My partner Courtney and I knew planning a wedding would come with its challenges: managing a wide range of expectations, dealing with family dynamics, and anticipating the unique needs of parents, siblings, and friends. Not to mention making sure our event was as safe as possible during a global pandemic.
We also knew that to decompress from the exciting and eventful wedding weekend, a road trip to relax and explore northern Michigan’s wilderness would help us recharge from, and reflect on, our amazing day.
Our mid-October honeymoon adventure took us on a 9-hour drive from Chicago to Michigan’s most northern point in Copper Harbor—with a 2-night stop in a backcountry cabin at Michigan’s largest state park, the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area.
We left for our trip the day after our wedding. We were exhausted from cleaning up our DIY party all morning, but felt a jolt of energy as we revved up the engine of our tiny Ford Fiesta to head north out of the city on I-94.
Our first stop was in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, just one hour north of Milwaukee. The charming, historic town was the perfect distance from home (2 hours). Not only did this stop give us a jump-start on the path to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but it was a comfortable place to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
We arrived at Siebkens Resort around 8 p.m. and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Before leaving the next morning, we took a quick hike at the Sheboygan Broughton Marsh Park to climb the 80-foot marsh viewing tower (the tallest in the state). The view from the top was spectacular: Endless miles of orange and yellow trees blazed to the horizon and flocks of native birds danced over the 13,000-acre wildlife area and marsh.
Driving through the solitude of Wisconsin farmland was a pleasant break from Chicago’s traffic. And while we would have loved to stay longer and enjoy some fried cheese curds and a pint of cold Spotted Cow (arguably Wisconsin’s most popular beer and one of the most delicious I’ve had in my lifetime), our goal was to reach the Porcupines before nightfall.
We followed U.S. Route 51 north for most of the rest of our journey in Wisconsin and reached the Porcupine Mountains (or “The Porkies,” as Michiganders call them) by 5 p.m. Our destination—the “Honeymoon Suite” log cabin at Mirror Lake—was waiting for us 2 miles into the thick of the forest.
With our backpacks full and our boots laced, we hiked along the South Mirror Lake Trail through tall stands of hardwoods, over boardwalk bridges, and next to quiet streams. Most of the trees had lost their color by this point, but the trail was covered in a thick blanket of fallen leaves. It was such a nice feeling to get out of the car and stretch our legs, and breathe in the crisp late-fall air.
Our audible gasps echoed through the woods when we arrived. The log cabin was one of the most picturesque things we’d ever seen. Perfectly perched at the edge of Mirror Lake, the one-room cabin was framed by trees, and a matted pathway led to the simple front porch. Inside, the cabin was complete with all the amenities we could possibly need: a wooden picnic table, wood burning stove, bunk beds, pots and pans to cook our meals, and some matches and candles to illuminate the cozy room.
After settling in and unpacking, we cooked our chickpea curry pouch dinner on the stovetop and sipped whiskey out of tin cups as we flipped through the cabin’s leather-bound trail log. More than 100 pages of the book were full of stories from friends, couples, and solo travelers who had spent time at the cabin—hiking, paddling, cooking, and relaxing. It was fascinating to read about the weather people experienced, the animals they saw in the woods, and all the adventures they had in this very spot.
The best experience at our cabin was padding along Mirror Lake. After making some coffee in our Jet Boil, we headed out in the canoe that came included with the cabin. There was a slight drizzle but the lake was calm. It was beautiful to watch the drops ripple on the glassy water and to be completely surrounded by the pine trees hugging the shoreline. The rain eventually picked up and we headed back to the cabin to warm up by the fire and drift to sleep to the sound of rain on the tin roof.
The Keweenaw and True North
On our way out, we hiked along the Little Carp River Trail to complete the loop back to the trailhead parking lot where we started. It would have been nice to spend more time on the trail, taking in the views and enjoying the river, but we were too eager to hit the road and start the last leg of our road trip. We wasted no time packing up our car and embarking toward our final destination.
Stitching together Michigan 26 and U.S. Route 41, we drove 2.5 hours north. We made one pit-stop in Houghton, a small town about halfway up the peninsula, for a very affordable $3 pint of craft beer at the Keweenaw Brewing Company. The patio is an awesome place to enjoy your beer. From its vantage point, you can see beautiful hills, old brick buildings, and iron industrial bridges crossing the river. It’s fun imagining what it might have been like to live in this historic mining town during its prime.
Continuing our trip one hour further along U.S. Route 41, we arrived at our final destination—the True North Cabin, an amazing Airbnb in Copper Harbor, Michigan. The small town on the shores of Lake Superior is simple and peaceful. With its location at the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, we were surrounded by the fierce waters of Lake Superior and quiet nature of true northern Michigan wilderness.
The True North Cabin was a bit of an upgrade from our rustic log cabin in the forest. Its stunning views of Lake Superior were unbeatable and the lofted ceilings, stone fireplace, and luxe appliances and furniture were a perfect fit for the cabin’s rustic-modern style.
Over three days, we spent our mornings brewing coffee and watching freighters drift by as we gazed out across the lake through the large front windows. Most afternoons we hiked at nearby forest trails, stopped at bakeries and art stores along the winding roads between small towns, and pulled off to beach hop at the endless coves tucked into Lake Superior’s rocky shorelines. A memory we really won’t forget is the icy plunge we took into the 30-degree water as the first early-winter flurries began to fall.
Keeping it simple
Packing up our car and hitting the road to lesser-known spots in the Midwest was the best honeymoon we could’ve asked for. This trip taught us that sometimes the best road trips are rooted in simplicity. Road trips to the most scenic stops or along the most adventurous routes aren’t always the most epic. Destinations rooted in solitude can be just as memorable, if you give it a try.