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Yooper Pasty Tour ’06

August 15th, 2006

If you haven’t ever been to Michigan’s upper peninsula then you’re probably wondering what a yooper and a pasty are. If you happen to hail from Cornwall, England then you undoubtedly know that a pasty (pɑːsti) differs considerably from a pastie (pay’stee). If you’ve never had a pasty think of it as a pot pie without the pot. Anyway the pasty played a central role in our camping trip across Michigan and Gina ate her first true “Yooper Burrito” at Colonel K’s Pasty Shop in Menominee Mi at the outset of our vacation.

This trip all started when I heard Peter Rowan & Tony Rice were playing at the Dunegrass Festival in Empire Mi just outside of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. We had been looking for a reason to go up to the U.P. and chow down on some pastys. We also wanted to go to Mackinac to reminisce about the summer I once spent as the “Fort Fiddler” at Fort Michilimackinac back in 1990. The festival seemed like as good a reason as any to go on a camping trip throughout northern Michigan and the U.P. so away we went.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is on the lower peninsula but it turned out to be such a cool place that when we arrived at the festival and saw that the Djembe Factor outweighed the Bluegrass Factor we decided to forgo the steep ticket prices and stay inside the park. I knew it was going to be a hippy-fest and that didn’t bother me but part of the reason for going there was for some parking lot picking which unfortunately was nonexistent.

Next stop was Mackinac City for another pasty and a tour of the fort. After that we headed back over the bridge to set up camp in St. Ignace. The next morning we took the ferry over to Mackinac Island for a bike ride and a tour of Fort Mackinac and the lesser seen Fort Holmes. Then back to our St. Ignace camp for some beanie’s & weenie’s. Our campsite was right on Lake Huron and was so windy I had a hell of a time getting the fire started. I was running low on paper and as such was picking up anything that would burn. When I came across one of those touristy things you see in welcome centers with all of the brochures and such when I spotted a piece of paper that said “See Bears at Oswald’s Bear Ranch”. After reading the flyer and checking the map G and I decided to check this place out on our way up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. We weren’t sure what to expect but for $10 per car we figured it was worth a shot. Turns out it was worth the trip and we got to check out some bears eating raw fryer chickens and shitting in the woods.

After picking up provisions in Grand Marais we headed into Pictured Rocks from the East on a washboard dirt road. After fifteen miles my truck and the beers were shaken up pretty bad. We had arrived at our destination, Twelve Mile Beach Campground, only to find that it was full. We hung out at the beach for a few before we got back in the truck and drove another twenty miles of “unimproved” roads to reach the town of Munising Mi at the west entrance of the park. We stopped at the ranger station and they said the only campground that wasn’t full yet was Bay Furnace so off we went. I couldn’t make sense of the name until later that evening. Lucky for us we found a spot and set up camp. We headed down to the lake (Superior that is or Gitchigumi if you’re Chippewa or a Gordon Lightfoot fan) and that’s when the furnace part of the name made sense. Turns out they used to smelt iron ore into bars all over this area back in the 19th century and this park had one of the few remaining furnaces still standing.

In the morning we headed toward Marquette for coffee and from there planned to go west to the Porcupine Mountains when we stopped in a bank for some cash. Much to our dismay we were informed that our funds had run out. Needless to say we never made it to the Porcupines. Come to think of it we never even got that cup of coffee. Three bucks a gallon for gas adds up quicker than you think but I guess that’s the price you pay for vacationing without an itinerary or a budget.

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