Marquette is the center of what the U.S. Census Bureau considers a “micropolitan” population area. Aside from being the largest standalone town in the UP, Marquette has several nearby satellite towns which all have strong ties to it.
Harvey – The nearest town to Marquette, so much so that there is no true break in development between the two. While the first time onlooker would be easily convinced that Harvey is nothing more than the commercial intersection where US 41 and M-28 meet each other to continue north into Marquette. However, the bulk of Harvey lies sandwiched to the northeast in the small space between the roads and the lake. Other than the few restaurants at the intersection, Harvey has little to offer other than the obscurely located Bayou Bar.
Negaunee is the first of the two main towns down the road from Marquette. It has a reputation in the area for being fantastic for antiquing, and indeed there are a great deal of antique shops (with very friendly owners, I might add) that Sheylyn and I popped into along the main street. Another unmistakable fragrance you’ll notice along the downtown strip is the Tino’s Pizza joint, which has a number of very popular and specialty pizzas.
Outside of the downtown strip, lies Pasquali’s, a bar/Italian restaurant that is a popular town hangout. Every other Friday, Pasquali’s fills up for a comedy show, the only one in the area, which attracts some very adequate comedians and proves to be a good time all around.
My favorite part of Negaunee is the Old Town section. As a mining town, Negaunee has a series of caverns and abandoned mines running underneath the town. A section of the town was eventually determined to be unsafe for continued habitation because of the threat of cave-in (I was never able to determine of one actually happened). Because of this, a good number of houses were relocated to a different area of the town, but the remnants of the neighborhood still stand. Roads and sidewalks overgrowing with forest pass by old swing sets and stairs and driveways leading up to houses that are no longer there. It’s an eerily pleasant walk through there, though it is easy to get lost in all the turns and corners.
Another part of the Old Town area has been developed into a city park and follows a historic hiking trail that leads all the way to Ishpeming.
Ishpeming is almost a twin town to Negaunee, connected by both US 41 and the Business 41 loop to the south. Ishpeming is a noticeably larger town, perhaps not in population, but certainly in scale. The downtown spans multiple consecutive blocks in any direction (and even has a few dark alleys where some Ishpeming-ings surprised us by seemingly coming out of nowhere) and all of them have a similar development scheme that is very reminiscent of Calumet. There is a nice selection of little restaurants, but the first things you will notice about downtown are the sheer ratio of bars there is for the small area. While nice, most of them have a somber feel to them and it’s easy to see that the locals don’t quite take to Michigan’s recent smoking ban.
The overwhelming structures of the town belong to the old mine and consist of two large brick obelisks and an even larger T-shaped tower. The mine is open in the summer season for tourism.
There also stands a very out-of-place metal structure a little ways up the hill near a high-rise (I use that term loosely) apartment building. It took a little digging to find out what it was, however, I finally came across an article about the new wind power generator in Ishpeming. I cannot say I have ever seen one that looks quite like this though.
North of US 41 is the Country Village resort, a commercial development complete with hotel (the one mentioned in the previous post, where I had to stay in the hot tub suite), rental cabins, and spots for mobile campers. It also has a bowling alley, a movie theater (which I have never once seen open).
However, the Jasper Ridge Brewery in Country Village has got to be one of my favorite places in the area, just a shame it’s a 20-minute drive from Marquette. They have a very nice selection of beers, but more than that, I love their menu. The have a thick, excellent beer cheese soup and a whole variety of other snacks.
Recently, Jasper Ridge has started doing a “Blast Furnace Burger Challenge” with centers around a ½ pound burger with jalapenos, and crushed red pepper mixed up in the beef. It’s then topped off with pepper jack, waffle fries on the burger, and then poured over with an extremely potent homemade hot sauce.
I went there with Sheylyn with the intention of conquering this spicy burger, using the beer cheese soup as a pallet cleanser during the meal. However, our waitress got me thinking otherwise when she said they were now incorporating ghost chilies into some aspect of the recipe. I settled for the second hottest burger and it was extremely good, but certainly spicy enough for my tastes. Sheylyn and I got a side of that hot sauce, and despite her particular love for everything obscenely spicy, it still took her a few minutes to get over just dipping a fry in it.
Farther down 41 is Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, a Yooper-themed gift shop surrounded by a wide array of interesting exhibits complete with their own improvised historic Yooper folklore.
On the far outer edges of the Marquette area is Champion. Other than a few inhabited houses off the main road, nothing is there anymore, though the recently abandoned businesses all around do give it an interesting feel. It is almost more a ghost town than many things in the Keweenaw.
Big Bay is a Lake Superior resort town that lies about 30 miles north of Marquette, however the winding road and changes in elevation can make the drive last almost an hour. The main town is about 4×4 blocks and almost completely unpaved. It’s home to a century-old health camp that provides programs for people with many sorts of disabilities.
A bit further down the road is the small marina to Lake Superior, which also connects to Lake Independence via the tiny stretch of the Iron River. Even going there in November, I was surprised how many people were putting their boats into the water, granted heavily covered in wetsuits.
For being so far removed, it’s a pleasant little town. Its claim to fame is as the setting to Robert Traver’s Anatomy of a Murder, including the popular Thunder Bay Inn being a filming location for the movie. Another of the most popular attractions is the Big Bay Lighthouse, which has been turned into a spa and bed & breakfast.
South of Marquette is the town of Gwinn, a model community commissioned by a mining company. There is an attractive small town aesthetic to it, though my singular experience in it was driving through at late dusk, so I cannot give too much firsthand account here.
Continuing northwest from Gwinn, you will come across Palmer, a mining town that is still very much active. Looking at the satellite image of the area, you can see the massive open pit strip mine that overwhelms the area. Unfortunately, driving through, you don’t get the same sense of wheat the mine in the fenced off property actually looks like.
The town of Palmer itself is showing its lack of upkeep. Many of the buildings in the few blocks that make up the town look as if they’ve been pieced together from various sources. While looping through the backside of the town, Sheylyn and I drove by the school, which had a very prominent notice displayed that offered a reward for information on recent vandalism.
Trenary is an outlier, being about halfway between Marquette and Escanaba. It’s far enough away that it doesn’t have much to do with Marquette, but close enough that one of Sheylyn’s coworkers commuted from there. It doesn’t look like much more than a gas station from US 41, but about a kilometer off the highway is the main town center.
Sheylyn’s birthday coincided with Trenary’s annual outhouse race, known officially as the 18th Annual Trenary Outhouse Classic. The participants come from all over the UP (and there was one team of girls from Michigan State University) and construct their own eccentric and themed outhouses which are then put on skis and slid down a track of snow through the center of town.
Outside of the races, the town has little else to offer. A couple bars, which were nothing special, and significantly overpriced, though that may have just been because of the festival going on.