Maybe it was because my parents said they were going on a beer run, or maybe it was because no one in our family has done anything truly crazy lately. Or maybe it was just because it was frickin’ 65 DEGREES outside on Saturday. Whatever the reason, I had this brilliant idea involving booze and the great outdoors: I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to invent the Yooper Pub Crawl.
For those of you who were physically here in the UP, you’ll remember that Saturday was absolutely be-gorgeous outside! The temp display in my car got up to 65 degrees in Escanaba, which may be a new record and anecdotal proof that global warming is actually a real thing.
A Facebook friend even compared screenshots of weather temps in Marquette and Phoenix, and while the poor bastards in Arizona were probably sporting their winter jackets and mittens in their 57-degree outdoors, Yoopers everywhere were running around in shorts and tank tops, enjoying our tropical 59 degrees.
Of course, I had to partake as well. Sunshine in the Yoop in February? Dear gods, the world IS going mad!
I got me a sunrise fix that morning out on the Stonington Peninsula, where the sun coming up over Big Bay de Noc was awe-inspiring, and after enjoying a cup of joe while sitting on my favorite bench overlooking a frozen landscape, I realized that this day was going to be awesome.
That was even before I realized while sitting on that bench contemplating the meaning of life, a beautiful bald eagle was watching over me the entire time before he looked over at me, pooped, and then flew away.
The wild turkeys I encountered on the drive home further confirmed the awesomeness of this day. While other poor slobs all over the world were stuck in traffic jams, my version was waiting patiently for a bunch of toms to decide to cross County Road 513.
But the day was young! What would I do next? I’m sure lots of folks decided to do a little spring cleaning, or work out in the yard, but for me, Saturdays are meant for just one thing: play.
Maybe Mom and Dad would want to take a walk with me? Alas, when I finally tracked them down, they were nearly to Marinette on a booze run. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this local concept, living in the UP means that while most times you feel like the State of Michigan has forgotten about you, this isn’t true when it comes to taxing alcohol. And just like Canadians back in the day used to drive across the border to Sault Ste. Marie to buy cheap milk and gas, so do Yoopers drive over to Wisconsin, where Cheeseheads are much more reasonable when it comes to liquor prices.
Bummer. But since I was out at Mom and Dad’s, I thought I should still get outside and hike something. I had been driving through town with my windows rolled down, and the sunshine and fresh air were making me manic.
Wait a minute. Booze? Beer? That reminded me how Dad had mentioned once that you could technically take the back woods from his property, through the swampy underbrush along the fence line of the Delta County Airport, and smack dab onto the access road that leads to the Upper Hand Brewery, and their tap room which is open on Saturdays.
What the hell. Why not. I got out my phone. “Dad? Where are the nippers you keep in your garage? I’m going to make a new offshoot on your Secret Trail in the backyard.”
Looking back, it wasn’t the brightest thing I’d ever done, but then again, we have a history of this in my family. Check out this blog post if you want to see where I get it from.
It was actually an adventure, heading off into the woods to see if I could find the airport fence line. I hadn’t been back that way in years, when I was much younger and much thinner. With the warm sunshine egging me on, and armed with a camera, water bottle, and a pair of nippers, I felt invincible.
I made it to the edge of the former Country Meadows Golf Course without incident, until I looked up and saw a hawk circling me. What is it with me and raptors? Honestly, I was barely breathing hard or even sweating, and birds for miles around must think I appear to be fresh road kill that they can swoop in on.
Maybe they knew where I was headed and were patiently waiting for me to expire.
I found the airport fence, slogged my way through the stumble-brush and snow, and nearly had a heart attack when the fattest grouse I’d ever seen flew up out of the brush less than ten feet away from me. And that’s when I saw all the game trails where animals of all sorts were crossing freely in and out of airport property, underneath the fence where the ground had heaved up during many freeze and thaw cycles.
That’s the second symbolic reminder in nature I’ve seen where walls and fences are just epic fails. I hope someone in government is paying attention to this.
I lucked out and found a fairly clear section of woods where nippers weren’t necessary to stumble down the path. But after realizing that this was a great spot for coyotes and other predators to hang out, I realized that those nippers served another purpose: to make the coyotes laugh themselves silly while watching me brandish them, so that I could make a hasty and stumbly escape, should the need arise.
It was during this slippy, tumble-y, staggering progression to win the beer prize at the end of the hike that I realized I had invented the first Yooper Pub Crawl, because there was a very real chance at some point that I’d be crawling my way out of this thicket to reach the brewery. But you know what? I made it to Upper Hand alive, albeit not without startling Marley, the tap room manager, who was out shoveling snow when I arrived. It must have been quite the thing to witness a disheveled-looking crazy woman in swamp boots walking purposefully towards the brewery armed with a pair of nippers.
She took one look at me and then calmly smiled and said, “You look like you need a beer.” God bless that woman. And it was the most delicious Escanaba Black that I have ever tasted, made even better by the fact that my parents had returned from their own booze run and decided to join me at the tap room.
So take THAT, Dublin and London and Berlin and New York and all you other fancy, snooty cities who think you have the best pub crawls in the world. You don’t hold a candle to the 906.
Be happy, be well. And stay thirsty, my friends.