As soon as I saw Copper Harbor, Michigan, on a map, I wanted to go there. I love to follow a road to its furthest point and imagine living there. What must it be like to, literally, live at the end of the road?
Copper Harbor is as far north as you can go in Michigan without taking a boat. It is at the northern terminus of US 41. If you drove 2,000 miles south on US 41, you would end up in Miami, Florida. Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. That would be an amazing road trip! It turns out that Tom and I lived close to US 41 when we lived in Nashville and when we lived in Chattanooga. The end of US 41 is just a mile east of Copper Harbor.
Copper Harbor is a tiny town with only 136 year-round residents. The only things open during the winter are the one-room schoolhouse, the post office, the community center, and the Copper Harbor Fuel Stop. Summer, however, is a boom time for the town. Restaurants, rock shops, museums, hotels, and the ferry to Isle Royale are all open for business from Memorial Day through the end of September.
Tom and I got to Copper Harbor during the last week of the summer season, the last week in September. We stayed at Fort Wilkins State Park Campground, which was a great place to stay. The park is located between Lake Superior and Lake Fanny Hooe, so there is lots of lakeshore to explore. After we got set up, we walked across US 41 to say hello to Lake Superior. The rocky beach was beautiful and secluded. We were the only people on it. It was so quiet that I timed how long it took before I heard a noise besides the water lapping at the shore. It took almost ten minutes before a car drove by.
Then we headed back to the campground to look for the WIFI signal. Although there was no cell service at the campground, the bathhouses all had WIFI. The bathhouse closest to us had benches on all four sides under the eaves. We needed the WIFI because we play Euchre with Mom and Dad online every Sunday evening. Because of the WIFI provided by the campground we were able to sit on the bench, protected from the rain, and enjoy our Euchre game.
The next day was warmer and sunnier, and we were thankful for that. Tom and I took the paved walking / biking trail into town and explored a little. We walked from one end of town to the other, then walked from the Lake Superior shore to Lake Fanny Hooe. Copper Harbor is a mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts. Most of the people staying at the campground had their bikes with them. There is a big map in town with all the miles of mountain bike trails, and the bikers like to congregate and talk about what trails they tackled. Tom and I were not about to take our tandem on any mountain bike trails!
We saw the one-room schoolhouse, the oldest one still in use in Michigan. This year the school has eight students in Grades K through 8. When the students reach high school, they have to ride the bus 30 miles to Calumet. The school has been open since 1850.
We also saw the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, but only from a distance. There are no roads to the lighthouse, and you can only get there by boat. The lighthouse was built in 1866 and decommissioned in 1933. There is a museum but we had seen enough lighthouse museums.
Our walking and exploring made us hungry, so we stopped for lunch. Then we continued our exploration, walking around the community garden and the nature trails that ran along several ponds at the base of Brockway Mountain. Occasionally we saw mountain bikers zip by on the trails beyond the trees.
Copper Harbor is a lovely small town, perfect for a visit as a tourist. During the summer. The winters in Copper Harbor are no worse than anyplace else in the Upper Peninsula, but they are extended. Winter extends into March and April because of Lake Superior with freezing temperatures well into May. September was a great time for a visit.