Full disclaimer… we visited Marquette in October 2019 and I drafted this post last winter. However, then COVID hit and somehow it seemed inappropriate to talk about traveling. But here were are at fall again and I’m loving reliving the memories of beautiful autumn days… want to walk down memory lane with me a bit???
Moving north has meant we have more places to explore. Places that seemed like too long of a drive and yet not quite worth flying to, are now within our reach. One such place, is Marquette.
I never really considered visiting Marquette prior to this year. It seemed too far north. Too snowy. And perhaps a bit too “rustic”. It’s up in the UP after all – a peninsula that I had only visited once and I was much younger, but the memories are filled with damp, foggy and unpleasant days topped off by a trip to a creepy shipwreck museum, going back wasn’t exactly top on my list. My first impression was gloomy and ominous.
However, I booked a wedding in Marquette for next summer (edit to say that this event has been postedponed as well). My husband was intrigued and said this was one he really wanted to tag along for. This took me by surprise. Of all the places I’ve traveled to for wedding work, why was Marquette the place he wanted to go?
So in October, we took a little weekend getaway to explore. It would give me some familiarity with the area and a chance for a site visit before the wedding this coming autumn. While I can certainly tackle a setting up and decorating a wedding in a foreign place, having a little prior knowledge is preferred.
3 ½ hours by car. Day 1 started at 7 am and brought us to town just before noon. It was the last weekend of October. Peak color season had passed in Harbor Springs, but there was still much color to be seen. However, as we made our way through the mid-section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, my heart began to sink. Brown. A couple spots of amber on the forest floor. And then more brown. Suddenly I was having flashbacks to the dismal UP trip of my youth. We weren’t there for fall colors, but seeing a few certainly would have been nice.
However, about 5 miles outside of Marquette everything changed. The trees became alive and there was color along the hills. The sun shone forth and it was almost as though a weight had been lifted. There was green grass and blue waters. So much more picturesque and suddenly, I understood why someone would want to visit it special place.
Our first stop was a scenic pull off along the shores of Lake Superior. If I’ve seen this massive lake before, I have no recollection. It was stunning. The color alone was enough. But walking along the rocky shoreline and then later along the sand, I couldn’t imagine how much more magical this place could be in the summer. For the most part, we were alone. Enjoying the silence and solitude, much needed after a busy season. We did run into a couple of ladies searching for agates, a treasure that I did not know you could find hidden on these massive, sandy beaches. They shared what to look for and where to find them, we were unsuccessful in our short hunt.
Autumn’s playground. I’ve seen the tunnel of trees. I’m no stranger to the spectacular show that Michigan’s autumn puts on each year. We’ve got quite the view from our front porch with an array of amber, orange, rust, marsala and gold. But somehow this was different. It’s really hard to put into words any of the sights we saw this weekend. And try as I might, even the camera failed. Go drive here. Take it slow. Get out of the car. Walk around. Peer through the trees. Stand at the water’s edge. Ignore the cold. It will totally be worth it.
Kind of like nature’s asphalt. Or maybe like an elephant’s back. The ground was dark and wrinkly beneath us as we stood near the water’s edge (I less near than others of us who more a little more daring). Somehow plants grew through it. Despite the brisk temperatures, flowers still bloomed. And the foliage was the perfect shade to forage and place in an autumn arrangement – but I restrained myself.
We found ourselves at The Delft one of the night’s for dinner. It’s downtown Marquette and was nearly perfect. An old theater converted to a restaurant, we were treated to a movie as we dined on fresh burrata with tomato jam and pesto, a beet salad complete with goat cheese, fennel, grapefruit and pistachios and I know we had something else, but my memories escapes me and I got tired of taking pictures of my food. But what I can tell you is it was all delicious, I will be eating there when I return next fall and my stomach is rumbling just thinking about it.
If you know me, you’ll know I’m not exactly what you might call adventurous. I love nature and can appreciate the beauty of landscapes, but I tend to steer away from actives that are described as strenuous. We decided we wanted to go to a waterfall and due to location, the timing and difficulty level (as rated on one of the tourist website), we decided on Dead River Falls. The name should have been a giveaway that maybe this was beyond our abilities, but we ignored it. I mean, after all, the tourism websites wouldn’t mislead us, right?
The scenes, totally worth it. The pictures, hardly do it justice. The climb, difficult – at least for myself as I wouldn’t exactly consider myself athletic or graceful. But again, totally worth it.
The river went on and on, one waterfall after another. Each time I thought we were seeing the most breathtaking view, another one came up just around the bend. It was a mass of rock and tree roots, weathered stumps and bark that was completely smoothed by the wind. And the part I think I loved the most was how secluded it all was. There were only a couple other travelers we passed the entire day. Trails for the most part remained unmarked, we carved our own path and it was so undeveloped. No railings, no safety nets, nothing to usher us back to civilization should we fail. We could have gotten lost and not been discovered for days. It was scary yet exhilarating.
This is probably foolish on my part, but I actually did not realize what how big the ore industry was in the Upper Peninsula. I had no idea about Marquette’s history or how people came to live there in the first place. It was fascinating. Any place with history to be discovered gets me very excited. Add a sunny morning and the first snowfall of the season, and our trip down to the docks was nearly perfect.
It’s all within walking distance to downtown. We stopped at bakeries and breweries, had fish and chips and sweet treats. The shopping was what you might expect from an old tourist town, but quaint and relaxing in a way that’s perfectly Northern Michigan. The antique stores (not downtown but in the surrounding areas) were perfect. It’s a good thing that we didn’t come with a trailer because prices were right and there were so many large treasures I wanted to take home. We left with a couple of brass trays, agate necklaces for the girls and the memory of a perfectly chilly fall weekend in Northern Michigan.
Every scene we came across was so deliciously sunsoaked. There was so much misty light and hues of green. I simply did not take enough video or deep breaths. The memory is already fading and I’m ready to go outside and explore some more. I’m so excited to say I get to return next September.