Jim Harrison at Grand Marais, Michigan

Jim Harrison, writer extraordinaire, on one of his visits to Grand Marais, MI.

Jim Harrison, author, Upper Peninsula icon, leans on an old truck in Grand Marais, Michigan. He wrote many of his books in a cabin there. Photo by Mikel B. Classen copyright 2023.

A few years ago, when I lived in Grand Marais, Michigan, I was fortunate enough to get to know Jim Harrison a little bit. He owned property there and would come and write out in his log cabin in the woods. It was situated on a beautiful bend on the nearby Sucker River. He would isolate himself out there and work on a book. Often, after 10 pm, he would come into the Dunes Saloon, also known as the Lake Superior Brewing Company, and have a few drinks after a long day of writing. His publisher had been instructed by Jim to call and leave messages at the Dunes and he would call them back after ten.

I was introduced to him by the bartender there, Dave Beckwith. I lived in Grand Marais for 10 years and had many opportunities to spend some time with Jim. We rarely talked about writing. I always figured that when he was there, he wanted to get away from the writing for a bit. So, we talked about other things such as hunting and fishing and make no mistake, Jim Harrison was a foodie.

He often talked about things he’d had in different places. When he came to Grand Marais, he would always stop off at this little place on M-28 called Rashid’s Market. He said they had the best prosciutto he could find. Rashid’s went out of business a few years ago and is now another unused building along the highway.

My wife and I would have a party every year on our anniversary which is also the summer solstice. We would invite everyone and the party would last for several days. Kegs would be brought in from the Lake Superior Brewing Company, the fire pit would be going and Mary, my wife would cook obscene amounts of food.  Seemed like half the town was there. It was very cool.

Jim would stop by and kick back with all of us. I don’t know what species it was, but we had this really fine soft grass in the yard. After a while and we would look over and Jim would be crashed out in the grass. He remarked to me how soft and nice it was to lay down in it and he’d never seen or felt grass like that. It was fun to have him there, but for most of us we saw him as a regular neighbor.

We all knew who Jim was, and plenty of folks would show up at the Dunes Saloon hoping for a “Jim” sighting. It was no secret that he might turn up in Grand Marais and people came looking. I was once mistaken for Jim, not sure why to this day, but the guy would not believe I wasn’t him. Someone also insisted that I was a character in a couple of Jim’s stories called “Brown Dog.” He wouldn’t believe me when I told him no either.

Black and White study of the author Jim Harrison.

Close-up of Jim Harrison in Grand Marais in Black and White. Photo by Mikel B. Classen Copyright 2023

Jim also liked being around the females. They would often cluster around his table and sit and drink with him. We used to call it “holding court.” He would be smiling with three or four ladies next to him cocktailing the night away. Never saw him leave with one though.

In Grand Marais, the tourist season gets so busy that everyone works, even the kids. My wife Mary caught Jim checking out our daughter who had just got a job bussing at the Dunes Saloon. She chastised him a bit informing him that was our daughter. He looked surprised and said “That’s Mikel’s daughter?” He came over to me and apologized and I looked at him and said, “Keep this in mind, she’s only 14 and this is neither Kentucky or France.” He laughed. Jim was always good natured about things.

Jim would often come to town during the fall. He loved to bird hunt and would bring his dogs. Accompanied by friends and relatives they would all spend a few days chasing down partridges aka ruffed grouse. Tourism had slowed this time of year and a pleasant, relaxed time could be had.

One day Jim approached me to take a few pictures of him. He disliked the author picture on most of his books. You know the ones, where he’s looking contemplatively out a window. We made arrangements to meet him downtown Grand Marais, the next day. I get downtown outside the Sportsman’s Bar and after a bit Jim shows up driving an old beat up truck that he had borrowed from one of the locals named Lance.  Jim also has someone with him.

He gets out and introduces me to his companion who happens to be an editor of a French magazine who was doing an article on Jim. Jim Harrison is apparently really popular in France. The editor and I shake hands and jim says “We’ve been drinking wine all night. I’m really hung over, we need to do this quick.” So Jim heads for the truck and leans against it, smoking, wearing his ever present off faded pink shirt. The wind picks up a little tossing his sparse hair around.

I’m bent over my camera shooting pictures when I realize that the French editor is shooting me shooting Jim. Yes, splashed all over France is my derriere in a magazine. I didn’t shoot very long since I knew Jim was impatient. The pictures on this page are from that shoot.

A couple of days later I went out to his cabin on the river bend. It was an old log cabin with a thick coat of varnish on it. He let me inside and the interior was fantastic. There was a river stone fireplace with dark walls stained from age and nicotine. This was where he created his magic, his wordsmith shop. I showed him the shots I’d taken and gave him the envelope with the prints. On the table were several yellow paper legal size pads where he created his stories. There was an energy there you could feel, like a thick fog.

Jim eventually sold his property in Grand Marais. The little town was becoming “discovered.” Soon the tourists began to overwhelm the place no matter what the time of year. I remember Jim coming into the Dunes Saloon, which was quite busy at the time, loudly saying “Get all of these fucking people out of my bar.” He ended up finding a quiet table in the back and cocktailed there.

Jim came less and less to Grand Marais and then he simply stopped coming. When the cabin sold it was final. I never saw him again. Then he passed. It is one of my regrets.

Author Jim Harrison leans against an old truck in Grand Marais, Michigan.

Jim Harrison after a long night of wine drinking wearing his signature t-shirt. Photo by Mikel B. Classen copyright 2023


For more information on Jim Harrison follow these links: Jim Harrison – Wikipedia

Books by Jim Harrison (Author of Legends of the Fall) | Goodreads

Photos of Jim Harrison by Mikel B. Classen. Copyright by Mikel B. Classen.


New Reviews for Faces, Places & Days Gone By

Book reviews of my new book: Faces, Places & Days Gone By – A Pictorial History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Cover of Faces Places Days Gone By by Mikel B Classen

This is the cover for Mikel B Classen’s new book Faces Places and Days Gone By featuring vintage Harley Davidson.

From the Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press.

“Faces, Places and Days Gone By” ($19.95 paperback, $34.95 hardcover) written by Mikel B. Classen, managing editor of “The U.P. Reader,” is an oversized volume that’s full of great, highly detailed vintage images, accompanied by excellent descriptions.

Subtitled “A Pictorial History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” it’s divided into nine sections, including homesteading, logging, mining, ships and shipping, Native Americans and recreation.

Big Eric’s Bridge – Baraga County – Upper Peninsula Michigan


Big Eric's Bridge, artfully labelled, sits astride the wild and scenic Huron River.

A View of the Huron River from Big Eric’s Bridge. The spelling of “Erick” is incorrect.The “k” belongs in his last name not his first.

Big Eric’s Bridge – Huron River – Baraga County

A Point North

By Mikel B. Classen

A springtime bloom on a small cherry tree thrives along the Huron River.

The Wild and Scenic Huron River in the Spring is an exceptional time to be there.

Over the weekend I traveled over to L’anse to sell and sign books at the American Legion hall. While I was in the neighborhood I decided to drive north towards Aura and Skanee. My ultimate objective was to reach a wondrous remote place known as Big Eric’s Bridge.

This is an area I rarely get into, but this region of north country leads into the west end of the Huron Mountains. Between here and Big Bay is Michigan’s wilderness at its best. The problem with it is much of it is owned the legendary Huron Mountain Club. But what isn’t owned by them is worth the effort to experience what you can.

The huron River runs through rugged country in Baraga County

This is one of the couple of small falls that make up the river near the Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground

Big Eric’s Bridge crosses the wild Huron River which contains 37 species of fish. Fishing here is amazing with trout the primary fish in the river. This is an anglers paradise and a pristine river.

As I pull in and hear the water rushing in the river, I feel like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Maybe Big Eric took some of the load. He seemed like that kind of guy. Yes, the bridge is named after a real person. There are some local stories but overall, not much is known about the guy.

The wildness at Big Eric's bridge is exemplified by the tumbling waters.

The Huron River’s rugged and wild waters tumble over cascades along its winding path.

Big Eric Erickson

Big Eric Erickson was a large Swede from Skanee, his birthplace and date are unknown. He spoke with a thick Swedish accent that could sometimes be the butt of a joke. Erickson took it well. Logging for the Ford Motor Company,  Big Eric earned the moniker of Paul Bunyan of Baraga County. Ford had a factory in Pequaming that manufactured parts for the fast growing automobile industry. Ford also had a sawmill in L’anse where Big Eric sold most of his wood.

Eric Erickson was over 6 feet tall and an even tempered individual. He was well liked and had an interesting way of looking at the world. In Richard Dorson’s, Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers, he describes Erickson like this: “He’s happy when losing money and grumbling when making it, if you meet him in the woods where he’s boss, he’s dressed up in oxfords, dress pants and a silk shirt. In town he dresses like a lumberjack, very ragged.”

Historical Picture of Eric Erickson's Logging Camp around 1920.

Big Eric’s logging camp around the 1920s. This would have been cold work. Photo courtesy Baraga County Historical Society.

Another tale surrounding Big Eric. He was checking out his cook’s food list. He came to loganberries. “Logging Berries – dat’s fine – order a carload of them.” He then came to New England Ham and crossed it out. “Isn’t American ham good enough for dese damn lumberjacks?”

He was known for helping people out when they needed it and was shrewd with his businesses. Eric was good to his workers often helping them when trouble reared its head. When Prohibition hit, Big Eric wasn’t affected much except for the behavior of his workmen.

A historical photo of the Big Eric's Bridge in 1930. Love the woman fishing.

The original Big Eric’s Bridge in 1930. The current one was built in 1992. Notice that the woman is using a fresh cut sapling for a fishing pole. Photo courtesy of the Baraga County Historical Society.

One day his men all left for a speakeasy or “blind pig” as they were called, and didn’t  return. After a few days, Big Eric went to the illegal saloon and with true sorrow etched on his face, asked the bartender, “Can you let me have these men for a few days?” He got his workmen back.

Later in life, he mused about owning a hotel where the only guests would be lumberjacks. Big Eric moved to Houghton and that’s the last we hear from him. The bridge that bears his name is a reminder of his legacy in the region. A finer place was never picked that bears his name.

Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) are a beautiful wildflower that grows in wet boggy areas.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) grow along the river bank. They are one of the first to bloom in the spring.

As I wander along the banks of the river taking photographs, one can’t help but feel the energy of the rushing water. It is spring and everything is coming to life. The leaves of the hardwoods are small and not fully grown. Above the river on a small ridge is a campground.

This area was logged at one time but it is difficult to tell. Many of the surrounding trees have grown to a spectacular height giving the feeling of old growth. Walking the road between the campsites is a walk among tall and thick hardwoods with a few pines thrown in.

Big Eric's Bridge in Michigan Upper Peninsula campground campsite.

One of the nice campsites at Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest campground.

There are 21 campsites here, all of them primitive. They have a table and fire ring at each site. Because of its remote location, all trash is carry out. If you bring it in, you bring it out. There are pit toilets and hand pumped water. If you are looking for camping with amenities, this is not your place.

Sitting at one of the picnic tables that overlook the Huron River, i realize how full of life the place was. Birds could be heard all around and the forest floor was just beginning its coverage. The first of the wildflowers were blooming and the Spring Beauties were just beginning to pop.  I love spring in the U.P.

It’s still early in the year and I feel a chill as the sun creeps to day’s end. I hate to go, but it has been a clear day so the night should get cold. The drive back out is a bit regretful. I really wish that i had had more time to spend at that little campground next to Big Eric’s Bridge.

The Huron River is Michigan’s wild and scenic rivers at it’s best. Cold and untamed it’s flow has created a region of wilderness that is evident throughout Baraga County. The watershed encompasses 61,000 acres and is partly shared with Marquette County.

A view down river as it flows to Lake Superior basin.

The river flows onward to Lake Superior and the Huron Bay.

It can be found off of US-41, exit at L’Anse. Turn right at the four-way stop in downtown L’anse and continue 20 miles on Skanee Road (paved). At the junction of Portice Road and Big Erick’s Road, go right on Big Erick’s Road. One mile (gravel) to the campground.

All writing and photography by Mikel B. Classen, copyright  2023
HIstorical pictures courtesy of Baraga County Historical Society
Big Eric's Bridge State Forest Campground Huron River waterfall

Another View of one of the small waterfalls tumbling across the rocks at Big Eric’s Bridge.

Beware! The Moose Are On The Loose – Upper Peninsula of Michigan


This young moose, still in velvet is foraging for food among the Cattails

It has been crazy spring here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as I write this there is a spring snowstorm pounding the western U.P.  The weather, 70 degrees one day, 32 the next, has much of the wildlife on the move across the peninsula. Particularly the moose. There have been several sightings most of which are in Marquette and Baraga Counties.

Sightings near Republic have been reported with several seen along the highway. The one featured on this page was seen on 41 west of Michigamme. This area is not a surprise since that is where they were originally planted. In 1985 and ’87 Michigan planted moose north of Michigamme near the McCormick Wilderness Tract. I know because I was there. They were brought from Ontario with the help of the Safari Club International. 40 years later, we are currently seeing the results of this ambitious project. For more information about the original moose lifts I highly recommend the videos at the bottom.

One of the first moose released in the wilds of the Upper Peninsula in 1987.

Moose seem to have no fear and will cross a road at any given point and they were never taught to look both ways. There have been reports of moose car collisions. I can’t imagine having one of those monsters come flying into my windshield. They are quite tall and that is where they will land. This is a lot different than hitting a deer. A moose can easily weigh a thousand pounds.

When I encountered mine on April 29th, I was driving down U.S. 41 heading to Houghton when I saw cars pulled over along the side of the road on both sides. Thinking there might be wreck ahead I slowed down for safety. As I drove by, I saw the young bull moose in the pictures foraging in a small collection of cattails. He was doing his best to ignore the attention.

Deciding he was becoming too much of an attraction this moose decided to walk towards me.

Eventually he got fed up and began wandering up the road, right past me, at one point he was only 10 feet away. It was then he decided to go across the highway, walking. Fortunately he made it across without incident, but there were moments when he could have become road kill.

Moose like the tubers of cattails that grow under the water. They are quite a delicacy for them.

Though the moose have branched out across the Upper Peninsula, between Marquette and L’anse going north and south, is where the population is the heaviest. Some places in the U.P. are claiming to be the “moose capitol,” but where I’ve stated above, is where your best chances of seeing one is. Also where your best chances are of seeing one in the road and hitting it. There are estimated to be just under 500 moose in Marquette, Baraga and Iron Counties whereas  there are only about 100 in Chippewa, Luce and Alger Counties. Beware, the moose are on the loose and they are truly a sight to behold.

Moose on the Loose!

For more information check out these links: I highly recommend the videos at the bottom.



Awesome moose sticking his tongue out at me as he walks by.

New Release! Faces, Places & Days Gone By, a Pictorial History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

My newest book, Faces, Places, & Days Gone By, is now available. The book contains over 100 historical pictures from my personal collection of Upper Peninsula images. The book is similar to what I’ve done over the years on this website with the historical pictures featured here. Each picture in the book features commentary and a look into Michigan’s past. Through the use of Stereoviews, cabinet cards, postcards and photo prints, there are photos from all corners the U.P.  I will be carrying copies at my upcoming events including this weekend in Escanaba. This is one you won’t want to be without and it is suitable for all ages.

To order click here: Amazon

Here are some early reviews of the new book:

“With his book Faces, Places, and Days Gone By, historian Mikel B. Classen has achieved a work of monumental importance. Drawing from his collection of archival photographs, Classen takes readers on a journey in time that gives rare insight into a vanished world.” —Sue Harrison, international bestselling author of The Midwife’s Touch

Mikel Classen’s Faces, Places, and Days Gone By provides a fascinating and nostalgic look at more than a century of Upper Michigan photography. From images of iron mines and logging to Sunday drives and palatial hotels, you are bound to be in awe of this chance to visit the past.” — Tyler R. Tichelaar, award-winning author of Kawbawgam: The Chief, The Legend, The Man

“Mikel Classen’s new book, Faces, Places, and Days Gone By, belongs in every library in Michigan. And when I say every library, I’m talking about every public, high school and college storehouse of knowledge.” — Michael Carrier, MA, New York University, author of the award-winning Jack Handler U.P. mystery series.

To order click here: Amazon