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 – The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

There’s something special about a holiday in a smaller town. It’s especially nice when it’s Independence Day and the weather is sunny and clear. We spent the day in Copper Harbor and the evening at the Eagle River Inn. It was so much fun.

We started the day going for breakfast in Copper Harbor. The place we had intended to eat wasn’t opening for breakfast that day, so we went to another restaurant, The Tamarack Inn. The service was spotty (which is somewhat understandable on a holiday), but we could tell they were trying to please. I had the fritter, French toast. AWESOME! Didn’t think I’d have to eat again for a week, though. We watched the remainder of the parade (which, sadly, we missed most of). What we did see and hear was the fire department with their engines all decked out with flags and bunting, people on bikes, people walking down the street all dressed up in red, white and blue, and others with their dogs in costume. It was a hoot! How, clearly, Americana is that?

 

 

From there, we drove up to the spot where US 41 starts! US 41 is a highway that has been nearby for a large part of my life. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Not far from there is  where US 41 becomes the ‘famous’ Tamiami (Tampa to Miami) Trail. It also runs through Georgia very near where Jim and I lived for so many years. As you can see from the photo, it runs from the very tip of the Keweenaw all the way to Miami, Florida.

We also got a wonderful surprise while we were taking photos of the sign. A male American Redstart was singing very close by. Before we knew it, he popped into view. Right after that, a Northern Parula started calling from just across the road. We waited and, sure enough, he flew right overhead and continued singing. I guess it’s never too late to look for ‘love’ in the Keweenaw.

 

From there, we headed back south (well, honestly, there isn’t much further north we could go without being in Lake Superior). We stopped at an outlook where the Eagle River flows into the Lake. Such a beautiful spot!

 

There were some really gorgeous flowers growing right by the river. I just had to take a photo. Then we walked out onto the rocks and saw some spectacular lake views.

 

  

Walking back up to the car, we saw this male American Redstart singing away. He was right over head and didn’t move when I focused my camera on him.

 

Then we headed to Studio 41 (http://www.studio41copper.com ).

 

What a fabulous place! It was hard not to buy everything in the shop – well, except for the price tags. Thing is, they represent several local artists as well as the works of the owners.

One of the items we bought was this gorgeous copper bracelet. The photo really doesn’t do it justice, and my almost constant wearing has dulled the shine to a lovely patina.

Another purchase are these fabulous maple leaves! They have these sculptures in many sizes, but this spray is just perfect for the location on one of our smaller living room walls.

 

After that, it was off to The Berry Patch once again. We enjoyed our ice cream so much the day before, we just had to go back. Of course, there’s something intrinsically American about ice cream on the 4th of July. In honor of George Washington (well, not REALLY), I had the tart cherry sundae. What a treat! The sweet, smooth, velvety vanilla ice cream with the tart cherry preserves… HEAVENLY! And, here, I’d thought I wouldn’t have room after breakfast. I guess it must have been all that walking in the fresh air.

 

We took the drive along the Lake Superior shoreline. This is such a gorgeous drive. The day was clear and, once again, the lake was flat and calm. I would love to have the time to paint all the beautiful views.

We stopped along the way at yet another lighthouse. This was in Eagle Harbor. They had built an observation deck with these informational plaques.  I thought they were very interesting.

 

 

Just where the road curls away from the shoreline you come to The Jam Pot (http://www.societystjohn.com/store/ ). They are a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite. The monastery bakes amazing breads, cakes and cookies, but we were there for the jam. What jam it is! They have so many varieties that it is virtually impossible to list them all, but we made sure that we bought bilberry and thimbleberry. They also have a full line of sugar-free jam.

  

Right next to The Jam Pot is Jacob’s Creek Falls. It’s so nice to find such a pretty waterfall so easily accessible. Even though it had been a drier than usual summer, the falls had plenty of water and it was so nice to enjoy the cool air and listen to the sound of falling water on rocks.

 

Once back at the Eagle River Inn (http://www.eagleriverinn.com/ ) we dropped off our purchases and headed down for the barbecue. That smoker that they built sure puts out some delicious que! A great pulled pork sandwich and a beer? That says Independence Day to me! We headed out to the beach to stand in the water and enjoy the company of new friends. There were a couple with their parents from Minnesota there. They also had two of the funniest, most friendly dogs (a Weimaraner and a German Shorthaired Pointer). We had a grand time visiting with both humans and canines.

A group of children came down the beach with their own version of a Lakes freighter. Interestingly enough, there was the life-sized version out on the lake at the same time.

We were really enjoying our evening waiting for the band to set up and the fireworks that would begin around 11 p.m. That was until a big storm blew up! There was a small boat that had come to anchor off the Inn to enjoy the band and the fireworks, but he had to head off in a hurry to beat the oncoming rain and wind. Mother Nature had her own fireworks in store for us! I thought the tent that had been set up for the band was going to end up in Wisconsin, but some brave souls held on until the storm eventually passed. By this time, we were up in our room and had decided to call it a night. We figured that they’d have to wait until another night for the fireworks and we were leaving in the morning.

 

We should have had more faith in the hardiness of the partiers. Sure enough, around midnight, the storm had cleared out and the fireworks were set up. The band had not stayed, but they had radio so the party continued and the fireworks went off. We really had an excellent view from our room as we faced the beach.

I was a little sad that we weren’t staying longer in the Keweenaw. I know that we will definitely come back. We will absolutely make reservations at The Eagle River Inn, and – this time – we’ll be able to bring our “kids!” One thing I can pretty well assure you of, is that we won’t be doing our travel to the Keweenaw in the winter. We saw this marker on our way south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Next: Escanaba (In Da Moonlight?) and Kipling

 

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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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