The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan is the little finger that extends all the way into Lake Superior. US-41 ends a few miles east of Copper Harbor where the road turns into gravel, sand and rocks. And that’s where the fun starts when you enjoy remote and end-of-the-road type places. I always looked at this place on maps and just had to find out more and explore these logging roads and other dirt tracks.
My 2009 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 was a perfect companion to explore these roads where regular vehicles usually don’t go. It was a bit challenging at times but not too bad. The bike weighs around 500 lbs after all and loose rocks can be tricky. I actually laid the bike down once when I lost balance but there was only a small scratch on the crash bars. Those are always a good investment for inexpensive protection. Picking up the bike actually wasn’t that difficult, as long as you know the right way to do it and lift with your legs.
My Garmin GPS was a big help in navigating these unfamiliar roads. You may not always know where a certain road may lead to but at least you will always have a general idea where you are and what direction you’re going. There are many logging roads in this area and not many other people around so help may be far away when you get lost or break down. Below is the actual track from my GPS.
On the way to the southern part and beach.
This was at the south side of the tip. It seems the perfect spot for camping and it was pretty much deserted on this Memorial Day besides a family spending the day there. I imagine it may get busy here on really nice days and nights in summer. This was on May 31st in 2010 so much too cold for a swim in Lake Superior. The quiet beach was beautiful, as many beaches on this inland sea are.
Heading back, I noticed a large lake on my GPS and decided to take a side road. I thought it was going to loop back to Copper Harbor and was curious about the lake.
The lake is Schlatter Lake and is difficult to get to with ordinary vehicles so no other people around. The silence with only sounds of nature made it very peaceful. Some eagles floating in the silent sky above the lake made the nature scene complete. The road did not loop around the lake or it became too rough to continue. I wasn’t sure so headed back.
Another side road looked inviting for exploring and I figured it would lead to Lake Superior. After a narrow, winding road with many deep ruts and holes, the trees started to close in and I figured I wouldn’t be able to reach Lake Superior from there. Suddenly, the lake appeared through the trees and, much to my surprise, I ended up at the Keweenaw Rocket Range. Such luck! It’s one of those remote places I always wanted to visit once but was never sure where it was exactly. It seems a nice place to pitch a tent for the night and enjoy the solitude.
Range is a big word for just a launch pad and a few buildings that were used many years ago. The launch pad is still there but the buildings are long gone. I am not sure why they used such a remote place but I imagine it had something to do with being far away from any civilization. It is just a very unique spot and you can still imagine the 28 feet rockets that were shot into the Michigan sky by NASA in the 1960′s.
From Wikipedia – Keweenaw Rocket Range
The Keweenaw Rocket Range was an isolated launch pad located in U.S. state of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. It was used between 1964 and 1971 for launching rockets for meteorological data collection. NASA, along with the University of Michigan, conducted the project under the lead of Dr. Harold Allen. The site was one of six similar sites scattered about North America used to collect measurements of electron density, positive ion composition and distribution, energetic electron precipitation, solar X-rays, and Lyman alpha flux.
You can see Manitou Island and the Gull Rock Light Station from this spot. I can only imagine what it would be like to be the lighthouse keeper there during the long winters. The shore line is typical Lake Superior and always beautiful. A freighter was not too far from shore and probably on its way to Duluth.
After spending a while at the site and enjoying the wonderful views, it was time to go back to Copper Harbor and south to Lake Linden where I was staying at a campground for a few days. I imagine this road may be more difficult after rain when streams may turn into small rivers.
When I rode back to Lake Linden, the sky got very dark and I wasn’t expecting any rain. But it did start and continued quite a bit through the evening. It was about 90 degrees the previous day at the campground, 50 when riding along the big lake in the morning, a cold rain shower in the evening and an even chillier Monday morning. Welcome to the UP of Michigan and unpredictable weather. But it was all worth it and explore the remote and interesting places in Michigan.
Thread on ADVrider: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=585528