Notes from the road – Iron Mountain to Copper Harbor, June 24th

My wife, daughter and I left Iron Mountain on Friday about 9:30 AM thinking we’d have time to see a few things in Copper Harbor and arrive mid afternoon. We were mostly right.

After scrapping our original plans to camp at Fort Wilkins mid week due to the cold, rainy weather I rang up the Bella Vista Motel in Copper Harbor and made a reservation for two nights over the weekend. I chose the second floor room with a queen bed in their Isle Royale house because, even though it was ten dollars more per night than their cool little cabins ($70/night vs. $60/night), because I’m not small and prefer a queen bed.

And so, after stopping for coffee and muffins at The Bakery Shoppe in Iron Mountain, we were on our way. We took M-95 North, then cut over on 69 to Crystal Falls. Up until Crystal Falls there’s really not a whole lot to see but two lane roads and trees. But Crystal Falls has a sort of cool, historic downtown area and I’m looking forward to checking it out sometime, but that sometime wasn’t today.

Today we blew through Crystal Falls and didn’t stop until we got to Houghton. I popped into the visitor’s center, spoke with the very helpful man behind the counter and grabbed one of every brochure they had. (They have A-LOT of brochures).

Our next stop was the Keweenaw Brewing Company, just a couple blocks away. (The guy working at the visitor’s center said seven out of eight people who stop there are looking for the KBC. (There’s a fun statistic for you.)

And from the parking lot of the visitor’s center we had a great view of the Quincy Smelter, a group of very cool, historical buildings from the long gone mining era.

After I stowed my newfound pile of brochures, we too were off to the Keweenaw Brewing, Co.  We parked in a little parking lot by The Downtowner and walked a couple blocks up to the KBC, where we were greeted (sort of) by a college girl with her face in a Macbook.

She ended up being nice enough, though, and helped us navigate their beer menu. I’ll save the details for another post, but suffice to say they have some damn good beer.

Since the KBC doesn’t offer food (you can bring your own, though, which is cool) when it was time for us to go I surveyed the local patrons for a lunch spot.

The bartender recommended 5th and Elm, a coffee house / deli down the street because it’s kid friendly. Another option would have been the Downtowner for good bar food, I was told, but that it might not be the best place to take a baby. (with the intoxicated college kids and all.)

We ended up going to 5th and Elm and it was decent. I had a grilled cheese and my wife had an egg salad sandwich. We both had a cup of their beef barley soup. Not bad, not great, but definitely not bad. I’m sort of a bar food guy anyway, so next time we’ll probably try the downtowner.

After lunch we drove north on 141 (once again gaping at the super cool Quincy Smelter buildings) and were off to Copper Harbor. And this is where I wish we’d allowed a little more time. (We should have left about 7:30 AM from Iron Mountain)

The Quincy Mine, just after we passed through Hancock, looks like something we definitely want to check out. We’d already blown a couple hours in Houghton, though, and really needed to get some miles behind us. (Houghton, by the way, is definitely the kind of place where you could stay for a few days and have lots of things to do)

After “ooohhhing” and “awwwwing” over the actual Quincy Mine buildings, my wife promptly fell asleep, joining my already napping daughter.

I wanted them to be rested for the rest of the day and all, but man, they missed a great drive on 41 North of Houghton.

There were more awe inspiring buildings in Calumet then I could count, and then the curvy “tunnel of trees” section just South of Copper Harbor was not only fun to drive, but very scenic.

My wife and daughter awoke (conveniently) as we pulled into the Bella Vista and got our room keys from Mike, a Yooper for life, very nice guy and owner of the hotel. Our room’s décor clearly hadn’t changed much since the fifties, but it was super clean. (And the retro stuff was cool. )

By this time it was around 4:00 PM or so. We decided to throw our daughter in the stroller and go for a walk. But seeing how Copper Harbor is only a few blocks long, it wasn’t a very long walk.

We shot the breeze for a while with Laurel from the Laughing Loon, a small gift shot / book store in town, while my daughter fell in love with a stuffed animal (a beaver). Her first crush…. Awww. (Yes,  of course I bought it for her).

Next up… dinner! Where to eat?

Well, we had options, but they were indeed limited. We chose the Mariner North because I’d heard it was okay and we didn’t think our daughter could sit through a whole dinner at the Harbor Haus, though I’ve heard amazing things about the place.

The Mariner North was in fact, okay. I had burger that was overcooked and my wife had a fish fry that was a little greasy but pretty good. The service was excellent. The atmosphere was okay. We’ll probably be back, but that was our only meal at the Mariner on this trip.

My wife and I put our daughter to bed and then after taking in the view from the deck and sipping on a vodka & tonic or two, we decided to follow suit. (And then of course, our daughter woke up a few hours later and cried for a while… because that’s what babies do.)

If it wasn’t for the whole baby waking up thing, I’m sure we would have slept wonderfully. The bed was nice (not too soft, not too firm) and the atmosphere of the place was very chill.

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