In the pearly gray minutes before dawn, a family of frisky raccoons lopes across the narrow gravel road through the upper peninsula sanctuary of Seney National Wildlife Refuge (85 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie). Regal trumpeter swans glide across a pond that the rising sun paints newborn-baby pink. A little brown grouse scurries into the brush. Some 200 varieties of birds and 45 kinds of animals, including deer and bears, make their homes in this preserve.
Plan an hour for The 7-mile drive that circles the ponds, the only part of the 95,000 acres of marshes, forests and fields accessible by car. You'll want to stop at observation decks along the way, where telescopes provide close-up views of ducks, loons and other waterfowl.
At Northland Outfitters in Germfask (2 miles south of the refuge) you can rent canoes, kayaks and mountain bikes to explore Seney's backcountry, 70 miles of gravel trails or the easy Manistique River. Mom-and-pop motels welcome guests in Germfask and other tiny rustic towns.
A 25-mile drive north through forests that rustle in scarlet and orange takes you to Grand Marais, which curves around a harbor and resembles a storybook fishing village. Stroll agate beaches there along blue Lake Superior. Then, fill up on whitefish in the casual Sportsman's Restaurant. You'll probably wind up chatting with other diners about wildlife-watching.