UP has hidden hideaways to enjoy during summer

There are three things we can now count on during our U.P. summers: road construction, violent weather changes and hosts of friends and relatives flocking north to appreciate what we in the Copper Country take for granted all year around.

The seasonal construction work is an absolute necessity, made more so with an increasing influx of all things motorized, from sports cars to construction vehicles to semis. (Did you know that one 12-wheeler does at least 2,000 automobile damage to a road ?)

Now that scientists tell us it’s too late to change what we’ve done to the atmosphere, we must learn to adapt to what will be world-wide weather in the extreme, so we must put aside our memories of four distinct seasons and can’t do much more than get used to daily (and often hourly) drastic changes.

But there is one thing we can handle, enjoyably, with the kids and grandkids escaping here from the polluted air, noise, and crushing population of the cities “downstate.” Here are two examples:

First, for those who miss the lush forests and vegetation, the great lake and all the little ponds, the beaches, the “most purified air” in the country, and, in general, the freedom to celebrate nature in all its virginal wonders:

Oh, it’s easy enough to hit the obvious spots: Great Sand Bay, Agate Harbor, Bete Gris, McClain State Park, and Hungarian Falls; but what about the hidden wonders – the Keweenaw Land Trust’s protected lands – little known hideaways of natural beauty that are free to all the public? Our area is dotted with such natural wonders, most of them readily reached, from Point Abbaye to the Marsin Nature Area and Retreat.

To focus on the Marsin area: it consists of 56 acres of shoreline not far from Houghton on the Portage Waterway near Oscar Bay, donated by the late Mary Sinish now, thanks to the Land Trust, available year around from the Red Brick Road to multiple nature trails and an easily accessible boardwalk through a high quality white cedar swamp to connect the existing trail network with the lakeshore campus and retreat. It remains as the vision of its donor to become welcome for individuals, organizations, formal groups, and families in search of a “place to gather and enjoy the environment around us.”

The Land Trust is readily available to provide more complete details and directions to any of their protected areas at any time by phone (906-482-0820), email (info@keweenawlandtrust.org) or dropping in at the office at 801 N. Lincoln Drive, Suite 306.

OK, if hitting the trails, picking wild fruit and pebbles, wallowing and absorbing (and photographing) nature in all its natural glory isn’t enough to complete summer for your vacationing guests, how about taking time off to head for one specific treasure: Gay and all its wonders?

Yes, Gay – home of the once established Mohawk Mining Company’s community of Austrian, Croatian, Czechoslovakian, English, French, Finnish, German, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Scotch and Swedish laborers – the town now reduced to less than a few hundred residents – lovers of the serenity and privacy of living apart from the rest of the Copper Country – oh, but still going strong with its Gay Bar and every other summer Saturday’s now famous Gay Bazaar.

You’ve missed the crazy annual Fourth of July Gay parade, but the bazaar still beckons with the most amazing “previously owned” collections – from its mini deli Nissua Nook to table after table of everything and anything one might like to have in clothing, furniture, glassware and home utensils, reading and visual materials, home made objects, to name a few – all sold at ridiculously low prices, with proceeds going toward helping the township’s fire department.

While the parade began decades ago by a group of bored ladies who decided to have a holiday parade of their own, put on their outdated prom outfits and rode on a flatbed truck through the streets, the bazaar began in 1971 when another group organized the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the fire department (initially calling themselves the Firebelles) – at first dedicated to reviving the craft of carpet weaving as their main fund raiser. Today several of those original “pioneers” are still active with the bazaar, extending its events to the sale of fresh bakery, rag rugs and just about anything else made or given to them for sale.

Though it’s too late to celebrate the Fourth with the ladies, there are still the upcoming Saturdays to sample the bazaar with its seemingly endless collectibles, on July 16th and 30th and on into August every other Saturday, all from noon to 3pm in the Gay Community Center, practically next to the Gay bar.

And while there, less than a mile drive farther north is the Tobacco River park with its forest glade, picnic tables, outhouse, and a beach piled high with unique Lake Superior rocks of all sizes just for the picking. And beyond that, a shore road leading past Point Elizabeth, the mouthes of the Little and Big Betsy, berry bushes, to Lac La Belle and Bete Gris before heading uphill past the momentous ski lift to US 41 and on to Copper Harbor. All that in less than an hour’s drive along Lake Superior.

Don’t just suggest any of the above to your guests; dolly up and go along to enjoy our summer’s backyard treats with them.

As our Michigan motto says, “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice.”