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Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula

who are the yoopers?

Unsure whether they want the attention, Yoopers—the nickname for people from the U.P.—are struggling to accommodate tourists. Their accent is a mix of Fargo, Great Lakes, Native American, and Canadian. They live in log houses on the "puddle," in century-old miner's houses with steep roofs (so the snow slides off), or in ranch houses with satellite dishes. One out of six is of Finnish ancestry (hence all the saunas); the rest are Cornish, Ojibwa, Irish, Italian, Serbian, Swedish, German, or French—descendants of immigrant laborers, fur traders, or Native Americans. They have a tendency to look down on people from the Lower Peninsula—those "trolls" who live under the Mackinac Bridge.

There are only 315,000 Yoopers—woodsmen, country folk, New Age hippies, old-world Commies—the same number as there were 90 years ago. In his classic social history Call It North Country, John Bartlow Martin noted that "the Upper Peninsula is uneasily poised between past and future." In the 55 years since he wrote those words, little has changed.

where to eat

Instead of a palate, Yoopers have cultivated a sense of "pasty" (rhymes with nasty): Cornish women used to send their miner husbands to work with this portable meal—a pastry shell typically stuffed with meat, potatoes, rutabaga, and carrots—tucked in their shirts for warmth. (An excellent Keweenaw Web site can be found at, yes, www.pasty.com.) In general, however, the safest bet is to stick to the local catch—whitefish, trout, walleye—and such Midwestern staples as prime rib. You'll find hearty American fare at the Pilgrim River Steakhouse (Hwy. 41, Houghton; 906/482-8595; dinner for two $30), Eagle Harbor Inn (Hwy. M-26, Eagle Harbor; 906/289-4435; dinner for two $30), Old Country Haus (Hwy. 41, Kearsarge; 906/337-4626; dinner for two $25), and Fitzgerald's Restaurant (Eagle River Inn, Hwy. M-26, Eagle River; 906/337-0666; dinner for two $40). For something a little different, try these:

Marie's Deli & Restaurant 518 Sheldon Ave., Houghton; 906/482-8650; dinner for two $20. This Mediterranean oasis is a true find. The cook somehow locates the ingredients for tabbouleh, hummus, Turkish coffee, and gyros. Marie's is also known for its specialty cheesecakes—rum raisin, blueberry—and other desserts.

Superior View Restaurant Off Hwy. M-26, Freda; 906/482-7563; dinner for two $20, no credit cards. Getting to this clifftop dining spot is half the fun. Head west along the Portage Canal and follow the signs way up the hill. With rooms like parlors, it feels as if you're eating in someone's home. It tastes that way too: barbecued ribs with "broasted" potatoes (the potatoes are boiled, skinned, and then deep fried), and traditional turkey dinners are the house specialties.

Candlelight Inn 2077 Hwy. M-38, Ontonagon; 906/884-6101; dinner for two $30. Maryam Derke's Sunday buffet could take on the best champagne brunch—except that this is all-you-can-eat for $5.95. Derke gets up early every Sunday and bakes 15 or 20 kinds of pastry, drawing on local ethnic traditions and her own impeccable taste: pecan rolls, cream puffs, bread pudding, a chocolate loaf made with potato flour. Her scrambled eggs are never runny, her crêpes never dry, her shredded hash browns always crisp. Head straight for the Finnish pancakes, baked slices of eggy dough. At night, there's prime rib and seafood.

Syl's 713 River St., Ontonagon; 906/884-2522; dinner for two $15, no credit cards. A downtown gathering spot offering skillet breakfast specials, pasties, and fresh cherry pie. They also make a mean malted milk shake.

Lindell Chocolate Shop 300 Calumet Dr., Lake Linden; 906/296-0793; lunch for two $10, no credit cards. Speaking of malteds . . . this ice cream shop has been spared the ravages of progress; the oak walls, leaded mirrors, and tile floor date back to the twenties. Don't miss the hot fudge cake with cream.

Harbor Haus Restaurant Hwy. 41, Copper Harbor; 906/289-4502; dinner for two $45. One of the region's best restaurants, Harbor Haus serves up a range of German dishes, along with Rhineland brews and exotic game (like ostrich medallions).

going underground

The ancient rifts that formed this region's landscape pushed basalt and minerals up in layers that can still be seen today, making the Keweenaw a hot spot for rock hounds. People have been mining here for at least 7,000 years; anthropologists believe Keweenaw copper may have found its way to the Aztecs. In America's first mine rush in 1842, entrepreneurs excavated some of those early pits, finding copper veins that were extraordinarily pure—except for the adjunct silver. By the 1860's, 90 percent of the nation's copper came from Michigan. But as the veins wandered deeper, they became too expensive to follow; the last copper mine, in White Pine, closed three years ago.

Eight-year-old Keweenaw National Historical Park (100 Red Jacket Rd., Calumet; 906/337-3168) is dedicated to preserving this history. Its sites range from the elite—the Greek Revival Laurium Manor—to the pits: three defunct mines offer tours underground. The Delaware (Hwy. 41, Kearsarge; 906/289-4688), with its bats and dripping water, is the most appropriately atmospheric. At the Quincy (Hwy. 41, Hancock; 906/482- 3101), visitors descend in a tram, traveling 400 feet beneath the surface, and tour the world's largest steam hoist—a humongous feat of engineering prowess. The entrance to the Adventure (200 Adventure Rd., Greenland; 906/883-3371) is surrounded by green lichen and moss, mirroring the oxidized veins of copper inside. The tour follows an adit a quarter-mile through the mountain.

A half-hour away, see how turn-of-the-century miners lived at Old Victoria (Victoria Dam Rd., Rockland; 906/886-2617), a company town from 1899 until the mine closed in 1921. Victoria's log cabins had been abandoned for decades when preservationists decided to resuscitate this ghost town. Now you can view the attics crammed with beds where lodgers slept in shifts.


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