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August 2004

High Points: Mt. Arvon, Michigan

The view is nothing to write home about, but this newly crowned high point deserves a visit.

The Peak: 1,979 feet

In the 1950s, Porcupine Mountain was considered the tallest in the state. Mt. Curwood reigned in the 1970s. Then in 1982, a USGS survey proclaimed Mt. Arvon a whopping 11 inches higher. This was a dark day for high pointers: For years afterward, the ever-changing, unmarked, often-impassable logging roads to the trailhead made getting there a navigational nightmare with little payoff; the sleepy spot lacks a view. But now diamond-shaped blue-and-white signs guide you to the gradual 1-mile hike up a rutted trail to the highest point in Michigan. At least until the next high point is discovered.

The Priest

Fifteen miles from Mt. Arvon in the town of Baraga stands a 35-foot copper statue of Frederic Baraga, the first Bishop of the Upper Peninsula. Standing on a cloud of stainless steel above Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay, the heavy-metal priest clutches a 7-foot cross in one hand and 26-foot-long snowshoes in the other. Born in Slovenia, Baraga arrived in Michigan in the 1830s, befriended the Chippewa, and founded five Catholic missions. During his two decades up north, the Snowshoe Priest traveled thousands of miles by canoe, snowshoe, and even ice floe, spreading the Gospel and putting the Ottawa and Ojibwa tongue into text. During one frigid sojourn from L’Anse to Duluth, his eyes froze shut. Clearly, the man was hardcore–and maybe even a saint, if you believe the locals who’ve petitioned the Vatican 14 times on his behalf. For information, see www.baragacountyhistoricalmuseum.com.

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