Snowmobile Report

If you step out to shovel in the morning, you might hear a distant hum echoing through the ridges.  Ah, yes.  The snowmobilers are up and at ’em!

And not too long after that, you’ll watch them come into the town of Copper Harbor either from Trail 134 or fresh off of Brockway Mountain on Trail 3.

Whether it’s first thing in the morning because they slept in town or they’ve already put in half a day of riding north, they’ll find a restaurant and park their sleds in the neatest of rows.  You might have a couple guys go for the King of the Mountain spot on a snow bank, but for the most part, they have the best parking strategy of all the sports that visit here.

Perfect front row parking at the Mariner North!

This picture was taken Thursday, January 9th.  And when I walked by later that afternoon, I counted 25 sleds in the lot. They’re here!  All in neat little rows.

So, how are the trails?

“Best they’ve ever been!” said a crew who took the trails all the way up from Twin Lakes this week.  I got this report from Forrest at the Fuel Stop.

There goes the groomer now!  Quite the beast of a machine.  The groomers do nice work keeping the trails smooth for the riders.  Day and night!

“The newer machines have really much better shocks these days, too,” says Tammy.  She does massages at the Mariner in the winter.  She hears all about the latest in sled technology and how the trails are.  “People seem happy so far!” she confirmed.

The Pines Resort is doing their best to help winter lovers of all types stay the night on Saturday with live music each Saturday evening.  They also like to entertain with their sandwich board sign.  I found this one too irresistible not to capture.

So there you have it!

The trails are in great shape.  The groomers are out.  People are happy.  Live music on Saturdays.  The fuel is flowing at the pumps.  And the parking, well, it’s just impeccable.

See you in the snow!

Women Who Pull-Start

If you drive down the main drag of Copper Harbor after a snow storm, you might see an unusual sight.

Women running snowblowers.

That’s right.

On the east end of town, you’ll watch Staci’s arc of snow flowing and swirling around the parking lot of the Gas Lite General Store.  Amanda aims her arc toward a future tunnel luge as the tailing powder poofs about while she clears the lot for the Brickside Brewery.  And as you witness those two in one scope, look down the hill toward the Laughing Loon, and you’ll probably see Miss Hannah whirring her machine in front of her family’s gift shop.

It’s charming.  It’s unusual.  And it’s, well, pretty inspiring!

At the west end, Margaret blows snow in front of her business at North One Gallery.  Not only does she work a snowblower and shovel with her silver hair shining under her hood, she often skis or snowshoes nearly a mile from her house just to get there!

Now THAT is inspiring!

Let’s learn a little bit more about what motivates these women to do the grunt work on their property.

To Blow?`

“It’s necessary,” says Hannah from the Laughing Loon.  “I could hire somebody to plow, but I can do it myself.”

Hannah purchased her snowblower last spring.  When I asked her if she feels less daunted when she has to clear the lot with a snowblower instead of a scoop, she said, “Oh, yeah.  It’s definitely necessary.  I think we had a lull in snow for a few years, but we’re getting more snow now!”

Watching Hannah clear snow is pretty spectacular.  She moves it so meticulously.  She even shovels the steps with a precision that is unrivaled.  I can’t find a flake on the steps after she is through with them!

“I feel really capable,” says Staci at the Gas Lite when asked about how she feels being the female snow mover at her place of business.  “It feels really good to know that I can take care of this myself.  I like that independence.”

Here’s a shot of Staci hard at work.

If you look really close, you can see her apron hanging around the front of her hips.

“I get my soup going, and then I try to clear the lot before anybody comes!” we laugh at her ability to mesh Susie Homemaker and Joe Blow in a matter of minutes.  What a woman!

Amanda clears for the Brickside Brewery and Copper Harbor Vitality.  “When Jeff owned the General Store, he pretty much plowed out half the town, and this property was included.  Now it’s my turn, as the landlord.” she states.  “Good thing I have my she-beast to move all the snow!  I take good care of her,” she winks.

People have heard Amanda singing OVER the motor of her snowblower.  As the lead singer for Powers of Air, Copper Harbor’s classic rock band, perhaps that’s not too surprising…

…Or Not to Blow?

“We’re considering getting a plow,” says Hannah.  “When it comes to the heavy wet stuff, there’s no way to move it with the blower, and I have to move all that by hand.”

Nobody likes to do that.

Amanda’s commented that herself, “Man, if I just had a plow… this would be way quicker and easier.”

As for Staci, well, we’ll let this picture speak for itself!

I think that smile says it all.  “I just need some lessons!” she grinned.

Either Way, Show Some Respect!

Whether you are a man or a woman, moving snow in the Keweenaw is a constant chore.  With a shovel, a scoop, a snowblower or a plow, you can be out there for hours.  Hours!  There goes your day!  And guess what you get to do tomorrow.

Yup, move some more.

So when you visit the Keweenaw, make sure to treat your hosts with respect.  They might have gotten up extra early to make sure you could park your car and be able to back it out with ease.

And, please note that the Keweenaw County Road Commission does a remarkable job keeping the main roads clear everyday.  If they are not moving fresh snow, they are trimming banks.  If you ever thought you won’t make it to Copper Harbor in the winter, think again.  The roads to the Harbor are clear (unless it’s a winter storm blizzard with a first name… then don’t go anywhere!).

There you have it.

Here’s to a joyous new year!

This blog is written by resident author Amanda Wais

How to Light the Park

If you walk into the Copper Harbor Visitor Center today, it would look nothing like it did during the summertime.  Whether you stop in to seek information or to mail a package, you just might forget why you came at all once you feast your eyes on…

the explosion.

Don’t worry, the building didn’t blow up.  Nobody has been harmed.

But all the Christmas lights that were rolled up and stuffed into boxes last spring have now sprung all over the entire post office/Welcome Center.

I will spare you the Full Nelson view of the room and just give you an idea of the chaos — I mean — progress with a couple pretend artistic shots.

Fake tree.  Real lights.  You know that wall!


Bulbs line the entire walkway.


Now, I wasn’t kidding when I said that this is progress.  Two weeks from now most of these bulbs will be bursting with life out in the park.  After all, that is their final destination.

Who does all this?  Is there a Copper Harbor Christmas light committee?  Do Santa’s elves fly down to drink eggnog and decorate the northern most town in Michigan?

No and no.

We have to give this guy credit: Donny Kilpela Jr.

A few years ago Don decided to put up lights in the park to spruce it up a bit.  I mean, it’s so dark this time of year.  He started getting donations and doing it mostly himself.  People would come by to help here and there, and each year his main helpers are different.

Here’s Donny dictating the next move.


After a few years, he started using the community building to decorate the trees indoors where it’s warm and (when I stopped by today) Siberian orchestra music played energetically from an iPad.

It looks a little chaotic in there, I know.  But that’s where the magic happens!

He even dimmed the lights and turned on one of his favorite trees, so you could have a sneak peek.

Kind of looks like the grand finale at the Copper Harbor fireworks show, doesn’t it?


Don articulated how he was going to get this tree through the door.  So don’t you worry.  He already knows where it’s going to go.

He also mentioned that you can be a part of this project!

What are you doing next Saturday, December 7th?  Decorating trees at the Copper Harbor Community Building?  Sweet!  Come on by any time from 3-6pm.  One of our lovely local ladies is making her famous chili.  Don says you can dress for inside jobs or outside jobs.  Whatever you prefer, he’ll have plenty of jobs for you!

And if you can’t make it in a week, make it here in two weeks.  That’s the countdown to the big moment where all this hard work gets showcased: the lighting in the park!

It’s always worth it.

The big lighting happens during Winter Wonderfest on December 14th at 6pm sharp.

Tis the season.  Let’s get jolly!

*This blog is written by resident author and writer, Amanda Wais

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like… Winter

Yoopers of the Keweenaw are looking around at all this snow and saying, “What the heck?  It’s only November!”

Of course, many people in the Midwest are saying the same thing.  “It’s only November!  What’s with all this snow… every single day for the last two weeks?”

The Keweenaw County Snowfall Report tells us that we’ve gotten 27 inches of snowfall since October, 2019.  Approximately 9 inches have settled on the ground.  In the harbor, it’s shaken out and condensed to a bit less than that, depending what bush you’re standing in.

Want to know the funny part?  We had 27 inches fall by this time last year too!  How did we all forget that?  I don’t know.

Some people refuse to shovel because it might start to melt next week, if the weather report is correct.

Regardless of what might happen, the Keweenaw Country Road Commission has already been keeping the roads safe.  One of their plows makes it all the way up to Copper Harbor before 7am every single morning that it snows.

There you have it.

We are not stranded here in the winter (except maybe an occasional day in the thick of it).  The county plows know we’re here, and we are part of their routine.  Thank you Keweenaw County Road Commission!

As for the 100 or so local residents who are still here for the winter, well, we are still here.

For the most part.

Many locals travel this time of year.  To someplace warm, to see family, to take care of business in their hometown city — wherever.  Just to somewhere because, as you know, there isn’t a whole lot going on.

People who live up here are often talented with hobbies and side hustles just for this reason… and this season.  Yes, there’s enough to live and entertain yourself if you are creative and low-maintenance, but don’t expect a ton of external stimulation.

Unless you like to watch the morning light illuminate the horizon.

Or hear the wind in the trees.

Or look at driftwood ice sculptures.

Or shovel.

Here you go.  Here’s a shovel.  Get to work.  It hasn’t melted yet!

Copper Harbor Wants You in November

Do you know what Copper Harbor is like in November?

Chances are, you don’t.  Unless you live here.

How do I know that?  Because the locals recognize pretty much every person and vehicle that passes through or stops in.  Besides the 100-ish residents, a few fishermen and even less than a few hunters, this town becomes remarkably quiet and peaceful during this month.

That’s exactly why you should come.

When were you here last?  February to snowmobile?  August with the family?  September for the colors?

Those are busy months, my friend.  You may think you’re coming to the end of the earth to get away from it all, but you’re doing it just when everybody else is.

Pay attention now.  This is the local scoop.  These are the reasons you should come to Copper Harbor in November:

You Can See Everything

Once those leaves fall off the trees, you get views you never knew existed.  Lake Superior is visible from the trails on the north side of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.  You can see all the logging paths in the valleys right off of the Covered Stretch.  New rock formations suddenly become visible as you hike through the woods.

It’s like a whole new world!  Come and see it for yourself!

The Waves Get Massive

They don’t call ’em the gales of November for nothing!  As the temperatures change and pressure systems shift, Lake Superior can get rockin.’  You may have seen pictures or videos on the internet, but you haven’t seen or felt that power until you stood on the shore and watched it yourself.  That little pang of fear and awe always adds to the experience.

Here’s a video from a few years ago.  (Cheater note.  Yes, this video is from the spring, but spring and fall both stir the beast in her!)

Help Decorate the Park

For most of the month of November, Captain Donny and friends put up lights, trees and decorations in the park to prepare for lighting it up at Winter Wonderfest (mark your calendar for that on December 14th).  Wouldn’t you feel proud and honored if you could be there and say, “I decorated that tree!” or “I remember helping with those decorations!”

It’s a community effort, and anyone is welcome to help.

Here’s a video of what the fruits of your efforts can look like!

It’s You and the Locals

I know.  This can be a bit daunting.  Especially if you stop in to the General Store in the morning for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich while the locals are having coffee talk.  Oh, boy.  You’ll learn things you never wanted to know about people!  And even if you don’t know the people, the stories can be pretty juicy.  For some reason, we just don’t hold back.

Maybe that’s why they say “we’re all here because we’re not all there!”

But you will also get more personal service.

Gilly at the Mariner with time for a trick!

Have you been to the Mariner North a dozen times in July?  Well, come visit in November, and you might get to know them a bit better.  Your server will have time to chat, and the owners might even be out enjoying a meal.  This is the time to come if you ever wanted to hobnob or get in with the crowd.

The Fishing is Good

Don’t tell anyone that I told you that.

The splake usually bite in the harbor once the big lake cools down.  I’ve seen plenty of boats trolling the harbor and solo or groups of people fishing right off the docks lately.  It’s a good time to try your luck!

But no promises.  I mean, that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.

You Can Truly “Get Away”

This picture was taken on Wednesday, October 30th.  Need I say more?

What a peaceful time to walk the streets of Copper Harbor and take in the solitude!

That doesn’t mean that there are no amenities, however.  You will get your needs met in the following ways for the month of November:

  • Gas Lite General Store – hot coffee, breakfast items, fishing licenses, groceries, snacks, clothing, all types of gear, a variety of adult beverages and, of course, the juicy local gossip.
  • The Mariner North – lunch and dinner daily with a full bar!  Cabins and motel rooms.
  • Copper Harbor Fuel Stop – open daily for fuel, snacks, local art, automotive items and fishing gear.
  • Minnetonka Resort and Thunderbird Gift Shop – warm motel rooms and a gift shop until the middle of November.
  • Brockway Inn Motel – cozy motel rooms open until the middle of November.
  • Spirit of the North Massage and Wellness – massage specials and energy work until November 25.
  • Brickside Brewery – local craft beer on the weekends.
  • The Post Office – buy stamps and get that package shipped 6 afternoons a week.  Access to local brochures and displays.

See?  You won’t be stranded!

You’ll be flexing your fortitude.  Yeah.  That’s it.  See you soon!

It is a little chilly up here, though.  Bundle up!

The Smaller Parts of Fall

Did you make it?

Did you get to the Keweenaw for the fall colors?  They were spectacular!  (And many are still hanging on!)

Whether you made it or missed it this year, chances are you were focused on the tree lines.  Florescent maples and rich oaks.  Bright aspens and golden birches.  This valley and that ridge, etc.

But did you stop to look at the smaller things that fall brings?

Not really???

Well, then.  Let’s do it!

Mushrooms among the pipsissewa and moss


Glistening choke cherries


Large leaved aster flowers


Dew-covered aster leaf


Mottled thimbleberry leaf


Wild rose hip


Bilberry bush

Not too shabby, Mother Nature!

We’ve got to savor every little bit of it while we can because, well, we know what comes next.  See you then!

Color Season Update #2

Ready to check out what’s turning?

Brockway Mountain

This hunk of a hill is all lit up.  I took pictures on Thursday, October 3 in the rain and fog, so the photos don’t do it justice.  As you gaze, remember: no sunlight and no filter on these pics.

West Bluff of Brockway looking south toward Lake Medora.  The mist takes the reds out of it.  It’s actually quite breathtaking!


From the west end looking southeast into that valley.  It’s a big change from last week!  


Somewhere in the middle looking south.  Those hues look so subdued here.  It’s actually stunning!  


At the Nose of Brockway looking east.  I got the token colored maple in there.  Otherwise, there’s not much happening on that end!

Any time from now until next weekend is going to be magical on top of the middle to the west end of Brockway Mountain drive and into the southern valley. Do you have your room booked yet?

The Covered Stretch

Here’s a treat for you!  I recorded this video on Thursday as well.  It was raining still, but I have never seen the leaves reflected in the fresh pavement quite like that before!  Enjoy the non-stop, vibrant colors with Mary LaPlant fiddling in the background!

Okay, so the whole stretch is fascinating.  You will oooh and ahhh around each corner.  My goodness, now is the time to get on that beautiful journey!  It should still be pretty nice for about a week.  Book that room!

Lake Manganese

I went up to Lake Manganese, but the sun cast shadows on most of the trees.  Blogger fail!  But let me tell you that they have put some serious time into changing!  Maybe around 50% color up there.  But the lake sure is peaceful as usual!

The Verdict

Get your buns up here!  No dilly dallying.  Anytime from now until next weekend should be spectacular.

Color Season Update #1

If you live far away from Copper Harbor, and you’re planning a fall trip to look at the colors then you are probably not sleeping at night.

You lie awake, stare at the ceiling, listen to your partner (or pet) snore and wonder: When are the colors going to peak?  When is the best time for me to go north???

Well, stress no more.

I can’t promise that this post will help you sleep better, but it will show you, in almost real time, how the leaves are looking right now.

Let’s cut to it.

Brockway Mountain

On Wednesday, September 25th, 2019, I drove over Brockway Mountain to get the palate.  Here it is:

From the West Bluff of Brockway Mountain looking southeast into the valley.


From the Nose of Brockway Mountain looking east over the town of Copper Harbor.

Covered Stretch

Now let’s talk about the Covered Stretch on Highway 41.  The maples are going off.  Fuchsias, tangerines, lemony yellows and plum purples highlight the way.  A few of the trees are already dropping leaves, but there is plenty of color left once the birches, aspens and oaks turn.

A primo spot on the Covered Stretch

The local report proclaims the leaves are 40-50% changed on this stretch of highway, and the norther you get, the greener they look.

Lake Manganese

Here are two photos of Lake Manganese from Thursday, September 26, 2019.

From Manganese Beach looking south


From Manganese Beach looking west

The verdict?  It’s totally up to you!  Judge for yourself!

I’d give it another two weeks if you want to see Brockway Valley all lit up.  Of course, anything can happen in that time.  I mean, it could snow!

Here is a link to the Upper Peninsula Color Report on Facebook.  They are constantly updating throughout the U.P.  I will post pictures here the next two Fridays.

And just so you know, Mount Bohemia is running their chairlifts the first two weekends in October.

Well, hope this helps!  Now if you can only get your dog to stop snoring!

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