Oh dear.  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  I’ve been having such glorious times, I haven’t had the time to write about them.

Michigan was completely magnificent.  I can’t remember when I’ve had a better time, and I’ve had some pretty great times so that’s really saying something.  Our first night, we went for a walk down by the lower harbor.  It was cold and rainy, and we climbed gingerly over the slippery rocks in the dark.  We followed a bike trail until we came to McCarty’s Cove, where the waves were crashing against the rocks hard enough that you could just make out the white spray, even with no moon or stars.  We took our shoes off and ran back and forth on the beach in the cold wind like deliriously happy crabs.

One day we took a bus tour of the city, and the tour guide was a hilarious older fellow who felt VERY passionately about snowshoes.  He took us to the Iron Ore Museum, and the experience further cemented the fact of Michiganians’ toughness in my mind.  The people in the Upper Peninsula are pretty fearsome, and all of them seem to make their living doing incredibly hard things like it’s no big deal.  Half of the people up there were miners not too many decades ago, and the UP of Michigan is about the least pleasant place one would ever think to mine.  Twenty degrees below zero and buried in snow in the winter.  Attacked by hordes of the incomparably vicious black flies in the summer.  Hauling heavy iron ore, blasting holes when you can’t feel your fingers, and, quite frequently, dying in horrific cave-ins.  Fun times, guys.  The tour guide had a blatant morbid streak and insisted upon taking us to see the prison, which admittedly was architecturally lovely.  It seems the Marquette prison has quite the reputation because of its inhospitable location; the rest of the state prisons threaten to send you up there “to the ice” if you misbehave.  The guide also told the story of Etienne Brule, my dearly departed ancestor, with great relish whilst we were all having our lunch.  Though I guess that was fitting, since poor Etienne was also eaten…

The nautical dance was a grand success, and quite a few people dressed up, which made it even more fun.  Aside from my British Royal Navy officer, we had several pirates, quite a few sailors, a gondolier, the occasional Hawaiian shirt, and a full-fledged voyageur, complete with fur pelts (we would’ve been in trouble, had any animal rights activists found us).  Simone broke out her ballroom dancing skills and tried to teach the rest of us clodhoppers a thing or two, which was a blast.  Setup for the dance was fraught with peril; my uncle thought it would be neat to have a canoe with a “voyageur” (Jean-Pierre, who looked suspiciously like a scarecrow with a beard and a coonskin cap) sitting in it for ambience.  This was fine.  Except the dance room was on the second floor of the hotel, and the canoe was very large.  Picture for a moment my uncle and the valiant, long-suffering bellman struggling up the stairs with a massive, dripping canoe (it had rained), and realizing that it wouldn’t turn the corner of the stairway, which is enclosed by very large windows.  “We’ll have to turn it vertically, boys!” cried my uncle.  My mother gasped and called, “The window!”  Observers covered their eyes in horror.   The canoe lurched, tapped the glass daintily, rose into the air like a reenactment of the tilting Titanic, and somehow made it up the stairs.  Fortunately, the hotel’s event coordinator didn’t see the monstrosity until it was safely in the dance room, and to her credit she only froze in horrified shock for a second or two before mustering up a smile and an “Oh…wow, ok.”  Jean-Pierre seemed pleased with the arrangement, though.

Our other adventures included several trips to the harbor break walls (very exciting, as we had some fairly high winds while we were there), to the Maritime Museum, to Presque Isle (where we were soaked by the spray hitting the Black Rocks), to Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, and to Tahquamenon Falls.   We went canoeing in some wildly unpredictable weather, played tag through a playground, and ate many delicious meals all together.  One day we went to my uncle’s farm, picked apples, and made cider from them.  Most of this was in cold, windy, rainy weather—which I actually didn’t mind a bit.  It rained every day we were there except one, I think, but to me the Upper Peninsula is always beautiful, regardless of sunshine.  We discovered that Mike, the long-suffering bellman from the canoe escapade (and our subsequent companion in many of the above adventures), had an incredible voice, so one night we went to listen to his choir practice in a beautiful old church, which was a magical experience.  The whole trip was phenomenal, and nobody wanted to leave.  I dearly hope we can go back again next year; the odds are certainly in favor for somewhere in Michigan, even if Marquette doesn’t work out.

Now all of my cool internet finds are old and musty, but if you’re still interested, I’ll put them in a separate post below so this doesn’t get any lengthier than it already is.