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May/June 2009

Beyond the Mackinac Bridge

It’s hard to believe that in 2009, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remains the state’s “best-kept, not-so-secret place.”  This is difficult to imagine for a stretch of land that spans nearly 400 miles from east to west and is surrounded by water on three sides.  The deep blue soul of Lake Superior makes up the boundary to the north and is a body of water aptly named because it has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in the world.  Still, it’s amazing how many Michiganders have not ventured beyond the Mackinac Bridge into the U.P., an area with no shortage of scenic and tranquil destinations.  After years of vacationing, hiking, traveling and getting to know the people who call this place home, I, like they, have arrived at small, universal conclusions about what makes life in the slow lane worth living.

In the 1970’s there was a movement among legislators and residents of the Upper Peninsula involving its succession from the rest of the state. It would have been an economic disaster.  Just north of the 5.3 mile suspension bridge is a gateway to people, places and things still not found elsewhere.  Areas of it are like a time capsule, with clusters of virgin forest, ghost towns and the stories to go with them.

People know each other by name in many of the towns and business deals are still made and kept with a handshake.  Trees outnumber people by staggering percentages and on any given day you can find as much solitude and beauty as you desire.



Woven between its pristine and untrammeled forests are immeasurable miles of blacktop roads, dusty two tracks and trails that at times actually lead to nowhere.  The twilight holds a decibel of quiet that most people rarely experience and just after dark the sky becomes a private planetarium from almost any vantage point.  You can see the Milky Way with the naked eye and if you’re patient, the aurora borealis may reveal itself unannounced shimmering and dancing across the night sky when the conditions are right. 

In the pure north woods of Upper Michigan,beauty is as common as traffic jams in a large city.The forest asks nothing of you other than a chance to make you feel whole. The Upper Peninsula is historic and a creative muse.  It has been a subject of folklore, an inspiration for films and provided a backdrop for poetry, novels and novellas, far too many to mention.  Between the cabins, lakes and woods are places you cannot find on a map or with the point of a finger; they are places of the heart, the mind and the senses, with each adventure becoming a memory in the making.  It’s a thinker’s paradise and a nature photographer’s dream.

As an award winning photographer, Peter Wurdock has published two books combining photography, poetry and prose, which intimately detail life in areas of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin.  Still a bachelor, he is active in the MetropolitanDetroit community and works as Marketing Director for a leading non-profit senior housing agency.  For more information:

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