I slept to the ripe hour of 9 am on the morning July 4th, 2017, the final full day of my visit and the crescendo of the Upper Peninsula Holiday party. We were on the other side of the peak however, as it was time for another group exit as friends needed to get back to Minnesota for work on the 5th - so our group got smaller by 4, and lost two small children.
We inaugurated the morning with breakfast and setting off the rest of Kira's fireworks. Her Dad learned that the spinner ones spun better without their plastic wings, and that M-80's are really cool when you throw them in the culvert pond.
Nathan needed to go down to the Tiki Bar to help his Uncle Richard aka Uncle Dick to set-up the fireworks display for the evening and my sister, friends and kids were all going to head down to play on the beach. As one cannot spend the whole day drinking and waiting for fireworks (even if the average Yooper is capable) my parents and I took the opportunity to go for a hike out to the tip of their peninsula to a place called Pointe Abbaye.
Pointe Abbaye is usually not very accessible, not because of the difficulty of the hike, or even the mud on the road getting to the trail head, but because of the swarms of biting flies that guard its rocks from visitors. We were in a great amount of luck and on this day as there was not a fly to been seen, there were definitely mosquitoes and ticks in the woods on the way there and back, but no biting flies.
Pointe Abbaye is beautiful with amazing rocks shaped by the beating waves of Lake Superior and geology. Little flowers and plants spring from the tiny little inlets of soil in the cracks.
We walked over the rocks and eventually found a spot to sit a spell. I attempted to dangle my feet over a rock to reach the water, but had to settle for it touching my toes when the waves came by because I couldn't reach. I cracked open a Leinenkugels Shandy and my parents laughed saying that I'd gone native squirreling away beer in my backpack to take on a hike. It seemed appropriate to celebrate the moment to me.
We started to feel a little kissed by the sun and ready for lunch so we headed back to the homestead to prep for our evening celebrating the 4th of July at the Tiki Bar.
The Tiki Bar is a special place for many reasons – most importantly its a Tiki Bar in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Then next first, you best have a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you are attempting to get there, as it is about a mile down a narrow dirt/mud road through the dense forest. It is not a place for wimpy vehicles meant for well-groomed highways. (As we were going in a pick-up truck was coming out that was being driven by a 12-year-old, not sure what was going on there, but there was a child driving a very large truck.)
Second it is designed like a full-on tiki bar, just like the ones in the tropics, except its on the shore of Lake Superior. Also this one has a wood fired pizza oven, running water, refrigerators, and two grills – while still being off the grid.
Here is the water tower and power station that feeds the various appliances on site including a flush toilet and shower.
Third, it has the best sand of anywhere I have ever stood on the shores of Lake Superior. Its owners also hold the largest swath of lake shore in this particular bay of Lake Superior and they are making great use of it.
Fourth, they have a boardwalk and swamp, complete with an alligator.
Fifth, it sits on 100 acres of Upper Peninsula forest and it is a private park shared with the community, family and friends – and they sure throw one hell of a 4th of July party.
Uncle Dick makes his famous "Dick Juice" featured here and sets up a fireworks display in a different theme every year. This year was "test the wedding cake" year as there was to be a wedding the following Saturday and he wanted to make sure he didn't blow the wedding up. So we were the guinea pigs on this fine celebration of the United States Declaration of Independence. "The 4th of July is my favorite holiday, because I get to blow shit up." said Dick as he sat next to me at the Tiki Bar when I attempted to pull the recipe for Dick Juice from him through the fine art of Midwestern conversation.
The recipe for Dick Juice is a bottle of Tanqueray mixed with either Raspberry Lemonade Concentrate or Creamsicle sherbet – this year he toned it down and only put half a liter of gin in each pitcher, to ensure that he didn't hurt anyone (apparently there were complaints in prior years).
Eventually, after much throwing back of beers, eating BBQ'd meat, bean bags thrown into corn holes, shooting of the shit, and other things one does at a Tiki Bar on the shores of the greatest body of fresh water in the United States of America on its birthday, the sun began to set, and the anticipation for man made light began.
Although children age 8 and above were setting off fireworks all day, a certain hush fell upon the crowd when it came time for the men to pull out the fire power they had hiding in the "adult section" of the arsenal.
There is no denying that the sunset over the beach at the Tiki Bar added yet another element to the sight of one man lighting a Roman candle in the dying twilight.
Eventually it was time for the grand finale, and those of us onlookers with an interest toward safety gathered on the dock so that we could jump in the lake in case of explosion, or other unexpected results from the massive amount of fireworks wired to a 300 ft fuse on Uncle Dick's truck. My brother-in-law got the special honor of lighting the fuse this fine evening. His daughter Kira said to her mother "Mom, I want to be with Dad" to which my sister wisely said "Stay on the dock Kira, Dad is lighting a bomb." We watched and waited.
Everyone, including Uncle Dick's trailer survived the fireworks display. It was a good show, but the mosquitoes were beginning to win the battle, so it was time to exit and say good bye to the magical place known as the Tiki Bar in Skanee, Michigan.