West UP Michigan Meander
Day 1 Ironwood to Upson, WI : 16 miles
Day 2 Upson WI to Little Girl Point Campground : 22 miles
Day 3 Little Girl Point CG to Porcupine WC : 47 miles
Day 4 Porcupine WC to Lake Superior WC : 29 miles
Day 5 Lake Superior WC to Ontonagon Campground : 26 miles
Day 6 Rest Day
Day 7 Ontonagon Campground to Emily Lake Campground : 31 miles
Day 8 Emily Lake Campground to Hancock Rec Area : 33 miles
Day 9 Hancock Rec Area to Lady Slipper Wild Camp : 29 miles
Day 10 Lady Slipper Wild Camp to High Rock Bay Wild Camp : 36 miles
Day 11 High Rock Bay Wild Camp to Cliff Drive Wild Camp : 23 miles
Day 12 Cliff Drive Wild Camp to Hancock Rec Area : 36 miles
Day 13 Rest Day
Day 14 Hancock Rec Area to Obijiwa Campground : 25 miles
Day 15 Obijiwa Campground to Courtney Lake Campground : 35 miles
Day 16 Courtney Lake Campground to Stannard Township RV Park : 35 miles
Day 17 Stannard Township RV Park to Ironwood : 52 miles
Getting to know the true feel of an area is easily done from the seat of a bicycle, the attitudes of the people, the “feel” of the locals, atmosphere of the region. We want(ed) to get to know this area of the country. The cooler temperatures, the changing of the seasons, the slower pace of living all appeal to us and we want to get more acquainted with this area.
So, in order to do so we mapped out a near 500 mile loop on the western side of the UP of Michigan. Yoopers are what they call themselves, we found the majority of these fine folks as pretty laid back, helpful and pretty down to earth. We like that. We were not looked at as oddities, no one stared at us in disbelief that we were on bicycles, we got more of the attitudes of cool and good for you. This was refreshing. The other refreshing thing was the temperatures, it is mid-June and we are wearing jackets and/or long sleeves the entire time. So much better than baking in high heat and humidity.
We left our van in Ironwood, MI and enjoyed lunch at a local café. Ironwood has a history deep into mining and there was an exquisite mural in town dedicated to miners of the area.
We made a slight detour west into the sister city of Hurly, WI before stopping in the small village of Upson and the local city park. The Upson Park has a handful of campsites, complete with electricity and a hand pump water source. There is a beautiful river running near by that has a pretty waterfalls. The water is heavy in tannins creating an almost tea like look to the water. We rolled in to the park in time to get our tent set up, build a quick fire and then settle into our new routine of camping. Our tent is new yet it is familiar. We replaced our MSR Hubbahubba tent when we returned from South America. The original tent was pretty tired, zippers were worn out, small holes here and there had been patched over with tape, bug stains dotted the interior where we had smashed them into the fabric. The new tent is pristine, it is bug gut free, the poles are still interconnected on the center support, the zippers slide easily and the fabric is shiny and new.
The sleeping pads came along from South America and we are still using the 2 pad method, a ZPad on the bottom and an air mattress on top. The sleeping bags are still dirty from South America, we had planned to wash them but never quite got around to that. We left behind the liner sheets as we found that we really didn’t use them much.
Camping is something we both enjoy and our campsites on this short tour were varied and a lot of fun. We camped in organized campgrounds as well as bushwhacked our way into the woods and wild camped.
Roads were mainly paved and traffic was light. We discovered a Rail to Trails trail outside Mass City that headed north. This was fun, hard at times due to soft sand and rough sections from the ATVs that race up and down (although we only saw 3). Animals are plentiful, we saw deer every day and a lot of birds. We even came across wolf tracks on the rail trail. They are huge! Snapping turtles lay eggs along the sandy trails in the boggy areas. We saw a number of laying turtles. We also saw one painted turtle.
We also saw many birds, the Loons are our favorite. The Whistling Swans are giant compared to many other water fowl. There are many babies on the water right now and we saw baby swans, Canada Geese and others. A momma Grouse and baby were crossing the road when a car came through. Momma ruffled up and went head to head with the car when her baby zipped under it. Luckily the car stopped, Curtis had to climb under and catch the baby before letting the tiny chick go back to it’s protective mother.
Loons also have babies and they will ride on the backs of the adults.
Flowers, oh my the flowers that are blooming are magnificent! We saw four different types of orchids, two were Slipper varieties and the other two were just beautiful. The blooming season is here and it seems no matter where we looked, whether open roadsides or deep forests we encountered something in bloom.
The ride was tough at times, the hills were steep and the roads were sometimes remote and difficult with the wider tires of the Salsa Fargos. The ride into Copper Harbor was beautiful, along the majestic Lake Superior.
We were able to stop in town, enjoy Thimble Berry Turnovers and some really good coffee before continuing on. The ride past Copper Harbor was tough. US41 starts just north of Copper Harbor, beyond that is a gravel, rutted, potholed road leading to the Point. This was hard, we had a number of water crossing to tackle but the destination on the point to camp at no charge was too tempting to pass up.
This was our favorite remote campsite. The views of Lake Superior were stunning. The lack of light pollution allowed us to see the Milky Way Galaxy very brightly as it reflected off the massive lake waters below. My camera doesn’t due the night shots justice. We camped on the edge of a small cliff that dropped into the clear waters of Superior. Many others came to the point to marvel in the beauty of it, others pitched tents as well. This is a place we will return to.
The ride off the point was a lot faster since it was mainly downhill. We stopped for more of that wonderful coffee as well as Thimble Berry frosted cake donuts. Leaving Copper Harbor was tough, the hills were steep, traffic was aggressive and we had a level of fatigue settling in.
Why is it that vacationers traveling the byways tend to be the biggest assholes? Many tend to be in a hurry, impatient, impulsive and extremely aggressive. Aren’t vacations intended to help people relax? If so, why the obnoxious attitude by so many? This was the worst stretch of road of our entire UP Tour and they aggressiveness all came from RVs and out of state license plates. Sad, so sad that people get so stressed while they are trying to relax.
Despite shorter distances each day, this was tough cycling on the trails and dirt roads. We were exhausted when we made it back to the Hancock Rec Area so we opted to pay for two nights at the campground. We built campfires and relaxed. With a day rest behind us we were back on our bikes and heading back toward to the van.
National and State Forest Campgrounds are rustic but there are typically picnic tables, fire rings and some sort of bathroom facility. These have a small fee to them but it is well worth it. The wild camping is our standard disappear into the woods where no one sees or hears us. Often times, these are our favorite camping areas, they are quiet and remote and we sleep long and deep under the stars.
The bugs are out though, the mosquitos and flies are pretty wicked but it’s one of those things that we just deal with. There is no reason to get mad or spiteful about the bloodsucking insect invasion, it happens. Deet is our friend and we both use the Repel or Off.
Many small towns have Recreation areas or campgrounds in town and they are nice. Bruce Crossing has the Stannard Township RV Park that has a hand full of sites with electric and water, a bathhouse and fantastic shower all for $15 a night. We enjoyed our time in Bruce Crossing and then continued on using the Rail Trail in the area.
It’s time to wrap up this mini-tour and we made a big push the final day back to our van. We really like the areas we cycled but now it’s time to put the Salsas away and dust off the Roadies. MUP, a supported multi-day tour is just around the corner and the road bikes will take the place of our Salsas. It will give us a chance to see a different side of cycling here in the beautiful UP of Michigan.