Archive for the ‘Upper Peninsula’ Category

It’s been awhile since I posted, and while I do have a huge backlog of subjects, today’s is a really recent jaunt Sam and I took over to Sault Ste. Marie.

Also known as “the Sault” (or, even just the Soo) to Michiganders, Sault Ste. Marie is a neat old town that feels far from its age (which happens to be hmmm, more than 300, since it was founded in the 1660s. Maybe 350-something years old.) The stunning stretch of history of the town is always there, just behind and beneath the new developments and updates.

We go there once in a while for business, and always look forward to finding new, cool things — because that’s what happens every time we go!

The Soo Locks as seen from the air. The shoreline view is pretty good, too.

It’s a maritime town, centered on the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks that allow Great Lakes freighters to pass between lakes Superior and Huron. (You shouldn’t need three guesses to decipher how the town got it’s name.) It has a Canadian sister city on the other side of the river; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is much bigger.

The locks are a big draw, and there’s no doubt it’s pretty cool to watch the giant ore carriers pass through. There’s a phone number to call for a shipping schedule to maximize your chances of catching the show here. Or, if you have some time to kill, there’s Karl’s Cuisine restaurant overlooking the locks. Although it’s nestled next to a mini golf course and sports tourist-friendly decor, make no mistake; the chef is talented and committed to using local ingredients and foods, and it’s well worth stopping.

In the past, we’ve also enjoyed eating at Antlers, which also is by the river and has come under new ownership in recent years. The wild game lasagna is always a favorite.

But this time, it had to be Clyde’s Drive-In, which, like all great drive-ins, opened in the 1940s. Unlike many, it’s stuck around thanks to a loyal following, and burgers and fries raised to perfection. They hand-make the burger patties, use plenty of malt in their malts, and you won’t ever get a soggy or underdone fry or onion ring at Clyde’s. The small burger shack overlooks the ferry to Sugar Island, a little hamlet on the islands in the middle of the St. Mary’s River, and isn’t the easiest to find, but worth the effort.

Clyde's Drive-In. And yes, there is curbside service if you want it!

Speaking of Sugar Island, we also found an awesome new store on this visit to the Sault. It’s called Island Books and Crafts, just opened in the winter, and it’s named that because owner Les Townsend is a Sugar Islander born and bred. He’s also a fun guy to talk to, and knows quite a bit about the store’s home, a huge building on the corner of East Portage Avenue and Ashmun Street that was formerly the Sault Savings Bank. Some of the original bank marble still graces the entry. You’ll find plenty of books there, alongside the work of dozens of area crafters and artists, from handmade jewelry to pine-needle-and-agate woven baskets to gorgeous hand carved wood furniture.

I look forward to going back to the Sault and finding new things each time — It’s at the least a great day trip for U.P. residents (or for northern L.P. residents), but there’s more to do and see than you can ever do in a day, which is what makes it so much fun to keep coming back.

Where are your favorite stores and restaurants in Sault Ste. Marie? What do you look forward to doing or visiting there?



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Before we take off for spring break this coming week, I thought I’d tell you a little about our home area, which is a pretty popular travel destination in its own right. I grew up in the largest town in the region–Marquette, Michigan. When I was a kid I remember a lot of outdoorsy-type tourists, doing things like skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and hiking.

The Marquette Lower Harbor on a foggy morning. Photos provided by http://www.KurtMensching.info

That’s still a major part of what draws people to visit up here; the abundant wilderness to wander around in pursuing your outdoors pastime of choice. In more recent years, though, Marquette has drawn a more urban crowd, with bicycling and arts & culture booming. That’s not to mention the 6-million-or-so awards and rankings the city keeps getting for being walkable, bike-friendly, kid-friendly, livable, “cool”, entrepreneurial, historic, you name it.

Marquette is all of those things, but for me, my hometown is all about the lake. (That’s what we call Lake Superior around here.) The town was built on shipping, and wraps around its two harbors like any good port city. Part of what makes hikes, bike rides and walks so enjoyable in Marquette is the ever-present lakeshore.

At several spots in town, the pines and sand dunes rimming the shore give way to wide, sandy beaches that are packed with families and other beachgoers in the summer. Some beaches have even drawn a group of daring lake surfers. One of the least-tamed city parks you’re likely to find is Presque Isle, not too far from town, down along the city bike path, and offers acres of forested trails and striking cliffside views of the lake — understandably popular with photographers.

Lake Superior waves on the sand. Photos provided by http://www.KurtMensching.info

While I think the best way to enjoy the lake is to just find a quiet spot and sit by its edge, for visitors, there also are hotels that overlook the water, like the historic Landmark Inn (or the Econo Lodge Lakeside for tighter budgets).

A few restaurants can claim a lake view, such as the Vierling, which is also a microbrewery with some great craft beers, or Coco’s, which has a seriously awesome Friday fish fry and European-inspired desserts.

But if you’re like me and prefer to enjoy the lake and forests in a less-crowded setting, it’s well worth it to take a trip (with some good hiking boots) up County Road 550 northwest of town, and find one of the many little out-of-the-way beaches like Little Presque Isle, Wetmore Landing, or even one without a name.

Have you visited Marquette? What did you do and see? Love to hear from you in the comments!

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