Archived Story

Erika Pickles: Michigan’s UP — the simpler, slower life

Published 9:23pm Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unless you’ve been there, you’ll never understand.

There’s no statement that holds truer about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula than that one. The stories I’ve told, the pictures I took and even this column will not do justice to the beauty that lies beyond Mackinac Bridge. I still find myself daydreaming about the hikes we took, the view of the waterfalls and just the fact this small piece of paradise actually exists right here in our home state.

Earlier this year, the boyfriend and I began planning a trip during the week of the Fourth of July. We had several places in mind, but narrowed it down to Tennessee, North Carolina or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We picked the UP because neither of us had been beyond the bridge, and from the research we did online, we were instantly sold.

We stayed at a place called the Ken Buck Resort, which is located in the Hiawatha National Forest. The resort is made up of five small cabins in the owner’s back yard. We couldn’t have asked for anything more, and I plan to stay there every time we visit in the future. We were literally surrounded by nothing by woods. There were a few houses scattered here and there, but other than that, it was all dirt roads, secluded lakes, plenty of two-track trails and the closest town of Wetmore was 35 miles away, which was also the only place we could get cell phone service. Yes, we survived more than a week without having our phone glued to our hip.

The resort was within an hour drive of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which, from cliff view, looks like Hawaii. The water reflected shades of teal, deep blue and light blue, the rocks themselves were indescribable and the lakeshore was perfect. If you’ve ever envisioned yourself sitting on a deserted beach with nothing but the waves crashing in your background, the shoreline of Lake Superior is the place you’ve been envisioning.

The resort was also within one hour of 17 of the UP’s 150 waterfalls. Although we didn’t have time to see all 17 in the area, the ones we saw were breathtaking. A few of the falls only required a short hike to get to, but others required two or more miles of hiking deep into the forest. The hills were sometimes steep, and the trails did get a bit bumpy in a few spots, but when hikes like that lead to three waterfalls in one, and a forest that is full of ferns and what feels and looks like a rainforest, it’s well worth the sore legs the next day.

One of our days was devoted to fly fishing — an experience that was new to me. We hired a guide from a local guide service who took us to the Escanaba River for a day of fishing. If you’ve ever seen the movie “A River Runs Through It,” that is exactly what this day felt like. It took me a while to catch on to the rhythm of the rod, but by days end, both my boyfriend and I were landing trophy brown and brook trout.

Not to mention, I saw my first bald eagle in person on this river, and we were able to fish right next to a waterfall!

If that’s not enough to convince you yet, we spent one day on a secluded lake surrounded by woods, with absolutely no one in sight for miles. Although the fishing wasn’t that great, we slowly floated on the water the entire day, and found a secluded island on the lake to stop and have lunch.

I could go on and on and on about the wonders and beauty of the Upper Peninsula, but I will never do the land, the people or the experience justice. I highly suggest and recommend a trip up north if you’ve never been before, or if it’s been eons since you’ve last visited. The air is so fresh, so much of the land untouched and there are so many untraveled paths to explore. There truly is no place like the UP. When you’re there, life seems slower, simpler, just how it should feel.

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