Example of a short travel article about Upper Michigan.
|RIDING THE RAILS, UPPER MICHIGAN STYLE
Thinking of a northern excursion this coming summer? I am and anytime I can combine a travel excursion that includes an old-fashioned train ride, a 21-mile riverboat excursion, miles of thick forest with wild animals roaming around and a spectacular waterfall as the destination, I’ll grab my cameras and take off. Yes, there is such a place! Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has some exciting tourist destinations you almost never heard of. Here’s a sampling.
Find your USA road atlas and look up the town of Newberry in the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula. Folks there call it the Moose Capital of Michigan. This is Tahquamenon River country. A tour that wends its way through that country for over six hours is provided by the Toonerville Trolley and Riverboat Tour Company, run by Kris Stewart and family. Kris is great grandson of Robert Hunter who, along with partner Joe Beach, began offering rides in 1927 on an authentic 24” narrow-gauge track. That same train is still in operation today.
Tour No. 1 departs at 10:30a.m. from Soo Junction, MI, on Highway M28 fifteen miles east of Newberry, through miles 5 ½ miles of thick forest where passengers can hope to spot a moose or two, deer, and numerous kinds of birds. That’s not the end of this journey however. Leaving the train, everyone boards a riverboat for a 21-mile cruise on the Tahquamenon River to within a half mile of the Upper Falls. After time on land for bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers to explore, it’s back on the boat and train to do it all again on the way back to Soo Junction.
Tour No. 2 is a 1 ¾-hour wilderness train ride. No river scenes on this one, but your tour guides provide lots of information on these woods.
Warning: book early. Toonerville Trolley tours are only open in July and August including Labor Day weekend, and only on selected days.
MORE TO SEE AND DO
If you don’t want to end your day after this adventure, it’s on to the next one. Return to Newberry, go four miles north on M-123 and visit Oswald’s Bear Ranch (yup, that’s Bear Ranch), the largest ranch exclusively for bears in the United States. Photo ops galore here and a little bear-wrangling perhaps.
While watching bears prowl in northern woods is no surprise, seeing tigers pace and hearing lions roar in Upper Michigan can be startling. Is that possible? Oh yeah!
The De Young Family Zoo at Wallace, Michigan, has Cats, Cats, and more Cats. It’s an awesome experience to stand a few feet away from a Bengal Tiger, or a White Siberian. At the De Young Zoo, it’s not just a tiger but 10? 12? More? Rescued animals from all over have found a home with Buddy De Young and his helpers. Featured on the National Geographic channel program My Life’s a Zoo, Buddy has rescued dozens of animals but his personal favorites seem to be those big Cats (no small c here).
The lion family oversees it all from their pad on a small rise nearby, while numerous other wild and domestic animals, inside as well as outside of their pens watch the watchers watching them. The few outside the pens are harmless, ducks, a pheasant and a flock of geese. Maybe you should give the geese the right of way. Second thought, since geese demand the right of way, you won’t have a choice.
Best activity of the day for young children is holding and petting the babies and small animals. Best time of day for the more bloodthirsty of humans is watching the tigers leap fifteen feet into the air to grab huge chunks of meat. Yum!
Be sure to visit the hippo, camels, wolves, bear, coatimundi, warthog, dingos, etc., etc., etc. A badger named Bucky is my personal favorite because he posed for a picture with me.
As if one jungle refuge isn’t enough, there’s also the Garlyn Zoological Park six miles east of Naubinway MI on US 2 and about 40 miles west of Mackinac Bridge. Native animals abound but rescued animals from around the world also call this home. Llamas, deer of several kinds including reindeer, wallaby, Patagonian cavy, ring-tailed lemur, a camel, and Fuzzy the bear are just a few. Interaction with the animals is encouraged. A gift shop has games, shirts, hats, toys, stuffed animals and much more.
Have the children with you? Visit the Children’s Museum at Marquette MI for more hands-on family fun.
Here’s an activity everyone, especially rockhounds, can enjoy. All along Lake Superior beaches are more than 150 kinds of collectible rocks. The Keweenaw Peninsula is at the core of collecting country. Wander the beaches and look for the rainbow colors of agates, pink thompsonite, quartz, copper from abandoned mining areas near Rockland and Mass, jasper near Ishpeming, manganite from L’Anse, black psilomelane from the Ironwood area, and Greenstones (chlorastrolite) colored in shades of green and blue green, hematite and tourmaline near Champion. The UP has endless beaches for adding to your collection.
If wandering the shores and inland rock quarries isn’t for you, do it the easy way. Watch for rock shops. Add to your collection there. Owners will sometimes have brochures that guide you to well-known outdoor places. If you want to collect on private lands, be sure to obtain permission before you go.
For the grownups in your party, I’m recommending finding a sitter for the kids and paying a visit to the only two wineries in the UP. Manistique MI is home to Mackinaw Trail Winery where samples are available for your tasting pleasure. They also have a tasting room in Petoskey MI amid the shops of the historic Gaslight District.
Three-fold Vine Winery has its home base at Garden MI with another location at Munising. With six grape wines and five fruit varieties, one of which is called Northern Lights Out (a blackberry wine), you will need a designated driver if you choose to taste them all. Besides their wines, you’ll find local art and crafts in their gift shops.
For a very extensive list of activities, lodgings, and eateries, go to www.exloringthenorth.com. This is one of the best sites, if not the best for information, but it’s not all there is to see. Leave time open to explore the serendipitous detours along the way. Contact information abounds on the internet. Websites are listed below.
Bonus Number One: Rod Planck is a UP photographer who has written three ebooks, hosts photo tours and workshops. You might be able to squeeze a photo class into your itinerary. Visit his web site at www.rodplanck.com.
Second Bonus: check out the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. 95,212 acres of swamps, lakes, islands, trumpeter swans, deer, osprey, loons, moose, turtles, geese, eagles, hawks, owls, fish, and mosquitoes. Bring bug spray but don’t let the bugs stop you! A camera is a must. Keep your eyes open for cougars. Although they are very secretive animals, there’s talk among locals of increased sightings.
CONTACT POINTS (possible sidebar)
Web sites and phone numbers.
www.exploringthenorth.com Lodging of all kinds, eateries, activities, maps, etc.
www.newberrytourism.com 800-831-7292 or 906-293-5562
www.michiganwines.com Mackinaw Trail, 906-341-2303: Threefold Vine, 906-644-7089
www.upcmkids.org The children’s museum. 906-226-3911
www.adventuremine.com web site of Adventure Mining Company, Greenland MI underground tour. 906-883-3371
www.ironmountainmine.com Huge rock shop, underground tour. 906-563-8077
www.mysteryspotstignace.com I don’t know. It’s a mystery! 906-643-8322
www.soolocks.com Cruise alongside the huge freighters through the famous locks of Sault Ste. Marie MI. 906-632-6301 or 800-432-6301
www.shipwrecktours.com Glass bottom boat tours on Lake Superior, July and August only. Grand Island National Recreation area. 906-387-4477.
Other boat tours: Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises, Munising. 800-650-3279 or 906-387-2379. www.picturedrocks.com
Sea Kayak pictured rocks tours: Marquette MI. 906-228-5447. www.paddlingmichigan.com
Mackinac Island Ferry. Arnold Transit Co. 800-542-8528. St. Ignace MI. www.arnoldline.com
Star Line. 906-643-7635 or 800-638-9892. St. Ignace MI. www.mackinacferry.com
www.fws.gov/midwest/seney Seney National Wildlife Refuge. 906-586-9851 or 800-877-8339.
www.rodplanck.com original photography, photo workshops, ebooks. 906-293-3339.
Wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Peninsula_of_Michigan. Lists 46 notable attractions and six casinos.