The Upper Peninsula is pure Michigan

Jul 29, 2018 at 4:00 am
In the U.P., you have to choose between ketchup or gravy For your pasty.
In the U.P., you have to choose between ketchup or gravy For your pasty. Lee DeVito

If you're a "Troll" — that is, if you live downstate, or "under the Mackinac Bridge" — it can be easy to forget that Michigan has a whole other damn peninsula. Actually, it seems to happen a lot: A Facebook group, "Maps Without Michigan's Upper Peninsula," keeps track of maps that erroneously omit the land of the "Yoopers" — sometimes from Michigan, sometimes from the entire United States of America.

Why does this cartographical blooper keep happening? Maybe it's because the cutesy nickname for our state, "the Mitten," clearly refers to the Lower Peninsula only. (Otherwise it would be "the Mittens," right?) Maybe it's the fact that culturally, Yoopers are quite different from the rest of us Michiganders — for instance, they are more likely to root for the nearby Green Bay Packers than they are for the Detroit Lions. (Though with the Lions' losing streak, who could blame them?) Or maybe it's because, simply, the U.P. is a faraway land — it takes nearly 10 hours to drive from Detroit to Calumet.

Whatever the reasons, all Trolls would be remiss to not pay the land of the "Yoopers" a visit — it's the quintessential Michigan road trip. Here's why.

Hot pocket

Pasties are a northern comfort food — think of them as the U.P.'s answer to the Detroit coney dog. They arrived in Michigan via miners from Cornwall, England, and though the U.P.'s once-booming 19th century mining industry has largely wound down, the pasty remains. The baked dough pocket is traditionally filled with a mix of ground beef, potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga, though these days you'll find plenty of updates on the classic formula, including vegetarian, pizza, and breakfast options. Once in the U.P., you'll find no shortage of places hawking the northern treat. Located right off the bridge is the family-owned Lehto's (1983 W. US 2, St. Ignac; 906-643-8542;, a favorite since 1947. But no matter where you get your pasties, you'll have to make a decision: to slather it in ketchup or gravy. Most spots will offer both condiments, but everyone will secretly judge you depending on which one you use. (Think of it as the Michigan version of Dr. Seuss' Butter Battle.)

Down under

Speaking of the mines, you can still visit them. Once home to the world's deepest shaft, burrowing some 9,000 feet into the ground, Quincy Mine (49750 US-41, Hancock; 906-482-3101; was one of the Upper Peninsula's most successful copper mines. Now, it offers guided tours that just scratch the surface of the formerly complex network of tunnels. For an even more daring mining tour, you can try Adventure Mine Tours (200 Adventure Ave., Greenland; 906-883-3371;, a three-hour journey that involves rappelling down a dark, 80-foot mine shaft by rope and traversing a 30-foot chasm by swing bridge. This is how you earn that pasty.

Wild art

If the pasty is the U.P.'s answer to the coney, then perhaps Lakenland (2800 M-28, Marquette; 906-249-1132; could be thought of as its answer to the Heidelberg Project, artist Tyree Guyton's neighborhood-sized art installation in Detroit. The brainchild of ironworker Tom Lakenen, Lakenland is a sprawling, 37-acre woodland populated by colorful, whimsical sculptures made of scrap metal. Like the Heidelberg Project, Lakenland has become an unexpectedly popular tourist destination, and like Guyton, Lakenen has battled with his local government to protect his unorthodox creation. Today, the outdoor park is open 24 hours a day, is free to the public, and is a favorite course for snowmobile riders in the winter.

Picture this

One of the U.P.'s best treasures is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — 42 miles of picturesque rock formations, waterfalls, and sand dunes. The highlight is the shore's colorful sandstone cliffs, made of 500-million-year-old Cambrian Period sandstone that has been naturally carved into caves, arches, and even formations resembling things, like castles or human faces. Geologist Henry Rowe Schoolcraft called them "some of the most sublime and commanding views in nature" in 1820, and more recently, even rocker Kid Rock was so moved by their beauty that he filmed his video for "Born Free" here. For a tour, you can try Pictured Rocks Cruises (100 City Park Dr., Munising; 906-387-2379; for a narrated trip, or Pictured Rocks Kayaking (1348 Commercial St., Munising; 906-387-5500; if you want to explore on your own.

High marks for Marquette

Aside from the aforementioned pasties, Marquette is a great place to visit as a tourist. With a population of some 20,000, it's the U.P.'s largest city and also home to Northern Michigan University, so it does have a bit of a night life. Highlights include the hip Blackrocks Brewery (424 N. Third St., Marquette; 906-273-1333;, a converted corner house that has become a hip meeting place with live music and craft beer, or Third Base Bar (726 N. Third St., Marquette; 906- 226-9581) — a friendly dive bar where everyone will likely know your name by the end of the night.

From our 2018 Made in Michigan issue.