Sunday, March 30, 2014

Playing in the Snow... A Visit to the Upper Peninsula

Back at the beginning of February, I spent ten days visiting friends in Houghton and Hancock, two towns across the Portage Canal from each other in Michigan's UP. When they moved up to the Keweenaw Peninsula from Austin, Jason had told me about Michigan Tech's winter carnival happening every year, and this being a good time of the year to visit. (Assuming one likes snow.)

Gotta keep the mailboxes accessible. (Copper Harbor, MI)
So I packed some of the mountaineering gear that is pretty useless in Texas and flew into the tiny airport that sees about one (or two?) departures a day. (As opposed to certain other airports, they know how to deal with snow and ice there, though.)

I went cross-country skiing for the first time -- lots of fun! Besides stomping around in the snow a lot and building a snow cave, we also went ice climbing twice, and toured the very tip of the peninsula by car. Conveniently, by the time I got there the lake had frozen over to a large extent, resulting in less cloudy (and snowy) days and a fair amount of sun. (Are you familiar with the phenomenon of lake-effect snow?)

Beginner waterfall, not too vertical. I have a lot to learn. (That might require living somewhere with more frequent access to ice, though.)
There are surprising amounts of awesome micro- (and home-) brewed beer to be had in the UP! The local cuisine has tasty Finnish influences from immigrants that came to work in the copper mines. And it took me a while to figure out how to pronounce pasties properly to indicate I was actually talking about the food item that is popular up there.

I managed to bring enough layers to not freeze on this trip, and had a great time playing in the snow and ice. Nevertheless -- next time I come back, I plan on checking the place out in the summer!

Scene from Beauty and the Beast entered into the Snow Carnival snow sculpting competition.