Written by MilwVon on 29 Nov, 2012
Any time I'm close to one of Wisconsin's many Amish communities, I enjoy driving through to see what I might see. Since my friend had heard me blab on and on about the Amish and enjoyed seeing my photos from several road trips, she…Read More
Any time I'm close to one of Wisconsin's many Amish communities, I enjoy driving through to see what I might see. Since my friend had heard me blab on and on about the Amish and enjoyed seeing my photos from several road trips, she was up for an afternoon trip up to Cashton.We took the scenic route out of the Dells, west on Wisconsin HWY 33. The drive would be about 65 miles and take around an hour and a half. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, so we thoroughly enjoyed the drive.As we approached an area that I recognized from my September trip through the area, I stopped to tell her a bit about the Amish, their culture and farming techniques. Within minutes we were upon one of my favorite farms, which I have photographed several times from varying angles. They had harvested their corn with the shocks still drying as they stand on the flat farmland.Just beyond this farm was the next Amish homestead where they build custom cabins. Also on this property is a bakery that is open to the public. I had never really noticed that Countryside Bakery was there, so it was a nice stop on our journey. Inside, they sold lots of homemade goodies including breads, sweet rolls, donuts, candies, jams & jellies along side other Amish goods including rugs and baskets.We bought several items, which were very good. I especially enjoyed my donut which was perfectly and lightly glazed. Along our drive, we also shared the chocolate marshmallow "drops" which were really good. My friend also bought a large container of granola which she had for breakfast the next day with yogurt. She said it was the best granola she had ever had! I only wish that I could have bought some cinnamon breakfast buns to take home which of course means . . . another trip to Cashton will be in my future. Maybe once the snow covers the beautiful landscape throughout the Coulee region and valley.After the bakery, we headed over to Down a Country Road, a collection of Amish shops run by an "English" couple who have become friends with many Amish in the area. Previously when I've been through this area, they have not been open or I had very limited time to explore. It was nice to visit with the owner and do some browsing of many handmade items including mittens, dolls, rugs, baskets, quilts and food items similar to what we saw at Countryside Bakery.As a photographer, I enjoyed looking at the many matted and framed photographs taken of Amish folks going about their daily lives. I was surprised to see several that included their faces, including children playing on a school playground.Down a Country Road keeps seasonal hours so be sure to check out their website before planning a shopping trip: http://www.downacountryroad.com/ .Our last stop in Cashton was at the Old Country Cheese Factory on Old Country Road D. This too was an area that I had not previously explored and have made a mental note to return in hopes of capturing a photo or two along the road. Unfortunately, the two photo ops I had were at great distance or moving in a direction that made composition of a decent photo difficult at best.At the cheese factory, we watched them making Munster cheese via live monitors of the production area. While this is now operated as an "English" factory, some 230 Amish farms sell their milk daily for the cheese produced here. They report that over 120,000 pounds of milk is processed daily!If you are in the area, traveling on HWY 33, you may see signs for K&K Cheese. That is the current owner's name for their business as Kevin & Kim Everhart are the owner/operators of the factory. At the actual factory, you will see both names (K&K Cheese and Old Country Cheese) on the signs as you approach the humble white building that houses the factory and retail sales area.For more information on Old Country Cheese, including their hours of operation, check out their website: http://www.oldcountrycheese.com/ .I hope you will take time to check out the photos I took on this trip through Cashton!Close
Written by drundel on 20 Apr, 2001
My wife and I must be gluttons for punishment because we seem to find more ways to get up early on vacation than anyone I know. Two years ago, when we took a cruise, we tacked on a tour of DC at the end. On…Read More
My wife and I must be gluttons for punishment because we seem to find more ways to get up early on vacation than anyone I know. Two years ago, when we took a cruise, we tacked on a tour of DC at the end. On the cruise, we had to get up early a couple of times for day trips at port stops. In DC, we got up about 5 a.m. twice to take bus tours of the U.S. Capitol area. So what did we do this year? We got up about 2 a.m. so we could drive across Michigan to be in Ludington by the 7 a.m. departure for the car ferry across Lake Michigan. I guess someone forgot to tell us that vacations are for resting, not early rising.
The trip across the Michigan was almost more excitement than we had planned. Someone forgot to tell the deer in the state to sleep in as well. We saw a dozen or more, several close enough to the road to be a hazard. I know camping is supposed to be roughing it, but it seems a bit too rough to scrape off road kill before the trip really gets started. Luckily, we dodged Bambi, his parents, and all his siblings.
We left early enough that we arrived in Ludington almost an hour before the car ferry was to take off. New problem: there was no ferry at the dock. The Lake Michigan CarFerry Company has their schedule down pat, though, and the ferry arrived from Manitowac, Wisconsin in good time. When making our reservation, I mistakenly thought it would be a rather small car ferry like I had seen in other parts of the state. I worried that it couldn't hold our full size Ford van. I made an extra call to the car ferry company to confirm it could handle our "big rig." When the first vehicles off the incoming ferry were an 18 wheeler and a double-decker tour bus, I guessed that I had sounded a little ridiculous with my worries. Oh well, live and learn.
The Badger is actually the size of a small cruise ship, specially fitted to load and carry cars, trucks, busses, passengers... pretty much everything. We had been offered the chance to book a "stateroom" with our reservation, but declined at first. Once on the ship, though, we were tired enough that we thought a bed would be nice. Thankfully, there were still some available to book. I would recommend to anyone considering this trip to book early, including a stateroom if you are at all considering it. We were just lucky one was open. Though it was small, we did catch a couple of hours of sleep, and it made the rest of the day much more pleasant. The alternative is sleeping in chairs in one of several common rooms throughout the ship. I think our room, though tiny, was more comfortable.
We stayed awake long enough to take photos of Ludington as we left. Very shortly after we took a picture of the Ludington North Pierhead Lighthouse. We took one of the lighthouse at Manitowoc as well. The lighthouse pictures don't appear impressive, because we were looking down from a ship about 5 stories tall. Somehow the lighthouses dwarfed in size. We figured that we only saved an hour or two by taking the ferry across Lake Michigan. Had we lived closer to Ludington, or been planning on staying closer to Manitowoc, the time savings would have been greater. We went more for the adventure, to be able to say, "been there, done that." We were happy enough with the crossing to consider doing it again. Then again, we had a beautiful day to cross in mid summer, with little or no waves or wind. I am sure there are times when the weather isn't nearly so cooperative, but the company brags of having had no loss of life in many years of crossings.
The trip to Montreal River Falls started innocently enough. We had seen signs around Copper Harbor advertising nature tours. We went to where the signs told us to go, and thought we had arranged a half day tour for the following Monday. We really wanted…Read More
The trip to Montreal River Falls started innocently enough. We had seen signs around Copper Harbor advertising nature tours. We went to where the signs told us to go, and thought we had arranged a half day tour for the following Monday. We really wanted a weekend trip, but the naturalist felt there were too many tourists in the woods then, so he preferred weekday trips. Who were we to argue? Maybe we shouldn't have argued, but we should have checked out the trip a bit more. Let the buyer beware, ya know what I mean?
Monday morning, at 9 a.m., we went back to the store where we signed up, but it wasn't open. It seems they like to sleep in a bit, or take it nice and easy, like they are on vacation or something. After waiting about 15 minutes, other tourists showed up to take the trip with us. The naturalist showed up next, asking us if we had everything we needed, like water and snacks and such. If he had told us about it when we signed up, we would have been prepared. We quickly ran (as quickly as a 50-year-old fat guy can run) to a nearby store, and we were ready to go before the last of the travelers arrived. Our guide then proceeded to drive us southwest out of Copper Harbor on US 41, then southeast on a county road, and finally on an old logging trail to the northwest coast of Keweenaw Bay. We ended on a property once known as Smith Fisheries. By this time we had been on the road for most of an hour, so we stretched our legs a bit before the hike began. We went down to the old pier, looked into the old fish house, and generally nosed around before starting out on the hike.
We were led past the nice vacation home on the property (complete with newly built sauna) onto another logging trail. We paralleled the coast of the bay for about 15 minutes, until the logging trail fizzled out. Supposedly we were then on an old hiking trail, though there were a good many times we felt like we were blazing the trail. All the time we were walking beside Lake Superior's Keweenaw Bay. Mostly we were 20 feet or more above the water, on a small cliff. There were trees all around us, but surprisingly little wildlife. We heard some birds, but mostly it was the wind or the waves making noise. We saw some evidence of deer and bear around, but not even a lot of that. There weren't even many mosquitoes out. My wife, Deb, was bothered by them some, but she’s a lot sweeter than I am.
After about 45 minutes of hiking, we made it to the lower falls on the Montreal River. Our guide had worried that there might not be much water going over them, because the summer had been so dry. He did say, though, that this river usually has a good supply of water, no matter what the weather. It did have a nice flow and a picturesque waterfall. The Montreal River empties into Lake Superior at this point, and a small, rocky beach is nearby. We spent 30 minutes or so looking for rocks, getting our pictures, and generally playing tourist. The naturalist had lots to say of the beach stones, the area, and the history. By now it was getting close to noon, and he let us make the decision: move on to the middle falls, or return. All six hikers opted to move on, since he said the middle falls were 10 to 15 minutes up the hill.
Thirty minutes later, we found the middle falls. I do mean found the falls, since the trail was by no means clear, and the only real guide was the river on our right. Once the falls were found, we played tourist again with pictures and exploring a bit, and got to make another choice: press on to the upper falls (another 10 or 15 minutes further?) or return. We again opted to hike on.
Forty-five minutes later we again found the falls we were looking for. Each waterfall is relatively small, but pleasant. The hike was actually quite pleasant as well, especially since I got to spend time with my beautiful wife. The guide knew tons of stuff about the plant life, the wildlife, the geology, and the history. The only real problem was the planning.
By the time we got to the third waterfalls, it was close to 3. Naturally we didn't spend a whole lot of time there, since we knew we had a two-hour hike back to the vehicle. On the way back, the youngest couple trekked off on their own; we didn't see them until the end. The guide, the mother-daughter pair, my wife, and myself were considerable slower. The trip might have actually been done in the time limits suggested by the guide, had we all been in our teens or twenties. Our guide had had knee surgery a year earlier, and this was his first trek of any length since the surgery. The mother in the mother-daughter combination also had knee problems, and slowed the party down considerably. She also fell on the way back, giving us all another scare. No one was looking forward to carrying anyone out from the wilderness.
Once back to the vehicle, the guide drove us out on the logging trail, then took another side trip past a county park that was quite popular. That was almost the highlight of the trip, since on the turnaround we got to see a lighthouse that we probably would have missed. I actually paid enough attention to the directions to find the lighthouse again before we left the area. By then it was getting close to 6 in the evening, so we were all anxious to return. No one had even packed a lunch, since we had been led to believe it would be a half day tour.
The tour we thought we signed up for should have been about 20 dollars each. The tour we took probably should have been 50 apiece. The guide didn't really give us a set price, so we paid him $60, figuring the longer trip wasn't totally our fault or our choice. The other couples also fudged a bit on the price, too, I believe. All in all, it was a beautiful day with Deb, even though the hike was a bit trying and difficult at times. If I had a 4-wheel drive (or an old van I didn't care about, like the guide did) and a little more confidence in finding the logging trail, I would be willing to give it a go again. This time, though, I would be better prepared to really enjoy the hike.
On the map, the trip from Lake Winnebago to the small dot labelled Wisconsin Dells doesn't appear to be far. Of course, when you start the day sleeping in a bit, and then lazily get the morning business done, the whole day seems to go…Read More
On the map, the trip from Lake Winnebago to the small dot labelled Wisconsin Dells doesn't appear to be far. Of course, when you start the day sleeping in a bit, and then lazily get the morning business done, the whole day seems to go a bit slower. And, don't forget the inevitable side trip while I get lost for an hour or so. Whatever the reasons, we did not arrive at the dot until late one August morning. Even as we were approaching the town, we had little clue what we were getting into. Then, quite suddenly... it appears. To some, it might be the world's biggest tourist trap. To others, the town and surrounding area are full of history and nature. My wife and I fell somewhere in the middle of the two views. We spent 8 to 10 hours there, got to see only a small part of the town, and are eager to see more this summer.
Like many tourist traps, the town doesn't handle traffic especially well. We were there on a beautiful summer day, and the town seemed very crowded. One of the bus drivers who transported us between tour stops said the town was a little less crowded than usual. Still, the traffic was bumper to bumper through most of the downtown area. I guess what caught us by surprise was the fact that only a mile or two out of town, there was no traffic to speak of.
We were only slightly prepared for what we found there. As we were getting into town, we saw a number of tourist guide booths. We decided to check one out. I think most of them are set up to sell the tourists different package plans for the attractions. So exactly what are the attractions? Originally, the Dells was simply a wide spot in the Wisconsin River, with some interesting rock formations. It started, for the Europeans who settled there, as primarily a lumbering center. As the area grew, inns and taverns developed, and more settlers came. One such settler was H. H. Bennett. As a carpenter turned photographer, it was his pictures that opened the eyes of America to the wonders of the Dells. Depending on your point of view, the natural beauty has either been exploited by those who followed, or opened up for all to see. Today there are boat trips to take on both the upper Dells (above the dam) or the lower Dells (below the dam). But don't think the attractions stop with nature. The booth we stopped at had arrangements with 50 or more sites to see, including water parks, amusement parks, go kart tracks, thrill shows, a variety of museums... you get the point. We were confused with all the possibilities, but figured we were there primarily for the river, so we took boat tours on the upper and lower Dells, and signed up for time at a combination amusement/water park. With three you don't get egg roll, but you do get a small discount. I think Deb and I paid less than $50 apiece for about 6 hours of entertainment. The prices didn't seem outrageous, although the amusement park was a disappointment.
Both the upper Dells boat tour and the lower Dells Duck Tour focus on nature. The upper Dells has several neat sights to see. The most famous might be Stand Rock, where photographer Bennett was one of the first to capture live action in a still photograph. I'm not sure I would have used my son as a guinea pig for the jump between rock formations, but Bennett did: 18 times! Finally he captured his son on film, in mid air, 40 or 50 feet above the surrounding land. Tourists are encouraged to try to recapture the event as a trained German Shepherd leaps back and forth. I wasn't quick enough, but I do have pictures of the dog on both sides! Another impressive sight is Witches' Gulch. It is a narrow canyon with beautiful views. Even this is a bit touristy, as you are dropped off to walk up the canyon, to a combination gift shop/snack bar. The walk was cool and refreshing on the hot summer day we took our tour. The upper Dells boat tours are conducted mostly on ferries with 2 levels, the upper level being open-air. I am sure the area is fantastic during the fall color season, but even in mid summer it was truly beautiful.
We opted for the "Duck" tour of the lower Dells. For those not familiar with the vehicles, the ducks used in the Dells are former military amphibious vehicles. You can see them driving around the town some, but most are stationed near the dam, where the lower Dells begin. They have an elaborate set-up to load the tourists in, and they send out one Duck after another, each holding around 30 riders. The ride is combination history/nature/water/roller coaster/boat tour. You may get wet a little, but I think the driver can control this somewhat. He gave us the option of how wet we wanted to get at one water entry point. But, how do you get 30 passengers to agree on anything? He took it pretty easy on us as we went in fairly slowly that time. Other entries were all slow enough that only a slight splash occurred. The Duck tour has stone formations to see, like "Hawk's Beak" and others. There is a Fern Gully to go through, and other forests to enjoy, complete with wandering deer. Some time is spent on Lake Delton, a small lake formed by damming a creek leading to the Wisconsin River. Our driver let kids drive the duck as we cruised the lake for 15 minutes or so. There are historical buildings to see, and old statues brought up from Chicago to view, too. Because of the variety or terrain (hey, it is an amphibian), we enjoyed this trip a little more than the upper Dells boat tour. If you can only do one, choose the upper Dells for scenery, the lower Dells for variety and excitement.
Our third part of the package was pretty disappointing. The salesperson booking the trips didn't tell us that the water park was scheduled to close at 6. When we got into the park, we were fortunate to be able to ride the water rides until 7, due to the number of people there. We could have only gotten one water ride in had they closed the water park on schedule. The amusement park was a little hokey, too. They had one small roller coaster type ride, one adult go-kart track, several kiddie rides, and not much else. It is probably just as well, though, because by that time we were pretty tired. My sweet wife was kind enough to wait in line with me (more than 30 minutes) to ride the go-karts. All the while I was wishing we had signed up for the park across the road. It looked like it had 10 or 20 different go-kart tracks, some of them looking more like roller coasters than go-kart tracks. If you are going to go to the Wisconsin Dells, take some time to pick out the tours you want to go on. There is an awful lot to see. I am not sure you could take years to see it all, like they claim for the Washington, DC area, but you could spend a good part of a week there, even more if you are into that type of tourist mecca.
Written by Arlys on 08 Oct, 2008
We've had a couple of great timeshare vacations at the Wisconsin Dells, in the state of WI.The first was spent at Christmas Mountain Village, a few miles "up the mountain" from the town of Wisconsin Dells. This is a 4-season resort, and has multiple…Read More
We've had a couple of great timeshare vacations at the Wisconsin Dells, in the state of WI.The first was spent at Christmas Mountain Village, a few miles "up the mountain" from the town of Wisconsin Dells. This is a 4-season resort, and has multiple types of timeshare accommodations, including cottages.Activities are many and varied, including, of course, skiing in winter. The scenery is fantastic...my husband liked the view from our rear deck so much, that he painted it!One day, we went with a busload from the resort to visit a winery, which was very interesting! It started my husband thinking about growing grapes (at home in nearby MN), and he eventually did, and wine making followed!There is much, much, much to do at Christmas Mountain at the Dells...any time of year!We spent a spring week at the Peppertree at Tamarack Resort, the middle of May. This is a very different resort from CMV, but just as "grand"! It is lacking in nothing...we especially appreciated the indoor tennis courts! There is a lovely, small lake on site, and there are paddle boats to take you out on it! There's also a lovely pathway around it! The resort hosts many activities for guests, including game playing! On Monday morning, there's a breakfast get-together held, and here you learn of all the things to see and do during your stay at Peppertree at Tamarack...and the world famous Wisconsin Dells!Sign up for the Upper Dells Boat Trip, you won't be sorry! This is a "must-see"...it should be put at the TOP of your list of things to do! It's FILLED with adventure...but go on a day when the weather is favorable, it'll be much more enjoyable!About a 2 hour drive from the Dells, is the renowned "House On The Rock"...visited by thousands every year, you'll want to make a visit to this Wisconsin "high spot" too...Water Parks are the latest "splash" at the Wisconsin Dells...loved by all kids, to be sure! And, I'm sure, by a lot of adult "kids" too! And, of course, there are many good eating places at the Dells, including the one named, "Paul Bunyan's"...a real authentic "northwoods" adventure in dining!Close
Written by MCJ graduate on 23 Jun, 2005
In my opinion, if you haven’t taken a historical Dells Boat Tour, then you haven’t been to the Dells. You must take this tour. It is the oldest attraction of the Dells (over 150 years old). After going on this tour, you will realize why…Read More
In my opinion, if you haven’t taken a historical Dells Boat Tour, then you haven’t been to the Dells. You must take this tour. It is the oldest attraction of the Dells (over 150 years old). After going on this tour, you will realize why tourists take it. It possesses not only a rich historical theme, but it has exquisite rock formations, too.
My partner and I, back in 1987, had the choice of taking the Upper Dells tour, the Lower Dells tour, or both. After the guides told us we had to disembark the boat and walk around to sightsee on the Upper Dells tour, we decided to take the Lower Dells tour only (it was a very hot June day). In addition, I didn’t want to be on a boat excursion more than an hour anyway. Hence, we bought our tickets (back then, it was around $10 per adult ticket, I think). Then, after we purchased our tickets, we boarded our boat. It had two decks. We sat on top in uncomfortable lawn chairs. In spite of the seating, we enjoyed the tour. All the topics of the tour were discussed in an enthusiastic manner by the guide, and the scenery was remarkable. We took a few pictures of the sandstone rock formations and river.
The main theme on this 1-hour tour is to see how the glacial age created this area of Wisconsin and its influence on it. This encompasses stories about the ghost town named Newport and the once-rich logging era. The tour also has famous locations below the river’s dam, and the guide will discuss Native American history and folklore. You will be exposed to the sandstone rock formations, some with names such as "the creamer and sugar bowls." And you will see what is called the Rocky Islands, which is a group of sandstone formations protruding out of the water.
As I have already mentioned, you have a choice of what kind of tour you want to take. Basically, on the Lower Dells, you will see the sandstone formations from the boat. If you take the Upper Dells tour, it is a 2-hour excursion. It stops at two historic shore landings that only the Dells Boat Tours has access to. These are called Witches Gulch and Stand Rock. At Witches Gulch passengers can look at the unique passageways as they walk through a brisk canyon that is supposed to be gorgeous. Concerning Stand Rock, this is the Dell’s word-famous trademark. This is where the infamous Dells photographer H.H. Bennett took a picture of his son jumping the 5-foot chasm from the cliff to the rock ledge in 1888. As a commemoration of this, (the world’s first stop-action photo), this tour company has trained dogs do the same thing.
If you desire to have your heart pound faster, then I suggest you take this company’s other tour called Jet Boat.
Tours are offered daily from mid-March to October. In the summer, they go from 9am to 7pm every 20 to 30 minutes, and in the spring/fall, from 9am to 4pm. Call for tour times. The phone number for this place is 608/254-8555. The main ticket booth locations are at the Upper Dells dock (107 Broadway) in downtown Wisconsin Dells and the Lower Dells dock (junction of highway 12, 13, and 16, Wisconsin Dells Parkway), but there are other booths located throughout this area. An adult fare for Upper Dells is $19.75, and a half fare (ages 6 to 11) is $9.75. An adult fare for the Lower Dells is $15.75, and the half fare is $8.25. And the Jet Boat full fare is $17.75, and the half fare (ages 6to 11) is $10. There are also group rates available.
Written by kstraveler on 07 Jan, 2004
The next day after we had checked in to Christmas Mountain Village, we bought tickets for the upper and lower Dells boat trips. If you intend to take both rides, you save money by buying the combined ticket. The Upper Dells tour was…Read More
The next day after we had checked in to Christmas Mountain Village, we bought tickets for the upper and lower Dells boat trips. If you intend to take both rides, you save money by buying the combined ticket. The Upper Dells tour was the longest of the two boat trips. The Dells are the State's most popular natural attraction. The Wisconsin River has cut a channel through the sandstone to a depth of 150 feet, and for a distance of 15 miles has carved the rock into beautiful and unusual formations. The Upper Dells tour included stops at Witches Gulch and stand rock where walked along nature trails. We really had a wonderful time and felt that the guides did a wonderful job of explaining the history and geology of the area. We think the Wisconsin Dells area is a wonderful place to visit over and over.
Written by drundel on 24 Apr, 2001
With our vacation time winding down, we reluctantly packed up our campsite and headed toward Munising. The town, about halfway across the Upper Peninsula on the southern shore, was to be a short stop before heading home.
On the way, we continued to…Read More
With our vacation time winding down, we reluctantly packed up our campsite and headed toward Munising. The town, about halfway across the Upper Peninsula on the southern shore, was to be a short stop before heading home.
On the way, we continued to see how often I could get lost looking for lighthouses. The first lighthouse pictured was not even listed in our lighthouse book. The L'Anse Indian Country Sports Lighthouse is a homemade lighthouse which has been approved by the Coast Guard. The owner once had his business nearby, but wanted to rebuild. He had always said (to himself or others, I'm not sure) that when he did rebuild, it would include a lighthouse. He did exactly that, and was quite eager to show us around. We got pictures of the light and of the view from the tower. It did help that he didn't have any customers in his store at the time. We were quite impressed with his friendliness and ingenuity. He also gave us directions to the second lighthouse pictured, which was nearby.
The Sand Point lighthouse is also privately owned, but on a public road. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a state our county office nearby that also helped us find the place. I can use all the help I can get!
The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is a bit easier to find. It reminds me of the lighthouse called "Big Red" on Lake Michigan, the one in Holland harbor. It, unfortunately, is also privately owned, and the access is blocked by Coast Guard property. Apparently the owners have been bothered enough by us lighthouse fanatics, for the access drive has signs making it clear that the area is private. The beach isn't totally private, though, which is where we got our photos.
The final lighthouse picture is from the Grand Harbor range light system. It is fairly easy to find if you don't drive too fast on M28 between Christmas and Munising. It sure is a good thing I have an understanding and patient wife, because we passed a couple of times before we actually got the pictures. There is another light in the system, but it was not quite as noticable. The Munising area has several different lighthouses and range lights, not all of which we were able to capture on film. I do have another lighthouse on the next segment (Munising, Michigan), along with some pictures of Munising falls. (Just thought I'd give you something to look forward to!)
One of our main objectives for this summer's vacation was to see lighthouses. Door County was our first choice. As a peninsula which separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan, it has 11 lighthouses listed in one book I saw. We only saw three of them,…Read More
One of our main objectives for this summer's vacation was to see lighthouses. Door County was our first choice. As a peninsula which separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan, it has 11 lighthouses listed in one book I saw. We only saw three of them, partly due to my late planning. Campgrounds in Wisconsin, at least state park campgrounds, seem to fill up fast. We had to camp near Lake Winnebago. It worked out well in one way. There are lots of neat things to see and do there, too. It didn't work out so well for the lighthouse objectives. Touring the Keweenaw worked out better for us that way.
Just driving the state route to Copper Harbor will get you within sight of at least two lighthouses. Eagle River and Eagle Harbor are on state route 26, and their lighthouses are just off the main road. We got nice pictures of them. While we were in Eagle River, we happened to stop in to a little general store for ice cream cones. By chance, we ran into a former secretary from my school system. She and her husband had just purchased a B&B in the area. More than 500 miles from home, we still ran into people we knew, small world.
We had plenty to do at Fort Wilkins State Park, had we been planning on staying there. They have shows almost every night at the fort, which is part of the campgrounds. We did see a couple of those. One was put on by students, mostly from Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech. It had the students in costume, portraying various people from the time the fort was in operation, shortly after the Civil War. A second show was led by a naturalist from the area. He spoke of winters in the area. It didn't sound like something that I wanted to experience first hand. In fact, there is a marker on the peninsula marking what they call the snow capital of the Midwest. At the spot they have a display noting the 32 FEET of snow the area got a few years back. That is a bit too much for me. The state park also had fishing and swimming in the adjoining lake, Lake Fannie Hooe. We didn't bring the proper gear to enjoy this thoroughly, so we passed on all but the fort tours and shows.
Deb and I planned one day for seeing area lighthouses. I had thoughts of driving to Ontonagan. I knew we could see Lake of the Clouds, as well as the lighthouse in the area, and perhaps more on the way. When we figured out how long we would be driving, we made alternate plans. The drive would hopefully only be half a day. We, of course, didn't plan in all my normal side trips.
Leaving Copper Harbor, we took US 41 south. As I said in an earlier article, there are at least 3 routes to Copper Harbor from the southern part of the peninsula. US 41 is a truly American road, going through eight states on its way to Miami, Florida. We had been to the southernmost end on our way to Key West, two years earlier. We drove to the northernmost end while we stayed at Fort Wilkins. It ended about 1 mile north of the park, in a woods. There was a dirt track which headed even farther north, but we were warned against driving it with our van. Apparently 4-wheel drives can handle it, but others get pulled out regularly. They either get stuck or break something in their drive shaft.
The drive to F.J. McLain State Park was very pleasant. This is one of about 7 Michigan state parks on or very close to Lake Superior. McLain is special because it has a lighthouse, the first of several we saw that day. Not far from F. J. McLain State Park is the start of the Keweenaw Waterway. Like the Sturgeon Bay ship canal in Wisconsin, it is a man-made canal designed to cut shipping time on the Great Lakes. At the northern end of the waterway we saw the Upper Keweenaw Waterway Lighthouse. The wind and waves discouraged us from walking close on the adjoining breakwater. It is about a half-hour drive from here to the towns of Houghton and Hancock. They were once mining towns, and today there have museums and schools which focuses on mining and engineering, such as Michigan Tech.
The trip was then supposed to parallel the waterway south and east to the end of the Keweenaw Bay. We looked for the lighthouse here, but only found a county park with a pier on the south side of the waterway. The picture we took of the Keweenaw Waterway Lighthouse from the southern part of the waterway was too far away to be used. I gave up trying to find the lighthouse I thought was on the southern part of the bay. We returned to Houghton, determined to find the lighthouse we knew to be on the northern part of the waterway.
Trying to find the town of Jacobsville is a bit difficult. We asked for directions at an area corner store, and they led us in the right direction. The real problem is, the town of Jacobsville didn't appear to exist, at least we didn't find any town to speak of. We did find another county park, and the best access to the Keweenaw Upper Entrance Light. That is where we took our best picture of it. after walking about 50 yards out on the breakwater. The lighthouse we were looking for south of the waterway was actually on the northern shore. The wind was splashing waves upon the walkway, so I wimped out, laid down, and Deb shot the picture. If the wind had been less, you could walk pretty easily out to the lighthouse, even though the book we used said this lighthouse is inaccessible. The book actually says the lighthouse can be viewed from the south side of the waterway, which it can, but the best access is from the north.
The book also led us astray on the top lighthouse, the one known as the Portage River, or Jacobsville, lighthouse. We drove around a bit until we got close to it. A neighbor working in his yard gave us good directions to find it. The neighbor also pointed out that the lighthouse is on a public road, so you can drive up to it to take pictures, without bothering the owners. The book said the lighthouse was privately owned, and the owners wouldn't want to be bothered. I don't think we bothered anyone as we shot our picture from a public road, then drove on.
I have taken some pot shots at the book I used to locate most of the lighthouses we saw on this vacation. We actually shopped quite a bit before picking that book. Copper Harbor had several stores with lighthouse books, so we had plenty to choose from. We picked the one we used because it had lots of photos, and because it had a check-off spot with place for date to note the lighthouses you visit. If I had read more thoroughly, I would have noticed that the author did not try to visit every lighthouse, and admitted that he might be incorrect in some aspects. Upon more thorough reading, I found several lighthouses he didn't comment on at all, and I have found a couple of lighthouses not even mentioned in the book that do exist. I guess the purpose of this last paragraph is to warn the buyer to beware, as always. What you see may not be what you want.
As I mentioned in previous articles, there are at least three ways to get to Copper Harbor, Michigan, by land. M26 is a state road that skirts Lake Superior and comes into the town from the northwest. US41 starts in Miami, Florida, and ends north…Read More
As I mentioned in previous articles, there are at least three ways to get to Copper Harbor, Michigan, by land. M26 is a state road that skirts Lake Superior and comes into the town from the northwest. US41 starts in Miami, Florida, and ends north of Copper Harbor after going through the middle of the Keweenaw peninsula. Brockway Mountain Scenic Drive, as the name would suggest, is a scenic road that splits the two highways mentioned above. One end of the Drive is just outside Copper Harbor; the other end is east of Eagle Harbor on M26. We took the drive on a brisk, breezy day in August of 2000, thinking the scenery would blow us away. Mother Nature almost blew us away instead.
The start of the scenic drive by Copper Harbor is narrow and hilly. Within 3 miles there is a scenic turnout, where we took the pictures. At Fort Wilkins State Park, just north of Copper Harbor, one of the presenters during a show mentioned that most of the lakes on the peninsula had been named for wives or sweethearts of fort personnel, in the mid-1800's. All the lakes have reverted back to more natural, native names, except Lake Fannie Hooe. That must have been one special Fannie!
Continuing south and west on the drive, you come to another scenic spot. This one is larger, with restrooms and a gift shop. From here you can see Lake Superior west of the Keweenaw peninsula and Keweenaw Bay east of the peninsula.
While we were there, we decided to check out the gift shop. It is in a small (14'x60') trailer, right on top of the mountain. We were inside when a brief storm came up, bringing rain and more wind. The trailer was being shaken by the wind, and the rain was pelting the building quite noisily. We shopped until the rain quit, then got back in our van to continue on. I proved my mettle, however, when I insisted we return to the gift shop. The wind hadn't let up enough to have me feel comfortable driving around a mountain I didn't know, and possibly being blown off a cliff somewhere. We left after another 15 minutes or so, returning to Copper Harbor and the safety of our campground. At least there we only had bears to worry about.
The nicest part of this little trip is the expense. It is a public road, and the only cost to us was for gifts in the gift shop. If I remember correctly, there are picnic sites along the way, and lunch could be picnic style, and cheap, as well.
There are a lot of other things to do in the Keweenaw Peninsula. We took a tour of the Delaware Mine, an abandoned copper mine opened only for tours. It was interesting and pleasant. It was less than $10 per person for a tour of the grounds and mine, lasting about 90 minutes. There are lots of museums in Calumet, Houghton, and Hancock to see, as well as other mines to tour and visit. The Keweenaw has been named a National Historic Park, with various businesses contributing to the historical tours and sites. If you want to go there just for the nature, it is a beautiful place. If you want to see historical sites, it has its share. It truly is a special part of Michigan.