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Wolverine Traveler: Deep Below Heaven - Chapter 1

Posted On: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 , Wolverine Traveler

As we departed NYC on June 1st, we asked ourselves, when does an adventure actually begin? When you walk out the door? Which door? Onto the plane? Into the car?

As we rolled quickly down to Nashville from NYC for the first show of the tour and then into Florence, AL for the second show, we quickly realized our trip would be full of arbitrary starts and stops, each moment as new as the next one. From Florence, our route was directed to the west, towards the Pacific. We had a week between shows, leaving time to kill as we crossed the states. There were many penciled in marks on our map of places we dreamed of visiting and one bright red circle: White Sands, NM.

 

On Tuesday we woke up in Elk City, OK – a city we both remembered from reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. As Elk City disappeared into our rear view mirror, we raced through storms into Tornado Alley, trying to reach Amarillo by the morning, as George Strait’s greatest hits played as we crossed the city line. The further west we drove, the more the terrain changed. On the doorstep of New Mexico, the trees got shorter and scrubbier, the dirt reddened and the sky seemed taller.

 

We drove into White Sands just before sunset; it was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. White slopes of sand extend as far as the eye can see and it was unbelievably quiet. Small black beetles scurried across the white surface and improbably little pink flowers bloomed on desert plants. Our red circle was truly a magical part of the country.

 

As we raced straight across Navajo Nation, deeper in to the west, we caught the sunset beyond Shiprock from a dirt road that was littered with broken bottles. The red rock formation truly looks like a ship in the distance, full sails against the flat expanse around it. As the sun went down, we pulled into a gas station to ask directions to the nearest motel. As a black dog wandered the parking lot, peering into the parked cars, we were informed that the nearest lodging was 30 miles behind us. We gave the dog the last of our sandwich meat from the cooler before we began our retrace down 64 and settled into our motel for the evening.

We’ve never traveled America like this before; being lead by one road leading to the next, all the interconnected highways and byways crisscrossing the land. The landscapes slowly changed before our eyes, taking it’s time, then exploding with beauty. We took US 89 right up to Jacob’s Lake in Arizona, near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We checked into our cabin and took inter-state 67 south for a Grand Canyon sunset. Travelers like ourselves sat lawn chairs on a stone ledge and watched the sun as it lowered slowly over the canyon. We took a trail to the left where kids were running around, making their parents nervous climbing on the edges of the cliffs. We found a quiet rock and stared out into the worldly abyss. It was our frist time ever seeing it, and it was so much more than we’d ever imagined.

 

We traveled north into Utah. Our updated paper map had certain roads that ceased to exist or changed names. We took a wrong turn and saw a sign for Corral Pink Sand Dunes. We followed that road for quite a few miles and started to wonder if it was in fact an outdated sign, or we had made yet another wrong turn. Then, around a bend, we were indeed surrounded by towering sand dunes dusted in a rust color. A park sign explained that the sand came from red Navajo sandstone, funneled over time through a notch in the moquith and Moccasin Mountains. We took our shoes off and climbed in.

 

After 7 days of wandering in the Southwest we had to finally start making our way towards L.A. and the string of shows that would take us up the coast. We crossed the Mojave Desert in 106 Degree heat, under an unrelenting mid-day sun. We turned off the AC so the car wouldn’t overheat and hot wind poured in through the windows. As the hot wind hit our faces, I tmade us think about how things used to be done, how people must have crossed the desert generations before us, on foot, or on horseback, by sheer will-power. After miles of nothing and brutal heat, we stopped at a 7-11 in Twentynine Palms, CA and enjoyed Klondike bars in the shade.

We arrived at the Joshua Tree Inn, a welcomed oasis after the long days’ drive. A perfect paole gold moon was rising over the hills in a pink sky. We walked up into the desert as the evening cooled, past little houses set back from the road as we experienced a moment of calm before the next week of shows.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of #WolverineTraveler and a gallery of photos from the trip.

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Wolverine Traveler: Q&A with Melaena Cadiz

Posted On: Monday, May 26, 2014 , Wolverine Traveler

 

Shortly we will kick of the new #WolverineTraveler and while you know a lot about photographer Mikael Kennedy and his past journeys with Wolverine, we haven’t fully introduced you to his very talented and lovely wife, Melaena.  Equipped with #1000Mile boots, Melaena and Mikael will take off on a month long tour to promote her new album, Deep Below Heaven.  Get to know Melaena a bit more through our Q&A session with her below.

 

 

As a little girl, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
An acrobat.  Then a writer.


When/how did you start playing music?

I always sang, my parents had to implement a “no-singing-at-the-dinner-table” rule.  Then, in high school my dad brought home a classical guitar after one of his business trips, he’s an architect and would travel a lot for work.  He gave my brother and I all these songbooks with hits from the 60s & 70s and we became obsessed with learning those and then writing our own songs.  My friends and I started a band, played a lot of NIN covers and performed at coffee shops and  school festivals.


How would you describe your music? And who or what have been your biggest artistic influences?
I think the best way to describe it is as Americana.  It’s influenced by folk, country, rock, blues, sometimes I’m inspired to write something very classic country and sometimes a meandering psychedelic chant.  But I think it’s all very much of America and saturated with the places and people I’ve known living around the country.
My biggest musical influences as an artist are pretty classic, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Loretta Lynn, Billie Holiday. I love Joanna Newsom. I’m really drawn to all sorts of music, but always get hooked in by strong lyrics—whether intricate like Joanna Newsom or simple and Hemmingway-esque, like Tom Petty.  I’ve been getting into more pop music lately and the economy of words in good pop songs is mesmerizing. 


What does your “dream” band look like… who would you most like to play with?
I really got back into Mazzy Star lately, I love their sound, the simplicity and restraint of it.   I was just listening to some of Lucinda Williams’ records, she has this great hybrid of classic country and dreamy more contemporary guitar parts woven into it.  Emmylou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” album is like this too, it’s one of my favorites, produced by Daniel Lanois.
I’d love to get to play with a string quartet—my producer Alexander Foote wrote some amazing string parts for this record and I’d love to be able to play them live.  


What’s the inspiration behind Deep Below Heaven?
The title comes from a short story out of Sam Shepard’s “Motel Chronicles” about a man in a motorcycle accident.  He falls from his Kawasaki and he has the sense of being “deep below heaven, the tallest sky he’d ever seen.”  I fell in love with that phrase, this idea of us humans swarming the earth with all our love and sadness, our desires and defeats.
I like to think of the record as a book of short stories, myself and each of the characters struggling in our own universe but united in that struggle, deep below heaven, far from grace, reaching for something.


What are you most excited about as you begin your cross-country tour for Deep Below Heaven?  What are you least looking forward to?
I’m so excited to see all these parts of the country where I’ve never been.  The Grand Canyon, the Badlands, and catching up with friends along the way.  I’m not looking forward to a bunch of 15 hour drive days, but we’ll make some good playlists. And I just got CDs to learn Spanish!


What books are you currently reading or what is your favorite book?
I love “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen, “East of Eden” by Steinbeck, “Of Water & The Spirit” by Malidoma Patrice Some, a really beautiful true story about ritual in West Africa.  I just read “Mrs. Dalloway” – I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before, it’s amazing, the way the narrator hops from inside one person’s mind to another and really gets at the things that are so hard to put into words; people’s struggle to connect to one another, our apart-ness, the nature of time passing. Reading that I felt like, “wow, this is what I’ve been trying to capture in a lot of  my songs”  I guess in a sense it’s what everyone tries to capture and express in their art.


Outside of music, what is your favorite pastime, how do you relax?
I love to cook, my dad just taught me to make Paella, so I’m going to give it a whirl this week.  My husband Mikael and I go for walks in the country whenever we are able to get out of town.  My girlfriends and I have craft nights when we have the time, we gather at my house and make dinner and paint and sew things—I’ve been working on mobiles for my friends’ babies out of sticks and felt. 


What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Maybe a lot of people don’t know I’m half Filipina, my dad was raised in Manila and my mom’s English-Irish from Caro, MI.


A fellow Michigan native, what are a few of your favorite things and places here?
The sleeping bear dunes, I remember going there for the first time as a little girl and how magic and other-worldly they were. My family also spent lots of time at my grandparents cottage in South Haven on Lake Michigan, I had the best summers running around with all my cousins and taking our little inflatable boat out into the waves. That was a really wonderful way to get to g
row up.


Stay tuned as we follow Mikael and Melaena on their journey! #WolverineTraveler

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 6

Posted On: Thursday, August 08, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

Our trip across the Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale for Wolverine: Traveler was like a journey weaving back and forth through different decades and centuries. In such an out-of-the-way place at the edge of the United States, we were treated to different moments of epic beauty, destruction, and humor—all artifacts  and reminders of the recent and more distant past. We saw hints of life out of reach of mobile phones, landscapes unknown to automobiles, and people who make a life on the outskirts of civilization. In the end, it is the landscape and the small signs of human life that make the Upper Peninsula stand out in my mind from the many different borderlands of the United States.   - Blaine Davis

To view all of Blaines pictures, click HERE!

We flew home on the last day from Michigan back to NYC, Blaine carried a bag overflowing with film he’d shot over the past 10 days. Traveling with another photographer is always an interesting experience: you can stare at the same thing and each see it entirely differently. If you’re open enough to allow your styles to move with each other to blend together, it can work remarkably well. Traveling with Blaine is always a success; I learn so much from watching him photograph strangers we’d meet, working to make them feel comfortable and to not notice the camera on the tripod in front of them as he took his time to remove the pressure one feels from having a lense focused on them. These are Blaine’s photos from our adventure, another look at the life we saw across the UP. -   Mikael Kennedy

Wolverine Traveler: The Upper Peninsula

Mikael Kennedy is a New York City-based commercial and fine art photographer. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Polaroid travel blog, Passport to Trespass, documenting his 10 years of wandering the United States with a Polaroid SX70.
 
Blaine Davis Raised in the contrasting cultures of South Texas and Eastern Europe, Blaine Davis quickly developed a taste for travel, photography and the outdoors at a young age. He is currently working as a photographer, teacher and sometime writer in Brooklyn, NY.

Chapters
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Cold Splinters also did a posting on Mikael and his Journey in the UP along with some exclusive photos. View Now!

 

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 5

Posted On: Sunday, August 04, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

Our adventure through the UP reached its pinnacle on Isle Royale, but we still had a few days left till our flight out of Rockford and we figured it was just enough time for a few quick stops along the way. It seemed wrong to leave the UP without doing a little exploring on an ATV since the entire peninsula is crisscrossed with trails, and I’m sure most folks up there would claim it’s the national pastime, at least when there’s no snow to be on a snowmobile. Luckily enough you can rent one just about anywhere up there, including the Super 8 Motel on the edge of the Hiawatha National Forest in the town of Wetmore which is where we found ourselves for the night.

A solid 8 hours the next day of tearing down the dirt tracks through the trees, making our way out to the shore of Lake Superior left us exhausted and covered in dust. Mid-day on the trails we stopped for lunch on the shore of Lake Superior when I received a message from an old friend, Michigan-born folk-singer Dana Falconberry. Dana was back in Michigan for a family reunion and she insisted that we stop by on our way home for a tour of some of her favorite spots she’d been visiting since she was a kid. Dana was staying up near Sleeping Bear dunes in a town called Leelanau so we veered a little off our route home up through Traverse City to Lake Leelanau, where we met her on the front porch of a little cottage her family rented. As Blaine and I drove towards Dana’s house I put on her latest album, aptly named “Leelanau”, only to realize that the tracks were all named after all places we had just seen: Muskegon, Tahquamenon, Pictured Rocks. Having been listening to the album for months and having no idea what any of the names meant, we had now wound our way through each place she sang about. The track list was a road map to our past nine days.

itunes album

Dana took us out for a walk on the Shores of Lake Michigan as the sun set, explaining to us the marvel of Petoskey Stones that only exist in this one place in the world and all the little treasures she had gathered as a kid on these shores. We stood on top of the dunes watching locals clamber up and down the slopes to jump in the clear water of the lake.  As the sun finally set, the top of dune became packed with locals and toursist hiking up to watch the last glimmer of light over the water. As dusk settled in we dropped off Dana and her folks, promising to visit her in Texas where she lives now should we find ourselves down that way soon. We headed back south one last time towards our flight home, saying goodbye to Michigan for the time being.

 

Wolverine Traveler 1: The Upper Peninsula
1649 Miles by car
224 miles by float plane
18 miles by motor boat
72 miles on a 4 Wheeler
and 2 Miles by Canoe

Chapters
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

 

 

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 4

Posted On: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

We lost 1 day on Isle Royale due to bad weather so, we were eager to make time meeting Dave back at the airfield first thing Sunday morning to try to fly us out again. Now with the clouds having cleared from the night before we could see for miles as we rose up away from the mainland Isle Royale coming into view once we were out over the water.

The plane came in across the southeastern edge of the island; even from this perspective we couldn’t full grasp the size of it. Landing in Tobin Harbor, the plane touched down in the water so gently that neither of us noticed we were no longer in the air, our noses pressed to windows staring at the wild world around us. I’ve made it one of my goals these past few years of travel to try to reach the more remote parts of America while the rest of the country seems steadily on a march to fill every open space with strip malls and parking lots. The least visited National Park in the Continental United States, Isle Royale averages about 20,000 visitors per year, which is less than some other parks get in a day. In the 1980s it was classified as an International Biosphere, guaranteeing for the time being it will remain untouched. The forests looked spectacular from above, but nothing would prepare us for what they looked like when we finally set foot in them.

Wanting to make the most of our visit, we wasted no time dropping our bags at the Rock Harbor lodge and headed down to the pier to rent a boat, planning to spend the day exploring the islands that dotted the coast of this massive island. We were advised to first stop at Raspberry Island just across Rock Harbor, where we could wander and explore the forests then head southwest down the edge of the Island. Blaine said it best when he remarked that it’s not often you get to walk through a woods that haven’t been touch in some way. Nothing had been cleared, the forest had been left to its own devices, and it was a remarkable difference from most forests I’d been in. Lichen covering everything; the forest felt prehistoric around us, draped in a species called Old Man’s Beard. The trails mostly stamped down by moose, you got the feeling you were visiting a land that wasn’t ours. We hiked the interior of the island from rocky shore through the old forest and swamps, marveling at this world we had stumbled upon.

After a morning walking through Raspberry Island, dodging moose tracks and scrambling over the rocky shoreline, we re-boarded our boat and began motoring down through the reach of Rock Harbor, circling the islands, some no bigger than rocks with a few trees poking out of them. Occasionally we would pass a boat fishing, or see the red packs of hikers on the ridges around us, peaking out from the trees, but for the most part we felt alone in this world. As we reached the end of Rock Harbor and prepared to explore the Mosey Basin, hoping to land and explore more on foot, a rumbling over the mainland to our right caught our attention.

It took us a few seconds to realize what was happening, but as the dark clouds began to roll in over Isle Royale, coming from the direction of Thunder Bay in Canada, we realized we were in a bit of trouble. The small metal boat we were currently floating along in was not a great place to ride out a thunderstorm, especially not in the middle of the bay. We made the quick decision to try and outrun the storm back to the lodge probably 5 miles away at this point. As Blaine gunned the motor and I kept an eye on the lighting striking the land to our left, we shot back towards the safety of the harbor

In this we chose wrong and quickly drove straight into a wall of water. Blaine keeping an eye on skies (being Texan born he was worried about spirals in the clouds coming down. Neither of us was prepared for the marble-sized hail that began pelting us, ringing off the boat’s metal hull as we realized we were not going to make it home. Yelling over the din of the storm and both pointing at the shore, Blaine quickly turned and ran us to the tree line. I hopped out into the knee-deep water pulling us aground, tying off to a splintered birch tree. We just stood their laughing, huddled in the rain as our boat filled with hail and the storm passed safely over us moving south towards Copper Harbor. After 15 minutes of standing there the skies cleared, and we climbed soaked and amused back into our boat and motored home. Changing out of our wet clothes, we figured we had enough of the water for one day and we would spend the rest of the afternoon hiking the interior, trying to get out along one of the ridges we had seen from the shore.

Still being limited in time on the island, we did a quick loop a few miles out to Suzy’s Cave and back to the lodge, taking a few moments every now and then to just walk out into the thick of the forest. It's A magical world to wander in - I have never seen anything like this before (visit ColdSplinters.com for an exclusive look at Isle Royal). We grabbed dinner at the Rock Harbor lodge before it closed, not wanting to miss our only opportunity for food out here. We sat out on the rocks next to the lodge to watch the sunset across Lake Superior, enjoying the lack of cell phone service or any other form of communication with mainland, stepping away for a little while.

Waking the following morning with just a few hours left on island, we grabbed a canoe and paddled across Tobin Harbor where our plane had landed, musing the whole time what would happen if the plane came while we were in the middle of the “runway.” We hugged the shoreline across the harbor looking for the landing to the trail to take us up to Look Out Louise overlooking the boundary waters and Canada north of us. Not finding the landing but having a fairly good idea of where we were heading, we beached the canoe at the entrance to Hidden Lake and hurried up the trail, not wanting to miss our ride home and still trying to see as much as possible.

The trail to Lookout Louise is a short 1-mile to the top; we spotted moose tracks in the mud that looked fresh so we walked in silence for most of the trip, hoping to catch a glimpse of one before we left. We’d been told that the wolf population on the island was down to 8, so we had no chance of seeing one, but the moose numbered over 1000 so we had a better chance. A couple we met on the trail yesterday had seen one wandering the ridge we were walking on but we had no luck. We saw no animal life for the most part, just some carnivorous plants. Isle Royale is pretty barren in terms of animal life, the moose crossed the ice or swam over some time in the early 1900s from Canada and wolves followed soon after, but there isn’t much else out there. From Lookout Louise we heard our plane come in, the sound of the motor echoing off the water, and we quickly hurried down the trail to our canoe and across the harbor.  We sadly said goodbye to Isle Royale realizing you would need weeks to see the whole thing. We were lucky enough just to have made it out there. On our return flight we had another passenger, Jay, who was getting dropped in Windigo Harbor to start a 10 day hike through the island. We took off from Rock Harbor and flew southwest across the entire Island; this was when we were able to comprehend the size of Isle Royal. Jay had been out every summer for 24 years, he said as we flew over the dense forest, and he could pick out his spots for the night from above. Amazing to think of someone knowing such a remote land so well. We dropped him in Windigo wishing him a good hike and good weather. We made our way back to Houghton, watching Isle Royale disappear into the blue behind us and we began our trip south, back towards Rockford and towards home.

Wolverine Traveler 001: The Upper Peninsula
Photo & Text: Mikael Kennedy
Model & Co-Pilot: Blaine Davis

Chapters
Chapter 1 
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Mikael Kennedy
Mikael Kennedy is a New York City-based commercial and fine art photographer. He is the author of the
internationally acclaimed Polaroid travel blog, Passport to Trespass, documenting his 10 years of wandering the
United States with a Polaroid SX70.

Blaine Davis
Raised in the contrasting cultures of South Texas and Eastern Europe, Blaine Davis quickly developed a taste
for travel, photography and the outdoors at a young age. Currently working as a photographer, teacher and
sometime writer in Brooklyn, NY.

 

 

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 3

Posted On: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

In Ishpeming where we had stopped for coffee a few days ago, Erica at the bar told us about “the road to the end of the earth” up near Copper Harbor. Again everywhere here seemed to feel like the edge of the earth to folks living on the Peninsula, which at times felt more like an Island itself. She said to take the road up Brockway Mountain on our way north, that we might be able to catch a glimpse of Isle Royal in the distance on a clear day.

 

It’s a great way to enter Copper Harbor - coming down off of Brockway Mountain, the harbor village laid out before you, pressed up against the shore of Superior. As we settled into our hotel the Copper King for the night the town started to fill up in preparation for the fishing derby starting in the morning. Groups of old men and their sons stood out on the piers late into the evening “practicing” - or as we joked with them, “getting a head start.” We wandered the empty streets for a while once the sun set before retiring ourselves in preparation for heading out to Isle Royal in the morning.

In trying to take our time everywhere, we figured we’d take the least direct route back down to Houghton for our flight to Isle Royale. A small line on our map that wound its way to the edge of the peninsula; we figured it was worth a shot. The road started out as packed dirt and quickly turned to mud and more a series of ruts to follow through the forest. We pressed on, fording small rivers, occasionally stepping out to check the clearance of certain rocks to our car. As we again almost bit off more than we could chew, we finally made it out to High Rocks Harbor and Gill Lake on the very northern tip of the UP.

 

We made it back to Houghton just in time for our flight out to Isle Royal. We’d arranged passage on a 1974 Cessna 206 operated by the Royal Air Service that does daily runs to Royale. We packed all our equipment into dry bags and climbed aboard, excited for our last leg of our trip and the 30+ minute flight over the edge of the UP and Lake Superior. However our plans changed - as we made our way over the water, a light mist appeared on the windshield Dave muttered a curse under his breath as looking ahead all we saw was a wall of white advancing towards us.

We pressed on for a few more miles until we were almost in the thick of it and were finally forced to turn back. Dave apologized and explaining that he could fly us out there but legally wasn’t allowed to fly us in those conditions. So we were forced to return to the mainland and spent the afternoon in limbo in the Pilots Lounge while he made a few calls deciding what to do. Eventually getting the okay, Dave agreed to fly us out the next day on his day off on the condition that we do it early enough so he could make it to a father's day dinner down in Duluth for his pop, who was 80. Dave figured he could take us out to the island first thing, then swap planes to his own Cessna parked in the hanger and quickly head south. We promised to be back ready to go at 7am. Thanking him, we headed into downtown Houghton to find a room for the night.

Wolverine Traveler: The Upper Peninsula
Photography & Text: Mikael Kennedy
Co-Pilot: Blaine Davis

Chapters

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 2

Posted On: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

*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!

Chapters

Chapter 1

 

Wolverine Traveler: The Upper Peninsula
Photography & Text: Mikael Kennedy
Co-Pilot: Blaine Davis

 

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Wolverine Traveler: Chapter 1

Posted On: Wednesday, July 03, 2013 , Wolverine Traveler

 

 

*By clicking on any photo, the slideshow will appear

When Blaine and I left from Rockford we didn’t have much on our map, a few towns circled here and there and a half finished circle drawn across the UP.  It always helps to pick a point on the map as your true north; The point which you head to and turn back from. Depending on where you are and how far you plan on going, it’s easily determined by the coasts, and we wanted to hit all of them. We chose Isle Royale as our overall destination, booking a float plane out of Houghton to take us out there, aiming for the halfway point of the trip so we’d have enough time to get back. Isle Royale is the least visited national park in the Continental United States, 55 miles off the coast off the Keweenaw Penninsula. Classified as an International Biosphere Reserve back in 1980 and boasting a pack of wolves, over a thousand moose and not much else, just wilderness, it seemed like something we had to see. 

We set out pointed in that direction to wander for a few days allowing us to get lost and see what we could see in the UP. We were told out of Rockford to hop on I75 north and ride it all the way to the Mackinac Bridge that would take us into the UP. Instead we opted for the more local 31N to take us to the entrance. Traveling by interstate is one of the most boring ways to travel the states, your entire view is limited to billboards and truck stops, often blurring by at 70mph. It’s hard to get a sense of where you actually are, so we stick to the local highways, with the occasional stop light in the smaller towns. This is a slower go but we weren’t particularly in a rush. You can tell you are starting to get North when the trees start to change, they seem to shrink in size, lower to the ground, hugging the horizon. It’s the same in Maine as it is in Michigan, and as the trees started to drop a few feet and we wound our way through towns like Petoskey, we knew we were getting close. We loaded up on groceries in a small town just south of the bridge, having no idea what to expect North of there as we crossed the bridge to the UP. We immediately turned onto Route 2, hugging the coast line only for a brief few miles through the tourist traps advertising “Mystery Spots” etc. which we had been told to avoid. We wanted to reach Eckerman that night so we could wake up in the UP and far away from downstate (the term for the rest of Michigan to a UP-er, pronounced Youper).

The sun didn’t set until 10pm when we finally set down our cameras and realized we needed to find some food and a place to stay for the evening. We started to press on the gas a little to make it to Eckerman in time but as we drove on and on we realized the three houses we had passed a few miles back was Eckerman. We soon realized a dot on the map up here didn't mean much. We decided to press on towards Paradise, a bigger dot which we assumed would have what we needed. As we rolled into town that night the first sign we saw glowing on the side of the road read “Vagabond Motel”, a perfect fit to end our day. We checked in and asked where we could still find food at this hour and were sent over to the bar on the corner. As we entered the bar we got a friendly hello from the bartender who stood behind the bar swinging an electric tennis racket battling the mosquitos, a sign of things to come for the next 10 days.

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As we explained what we were doing for the next 10 days, he introduced us to Ray who was seated at the end of the bar (who I swear I saw several days later in Munising at a gas station). He ran down his list of favorites west of here, “You’ve got to hike in the porkies (The Porcupine Mountains) and if you’re going to Copper Harbor you’ve got to get some Thimbleberry jam from the Jam Lady, $10 a jar but the best damn jam you’ve ever had!” He said, smacking his palm on the countertop. No one there had been to Isle Royale but had all heard it was beautiful. We added those points to our list, thanked them after a few beers and a snack, and called it quits for the night.

Waking up in the Vagabond surrounded by the morning mist, we decided to shoot up to Whitefish Point in the morning before we headed west to see the Tahquamenon Falls. We turned off into the Whitefish Harbor a few miles south of the point and found the point to mostly be a bunch of tourists taking pictures of the lighthouse and Lake Superior from the deck. The pier was far more interesting; the launch point for local fisherman and a boat graveyard as well. We wandered the cement pillars out into the mist beginning to feel like we were on the edge of the earth as Superior disappeared into the haze. As we left and made our way south, Bethany at the Whitefish Point gift shop had suggested we stop at Paradise Sporting Outfitters to pick up a snowmobile & offroad map. She told us that last year a section of the forest between the point and Pictured Rocks burned and we could take these dirt roads all through it and wrap around the coast to Pictured Rocks which would be a good place to stop for the night.

From Tahquamenon Falls we turned north on 500 straight into the burn. It’s a good sign that you are on the right (or wrong road depending on how you see things) when the only vehicles to pass you all day are 4 Wheelers tearing through the dust. Less than 20 miles of road took us more than 5 hours to travel, winding through sandpits that required us to backtrack and gun it through some tricky spots, the roads labeled impassable turned out to be just a suggestion, and we wound our way through the blackened woods. I’ve been in forests that have burned before but never one so fresh. I spent time a few winters ago out in Lama, NM where part of the mountain had burnt in 1996, but having had a few years to recover, the brush had returned and the only remnants of the fire were a few trees with scarred bark. Here in the northern section of the Lake Superior State Forest the trees were black spikes pointed at the sky with just a thin layer of ferns and grass growing beneath. The contrast was remarkable. Eventually we realized we’d never make it to Pictured Rocks at this rate of crawling through the sand. We meandered south again to pick up the 414 to 410, but not before pulling off for a quick dip in Muskallonge Lake just on the northern edge of the Penninsula.

Even with dusk coming at 10pm, we were quickly losing light as we raced through the local roads. We were trying to beat the sun to the horizon and to Pictured Rocks. We pulled into the parking lot just as the sun turned red, cutting through the trees. We ran down to the edge just in time to catch the last light as the sun disappeared into the night. We once again found ourselves standing in the darkness needing to figure out a place to stay and find food at 10pm in the UP.

To view the entire slideshow, click Here!

Wolverine Traveler: The Upper Peninsula
Photography & Text: Mikael Kennedy
Co-Pilot: Blaine Davis

Mikael Kennedy is a New York City- based commercial and fine art photographer. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Polaroid travel blog, Passport to Trespass, documenting his 10 years of wandering the United States with a Polaroid SX70.

Blaine Davis  Raised in the contrasting culturespo of South Texas and Eastern Europe, Blaine Davis quickly developed a taste for travel, photography and the outdoors at a young age. Currently working as a photographer, teacher and sometime writer in Brooklyn, NY.

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