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The Island Tour
by Marianne Rzepka

After many trips to national parks across America, Margaret finally got to go to the one national park in her own state of Michigan on a 10-day trip at the end of July. Traveling along were her sister Marianne and Laura, (co-grandma with Margaret to Olivia and Gray) to Isle Royale National Park, set on the tippy top of Michigan, on the far side of Lake Superior. The aim was to get to Isle Royale National Park, a 3 1/2 hour boat ride from Copper Harbor, which is at least a 10-hour drive from the McCarty house in Clinton Township. Of course, there were a number of stops along the way...

Days 1 and 2, Mackinac Island: This was the trio’s first stop, staying two nights at the Small Point Bed and Breakfast, Margaret’s favorite B&B. While Marianne, feeling under the weather, enjoyed hanging out all day at Small Point, Margaret and Laura traipsed up to the Grand Hotel to sit on the expansive front porch and peruse the various shops inside. They also made a stop at the island stables, then headed to the Pink Pony, a favorite of all McCartys whenever they‘re on Mackinac Island.

Our home base for 2 days, the Small Point B&B - Margaret and Laura find the (not so) Secret Garden at the Grand Hotel
Walking up the the Grand Hotel - Margaret found her happy place, "Margaret's Garden" - Marianne & Laura on a horse drawn carriage

Days 3 and 4, Copper Harbor: The next leg of the trip was a five hour to Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Along the way, the three had to stop at the Lakenenland Sculpture Park outside Marquette. (https://lakenenland.com) The park is 37 acres of “junk” sculpture - about 100 pieces put together from scrap iron and other metal by Tom Lakenen, who welcomes everyone to visit except for members of the Chocolay Township board which tried to stop him at every turn.

The three made it to Copper Harbor in the early evening, pulling into the Dapple Gray, part B&B, part antique shop and full of taxidermy - a black bear greets you at the door. If that’s not enough, off the main room you’l find a room full of vintage dolls, wide-eyed and staring - obviously friends of Chucky.

Running the house is Ruth, who is in charge of the antiques and the rose beds, Ole, who will make you breakfast and tell you stories about the area, and their son Abe, who takes care of odds and ends. Sharing the premises is a menagerie of two dachshunds, a rabbit, a kitten named Peanut and three miniature donkeys, Wilhelmina, Rose and Eeyore.

The next day was simply preparing for the boat trip to Isle Royale. That meant checking out the dock area, buying souvenirs and seeing the Copper Harbor sites, including Brockway Mountain, which at 735 feet is considered a mountain in Michigan. There was also a stop at The Jampot, where a line forms outside a small building where you can buy jams, candy and fruit cakes from the monks at Poorrock Abbey, a Byzantine Catholic monastery whose golden onion dome can be seen on the shore of Lake Superior.

In the evening, our travelers signed up for sunset cruise (they were the only three onboard) on Copper Harbor with a stop at the lighthouse to check out the the lighthouse keeper’s buildings and the entrance to an abandoned mine.

Since the boat for Isle Royale leaves at 8:30 a.m., they turned in early and were on the dock early for the 3 1/2 hour trip the the national park.

Some pictures from Lakenenland... At least the price was right! 
The outside of our home at Copper Harbor
Great views from the porch, but the inside was a little bit creepy
Feeding the donkeys - Posing by the landmarks
Margaret, Marianne and Laura are off to take a Lake Superior lighthouse boat tour

Day 5, Isle Royale: Before the boat embarked for the island, the captain encouraged anyone who felt queasy to go outside and puke in Lake Superior, since who wants to clean up any onboard puke? (Answer: no one.)

On arrival on the island, all passengers were given an orientation talk by a ranger: It’s is the only national park closed in the winter. There are no bears on the island. There are no ticks that “latch” onto people, only onto moose. There is no wifi, except in the guest house, and it didn’t seem to work very well. The only cell phone connections were at the top of the rocky ridge that runs along the length of the island, and that was from Canada.

After the talk, our travelers stopped at the island’s one grill for lunch. before heading off to find their room, admire the view and take two-hour naps. Later, someone from the boat admitted she and her group did a 10-mile hike! It’s a vacation, not an iron man competition!

The three travelers did a bit of hiking, heading toward Suzy’s Cave along one trail. The mosquitoes weren’t much of a bother, since Margaret provisioned all with hats with attached veils to keep the pests off. But the trail was ready to trip hikers with rocks and roots, and it was getting dark, so the trip to Suzy’s Cave will have to wait for another time.

The next day, was a bit rainy, but not so wet that a short walk along the Stoll Trail was just the thing to do before boarding the boat for another long trip on Lake Superior. The walk provided the sight of an eagle flying off with a just-caught fish and a stop at a scenic outlook was a good point to turn back to catch the 2:30 p.m. boat back to Copper Harbor.

As the boat approached the dock at Copper Harbor, the captain blew the whistle, triggering the wait staff at the Harbor Haus restaurant onshore to drop everything and break out in a welcoming dance. (FYI: For those of you who would love to run a restaurant, word is the Harbor Haus may be for sale this fall.)

The 3+ hour boat trip to Isle Royale - The view from our room - Skinny trails made you keep your balance
Marianne & Laura relaxing - The ladies next to a map of the island - We are keeping safe from bugs while hiking

Day 6, Copper Harbor again: After another night at the Dapple Gray, Margaret, Laura and Marianne made a stop at the Eagle Harbor lighthouse, which includes a museum with lots of information about the site, including the shipwreck of the City of Bangor that was stuck in the ice in 1926 with 248 new Chryslers in the hold. (Spoiler alert: There was a harrowing rescue of the crew and a later rescue of the Chryslers on an ice bridge.)

A must-see spot on the peninsula is the giant “snow thermometer” - perhaps the name “sno-mo-meter” is a better name - in the town of Phoenix that shows the height of the 390.4 inches of snow that fell on the Keweenaw Peninsula back in the winter of 1978-79.

Days 7 and 8, Newberry: The travelers’ next destination - a motel outside Newberry - was their only stop not connected with a Great Lake. The attraction there is a trip on the Tooonerville Trolley and River Boat Tour. The trip includes a 40-minute jaunt on an open-sided trolley to a boat dock on the Tahquamenon River, then to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The Tahquamenon River is a quiet waterway and included the sight of some wildlife, including residents of houses and deer camps who obviously have few things to do besides wave to passing boats. (FYI: If you don’t want a restaurant in Copper Harbor, the Toonerville Trolley is also listed for sale.) https://mynewberrynews.com/features/toonerville-trolley-iconic-business-for-sale/

Waiting for the boat on the Tahquamenon River for that part of our tour - Tahquamenon Falls

Day 9, Drummond Island via Sault Ste. Marie: Finally, the three headed for Drummond Island, the state’s second largest island (after Isle Royale) and the final stop in the Island Tour, via Sault Ste. Marie. The park at the Soo locks has been quite gussied up, with a tall fence, grassy lawns, a welcome center with information on the locks and a double-tiered observation structure so tourists like can get a better view of the ships coming and going. https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/things-you-may-not-know-about-soo-locks

After a few hours and a couple crepes from Oh Crepe and Coffee, a local shop near the locks, the trip continued on to the final stop on Drummond Island.

Unlike Isle Royale (no wheeled vehicles allowed) and Mackinac Island (no motor vehicles), you can drive your car on Drummond Island via the ferry. There is a schedule for the ferry, but that didn’t seem to make any difference. After Margaret maneuvered the car onto the ferry, there was a 20 to 30 minute wait - the only entertainment was watching the woman in the car ahead trying several hair styles using the rearview mirror - before the ferry made the 10 to 15 minute trip to the island.

Overnight lodging was at the Drummond Island Resort (and Conference Center), which offers activities such as skeet shooting - cheaper if you bring your own gun and skeet - but the tired travelers wanted little to do by then but to have dinner at the resort restaurant, take a short walk and go to sleep. Conveniently, the room had two queen-sized beds and another up in a loft, which made it easy to make shadow puppets on the wall before all of them fell asleep.

Sault St. Marie Locks and some other sights around the town
Line to the car ferry to Drummond Island - A look from the sandy beach on the island

Day 10, home again: The next morning there was little to do but check out the small beach at the resort and fuel up the car, before booking it back - via ferry, of course - back home. Lunch was in Mackinaw City, then straight southward to home.

Highlights: Fresh air, interesting strangers (who was that guy with the “Retired, but not Expired” cap in Copper Harbor?), seeing a national park, as well as two eagles, loons, boats and bridges and three donkeys.

Disappointments: Didn’t find license plates from all 50 states, waiting in a backup at the Mackinac Bridge on the way home, no Diet Pepsi in the vending machine at the rest stop, no time to see more lighthouses.

P.S. If you’d like to see - in real time - backups at the Drummond Island ferry or the ships at the Soo Locks, or the foot and horse carriage traffic on Mackinac Island, check out these live cams: https://www.wmta.org/live-west-michigan-camera-gallery/drummond-island-west-michigan-live-camera/

Are you traveling or going on a road trip? Please email your articles and pix to mccartymetro@gmail.com.


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