Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary – THEN & NOW: PART ONE

KAC 25th Logo

Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary – THEN & NOW: PART ONE


Written by Owner Sam Raymond

What a long strange trip it’s been… while celebrating our 25th Anniversary this year, pretty wild to think it’s been 20-years since my first season at the helm of Keweenaw Adventure Company (KAC)! The journey, however, had began several years prior, when I had the hair-brained idea of bringing my passion for mountain biking to Copper Harbor. I had fallen in love with mountain biking when living near Vail, Colorado after college, though as Shelby (my partner in life and in business) says, “Your heart was in Colorado and your soul was in the Harbor.” Having spent my childhood and adolescent summers in the Harbor, such was then true… though I’m happy to report that both my heart & soul are now in the Harbor.

Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

First year running KAC, with first sea kayak guide, John Meilahn.

Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Snapshot from 2018 Bike Magazine’s featured article on Copper Harbor trails.

Fueled by my involvement within the MTB culture out west and a vision that Copper Harbor might someday become recognized as “the Moab of the Midwest,” things have come a long way to say the least. In the late 90’s, one could count the number of mountain bikers in town on one hand — and terms such as “silent” or “human-powered” sports were new in the local vocabulary.

Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Biking on Mount Baldy circa 2000. Today biking is not permitted there, though hikers may climb for the panoramic view.


Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Copper Harbor MTB “pioneer” Steve Rowe, taking a break atop Mount Houghton circa 2000.

Silent Sports were fringe activities in the Keweenaw, compared to the large piece of the tourism pie they represent today. There was little presence of singletrack trails, and mountain biking primarily consisted of riding two track and gravel roads to high point vistas, uninhabited beaches or other places of local intrigue.

Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Gravel road riding in the early days.

Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Epic singletrack, boardwalks and bridges of today.

When the opportunity to purchase KAC (established in 1994) from Steve Brimm and his former wife Julie arose, I was most thankful. It meshed well with my bike shop plans and without the Lake Superior Sea Kayaking side of the business that the Brimm’s had developed, KAC probably would not have survived those early years.


Michigan Sea Kayaking

The kayak-yard in the early years, young Sam wearing all the hats of owner, instructor, guide, etc.

Michigan Sea Kayaking

Modern day, a larger group tour with multiple guides.

Through patience and persistence, our awesome employees and legions of loyal customers, and of course the evolution of the trail system and support of the community, KAC continues to grow and improve with each passing season. We look forward to continuing the ride together in the years to come!

Michigan outdoors

The shop when Sam purchased it in the fall of 1998.

Michigan outdoors

The “KAC Campus” today.

  • Mariner North
    Posted at 18:48h, 17 January Reply

    What a great, long run you’ve got going Neighbor!! With all that hard work and commitment you deserve this success…we got to see it all!

  • Sam Raymond
    Posted at 01:08h, 18 January Reply

    You and Don have been rock steady pillars of support since before day one. In my early days working at the Mariner before KAC, I recall Don rolling out a large map highlighting routes all across the Keweenaw one evening, which was particularly inspiring. My 20 years as the owner and 25 years of KAC pales in comparison to you guys…how many years is it now?

  • Carol Tallon
    Posted at 19:08h, 24 January Reply

    Congratulations Sam on a great run. It seems like yesterday when you bought the place. You have certainly been a wonderful addition and such an inspiration.

  • Elise Jones
    Posted at 22:14h, 25 January Reply

    Congratulations Sam! I remember listening to you talk about your love for Copper Harbor while we were waiting tables at the Gashouse in Edwards, CO all those years ago. Your passion for the Keweenaw Pennisula was very apparent and I was – and am still – intrigued. It’s fantastic to hear of your great success! I hope to come visit you and see those beautiful trails for myself.

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