You know you have arrived when the goofy nickname assigned to your part of the world is added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Parisians, Romans, Egyptians; and now Yoopers.
Yoopers are those funny-talking folks who live in the Upper Peninsula or the U.P. of Michigan along the shores of Lake Superior. More specifically they are "da yoopers" and they are quite proud of the fun moniker that is theirs and theirs alone.
But Yoopers have a lot to be proud of in their part of the world. The U.P. is that slice of land that pokes out into the Great Lakes separating Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Its far eastern tip touches Lake Huron. With that much water all around, summer is the perfect time to visit the land of the Yoopers.
Surrounded by so much natural beauty, it's hard to know where to start, but a good place is in Munising with a boat ride through the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks was designated the nations first National Lakeshore in 1966 to "preserve the shoreline, cliffs, beaches and dunes, and to provide an extraordinary place for recreation and discovery."
Then take time to hike and explore along the lakeshore. Kayaking around the rocks and into the caves is a remarkable summer experience not available in many places of North America.
While you're in the Munising area, stop in at a little cafe on Highway 28 called Muldoon's. Muldoon's has been named the best place in the U.P. for a pasty, considered the soul food of Yoopers. If you're not familiar with this delicacy, it is a meat pie whose origins are in the coalmines of Wales. The wives of coal miners made these hearty meat pies and wrapped them in paper for their husbands to carry down into the mines. Instead of climbing back out of the mine at lunch, they would place the pasty on their shovel, hold it over a candle to heat it up and there they would enjoy a great feast.
The pasty came to the U.P. with the copper miners that made this region a wealthy empire in the late 1800s and early into the 20th Century. Most of the copper is gone, but the pasty remains. People in some parts of the country argue about the best baseball team, the best barbecue or pizza, but the people of the U.P. argue about who makes the best pasties.
Another cool little town in the U.P. is Marquette. If you''re an old movie buff, youll need to plan time to visit the Marquette County Courthouse. Constructed in 1904, it's a spectacular old building. And that's one reason why director Otto Preminger chose Marquette when he was looking for a place to shoot the movie Anatomy of a Murder. The movie features Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Ben Gazzara, Duke Ellington and George C. Scott and was even nominated for Best Picture Oscar in 1959.
Marquette is blessed with lots of wonderful old buildings, including the Vierling Restaurant and microbrewery. They've been doing business here for more than 100 years and you'd be hard pressed to find much that's changed over those years. The Vierling is one of four microbreweries in town, making Marquette a great place to spend a few days if you like beer.
Plan on another meal and a goody box to go from Donckers Old-Time Soda Fountain and Luncheonette. It is an authentic soda fountain and luncheonette and they make some of the best hand-made chocolates I've ever had.
But don't forget the real treat in the U.P., and that's the Great Lakes. Take a sailboat ride, test your skills at paddle boarding, catch some Coho or Chinook salmon on a fishing charter, or just watch as some of the big ore freighters pull up to the dock to load.
If you're really adventurous, just go wading in the frigid waters of Lake Superior. True Yoopers pride themselves for their ability to stand in the chilly waters waist deep for hours at a time. "Dem Yoopers, day be a crazy bunch!"
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A Midwest farm girl at heart, Diana Lambdin Meyer caught the roaming bug early in life. Diana married well - to a photographer who also has the travel bug and whose work in still and video complements her words. Now based in the Kansas City area, Diana is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers who makes a full-time living on the road and at the keyboard. Read about Diana's adventures on her blog, Mojotraveler or follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.
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