So you’re considering taking a vacation driving around Lake Superior. This is a great choice
— IF — 1. You enjoy great natural beauty; 2. And if you’d like a reprieve from summer’s hot, humid weather.
We left home about 11 am on a hot, rainy and humid Saturday in July. And the mosquitoes were driving us crazy. I’ve never seen them worse.
Our first evening we drove almost to Wakefield, Michigan where we camped at Alpine campground which is located in the upper peninsula of Michigan on U.S. Highway 2. This campsite, complete with water and electricity, also featured a swimming pool, quiet and EXTREMELY clean restrooms.
This campground also reminded us of the great hospitality and warmness of the camping community because it was here we met a great Canadian couple, Gerald and Mardy Lourinssen, from Niagara Falls who immigrated to Canada from Holland (where they were living during the Nazi occupation) in the 1950s. They invited us over, made coffee and served us a homemade bread. We had a great conversation and they insisted we go east and visit with them and also visit Niagara Falls as well as many other local attractions. We will try our best to make that trip.
The Lourinssens, who love to travel and camp, were pulling a tent camper, quite a bit larger than ours, and were heading to British Columbia for their 2-week vacation. That’s quite a “hike” in 2-weeks considering they’re about 2 1/2 travel days farther from that destination than we are – here in Minnesota.
The next day we wished our new-found friends a safe trip and packed up to continue our journey. We continued on U.S. 2 east to Michigan State 64 north – north and east to Ontonagon, a really quaint little coastal town on the Upper Peninsula’s west coast on Lake Superior.
On 64, prior to our arrival in Ontonagon, we stopped in Silver City (again on the coast) which is the gateway to the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan. This is a great vacation area and Lake of the Clouds, in the mountains, is a sight to behold. The Porcupine mountains are well recommended – especially for sight-seers, bikers and hikers.
We ate a breakfast buffet at the Best Western Restaurant, Hotel in Silver City. It was really a good (and reasonable $5.95) breakfast that included a tator tot hot dish, a macaroni type hot dish as well as the regular breakfast fare of pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, fruits, breads and juices.
After this great meal we were again on our way. Leaving Highway 64 at Ontonagon, we traveled Michigan 38 to highway 41 at Baraga at the southern tip of the Keewenah bay of Lake Superior. From there we traveled north to a town very familiar, and much loved by us, Chassell, Michigan. It was in Chassell in 1988 where we met two lovely people that we call very close friends today. They are Harry and Barb Wilson and they own a fantastic “Bed and Breakfast” called the Hamar House.
In 1988 we called acquaintances in the Chassell area looking for accommodations for a few days in July. Everything was filled but a resort owner suggested the Hamar House might be ready, enough, to accept guests during that time and they would check with the Wilsons.
They weren’t sure they were quite ready but they agreed to accept the two strangers from Minnesota as their very first guests of the Hamar House Bed and Breakfast and the Resort Owner also found a place to “Board” our 16′ boat called “The Fishing Machine!”
When we arrived at the Hamar House, that evening in ’88, it turned out they had made sure that their wonderfully decorated front entry was ready to accept these two Minnesotans. To experience the wonderful ambiance of the Hamar House we were supposed to enter from the front. But NO — we found the kitchen and two very nervous hosts (especially Barb) who wanted to start out right with their very first house guests.
But here we were – traipsing through their kitchen where we not only met the nervous, but very gracious, Wilsons but also Barb’s mother Betty. Well there was but one thing to do and that was to sit down at the kitchen table to exchange stories, backgrounds and laughs with the Wilsons and Betty – and that is what we surely did. It must have been two to three hours later, after much friendliness and great laughter (which we still share), when we finally were shown our room. We then unpacked and began a great 5-day experience, with the most gracious, likable hosts one could ever hope to meet. If you ever want to spend a delightful evening or two in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan you will find no better than the “Hamar House.” This historic home is located in Chassell, Michigan on Pike’s Bay of 26-mile long Portage lake which is the escape of ships experiencing bad weather on the “Big” Lake – Superior.
Again, this trip, even though we were camping we had the opportunity of spending quite a bit of time, and especially laughter, with Harry Wilson over the two days we spent in the Chassell, Houghton-Hancock area of the Upper Peninsula (the UP). Kidding each other is the rule of the day and we did much of that.
The two days we spent in the Chassell area we revisited some great sight-seeing areas such as the Copper Country cities of Houghton-Hancock – then on to Fort McLain State Park, the historic mining towns of Calumet and Laurium, up Hwy. 41 to Phoenix, then to the picturesque towns of Eagle River and Eagle Harbor and then back “home” to our campsite and a great dinner, conversation and laughter at a steakhouse with good friend Harry.
On Tuesday we left Chassell at about 11:30 am and drove south on 41 to Baraga, to L’Anse, to Michigamme, to Ishpeming, to Marquette, then on 28 east to the very picturesque town of Munising. From Munising we got brave and drove, off the beaten path, on gravel (H58) to Grand Marais, for some more great photo shots, and then on 407 (gravel) to H37 south and east to Four-Mile corner.
From there we drove to the lower falls of Tahquamenon Falls where we camped in a huge campground in the State Park for $4 entry fee and $14 camping fee. It was a nice, shady campground with exceptional Rest Rooms and Showers.
Wednesday, after breakfast, we walked to the lower falls, about 1 1/2 miles. Then we walked 3/10 of a mile (and back) to another lookout at the falls. At this area you can rent row boats to cross over to the Island for a greater view of the Falls (actually a series of rapids). After viewing the falls, we took an 8/10s mile trail back to the campground – much of it uphill and very exhausting for those not familiar with exercise.
After our vigorous walk and sightseeing, we left the campground a little after 1:00 PM and drove the scenic route to Paradise and then on to Sioux St Marie, Michigan where we crossed the border to Sioux St. Marie, Ontario. [At this point I want to remind you to fill your gas tank before you cross the border into Canada where you will pay as much as $2.185 a gallon for gas ($0.695 Canadian per liter which is about 4.5 liters to the gallon).]
We drove right on through the cities of Sioux St. Marie (Michigan and Ontario), after getting gas and a few supplies in Michigan, to the scenic area of northeastern Lake Superior until we found a wonderful, scenic campsite at the point the Montreal River enters Superior, a few miles after Pancake Bay. This campground located on Agawa Bay of Lake Superior, called “Trail’s End Restaurant and Lodge,” ($15 w/electricity [$10.50 US] -$10 w/out — Canadian) is fabulous for those who need only electricity, or less, who enjoy a great view and who can handle walking a way for their bathroom and shower. The scenic wonders are in their glory in this campground with it’s magnificent view of Agawa Bay, Lake Superior, Montreal Island and the Montreal river as it flows into the Big Lake.
I went swimming (and bathing) in the river and it’s my kind of water – cold and clean, not like bath water. It was, I think, outstanding. It was our best campsite of the trip with a great view.
On Thursday we drove Canadian Highway 17 all the way past Nipigon to Dorian and the Wolf River. We stayed on the Wolf River at a nice, but not extraordinary, campground called “Wolf River Campground” for $17.00 Canadian ($11.90 U.S.), w/electricity, a night. This campground contains many “permanent” campsites for campers from Thunder Bay.
Along Canada’s “King’s Highway,” we ran into a lot of construction. It’s kind of like Minnesota –two seasons: winter and highway construction.
On our way here we saw extraordinary sights up to Wawa and then a lot of nice little lakes. After Wawa the road was closer to the “Big Lake” more often. We stopped in Wawa (which has a extraordinary city lake that is beautiful, big and more) at the Grocery Store and Bank for Canadian money and for needed groceries including, my favorite beverage, Clamato Juice.
When we arrived at our campsite and attempted to remove the camper, from the hitch, we discovered that our trailer hitch had broken (the final results of our bumpy trip along Minnesota’s Highway 23). Luckily, through inquiry, we located a place to fix it very close by and our trip was delayed but 3-hours.
We finally broke camp about 12:30 PM and headed for Thunder Bay and Minnesota. We bought gas in Thunder Bay for about $0.61.5 per liter. At 4 1/2 liters per gallon – this is about $2.77.5 per gallon – Canadian. When we arrived back in Minnesota we bought gas for $1.28.9. We then walked around one of our very favorite towns, an overcast Grand Marais, before heading down Highway 61 towards Duluth.
That evening we ate dinner at the Hotel/Restaurant in Beaver Bay and then on to our last campsite of the trip – the Municipal Campsite at Two Harbors, a nice, but crowded campsite on the Big Lake. The next morning, Saturday, we closed camp and headed south to Duluth to (again) explore the Condon Mansion (Glensheen) –JoAnn for the 5th time and me for the 2nd. It is getting pretty expensive to explore the home today with a charge of $8.75 for the basement, 1st and 2nd floors and $17.50 for those first 3-floors plus the 3rd floor and the attic. After the tour we left for home (the lake) via 35, making sure to “miss” Minnesota Highway 23.
One thing we didn’t take the time to see, that we should have, is “Picture Rocks” along Lake Superior near that Grand Marais area. That is supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip around the “Big Lake.” We were very close, when traveling those gravel roads, but it’s sometimes hard to estimate how much time everything will take when on a limited time schedule. We’ll be sure to see that area the next time we’re in the U.P.
The highlights of this trip? Visiting with the Lourinssens from Niagara Falls, spending time with Harry in Chassell, driving the eastern Northern Peninsula of Michigan, shopping in Canadian stores visiting E.J’s place on the lake, the temperature, lower humidity, reasonable camping fees in Canada, great campsites in Canada, the ease of crossing the borders, the lack of MAJOR car problems, talking to people along the way, the nice people that helped us out when we experienced problems, living in our blessed little (Viking) camper and the togetherness with JoAnn, Kale and Punkin (our cat).
Another great Experience! Thank you God!