Early to bed, early to rise – right? We set an early alarm hoping to catch a sunrise, but yesterday’s heavy cloud cover hadn’t cleared out and there was no chance of the sun peeking through.
A quick and hearty breakfast at the Tamarack Inn, yet another fine dining (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch) establishment that we reviewed for Yelp and TripAdvisor. Good food, reasonable prices, and garish tourist kitsch on the walls. Yes, we are Up Nord Eh.
We drove up Brockway Mountain to a scenic lookout to get some photos of the mountains with the heavy cloud cover, and we were both amazed at how much it reminded us of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica.
Cloud cover with no rain and cool temps makes for great mountain biking weather! The Copper Harbor Trails are well known throughout the Midwest as the mecca for mountain bikers. Even though we’re not world-class cyclists, or even above average, we decided that we absolutely had to hit the famous Stairway to Heaven trail and spend most of the day in the woods. This YouTube video shows the Stairway going down – we made the mistake of riding UP it!
Nevertheless – despite both of us stalling out and falling off the side of the planking (yes, that hurts), we made it to the top a little winded and very sweaty. Well worth it! The trail system is certainly the hardest that we’ve ridden to date, with large boulders, heavy rutting, tons of tree roots, and some serious inclines. Not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend that anybody in Michigan or Wisconsin who loves to mountain bike make tracks for Copper Harbor.
The weather started to break as we were starting to get hungry for lunch, and we wrapped up our ride with a nice long paved downhill from the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge into downtown on US-41. 30+mph the entire way and no pedaling – awesome! A great way to cool down and get the sweat off.
Follow that up with some sunny photos of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse and from the Brockway Mountain overlook, and it’s time to head south and find some lunch. We thought we’d find a pasty shop in Eagle River or Eagle Harbor, but our searches were fruitless and we ended up lunching at Fitzgerald’s in Eagle River, our planned dinner spot for the previous night on a personal recommendation from a previous neighbor. One plus is that while wandering around we found the Eagle River Falls, Jacobs Creek Falls, and the JamPot. All very cool things to add to the overall weekend experience.
After our late lunch we headed to Hungarian Falls – one that I had considered passing up on our ride home but it fell into our circuitous route anyway. And we’re both glad that we didn’t pass it up. Multiple falls, gorgeous views, great hiking and great photo opportunities.
Everything was great – right up to the point that I stepped in the hornet’s nest. Colette was the first to get stung, but since she was behind me she managed to get away with only 3 stings. I wasn’t so lucky trying to hightail it out of there while carrying the camera and kill hornets, and we counted 31 on me and who knows how many more hidden in my hair – ugh. I was less worried about the pain than the risk of anaphylactic shock from all the hornet venom. At the bottom of a 120ft gorge, a mile from the car and who knows how far from the nearest hospital is no place to go into shock. We climbed a vertical, wet, red mud wall by grasping onto tree roots and making like the monkeys do.
Despite slipping and sliding back a few times, we made it to the top unscathed and back to the car. No anaphylactic shock, but I got a splitting headache from all of the stings on my noggin and with not knowing whether or not I was going to have a reaction we decide that Colette would be driving the entire way back.
We stopped at a small restaurant/bar/motel on the drive home for a cold adult beverage, covered in sweat, mud, blood, and hornet stings. Nobody blinked an eye. We are definitely Up Nord Eh.
But all is well that ends well – no shock, no hospital trip, an easy drive home through gorgeous scenery, and a great story and photos to look back on and laugh. Lessons learned, experiences had, and things to check off the list. On to the next adventure, hopefully without the wild animal experiences that we’ve had the last two weekends. We have a flight to Orlando tomorrow afternoon, and I hope that the swelling goes down by then so I don’t look like Quasimodo!