Ah, summer in the Upper Peninsula, I love it. Visitors from all over the country people the downtown, the food trucks are a lot easier to find (thanks, Dia De Los Tacos), and the days seem to last forever. Neighborhood kids come home during the summer when the street lights start to glow and that could be close to 10 pm. It may sound late, but most Yooper moms are remiss to end a street game of Bloody Murder tag in a place where the weather is so unpredictable – and murders are relatively few.
Those long days are another claim to fame in the U.P. You can complain about the sun setting at 4:00 pm in January, but the area makes up for those short days in spades once the weather turns warm; summer days here are endless. In fact, the U.P. is home to some of the longest days in the Contiguous United States. You may have noticed, the U.P. sits pretty far north, and, if you take a look at a time zone map, you’ll see that it’s also located in the westernmost part of the Eastern Time Zone. It’s a recipe for light long past where the sun sets in most places.
In fact, the longest day the United States sees in EST in 2019 will be right here in the Yoop.
Astronomers and other smart people (along with centuries of sky gazers) mark the passage of time by following the path of the sun. They call the shortest and longest days of the year the solstices – winter solstice and summer solstice.
The winter solstice is the short one – on December 21, 2019, the sun will set at its most early. It happens between December 20 and 23 in the southern part of the U.S. From that day on, the sun sets just a little bit later, making us all feel like the day is longer. Those little bits of longer days culminate to the latest sunset of the year, called the summer solstice. Summer’s solstice, also called midsummer, happens in the Northern hemisphere (that’s definitely the U.P.). This solstice is the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun lands directly above the Tropic of Cancer.
The start of summer is something every Yooper anticipates – even the snow lovers – because there’s just more fun to pack into each day when the sun sticks around longer. This year, the summer solstice falls on another important day – my mom’s birthday – June 21, and the last place I can take her to see the sun go down that day is in Ontonagon, Michigan.
If you need a reason to get out of the big city and appreciate the longest day, consider the difference between the summer sunsets of the Upper Peninsula and those of our nearest neighbors. Ontonagon is so far west in the Eastern Time Zone – 80 miles further west than Menominee – but still abides in Eastern Standard Time.
Chicago sits much further east, yet it doesn’t get the midsummer sunlight nearly as long. Chicagoians may appreciate the 8:29 sunset, and Packer fans can boast about their extra eleven minutes of sun, which sets at 8:40, but it’s nothing compared to what happens in the Upper Peninsula. In Ontonagon, locals won’t see the sun set until 9:55 pm. On that day, the sun will rise at 6:05 am – that’s 16 hours of sunlight! Not only that, the clear skies of the Upper Peninsula mean you can see a lot further, and the lakes and forests means there’s so much more to see.
Check out what’s happening throughout the states during the Solstice and how it compares in the Upper Peninsula.
The longest day of the year ending in the Yoop is another fun fact for those you meet during your travels. As ambassador of the Upper Peninsula and purveyor of all things Yoop, it’s a moral imperative that I track down this last, longest sunset. Hopefully, I can capture an image or two of the longest summer day in 2019. Look for it at the U.P. Supply Co. This is nothing new, for six years straight I have tracked down the first sunrise of the new year along one of the Great Lakes.
It was Catherine Opie that once said, “The biggest cliche in photography is sunrise and sunset.” However, I have never watched a sunset and thought, “Gosh, I really wish I didn’t watch that.”
The question on the minds of the rest of the nation – those who don’t get the longest day of the year – is probably how we will spend this stretch of day. Jumping off Black Rocks before heading to Black Rocks for a brew, hiking Lake of the Clouds in Ontonagon, diving face-first into a berry pie at Syl’s, or ending with a sunset kayaking adventure in Munising.
I’m not sure I’ll have time for all of them, but it’s the longest day of the year. It’s worth a shot.
You’ll be able to find me on the shores of Lake Superior on June 21st, at 5:55AM for sunrise and 9:45PM for sunset.