In his novel Sundog , writer Jim Harrison describes Michigan's Upper Peninsula. "...you enter a timbered-over, rock-strewn waste, a land so dense and desolate it became obvious to me that the most redoubtable survivalist couldn't survive...there was nothing but a hard, driving rain and the roar of what I knew must be Lake Superior out there in the night." Harrison's purpose is to set the gloomy tone for the novel to follow, and so he portrays one face of the U. P. There are others, and we'll look at them all, as we sail along the northern shore of this thrusting land.

Moving into Michigan waters, we first pass the mouth of the Black River, then the shores of Porcupine Mountains State Park. Here, the mountainous ridges, the Porkies, as they're known, provide recreation for almost every taste. This 58,000-acre wilderness playground, created by the state in 1945, provides over 80 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for Alpine and cross-country skiing. There's also plenty of room for rockhounding, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, and swimming. The name, by the way, came from the local Chippewa at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, who imagined they saw the shape of a porcupine as they looked toward the land off to their west.

We anchor briefly off the town of Silver City. Local deposits of the ore were dwarfed by those over in Canada's Thunder Bay region and today there's little silver found in Silver City, unless it's in display cases in the town's gift shop. Tourists and outdoor enthusiasts can stay overnight here, eat, and buy groceries, gas and camping supplies. Choices for night life are rather limited.

We push on. Ontonagon lies at the mouth of the river of the same name, about nine miles downstream from the Ontonagon Boulder. This 6,000-pound rock containing a high concentration of copper ore, was revered, first by the Chippewa, then by Detroit businessman Julius Eldred. In 1841 he began a campaign to remove it to his hometown for display. The local Chippewa chief balked. But money talked. It took Eldred two years before he was successful in moving his treasure, using a small railroad car on jerry-built tracks. But the U. S. government moved in, seized the rock, compensating Eldred, and transported it to Washington for display at the Smithsonian. The publicity resulted in a copper rush to the area and Ontonagon was born. Today the town boasts shops, a hospital, post office, camping outfitter, marina, ranger station, museum and lighthouse. Churches seem to dominate. Garrison Keillor fans would feel right at home. His bachelor Lutheran farmers would have their choice of Apostolic Lutheran, Redeemer Free Lutheran, St. Paul Lutheran, and Siloa Lutheran. All the town lacks is Bertha's Kitty Boutique.

OUTRO
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.




© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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