The back reads: “Hiawatha, located on Hwy. M-28, Munising, Michigan. The spirit of Hiawatha can be found at Hiawatha’s Gift Shop on the shores of “Gitche Gumee,” home of the World’s largest replica of Hiawatha, which stands 36 feet high, and 18 feet wide, towering in the primeval forest, he is a sight to all who are young at heart.”
Having just returned from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and having passed through Munising on Highway 28, I can say that the giant Hiawatha sign is no more.
I did see a giant plywood Santa Claus and the folks from the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” story.
But more importantly, I explored much of the beautiful U.P. with my bucket list in mind.
Let’s see how we did:
Upper Peninsula bucket list:
1) Cross the Mackinac Bridge.
Didn’t have much of a choice here. The bridge is beautiful and we’re returning Labor Day to walk across the 5-mile span with many, many others. It’s a tradition.
2) Eat a pasty.
I started seeing pasty places as soon as I crossed the bridge into St. Ignance.
Many of the stores also has signs advertising smoked fish and jerky.
I decided to wait until it was closer to meal time -- and learned that there are plenty of miles between restaurants of any kind once you get out of town.
And it's a long way between town.
For a pretty big stretch it seemed like the only places I saw were closed motels that once tried to lure motorists with signs reading "electric heat."
I was getting worried that I missed my opportunity and would leave the U.P. pastiless.
Luckily, on day three of the adventure, I spotted a pasty booth at the U.P. State Fair and the long wait was over.
I ordered a chicken pasty and my roomie for the trip dined on a ham and cheese version.They were filled with out meats of choice plus carrots, potatoes, carrots and peas.
Pretty darn good!
A U.P. native I met told me that her grandfather used to take pasties to work and kept his metal lunchbox hanging over a candle all morning to keep them warm until the noon meal.
I did find a store on the way home that sold frozen pasties so I could bring some home for the whole family.
3) Touch Lake Superior.
Done! My route from Munising to Marquette was along Lake Superior, and I was able to slip into a roadside park and touch the lake, as did the Gnome of Victory and Celebration.
It didn't seem as cold as advertised, but I didn’t exactly go wading, either.
But check this out! Driving along this route, the radio station played “Wreck of the Edmund Fiztgerald,” which is about the freighter that sank in Lake Superior, not far from where I was driving.
This might be a very cool coincidence, or the station has the song in a heavy rotation considering the location.
I’m suspecting the former, because the only song I heard repeated was Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Not only should that song not be played twice on the same day, it shouldn’t be played at all.
4) Find something with “Say ya to da U.P.” on it.
This was more difficult than I thought. There are many UP stickers for sale, but I had trouble finding the iconic green “Say Ya” sticker. I saw one in a window of a closed store, but there were none to be found when I returned the next day.
Finally, I found one in a gas station outside Escanaba. Uff da!
5) Cross into Wisconsin!
Got it! We had some events in beautiful Menominee, which I knew was near the border. One of my co-workers accidentally traveled into Wisconsin earlier in the day, and pointed out how to get there. Naturally, there was a store with a giant Cheese Mouse.
6) See a moose.
OK, this one is open to interpretation. There are moose in the UP. The Marquette DNR office provided me with a Michigan Moose viewing brochure. There are many references to moose in the UP on signs, shirts and souvenirs.
I did find not one, but two moose statues outside businesses in St. Ignace and more in Manistique. Of course we took Moose selfies.
Nowhere did we say that we needed to have live moose. I’m calling this one good!
7) Get my National Parks passport stamped at the Pictured Rocks Visitors Center.
This was an easy one. There is a shared visitors center for the Hiawatha National Forest and Pictured Rocks National Park. In fact, there were five stamps available. Passports are awesome!
My friend Tammy Webber suggested several more items.
8) Wade in Lake Michigan.
We've done this before, as Lake Michigan is only a half-hour from Grand Rapids. On this trip we saw the very top of the lake – including Green Bay! I did pull over to a public boat launch area and walked out on a rickety dock that was perilously close to the water. That was our bold act for the day.
9) Wade into Lake Superior without crying.
I can report that the Gnome of Victory and Celebration shed no tears!
10) Drive through the Hiawatha National Forest.
Done! This was my route to Marquette. You know, there would be nothing wrong with adding the occasional Panera Bread in a national forest. It was very big.
11) Climb the stairs to the top of the ski jump at Pine Mountain.
We didn't get that far over. But I did get a call out of the blue two weeks ago from a magazine based in Minnesota that writes about Lake Superior. The writer found one of my MLive bad postcard columns about the Copper Peak ski jump and wanted to use some of the photos.
12) Buy Sayklly’s chocolate.
I thought this might be a stumper. But we were in the Delta County Historical Museum in Escanaba and right there on the counter next to the postcards were packages of Sayklly’s chocolates. My friend Lois behind the counter said the store was actually just a couple blocks away.
We scurried over and snagged several yummy Yooper Bars to bring home to the family.
So I enjoyed my first UP adventure, exploring many interesting places and meeting friendly people. I waited 24 years as a Michigander before making my first trip, but I know we’ll head back again.