19 May A Bucket List Destination in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula
Article and Photos Courtesy of Mark Alan Hudson (A loyal KAC Customer!)
Over time, my wife Sandy and I have found that some of the world’s greatest treasures are not half a world away but right here in our own country, in our own backyard so to speak. One of them is the what I call ‘the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.’
If you like hunting, cycling, kayaking, camping, history, hiking, nature or just getting away from it all, this is a place you need to put on your Michigan travel bucket list.
We’re a couple years down the road from our trip there and it remains one of the highlights of our travelling adventures. We’ve cycled in Switzerland, kayaked and trekked in New Zealand, hiked in Peru, and white water rafted in Costa Rica along the way. Who knew we could get almost all of this in one place?
A friend recommended the area to us and as we researched, we found the Keweenaw Adventure Company, located in the small town of Copper Harbor, a name that tells you something about its history and its water location (it is on Lake Superior). We were interested in visiting ‘nearby’ Isle Royale National Park, just a mere 55-mile ferry ride away from the town. Keweenaw Adventure Company offered guided kayak tours to the park and we were ready to sign up.
The owners, Sam Raymond and Shelby Laubhan, took time to explain to us the nature of the tours, the professional guides they used and how things worked. They also asked questions of us to ensure we were experienced enough and fit enough for what they offered. We signed up and thought we were ready to go … until Sam started asking about our familiarity with the area and in particular, Copper Harbor. He suggested that we might like to come a day or two early and explore the town and its nearby sights and history.
Sam talked about the small town and its lodgings, eateries and attractions. For my part, I thought there couldn’t be much to experience since less than 100 people lived there full time. In any event, we decided to give it a try and Sam even recommended lodgings and gave frank appraisals of each from rustic and quirky to high-end (the company now offers some of its own Copper Harbor downtown lodging, especially during the winter season).
He and Shelby both worked with us on our itinerary, and offered us the option of a Houghton County Airport pick-up in Calumet as it worked with their provisions pick-up schedule (they still offer this Airport shuttle service). Sam picked us up and gave us a quick tour of town on our way to our motel.
Once settled, we had our first walking tour of town and immediately noticed something strange … everyone had their head up. NOT ONE PERSON WAS LOOKING AT A CELLPHONE. It turns out cellular service is sparse there and wi-fi is located in only a few spots. Bottom line, in this Michigan bucket list destination, you are engaged in your surroundings and not your network.
Amid quaint shops and really good eateries, we found something else unique … a pleasant vibe that is hard to describe other than feeling welcomed.
We checked in the next morning with the folks at Keweenaw Adventure Company and set up our orientation session with our guide for our Isle Royale National Park trip. As we were doing that, I asked about bike rentals, one of the many services the company has. Sam talked to us about routes and trails and sights to see along the way, including a state park located just a short ride away and some nearby natural attractions.
When we asked about other local options, and given that we had no car, Shelby shared information on local tours, including one to a nearby lighthouse. We took advantage of them all.
It was finally time for our trip to Isle Royale, one of our least visited National Parks but one with one of the highest return rates among its visitors. We knew it was a special place simply because of those facts. And it was. Our three-hour ferry ride was a blast and I realized during the trip that I’d never been on water beyond the sight of land.
The park is an oddity of geology and it’s famous for its moose and wolves; frequent Ranger programs during its limited season are always packed. For our trip, it was just my wife Sandy and I and our guide J.J. It was a remarkable adventure in every way from the exhilaration of paddling in deep water to camping in secluded spots to crystal clear night skies and all the wildlife we got to see. The only problem; it was over too soon.
When we returned to Cooper Harbor, we still had time to enjoy a couple of days exploring and enjoying the quaint town, enjoying its welcoming residents and learning about an area we’d never experienced.
It’s become harder and harder for us to rank our trips because each is unique in its own special way. And because of Sam and Shelby and their staff at Keweenaw Adventure Company, this adventure is one we’d love to repeat.
But don’t take my word for it. Give Sam and Shelby a call (906-289-4303) and begin planning your own adventure. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.