Imagine yourself alone, barefoot on a beach. Imagine your toes sinking into its coarse expanse of small colorful pebbles, worn as smooth as glass by the patient persistence of nature. The warm red hue of the beach permeates the very air you breathe and walk amongst and you notice that there’s not a grain of sand in sight. You welcome the cool breeze off the water that moves swiftly over your face and eddies around your neck, leaving you with shivers that radiate from the top of your spine all the way out to your fingertips. That same breeze works invisible magic on the water, creating waves which crash into the beach with a loud, crisp clamor. An interesting whooshing noise occurs between waves as the water and small pebbles cascade down a short embankment into the lake. The water also drains down through the rocks, causing a quiet but distinct sound akin to a bowl of cereal just after pouring in the milk. And giant pine trees stand erect behind you with the majestic fortitude of silent soldiers, gazing with you out toward the northern horizon over a dark blue expanse. Where could you possibly be?
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a spectacular place, indeed. Just ask any Yooper. I wonder, though, how much of the UP an average Yooper is familiar with. I’ve been a Yooper my whole life and I’ve been blessed with the capability and aspiration to find and explore many of this land’s hidden treasures. Yet it seems there is always a new adventure to undertake or place to see in this great peninsula. Breathtaking and unique opportunities surround us, but they are difficult to pinpoint. Lackluster dirt roads and logging trails veil many of the most spectacular locations; because of this, the UP is teeming with secrets – hidden waterfalls, fishing holes, hiking trails, vistas, homely restaurants, breweries, craft shops… the list goes on. Someone knows about each hidden pearl of adventure, but that knowledge is only helpful for the people who have it.
How did it all begin?
Near the end of July 2009, I sat in my grad-student office at Michigan Tech thinking about how it could very well be the last summer I ever spend in the Yoop. I’d been trying to think of some fun things to do with my spare time. Over the summer I’d already been to plenty of hidden waterfalls, taken plenty of road trips, watched many incredible sunsets, and had even visited Michigan’s highest point, Mount Arvon. My thoughts drifted to beaches—and suddenly, I realized how much of the UP shoreline I didn’t know about. What an opportunity!
I did a quick Google search to find the best Lake Superior beaches to visit in the UP, and immediately found all the information I needed. Ahem… Not! In fact I found hardly any useful information at all. To my dismay, no comprehensive listing of beaches existed. So, naturally, I decided to take it upon myself to swim at and document every public beach on the UP – Lake Superior shoreline, and then make all the information available and useful to everyone else. As I said before, what good is knowledge if it is not shared?
Thus, for the latter portion of summer, I made a lot of road trips and had copious amounts of fun while swimming at every public beach on the UP shoreline of Lake Superior. 63 beaches later, I consider myself the first and youngest Yooper expert of beaches. I can name every public swimming hole between Wisconsin and the Sault, and I can describe valuable information about the area, the beach, camping, etc… As I went to each beach, I documented their names on a memento beach ball and had friends take pictures of me and the beach. I’ve also put together a proprietary quantitative rating system for the beaches in order to rank their characteristics and try to establish what the best beach in the UP is. Oh – the red-pebbled beach I mentioned earlier is not just a figment of your imagination… it is Hunter’s Point in Copper Harbor. Great beaches abound this great peninsula, and I hope I’m able to make more people aware of them.
I’ve used the word opportunity several times. An opportunity is something to be pursued. We have one life, and sometimes an opportunity only comes once. Yoopers are very fortunate to live in this opportunistic peninsula. Yet, many of us unknowingly take this blessed place for granted. I may be young and inexperienced, but I feel qualified to inform and empower people to take advantage of their own opportunities – be they in the UP or elsewhere. Truly, road trips in the UP are memorable experiences. I’ve always been puzzled when I have difficulty convincing people to take their first road trip with me. Less surprising to me, I’ve rarely been turned down for a second trip.
As I went to each beach I marked their names on a beach-ball and had friends take pictures of me. I took 3 signature pictures at each beach:
- A shot of me with the ball in my left arm, making the UP sign with my right hand and the beach in the background.
- A close-up shot of the beach name written on the ball.
- An action shot of me jumping into the water.
I’ve also put together a rating system for the beaches in order to rank their characteristics and try to establish what is the best beach in the UP. This website now displays the results of my calculations for all 63 beaches. To my knowledge, no other comprehensive listing of beaches along the UP – Superior shoreline existed as of the date I published my website. Even if such a list does exist, I’m doubt it includes a firsthand account of each beach, documented photography, and helpful information regarding beach rating criteria.
Enjoy this Yooper rendition of Blake Shelton’s Some Beach, by my wonderful and talented younger sister.
PS: I’d like to thank the following friends who helped out by tagging along, shooting photos, or both:
- My sister Maija
- Kristin Moriarty
- Brett Hawkins
- My brother-in-law Eric Bradfish
- Nat Erickson
and, thank Kathy for the inner-tube pics at Presque Isle River, and Jacek for the advice outside Ontonagon.