Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


The reason it’s called the Copper Country

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?

These mining buildings have stood at the base of the mountain for more than a century.

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.

Once a part of a huge complex of buildings.

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.

Imagine the noise these made when they were in operation! They’re right in the middle of a small group of houses.

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.

A reminder of what once was.

And then there’s the Quincy Mine. Called “Old Reliable,” it operated from 1846 to 1945.

Quincy # 2 was a reliable producer.

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.

Early morning light shines on yesterday’s equipment.

It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s a tourist attraction complete with guided tours.

Still photogenic after all these years.

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.

I always loved this building and I’m so glad it’s been saved.

There are a couple of old railway cars waiting for that next load of copper…

This might need a little work to haul anything away these days.

…and several walls of outbuildings that show the beautiful masonry.

Look at those corner stones!

I was thrilled to be able to wander the grounds without fear of falling into a mine shaft.

Looking back through history.

And to do it on the one day in the entire week with sunshine was doubly wonderful.

I loved that the sun was filling this empty building and glowing right out this side!

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.

Sometimes it seems like nothing has changed at all.

And life is still hard way up north on the peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior.

More than 30 years ago I lived in the upstairs flat. Two of the four rooms didn’t have electricity. I think of it fondly.


There’s something magical about this place, something hard to explain, hard to put a finger on.

Magic in the morning.

The addictive combination of history and natural beauty gets into a person’s blood.

And it doesn’t ever let go.

Quincy stands tall.


Entering via Ellis

Ellis Island is waiting for you.

Ellis Island is waiting for you.

The best advice I can give you about visiting Ellis Island is to give yourself a lot of time because there’s so much to see. Take it slow and let all that history sink in. And try to take a ranger guided tour. (Check for times at the information center inside the building.)

Telling us the story.

Telling us the story.

In a short half hour guided tour you’ll get a great base of knowledge which will help you understand all the rest. Our ranger used the story of a sixteen year old girl’s experience as she traveled across the ocean and through the system at Ellis Island.

At the end he reveled that girl was his grandmother. And that his grandfather came across as a young man not too long after and lived only a few blocks away from his grandmother. And the rest, he says, is his family’s history.

People passing through Ellis Island today.

People passing through Ellis Island today.

Did you know that only the third class and steerage passengers had to go through Ellis Island? I didn’t either. First and second class passengers got the run of the ship, and were able to begin their new lives here in America as soon as they arrived. Those who only paid about $300 (in current dollars) for their passage were brought to the island to be inspected.

The luggage was left in the luggage room and they were sent upstairs to wait. As they climbed the stairs they were observed. If they appeared sick people at the top of the stairs marked their coats with chalk. Those people were examined more carefully.

Both the luggage and the passengers had to be inspected.

Both the luggage and the passengers had to be inspected.

The rest waited in benches in a huge and beautiful room.

The Grand Hall waiting area would have been filled with long benches.

The Grand Hall waiting area would have been filled with long benches.

Perhaps they had never seen such a place before, or if they had, as the ranger said, rooms such as this would have been built in castles, not for people like them.

Beautiful floors.

Beautiful floors.

But this was America, where anything was possible. Note the curved tile ceilings and the mosaic floors.

An immigrant could wait for a few hours, or days for their name to be called, but once it was they moved forward to answer the inspector’s questions. They were the same questions the ship company asked; What is your name, Where are you going? Where will you live? How much money do you have? If you answered correctly and passed the eye exam and a cursory physical you were allowed to leave and begin your new life.

Notice the beautiful tiled arches.  And the original fixture.

Notice the beautiful tiled arches. And the original fixture.

If you did not pass, say you forgot the address of the family member taking you in, you were sent to have a hearing. You could bring in witnesses to collaborate your story. Many immigrants had never seen government treat them so fairly. It was one of their first lessons about freedom in America, and ninety-eight percent of those that arrived were eventually allowed into the country.

Still, it was a terrifying experience, to travel in the belly of a ship, arrive in a strange place, listen to strange languages, be told where to sit, be questioned by uniformed strangers. What hope and strength they must have had to travel toward such an uncertain future.

Thousands of people a day.  So many faces.

Thousands of people a day. So many faces.

They told us that forty percent of Americans today can trace a relative through Ellis Island. Forty percent of us owe our lives to someone that took the risk and came to make a better life.

If you’re ever in New York take the time to visit this historic place. Look at the views of Manhattan from the windows of the grand building. Think about what it must have felt like to sit looking across that water at the place you’d dreamed about.

Over there was opportunity.

Over there was opportunity.

And think about all they had left behind; family they’d never see again, familiar homes and towns. Think about what it must have been like to have only a few possessions, a few dollars, to know only a few people here in the new country.

So many.

So many.

Then think about how lucky we are to have been born here. Regardless of your political views, regardless of the stress of an election year, regardless of economic times, this is still the greatest country in the world.

We should take time to appreciate that.

Freedom forever.

Freedom forever.


Remembering Reagan

Saturday we visited the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.  It sits high on a ridge overlooking mountains and valleys.  What a beautiful location.  We sat for quite awhile on the terrace just enjoying the view. (Click on photos to see more detail.)



Whether or not you liked Reagan you come out of his library thinking that he had some pretty rational ideas.  One in particular feels like it’s still appropriate today:

Can we learn from history?

Can we learn from history?

The economy, when he began his first term, sounds a lot like the way things are now.  Unemployment, uncertainty, people unhappy with the way government was working.  I remember those days like they were yesterday.  In some ways I guess they were yesterday.  It felt a bit uncomfortable looking at history that I’ve actually lived and it made me feel old to watch parents explaining to their children the importance of Reagan’s agreement with Russia.

"Tear down that wall!"

“Tear down that wall!”

We walked through the oval office replica, and through Air Force One which was smaller than I thought it would be, yet huge inside it’s very own glass hanger.

Forever flying.

Forever flying.

We paid our respects at Reagan’s final resting place too.  Once again I felt old as a young girl stopped, read the marker and exclaimed “He was born in 1911??” then twirled away down the sidewalk as another little girl said “I was just a baby when he died.”



Can you see what it says?  Let me read it for you:  “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

True Mr. President.  True.

Photo of mural at library.

Mural at library.

We left Simi Valley and headed north, the late afternoon sun making the hillsides glow.  Another perfect day



I don’t know where we’re going tomorrow — that’s the best part about this vacation.  No deadlines, no commitments, we just look at the map every evening and head out when the sun comes up.


Oval Office history

Oval Office history