We’re camping for three days at Ft. Wilkins SP. Luckily, we get our site established before the rain begins. It’s cold, gray, and extremely damp. It’s the kind of damp that we can’t quite shake – the inside of the Fireball is crappy and unpleasant. We wander about for a bit, then decide to just hunker down with books and wait for tomorrow.HA! Still raining in the morning, so we decide to explore the Fort. This remote outpost was built in the 1830s, as copper miners poured into the area. The entire western UP/northern Wisconsin area had been recently purchased from the Objibwa, and a military installation seemed to be a good idea to keep the peace. Restoration was done during the WPA years. It’s obvious from the artifacts that life at the Fort was not easy. I loved this bit of advice from a Military Handbook with kitchen tips. The Fort was in use for a remarkably brief period, closing in the mid 1840s.
From the harbor, Hunter’s Point is visible, and the trail leading to it sounds inviting, so off we go. We momentarily forget that we’re wearing our cycling shoes, which have metal cleats in the soles. Walking over the slick wet tree roots and through deep piles of shore stones becomes a comedic adventure. We sound like Fred and Ginger taking a hike (wearing their tap shoes, of course). It’s ridiculous, and makes us laugh. What we we thinking? Getting out to the Point, though, was worth the effort.Brickside Brewery provided a nice reward for our hike. We love microbreweries(just in case you hadn’t already figured that out), and Michigan has its share of really good ones.
But, there’s still more to come…..it’s Chili Cookoff Day in Copper Harbor. Judging begins in the Park at 4pm, so off we go. These folks know how to throw a party! Gallons of chili supplied by the 2010 winner, huge pans of cornbread, and cheese platters are set up for sampling. An entire table full of pies! Two kegs of beer, and a setup of Bloody Marys! A band! All on a help-yourself basis. Five serious judges work over the 15 or so chili entries. We sample a few, but find nothing that really sings to our palates. But, that jalepeno cornbread? I could cheerfully have eaten the entire pan. We can hardly waddle our fat butts back to our bikes for the ride back to camp.
We had planned another bike ride on Sunday, but it’s cold and very windy. So, we play Truck Tourist instead, checking out sections of shoreline we missed on the trip north. Of course, we had to stop and take the obligatory photo of the Firetruck at the Snowguage. 1978-79 produced a record snowfall in the area – 390.4”. Last year’s total, shown by the red arrow near the top, was about two feet shy of that total. Average snowfall is about 20 feet. Note to self: get the hell out of here before it starts to snow!
Serious UP sightseeing…..guys are skinning a bear which they have hanging from a tree. (no photos!). That explains the “Bear Registration” signs we’ve seen at the State Parks. We had wondered why the bears couldn’t just get in line and register with the rest of us.
We catch the first glimpse of serious fall color. Color is gaining every day.Monday morning is our day to pack up and move on. We’ve got another short day on the road, as we’re moving to McLain SP, about 40 miles south and west of Copper Harbor, but still on Lake Superior. We had been advised to stop at the Jampot (thanks, Ken) for a cupcake and a jar of jam. Jampot is run by the Brothers of St. John, and these guys know their business. The store is stocked with dozens of jams and jellies, fruitcakes, and cupcakes. It’s a struggle to get out of there with only two cupcakes (breakfast!), two caramels, and one jar of cherry jam.
It’s a beautiful drive into Calumet, ten miles from the State Park. We stop for a visit at the Firefighters Museum. Drat! It’s closed for the season already. Calumet is full of graceful red stone buildings, many with fancy trims. It’s quiet, and very pretty. Look! There’s a microbrewery across the street – The Red Coat Brewery. While the beer was lousy (flat and sour), the setting is well worth a visit. The old hotel has an incredible bar, complete with an intricately patterned mosaic tile floor and curved mural painted on the ceiling. The white-tablecloth dining room is gracious and inviting.
And, just so you know that we’re educating ourselves nearly every minute on this trip, we learn that Calumet was called Red Jacket in its early days. Hence, the brewery name.