Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 2
*By clicking on any photo, the slideshow will appear
For those downstate who joked about there being nothing “UP” there before we left, the road between Marquette and The Porcupine Mountains proves them correct. Waking in Marquette on the shore of Lake Superior, we decided to make the most of our time and shoot straight across the west coast of the UP. M41 to 28 and a turn north on 64 brings you to Silver City and the base of the Porcupine Mountains. Between the two points there isn’t much; a series of four corner stops like Bruce Crossing with a few gas stations, most of which had no gas and a bar here or there serving food. We drove straight on through; the most we saw was a line of cars on the highway, pulled over staring at a moose.
The Lake of the Clouds is one of the most referenced spots in most guidebooks to the UP and rightly so. A left turn out of Silver City onto the 107th Engineers Memorial Highway will take you all the way up to a short walk and the lake. You pass a NPS sign marking "The End of the Earth" straight ahead (not the first or the last time we would see signs proclaiming the area ahead of us to be the edge of the world.) We arrived just in time for an evening hike on the Escarpment trail, which winds its way through the old growth hardwood forest and along the copper rich bedrock cliffs that edge the lake. It’s an easily reached, impressive view and worth the time it took to drive all the way west.
Walking the ridge until the sun got low in the sky, we turned back, riding the end of the road down into Silver City in search of dinner and a place to sleep for the night. The only restaurant open in town stopped serving at 8:00pm and once again, we were left scrambling to find a bite to eat as the night set in. We were directed back onto Route 64 to a place called Konteka which, we were told, served till 10. One of the main reasons for not mapping out our travel before we set out is that you stumble upon gems like the Konteka, which you wouldn’t otherwise, when you get lost.
Konteka Lodge is a world unto itself. You can tell a lot about a city or town by how it’s built in response to its climate (think of the underground tunnels connecting portions of Montreal, I take that as a warning of the winters to come). At the Konteka Lodge, all housed under one roof, was a restaurant, motel, convenience store, a bar called the Black Bear Lodge and a bowling alley. All accessible through a series of hallways so you could not set foot outside in the winter months. We were told they got 320+ inches of snow last winter and that was an average year. Their busiest season was the winter when the snowmobilers came through. Konteka was also the home to a family of eight black bears living behind the restaurant that were fed daily by the Konteka staff. We were told you would sometimes see the bears wandering by the bay window while you ate. Lindy, at the front desk, promised that she’d call us at any hour if any showed up, as we retired for the evening. A rustling outside of my first floor window in the middle of the night was about as close as we came to any bears. However it did mean the window was shut and latched for the evening. I wanted more than a screen separating me from any inquisitive paws that might reach through.
Leaving the Konteka we opted to take the smallest roads we could, winding our way up to Copper Harbor. Often times this route took us far out of our way, but we weren’t in any rush and we enjoyed the random adventures we seemed to be stumbling upon. As we slow rolled through Ontonagon, we stopped, seeing a man fixing two dirt bikes in his front yard. Larendo worked for the local police dept. and was spending his afternoon off repairing his son’s new/used bikes. It seemed most folks up here owned a snowmobile, if not a dirt bike, or 4 Wheeler. We hung out with Lorendo for an hour or so talking about the UP. A lot of the towns were dying as kids moved away to bigger cities, most industry had left and folks were turning to logging their land to stay afloat. Blaine shot a few portraits of Lorendo and his son, Tristan, before we said goodbye. As we were leaving, Lorendo saw Blaine shoot a Polaroid and mentioned that the police station had cases of Polaroid film they were about to throw away, so we should swing by and see if they’d give it to us. A conversation with a very confused deputy had us leaving my name and phone number with the sheriff. I said I’d swing back after Isle Royale if they really were interested in parting with the film and I would go to great lengths to get it. We grabbed a quick bite at Syl’s Cafe in town before we continued on north towards Copper Harbor. Our goal for the night was to reach the Northern most point of the Keweenaw Peninsula and up to Brockway Mountain where we were told on a clear day we might be able to see Isle Royale off in the distance.
To view the entire slideshow, click Here!
Wolverine Traveler: The Upper Peninsula
Photography & Text: Mikael Kennedy
Co-Pilot: Blaine Davis