moonlight or otherwise – Michigan/Jeff Daniels joke). It’s a nice little community, but there really isn’t much around there. What is there, however, is The Up North Lodge. This is a log-built restaurant and lounge. It’s really a beautiful building on a nice parcel of ground. They have outdoor seating available, but it was so terribly hot on July 1, that we definitely wanted to be inside. What an inside!

Inside the Up North Lodge

 

The lodge is well laid-out with huge windows and comfortable seating. We were seated very close to the windows. I’d hoped to see some of the birds that they attempt to coax with feeders. It was (apparently) too hot for the birds, as well.

 

We started with ‘Squeaky Cheese Curds.’ Okay, y’all, this is a benefit of being up north and near Wisconsin. To explain cheese curds, I went to my old ‘friend’ Wikipedia. “Cheese curds are little known in locations without cheese factories because they should ideally be eaten within hours of manufacture. Their flavor is mild, with about the same firmness as cheese, but with a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, a defining characteristic, due to air trapped inside the porous material.”

Up North Lodge in Winter
(Great snowmobile destination)

 

For dinner, Jim opted for their “famous” barbecued ribs. I chose the filet. Both meals came with salad bar (which, by the way, was exceedingly fresh and well stocked). Jim really enjoyed his ribs (although, being from the south, we are used to ‘barbecue’ including some smoke). I just have to tell you about the filet. Now y’all know me (well, most of you do). I’m a southern girl who has been blessed to do quite a bit of traveling in my life. I’ve eaten filets in some of the largest cities and in some of the most ‘famous’ restaurants. This filet – in Gwinn, Michigan – at The Up North Lodge – was one of the finest, most tender, and tastiest I have ever put in my mouth. It wasn’t over seasoned or over-done and it wasn’t over-priced. As a matter of fact, It WAS downright reasonably priced. The first bite was one of those “Ah HA!” moments. You know what I mean? It was one of those times when you just close your eyes, taste the food, and know you are eating a great piece of meat. (To all of you vegetarians out there, I just have to remind you that I am an unabashed carnivore!)

 

I don’t know how, but we found room for dessert. (Funny, when not on vacation, we almost never have room for dessert.) We split a piece of ‘Snickers’ pie. In many places, this kind of pie will be something the restaurant buys frozen in a box. This pie did not taste like it had ever been in a box or in a freezer. It was just enough sweetness to finish off a terrific meal.

 

Between the heat, the birding, the black-fly bites, and the copious quantities of food consumed, we were ready to make our way back to the B&B for a good night’s sleep. As Scarlett once said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Up Next: Munising

 

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation – Big Bay: Birding and “Made for the Movies”

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Our first, true vacation day. Yesterday counted, of course, but it was so much driving and getting into vacation “mode,” that it wasn’t very relaxing. To me, Sunday really started our vacation. Time to get out and do as we pleased.

Lake Superior Coastline

 

A note, here, about the weather. July 2012 was one for the record books for Michigan. The LP (Lower Peninsula) had highs that topped the 100 degree mark on multiple occasions. This is highly irregular! Michigan just isn’t supposed to have Phoenix weather (hot and incredibly dry). I have to tell you, the UP (Upper Peninsula) wasn’t spared record heat either!

Rose Room
(Our Room)

 

We awoke in our air-conditioned room at the Blueberry Ridge B&B. I mention the air-conditioning due to the fact that a/c is not all that common in the UP. Generally, they don’t need it. The other thing waiting for us just after we awoke was a serenade (piano and singing) from our hostess, Daphne. Did I mention she’s unique? “Morning Has Broken” has a whole new meaning to me, now.

 

Breakfast was delightful! Coffee was brewed and waiting. Daphne made gingered, fresh fruit for starters and I had fresh rhubarb (grown in her own yard) juice. Delicious stuffed, French toast rounded out the meal. One thing to take into consideration is that there was no protein served with breakfast. Although we would have preferred there to be some sausage, ham, or bacon, the meal was really good and plentiful. Once we were almost as stuffed as the French toast, we headed out for a day of birding, and exploring the Marquette area.

“A Birder’s Guide to Michigan”

 

Armed with (our good friend) Allen Chartier’s book A Birder’s Guide to Michigan, we headed off to look for our two, “target” birds for the UP – the Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay. We headed west from Marquette to bird along the AAA logging road. I was totally amazed at this area. It’s gorgeous, wooded, and the gravel road was in excellent condition. (I’m guessing I can thank the drought for the good condition of the road.) There was, however, a surprising amount of truck traffic for a Sunday. I think it was probably construction traffic as this area seems to be an up-and-coming area for hunting cabins.

Male Scarlet Tanager

 

While we found lots of birds (including, but not limited to, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pine Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and both Hermit and Wood Thrush). No Gray Jays and no confirmable Boreal Chickadees. (We did have one pretty fair-sized mixed flock of warblers fly through in which I glimpsed a bird that may have been the illusive chickadee, but I didn’t hear it or get a good enough look to confirm it.) RATS!

 

There is also a nature area that appears to be brand new. It’s the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook. I found out that it’s newly refurbished and used to be called “Gobbler’s Knob.” It’s very close to the AAA logging road. There are actually port-a-potties in the parking area there, and there’s a terrific and comfortable trail, with brand new railings and benches, that circle up to the lookout and back down through the woods. While we were there, we added Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Swainson’s Thrush to our birding list.

 

Thunder Bay Inn
(with thanks for sending the photos!)

By this time, it’s starting to get really hot. It’s past noon and we’d had enough tramping around in the dirt and getting bit by biting flies (mostly me). We decided to head for a place we’d heard lots about that was in nearby Big Bay – Thunder Bay Inn (www.thunderbayinn.net). The hotel was where traveling Ford executives visiting the Big Bay automotive plant stayed. A bar area was built onto the Inn in the late 1950s as they filmed the movie “Anatomy of a Murder” – starring Jimmy Stewart – there. The actual murder took place in Big Bay, so it was natural that they would want to do a lot of the filming on location. The actual bar in which the murder took place was very dark and impossible to film in, so they built a “made for movies” bar onto the Inn. It remains exactly as it was when the filming wrapped up. There’s lots of movie memorabilia available to read and enjoy, as well. The topper – the food was very good (I had a burger, and Jim a fish sandwich), the beer was very cold, and the server was very nice. We’re very glad we made the choice to go to Thunder Bay Inn for lunch. They are also known for their Friday fish-fry and prime rib Saturdays. We’re looking forward to trying both the next time we’re in the area.

Just Like In “Anatomy of a Murder”
(photo provided by Thunder Bay Inn)

  

Thunder Bay Inn – Lounge
Just as it was in the Movie

Up Next: Big Bay – A B&B in a Lighthouse; Gwinn – Up North Lodge

 

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