When I left you last you were exploring Calumet, a town built on copper mining money. So just how big were the mining operations, you ask?
Well, the reminders of those days dot the landscape everywhere in the Keweenaw Peninsula. When I lived there, a few decades ago, I got used to seeing historical stone buildings crumbling.
But I really didn’t see them as I scurried to and fro in my life. On the weekends I’d head out to Lake Superior or the mountains to take pictures but rarely stopped to consider the sad beauty of a world left behind.
Mostly it was all a curiosity to me. Like this stamping equipment. I never stopped to figure out what they were. I guess I considered them sculpture.
These days there’s a sign posted there to explain some of it. They were used to crush rock in order to extradite the copper.
And then there’s the Quincy Mine. Called “Old Reliable,” it operated from 1846 to 1945.
When I lived in Hancock, the Quincy mine shaft was just up the mountain from my house. I never explored it, there could have been deep holes hiding under the overgrown brush, the site was littered with mining equipment and sharp edges. Roofs were falling in. Walls were rusted or collapsing.
It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s a tourist attraction complete with guided tours.
Though it was closed for the season, we were able to explore the grounds in safety this week on a pretty morning with the sun just coming up. There’s a beautiful building that housed the hoist that glowed in the morning light.
There are a couple of old railway cars waiting for that next load of copper…
…and several walls of outbuildings that show the beautiful masonry.
I was thrilled to be able to wander the grounds without fear of falling into a mine shaft.
And to do it on the one day in the entire week with sunshine was doubly wonderful.
There are buildings and equipment everywhere. This dredge has been sitting stuck on the bottom of the canal for decades. It looked just like this when I lived there in the late 70s.
And life is still hard way up north on the peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior.
There’s something magical about this place, something hard to explain, hard to put a finger on.
The addictive combination of history and natural beauty gets into a person’s blood.
And it doesn’t ever let go.