A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Upper Peninsula

The post I’ve been waiting on…. the top of all of our travels this Summer, the crème de la crème as it were…The Upper Peninsula. Where have we been so far? Well, we started in Niagara, Ontario, then headed over to Detroit, Michigan, before heading up North to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…. a real gem of a spot. We spent two days (three nights) here and visited the not so hidden (but still kind of hidden) gem of Mackinac Island. Easily my favorite place of the entire trip. But more on that in the post. 

Before we begin, I want to say something really quickly (this seems to be how it always goes…). We visited three “cities”: St. Ignace, Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island. Because the region is so close together (in a way, obviously all three are separated by water) most of the history of the cities are intertwined. In fact, there is quite a bit of movement and overlap in each town’s history. I’ll begin by talking about the shared history of the “region” and then narrow in as we visit each spot together. 

I also want to say- we stayed in St. Ignace at a Holiday Inn right on the lake. First off, I highly recommend St. Ignace as a “home base” of sorts. It’s less populated and much quieter. The ferry was a bit emptier (both ways) as not as many people are coming/going from that city. We also really liked our hotel. I know it’s a pricey region, but I recommend checking out St. Ignace as a place to stay. 

So, this region is vastly claimed by the Anishinaabe people, made up of the Ottawa (Odawa), Ojibwe (Chippewa), and Potawatomi. These three tribes made what is known as The Council of Three Fires and they ruled the region they called Michilimackinac. There is actually quite a fascinating history that we learned about more tribes beyond those when we were in St. Ignace, to include Seneca, Mishinemacki, Huron, Iroquois and more. The first Europeans traveled to the region in the 1630’s, with a Catholic Mission and a priest by the name of Claude Dablon. The mission started on the island of Michilimackinac (Ojibwe “Big Turtle”) but was moved to St. Ignace in 1671 and then turned over to Jacques Marquette. The mission remained active in St. Ignace until 1705 when it was abandoned. In 1679 the first “official” fur trading post, Fort de Baude, was created by Louis Hannepin and it was active until it closed and moved to Fort Detroit in 1697. In 1715 we see the first European settlement in Mackinaw City, Fort Michilimackinac, which is actually moved to Mackinac Island in 1781. 

There’s a “basic” overview of the early beginnings of the region. So much history in some of these places!

Our first day in the area we rose bright and early to catch one of the first ferries from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island to spend a day on the island. Before I get even into more history and what we did/saw/explored, I CANNOT stress enough that this is a place that HAS TO BE VISITED. You HAVE to explore the island and see it all. It’s incredible. Easily one of my top/favorite spots. Seriously. I will never not share about it; I will never shut up about it. Just incredible. Beautiful. 

So, the Anishinaabe people thought the island itself looked like a Big Turtle, which is a good creature in their history, so they named the island “Mitchimakinak” meaning…Big Turtle. When the French arrived in the 1630’s they turned the name into “Michilimackinac” and then the British (in 1780) shortened it to what we now know as Mackinac. During the French & Indian War the British took control of the Island and Fort, creating Fort Mackinac (remember- they moved Fort Michilimackinac from Mackinaw City). At the end of the War, the Island was given to the USA with the Treaty of Paris, but British continued to keep forces there until 1794. During the War of 1812, the British took back control of the War and held on to it through another battle before relinquishing it back to the US with the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. 

Around the mid 19th century, when the fur trade was starting to decline and sport fishing started to rise, Mackinac Island started to see a rise in tourism. Hotels started to be built (including the famed Grand Hotel) as well as summer “cottages”. Soon after stores and restaurants started to pop up on the main street to meet the demands. However, most of the island was still owned by the Federal Government and in 1875, thanks to lobbying by hometown senator Thomas Ferry, they declared that portion to become the second National Park (after Yellowstone). It only stayed a national park for 20 years when the land was transferred from Federal Ownership to State Ownership, and it became Michigan’s first state park. In 1898, after complaints by local residents over concerns to health and safety, all motor vehicles were BANNED from the island except for emergency services and snowmobiles. Only one other exception has been made, and that was Vice President Mike Pence’s motorcade. 

The island itself has a circumference of 4.35 miles and it’s about an 8-mile perimeter. You are able to walk or bike or hire a horse drawn carriage and explore the entire perimeter of the island on the M-185- the only state highway with no motor vehicles. The entire Island is designated a National Historic Landmark (as of 1960), but there are also 9 sites within the island that have the National Register of Historic Places designation. 

Ok, let’s talk logistics here…

We rented bikes to see the island. It only felt right- rent a couple bikes (plus a bike trailer for the boys) and just ride off into the sunset (except not really it was morning). There are several bike rental shops right off the ferry docks and they are all within the same, reasonable, price range. The real difference we saw was whether they included a bottle of water or other amenities or not. So, we picked our bikes up straight off the ferry and headed down Main Street. It is truly something to see- this whole village and not a single car of any sort. Sure, there was a golf cart or two transporting luggage or supplies from the dock to a hotel, but by and large you walked, took a horse taxi, or biked. 

We biked the perimeter, stopping a couple times to read the signs that tell the history of the island, or to climb up to Arch Rock, or dip down to the water and enjoy the view and peaceful moments. It really just felt so peaceful and incredible, even on Main Street or in the picnic area, which is packed with people. Once we finished our perimeter we stopped for a quick bite, then took our bikes up the mountain and to the interior of the island. Stopping to see the exterior of the Grand Hotel, the Carriage House, and then up and onward to the highest point on the island. It was a total of 13.6 miles by bike and just one of the best days. We were so happy and tired and overjoyed by the end of it that I just knew it was a special place. The pictures don’t even do it justice, you just need to go. I promise it is worth it.

So, day 2 in the Upper Peninsula region we started off by walking through St. Ignace. I’ve touched on the history of the city originally, but it is very much steeped in the French Catholic Missionaries coming to try and convert the Native Americans who lived here at the time. We visited the Museum of the Ojibwa Culture, which highlighted the history of the people and the region, as well as the problem with the missionaries AND touched on the history of residential schools- which were such a big part of the region and the cultures history. We went from there down along the water just taking in the beauty of walking along the water. 

Once we finished up, we hopped in the car and headed across the bridge to the northern tip of the “Lower Peninsula”, Mackinaw City. Fun fact, Mackinaw City serves as the terminus for the following: Dixie Highway, Mackinaw Trail, East Michigan Pike AND West Michigan Pike. Again, I’ve touched on some of the history, so let’s talk about the main attraction we visited, Fort Michilimackinac. After everything in the region (in terms of European colonization) disappeared in 1705, the French decided to reestablish a presence in 1713. They decided a fort was the right way to go and in 1715 Fort Michilimackinac was opened. They had a good fur trade, worked well with the tribes in the region, HOWEVER in 1761, after a loss in the French and Indian War, the British took control of the fort. The British kept the fort in place, but they stopped visiting and distributing gifts to the local tribes as the French had done. This led to the local tribes becoming resentful and angry at the British. Tensions rose until a full-on battle was waged called Pontiac’s War. Fort Michilimackinac had a small part to play in this war as there was a battle in June of 1763 in which a group of Ojibwe staged a game of baaga’adowe as a way to get into the fort, kill troops and take control. They succeeded and held the fort for almost a year before the British regained control (and kept it after starting to distribute gifts to the tribes once again). After the British decided to move the Fort to Mackinac Island, they moved several of the buildings that they wanted and then burned the rest of the fort to the ground. 

These days most of the buildings on the fort are reconstructions, though through them you can also see portions of the buildings as they stood. The entire fort is an excavation and archeological site- considered one of the most extensively excavated sites in the U.S. It was pretty incredible to walk through the fort and learn the history- we could pinpoint where skirmishes and battles occurred and what led to them.  The fort also did the really cool thing and highlighted a very important person…Ezekiel Solomon was one of the most active fur traders in the regions, but he was also the first Jewish Settler in Michigan. Originally from Berlin and having served in the British Army, he arrived at Fort Michilimackinac in 1761. He was in the fort during the battle with the Ojibwe in 1763, only narrowly missing execution. He often traveled to Montreal as part of the fur trade and became a member of Canada’s first Jewish Congregation before dying in 1808. Such a neat little historical fact and was really fun to not only learn about his life but see a recreation of his home!

And that really wrapped up our time in the Upper Peninsula! This was easily probably my favorite stop of our entire vacation (with Niagara a close second) as it was just so gorgeous. I highly, highly recommend it (if you couldn’t tell by now). It’s one of the most popular, prettiest areas for a reason.

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday – Detroit Michigan

Our next overnight stop on our Summer Holiday was Detroit Michigan, but before we crossed the border back to the States, we hit up Point Pelee, the southernmost tip of mainland Canada. A small National Park founded in 1918, this little area of the country has been occupied in some way since 700-900AD (that’s been documented). Initially a hunting area, the Europeans found it in 1670 and it’s been in dispute for a long while until it became a national park. You are able to camp and picnic in the park, even enjoy the waves on the beach front, but we headed further up to the small museum and bus ride out to the tip and then a walk on the marsh boardwalk. This spot is a boon for birdwatchers, and we saw several while we walked. It was a nice little stop and stretch your feet while being somewhere really cool. 

From there we did head straight through to Detroit. We stayed in the Financial District, close to the water and not far from the spots we really wanted to see- mostly on the auto factory side of things. We had one full day in the city, so we started off early the next morning by stopping in the GM headquarters (scoping out all the new and old vehicles on display as well as quite a few displays about what GM does beyond cars- it’s fascinating), then a short walk along the water- seeing both the statues and Canada across the way, before stopping in at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. 

Owned and operated by the Department of Natural Resources the Outdoor Adventure Center provides a variety of hands-on exhibits and activities meant to highlight the offerings of the region. Originally committed in the 1990’s, the museum and surrounding park area had quite the struggle to open up between funding issues and property ownership difficulties. However, in 2015 they were able to open up and logged 100,000 visitors in their first year. There is a little history, and a lot of nature information. The boys were able to “snowmobile”, ride an “atv”, practice “hunting”, as well as sit in an airplane, eagles’ nest, and learn about the environment of Michigan (which is a lot more than just Detroit). It was just as fun for us adults as it was for the kids. 

From there we headed back down the water and over to the tram for a ride to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. Built in 1904 this was the second building of Ford’s, however the first purpose-built factory. BUT in order to understand the importance of Ford and his mind and motor company, let’s take a minute to quickly talk about Henry Ford. 

Henry Ford was really a pioneer of his time. He was, what I like to refer to, as a tinkerer with a brain that didn’t stop. In 1892 he built his first motor car (he was 29- so if you’re younger than that and still haven’t figured anything out or are just starting to figure things out at 29- you’re in good company!) after becoming an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit. Yes, that Edison. In 1893 he became Chief Engineer and in 1899, cheered on by Edison and several others, he founded the Detroit Automobile Company. In 1901 it was dissolved. However, in late 1901 Henry Ford designed, built and raced an auto that got some attention and he, tried again, founded the Henry Ford Company towards the end of 1901. However, once again, it was not to last as once Henry Leland was brought in as a consultant, Ford left, and Leland then renamed it to Cadillac. 

Finally, in 1903 Ford Motor Company was founded, with the Dodge Brothers as investors (!) and then in 1908 the ever-popular Model T was debuted. It would sell that year for $825 with a price that would continue to drop year after year. Something that Henry Ford is known well for is forward thinking and in 1913 he introduced the concept of the moving assembly belt to his factories (though this could not be only attributed to Henry Ford- several employees helped design and produce this concept). Some interesting facts about Henry Ford to end this little side tangent…He was an early backer of the Indianapolis 500, he was a notorious anti-Semite (both Hitler and Himmler were big fans of Ford and some of his writings were combined and published in Nazi Germany- AND Ford is apparently mentioned TWICE in Mein Keimpf, but he didn’t financially donate to the party – I don’t know why that was such a distinction that needed to be made…), and while he introduced the $5 dollar wage, and 40/48 hr. work week, he HATED labor unions and fought fiercely against his workers unionizing. 

So, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. Built in 1904, this was the second location owned by the Ford Motor Company and produced the Models B, C, F, K, N, R, S and finally the Model T during its 5 years. Initially cars were manufactured with hand tools that would be carried to the vehicle and a single location. This plant is where the idea of a moving assembly line was created. Just before the Model T debut in 1908, employees experimented with the idea that the chassis of the car moved along to the workers, rather than the workers moving to the chassis. They continued experimenting by using a rolling option, instead of the previous rope maneuvering, before coming up with the initial moving assembly belt (a precursor to the one Henry Ford later put in place at the Rouge Facility). Now, once the Model T was completed and out in the world sales quickly skyrocketed. Demand became so much that the Piquette Plant closed for two months to help catch up and the plant itself quickly became too small. In 1909 Ford Motor Co started packing up to move over to the Highland Park Ford Plant to continue. The plant building itself went through a couple different owners and businesses before being sold in 2000 to the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex (after hearing that it was going to be torn down) and re purposed the building into a museum full of over 40 early automobiles. The plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and a National Historic Landmark in 2006. 

Finally, a few fun facts about the cars…most Model T’s (post assembly line introduction) were black due to the fact that it was the fastest drying of all the colors, when the production of the Model T concluded (in 1927), Ford had produced 15, 007, 034 cars. 

That about summed up our day in Detroit. Heading back towards the hotel, we stopped over at the Fox Theatre and Comerica Park just to take a little look and then stopped for some food. Our second day, on the way out of the city, we stopped over in Dearborn to see The Henry Ford. 

The Henry Ford is the massive complex that houses the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and works in partnership with the Ford Rouge Factory (The Henry Ford is also known as the Edison Institute). It is the largest indoor/outdoor museum in the United States and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, with the National Historic Landmark label attached in 1981. Where to begin?

We started our day with the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The Ford River Rouge Complex is well known in the auto industry. Construction beginning in 1917 (opened for production in 1927, completed in 1928) it is the largest integrated factory in the World. The concept was to have everything that was needed to manufacture vehicles right at your fingertips. With the docks, the interior railroad, electric plant, and steel mill, there was no need to wait on much to be delivered in order to complete a car. The complex itself is made up of 93 buildings with 16 million square feet of factory floor space and, while the first products produced were the WWI Eagle Boats, it currently produces all of the Ford F-150 and soon to be Ford F-150 Lightning trucks. The factory tour is really interesting, showing the history of Henry Ford and the current projects, as well as a look at the factory tour (this was not in action when we toured, but you can tour when it is in action). 

From there we headed into Greenfield Village. Greenfield Village is known as an Outdoor Living History Museum- the first in the nation and a model that many other “living history museums” follow. The village is made up of various homes and buildings that were upended from their original locations and moved to the property with the end goal of showing the history of living and working in America since its’ founding. The village is a total of 240 acres, with 90 being used by the village itself. Some of the notable homes are those of the Wright Brothers, Edison and Ford, as well as the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law and a covered bridge from Pennsylvania. There is also the Farris Mill- one of the oldest in America. As part of the admission, you can pay to ride in an authentic Model T (some of which are replicas, some of which are actual authentic – we were lucky to get an authentic Model T), as well as on the Weiser Railroad. 

Finally, we headed into the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Henry Ford was a bit obsessed with collecting and preserving historically interesting items that portrayed what the Industrial Revolution was like, both from an everyday life perspective (think items in the home, kitchen, toys, etc.) and from an industrial machine perspective. The museum is full of a variety of artifacts that range from massive steam and coal locomotives to presidential motorcade vehicles, to doll houses and tractors. There is also the Rosa Parks bus, the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, a variety of engines, and restaurant signage. 

The museum itself was started as his personal collection on a 12-acre site. The building was designed with the Philadelphia Historical Park in mind (namely the Old City Hall, Independence Hall, & Congress Hall). Initially opened in 1929 as the Edison Institute, a private education site, it was later opened to the public in 1933. I will say that between all three (the village, the factory and the museum) we spent almost all day here and still didn’t see everything there was to see. We could have spent much longer if we hadn’t really needed to hit the road to make it to our next stop before bed time.

And with that we headed to my favorite spot on the entire trip…any guesses as to where that was? I’ll share it soon!