Celebrating Fall; 5 days through the Keweenaw Peninsula’s Copper Country

I love the 4 seasons, each one bringing its own special reasons to enjoy, though fall is definately my favorite. Watching the woods change from vibrant green, to bright colors of the rainbow before the earthy browns of late fall dissapear under a carpet of white adds another dimension to the the outdoors. Seemingly every day that passes the same landscapes evolve towards that inevitable state of winter slumber.

A week after returning from Chile and the end of their winter season, I jumped back to the last hurrah of fair weather. I had planned a trip up the Copper Country, also known more commonly as the Keweenaw Peninsula with my new adventure buddy Julie and we had the plan of camping and mountain biking Copper Harbor as the primary mission. We met up with our friend Ian from Traverse City and his daughter Stella but on the first morning, after spending the night at Ft Wilkins State Campground, Julie tripped on a root while carrying the breakfast dishes to wash them, she managed to painfully dislocate her elbow right before we were to begin our first day of riding. Our plans changed quickly and despite immense pain, she decided to soldier on and focus on camping, hiking, and cheffing up some good camp food.

What follow is photo essay of 5 days of absolutely perfect weather at the peak of the colors in the Copper Country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Enjoy….

Remnants of the old Cliff Cemetary, site of an old mine settlement that dates back to the 1850’s, now overgrown by forest.

Some wooden tombstones remain though the script is now unreadable.

Sunsetting from Brockway Mountain… The views here never fail to impress.

Our mode of transport and roaming home on wheels for the trip on Brockway Mountain.

Bands of color visible from Brockway.

Though riding wouldn’t be in the cards for us on this trip, we still hiked around on some of the trails. This is from Flying Squirrel. Copper Harbor is an IMBA designated ride center and has some of the best riding anwywhere in the US. Its a unique place being the end of the road at the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

So much history abounds in the Keweenaw, this shot is from Calumet.

This is big snow country as you can see from this train/plow from back in the day.

Sun getting low over Lake Fanny Hoe from Fort Wilkins Historical State Park, site of the old Fort.

While we did spend the first night at the state park campground with Ian and Stella, we broke out and headed out to the tip of the Keweenaw to High Rock Point, a place that I tend to camp at alot when I am up in the area. It is 9 miles past Copper Harbor (and the end of the road) and a long, bumpy ride out on unmarked dirt roads. We saw some vehicles out and about but no one was camped out the first night we were there. We spent two nights here and enjoyed the sounds of waves crashing on the shore from the roof top tent.

Sun rising over Lake Superior and Manitou Island.

A morning walk along the rugged coast near High Rock Bay.

Siesta time….. One great thing about camping along Lake Superior are views like this with no one around.

Julie spoiled me the whole trip cheffing up the most amazing meals. We stopped here on Schlatter Lake for a lunch break. The sun was out, the weather was comfortably warm, the water was crystal clear, and the hills in the distance were covered in brilliant colors. I don’t know what was better, the awesome meal or laying in the grass and taking a nap. No agenda, no plans, and pretty much just doing what feels good. Thats the best way to enjoy your surroundings. This little spot would be a great camp, maybe the next time up that way, if it is blustery on the point, this protected and remote camp would be perfect.

Schlatter Lake

The other bonus during our lunch break was finding this row boat stashed in the woods along the shore with a handwritten note stating that if you use it, please put it back.

Something about a bright tree with that cobalt blue sky you get on a clear fall day….

The rocky band that runs along Horseshoe Bay

The closest thing to a slot canyon I know of in the UP.

Striped sandstone and conglomorate rock create the inlets here.

The squaw was being a real trooper rocking the sling and everything. Hardcore.

The second evening at Highrock Point.

The master at work in the kitchen

Cooking dinner on the campfire, what could be the perfect camp setting. Life is indeed good.

Gingabitus, the 1/18th scale adventure dog in a rare moment of calm.

Rambling along headed towards Bete Gries via dirt.

The fall colors keep bringing the goods…

One of my favorite, lesser known vistas on the Keweenaw is from the top of Mt Houghton. There once was a super tight and rugged two track that took you to the top but now the only way of getting there is the relatively steep but short hike from a logging road that climbs part of the ridge. The views are great, this shot is looking south towards Lac LaBelle and Bete Gries.

After Mt. Hougton we did the 4 mile hike of the Bare Bluff trail. It rewards with one of the best views in the entire midwest from atop a 200 foot cliff perched on a bluff over Lake Superior and a particularly undeveloped section of rugged coast. The second half of the loop drops you down below the cliff and along the base of it. The views looking up from below are almost as incredible as the views from the top.

Stopping through Gay as we worked south we did some exploring on the stamp sands also known as the Gay Beach. This is not what the name conjures up but is a lunar like landscape of sand, dunes, coast, and standing bodies of water along a wide beach. It is also an ORV route and one of the only places in the state of Michigan where you can operate a motor vehicle on the beach. So take note you people whom I see leaving tracks on pristine, remote beaches elsewhere in the UP. Stay off the damn beaches.

We traveled the entire 7 miles along the stamp sands to reach the settlement of Big Traverse where we got back on pavement.

We spent our 4th night camping at another favorite local, the mouth of the Huron River. This location has wide, sandy beaches along a section of pine forest with views of the Rocky and impressive Huron Islands off shore. In the summer typically there will be quite a few people of various questionable walks of life here camping or engaging in other, often less desirable activites here. In the fal though, it is quiet, and we had the place to ourselves once again. We were camped on the edge of the beach and after building a big fire and Julie serving up some of the best filet mignon I have EVER had, we watched the full moon rise over Lake Superior. No sooner was it rising than we caught the first glimpses of aurora on the northern horizon. Within an hour the sky was ablaze in dancing green and even some faint red auroras. It was a very active session of northern lights and was a great cap to our 5 days of playing.

Wine, good food, a bonfire on the beach, the full moon, and northern lights (which my phone unfortunately CAN’T capture).

Crossing back to Marquette through the Huron Mountains along the Northwestern Road.

A swanky Yooper camp.

Typical scenery along the Northwestern road, and a fancy new bridge over what used to be two timbers that you had to line up.

Categories: camping, Lake Superior, Land Cruiser, Mountain Biking, Overlanding, Upper Peninsula | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Celebrating Fall; 5 days through the Keweenaw Peninsula’s Copper Country

  1. Bri

    Gorgeous…I’m jealous I wasn’t on that trip!

  2. Laura

    Wow, what a trip!

  3. Dana

    thanks for sharing!

  4. Love the UP of Michigan, there is no a lot of people but some much life..

  5. Love the UP of Michigan, there is not a lot of people but so much life..

  6. Awesome and inspiring, you go.

  7. Nice trip report Kristian. Our weekend up there’s weather wasn’;t as nice.

  8. Nice trip report and rig – I’ve got the same color combo! 🙂

  9. Gary Bowen

    The Swanky Yooper… Is that-ahhh domicile/office yet another example of Forest Service sequestration in effect?

    Inquiring minds wanna know? [:>)

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