Mike and Bone rose early to be piggish. They were going to do the Porky's the Porcupine Mountains that is! First was breakfast and a tour of the Marquette Shoreline.
Bone had learned on an earlier trip of a great little farm-to-table Diner near Northern Michigan University known for great breakfasts called Bodega did not disappoint for food and coffee. Charged up and ready to go, the Boys headed to Presque Isle Park. Which is a 323-acre forested oval-shaped headland/peninsula which juts into Lake Superior in the northern tip of the City.
Presque Isle Ponderings
Presque Isle is known throughout the United States for its natural beauty The "Island", as it is referred to by locals, has had many visitors starting with the prehistoric people 3,000 to 7,000 years ago. Early residents of Marquette traveled there by boat since there was no bridge over the Dead River. Originally, it was designated as a government lighthouse reservation. Through the efforts of Peter White, a bill was passed on July 12, 1886, by the United States Congress deeding the Island to the City of Marquette.
White built a road from the City to the park and planted the tall Lombardy Poplar trees which line Lakeshore Boulevard. Today, Presque Isle Park is Marquette's most beloved attraction, offering residents year-round outdoor recreation, serene settings for nature observation and education, and cultural experiences.
What does Painted Rocks, Presque Isle, and the Porcupines have in common?
Mike and Bone, Checking out a 40 Foot Drop to Superior!
One of the amazing features of Presque Isle is that it has 20 to 40 foot cliffs over the teal-blue waters of Lake Superior. In fact the entire upper rim of the Upper Peninsula is a part of some of the oldest rock in the world! The bedrock of the Painted Rocks of Munising, the cliffs of Presque Isle, and Porcupine Mountains go back to the evolution of the North American continent during the late Precambrian Era. So with this geological background, or forgive the pun, the "bedrock of knowledge," Mike and Bone headed out of Marquette towards the Porcupine Mountains!
"The Porkies are older than the Himalayas!? Whatcha Talking About ?
Mike and Bone's objective of seeing and checking out the Porcupine Mountains, or Porkies as old men were apropos, since the Porkies are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world! At one point they did rival today's Himalayas, but since that was before the dinosaurs, in fact about 2 billion years old! However with time and the glaciers from the Ice Age, the Porkies are now a group of small mountains spanning Michigan's northwestern Upper Peninsula in Ontonagon and Gogebic counties, near the shore of Lake Superior. It is so far west that it is only a few miles from the Wisconsin border!
The Porcupine Mountains were named by the native Ojibwa people, supposedly because their silhouette had the shape of a crouching porcupine. The Porkies are home to the most extensive stand of old growth northern hardwood forest in North America west of the Adirondack Mountains, spanning at least 31,000 acres. The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is popular among tourists, campers, and hikers, especially Lake of the Clouds in the heart of the mountains. In the 19th century the Porkies were the site of a lot of copper mining, which you can see remnants of through the Park. One of these mines is the Nonesuch Mine, which operated sporadically from 1867 to 1912. Because of its copper mining history, the state park is a cooperating unit of Keweenaw National Historical Park.
In the Porkies, Smoky the Bear says "Sit on your Butt!"
Now Mike and Bone had a hankering to hike some in these ole' mountains on their old feet! So they stopped into the Visitor Center, procured a hiking map and headed to one of the iconic sites in the Porkies; the Lake in the Clouds!
Mike and Bone watching People with their Heads in the Clouds, a top Lake in the Clouds !
Well hiking gear was simply not needed, following the signs on road along South Boundary Rd. off of M-107. All Mike and Bone hadda do was park, and take a simple 100-yard walk on a paved trail or ADA-accessible boardwalk to the top of a steep cliff overlooking the beautiful Lake of The Clouds! One the cool geological features of the Porcupine Mountains is the long basalt and conglomerate escarpment that parallels the Lake Superior shore. It is between two of these "folds" that the amazing Lake of the Clouds resides. It is a continuation of the same copper-bearing bedrock found farther northeast on the Keweenaw Peninsula. A second ridge farther inland, on the other side of Lake of the Clouds, includes Summit Peak, the highest point in the mountains at 1,958 feet. Mike and Bone had Summit Peak, but first they were hoping for a real hike! so after watching a bunch of very stupid people take their young children over the park barrier and to the very edge, where the parents ignored the little ones running around. Nature has a way with,,,,, well,,,, Natural Selection! Or so Chuck Darwin states. Leaving the daring parents and Darwin to sort it out Mike and Bone set out for....Union Mine Trail!
Unwinding a Bit on Union Mine Trail
Ever since the Boys left GR the day before they had been in the car solid. So a little one mile hike through a short interpretive trail featuring the Little Union gorge and the history of the 1846 Union Mine. In the 1800's, Copper ore was discovered in the area and the Union Mine is the oldest Mine in the Area and one of the longest producing. The severe winters and the isolated location cooled the ardor of many of other mines and large percentage of those mine were quickly abandoned.
Early work at the Union was begun in the spring of 1846 under the direction of William Spaulding, a Pennsylvanian. He came to the Ontonagon Country with Dan Cash. Spaulding kept a day to day record of his activities. This dated some of the early occurrences and has provided information about early conditions. For instance on June 14, a Sunday, he wrote, "went to Iron River. Found forty to fifty men there and two white women, the first I have seen for a year.” This was in 1846!
At the time there was also a small colony of Indians located at the mouth of the river. The settlement, then known as Iron River, did not get its present fancier name of Silver City until the beginning of the silver episode in 1872. Spaulding also recorded that on July 4, he went to Iron River to celebrate the fourth of July and also to watch the Indian medicine dance. He reports a good dinner and an appropriate dinner program. The table was set under a bowery with about 35 at the first setting. Earlier under the date of July 1, he wrote: "The Indians got the road made."
This extended from the shore of Lake Superior out to the mine and was called the Nonesuch Road. It is believed to have been the first road to be built in the Upper Peninsula. At best it was little more than a trail cleared through the wilderness. Prior to its construction it had been most difficult to get supplies and equipment to the workings. A shaft could not be sunk until machinery could be hauled in over the road. Later outgoing journeys, however, must have been with empty wagons as there are no recorded shipments of copper from the Union. As Mike and Bone walked the easy one mile hike they had markers and signs talking about life in the area and the hardships they experienced it was very nice to stretch they legs. Now it was time to get high,,,,, or go to the highest point in the Porkies!!
An Oxygen-Deprived Bone at the Summit!
Mike and Bone's next stop was to take the trip to the top! The Summit! Or just shy of mile in length and 2,000 feet in elevation. In order to make sure that it is 2000 feet, the State Park built a 4 story, 50 foot Observation Tower at the Summit that was more taxing than the hike!
Having "conquered" the Summit, the Boys were going to check out Houghton Hancock for the evening and headed back east!
Houghton Hancock Hijinks
Mike and Bone drove through multiple small towns like Ontonagon and others were the Boys heard the faint sounds of Deliverance on a banjo, which made them hit the gas pedal a little harder! Fortunately, the Boys emerged from the woods an into the twin towns of Houghton and Hancock.
Houghton and Hancock's history is largely based on the Copper Mining boom in the late 1800's that led to Michigan becoming the largest producer of copper in the nation. In 1874, Michigan produced 88% of the nation's copper, while the mines of Houghton County produced 79% of that total. The increasing mining operations led to a demand for workers and resulted in the continuing growth of Houghton & Hancock which reached a peak population of 88,098 residents in 1910. Those residents comprised one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States as the Federal Census of 1870 noted that 57% of the County's residents were foreign born, the third highest rate in the Country. At that time, fewer than 5% of the County's residents had American born parents. In 1900, Houghton County had the largest Chinese, Italian, Finnish, Slovenian and Croatian communities in Michigan. While the mines have long since closed, the twin towns still have a purpose, for example Michigan Technological University, one of the preeminent engineering universities in the Country, that draws over 7,000 students from throughout the Country and the world.
The two towns are separated by the Keweenaw Waterway. The waterway was dredged in the 1860s, extending a small river previously used by the indian tribes for transportation and fishing. The effort was a joint venture between the United States government .and several mining corporations. The expanded canal allowed freighters to haul copper from the rich copper mines of the Keweenaw Peninsula out through Lake Superior to larger cities. It also enabled supply boats and freighters to reach the cities of Houghton and Hancock, which supplied goods to most of Michigan's copper region.
Mike and Bone drove across the bridge from Houghton across that waterway into Hancock, and found a twin city that wasn't pretty! Hancock in particular was a faded glory.
Whose home in Hancock?
Hancock' past glory was in the mining of the early 1900's. So many of the miners in the days past came from Finland that to this day, there is a large Finnish population. To this day, the street signs are both in English and Finnish. Finn's are an interesting group. They are not (as many American's might think) Scandinavian, but they and their language is an offshoot of the Magyars of Hungary! While and interesting fact, Hancock is simply not an interesting place, the streets and shops were abandoned and closed. So Mike and Bone headed back across bridge to check out one of the gems of Houghton, Michigan Tech!
Mike and Bone, Doggin' the Huskies
Back in the 1980's Playboy use to publish the "Top Party College in America" on a yearly basis. In 1983 they selected LSU as the top party school, however with an asterisk that stated in parentheses (Sorry Michigan Tech, we didn't consider professionals!) Needless to say, in the Upper Peninsula it snows a lot, hence they party a lot!
Loving college towns, Mike and Bone looked for the classic college bar. Sadly it was apparent that most of the students cost effectively drank in their dorms vs. going to any local bars, so the Boys decided to check out downtown Houghton.
Highly Doubtin' Downtown Houghton
Mike and Bone parked to walk around and check out Downtown Houghton. Walking around, it was hard to determine if everything was closed on a Saturday night due to Covid, or the Town is just dead. The Boy wandered into a "Wood-fired" Restaurant, where they were hustled, New York-style to a table from a Hostess that stated she lived in Key West and was only blocks from where Boneacello South is in Old Town. Boy, they Boys were sure hustled. Missing lunch and hiking and driving around, made the Boys ravenous. The meals Mike and Bone had were over-priced and underwhelming. Seeking solace and comfort, there ain't no better comfort food that Pizza! When the Boys were walking around they saw a local walking out of a restaurant called the Ambassador with a pizza. When the Boys asked a local, "is the pizza any good." The local shared that he "had eating it his whole life and loved it!" With that hearty endorsement, Mike and Bone headed into the venerable Ambassador!
Chowing Pie at the Ambassador
The story of the Ambassador starts on January 1, 1965, when it opened under new ownership. The new owners, the Rossi family, had transformed the space from a tap bar into a restaurant that specialized in pizza and sandwiches. To explain the history of the Ambassador and the unique murals that line the interior walls, the owners conducted research and wrote a poem detailing the story.
"Come Fill a Bumper?!"
The very cool ceiling is based on the poem, entitled "Come Fill a Bumper," has since been printed on the cover of the Ambassador menu. The first line of the poem mentions "Mr. Rohrbeck," who was “given a job to do.” Rohrbeck, the mural artist, was commissioned by Joseph Bosch (born in Baden, Germany in 1850) to paint the murals specifically for the Bosch brewery (closed in 1978). The murals were later placed in the "old Giltedge Bar." Featuring gnomes in various states of celebration, the murals are oil on canvas, with several coats of varnish on top for preservation. The date that the paintings were sold to the Ambassador and transferred from the Bosch Brewery is unclear, but the transaction likely took place in the late 40s or early 50s during a remodeling project. The Ambassador retains the original charm and tradition of its original inception; in addition to the murals, which have remained in place for over 50 years, the original pizza recipe is still used to create the Ambassador pizzas. . . . . . . . . . . Which was the problem.
The atmosphere is awesome, the place, packed. The pizza hails from a Wisconsin recipe, that Bone had tried in the 1980's where they do not use much yeast and the crust taste like saltine crackers. Crackers with sauce and cheese just ain't very good to a couple of NY-Style Pizza Men from Silas!!!
Disappointed, but now full, Mike and Bone burped and belched their way across the Keweenaw Waterway to catatonic Hancock, where the Boys continued to "erupt" their displeasure on Hancock, Houghton, the Ambassador, or the whole damn thing!
Fortunately their gaseous protestations did not present them selves as a lower set of complaints and the Boys passed out around 11:00.