Things that made me smile this week:
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.
If you’ve been complaining about the unseasonably cold weather, and you don’t like the snow you’ve received so early in the season, well, maybe you should skip this post.
Because my husband and I are further north than normal. And my goodness there’s a bunch of snow up here.
And it’s cold too.
Did I mention cold and windy? Perfect for a short trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
We spent our first night at Mackinaw City, at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula, just before the 5 mile long bridge that connects the two parts of our state.
This morning we took a quick tour around town. Most everything is closed until next spring. It was sort of lonely. And really really cold, just 18 degrees (that’s -7.77 C).
The sky was so interesting, with a row of puffy clouds hanging right above the Straights…
…but both east and west of where we stood were ominous clouds, some dropping what looked like snow. That didn’t bode well for our drive west.
We headed over the bridge and started the long trek across the Upper Peninsula. We traveled along the shores of Lake Michigan for awhile, then headed north and drove along the shore of Lake Superior. Lots of boring grey skies on both sides of the Peninsula.
So we stopped to take a break in Munising, the home of Pictured Rocks, a beautiful park that celebrates cliffs and waterfalls in this wild part of our state.
Lucky for us there’s a parking lot not 800 feet from Munising Falls located right in town.
Also lucky for us no one else was there so we got to enjoy the beauty of the frozen waterfall all by ourselves.
Then we got brave and decided we’d drive out to Miners Falls, even though we weren’t sure the roads would be plowed. And some of them were not.
But since a few other people had driven on the road beyond the point that the county kept them open, we decided to go for it. I won’t lie, this made me very nervous and I was grateful we didn’t meet anyone going the other way, so we could drive right down the middle of the road in the tracks of the car (or more likely the truck) that had gone before.
Once again we saw no one out there. The woods were simply stunning.
Out half a mile, then down multiple flights of stairs that hadn’t been cleared. But it was worth it.
Definitely worth it, don’t you think?
And then, after getting back to the car a bit tired and wet, instead of heading back to town my husband headed further out on the unmaintained road to go see Miners Castle, a rock formation out at the lake.
Granted I had never been there and I had always wanted to see it, but I was stressing that the road wasn’t plowed and no one was out there and I was having flashbacks of being on this exact road in 1979 with a college friend when the water pump in my Chevette died. That was an adventure, and it had been a warm fall day with no snow!
But that’s another story.
Anyway…we got to the Miners Castle visitor center (which was of course closed) and waded through more snow out to the platform to see it. It, too, was beautiful.
And then we walked all the way down through fencing that reminded me of the security at the Atlanta airport, to see the formation from close up.
It was all fun, though I could no longer feel my toes. But it was beginning to seriously snow, and we had 3 hours to our destination on a good day.
So we headed back toward civilization, and crept over to Houghton, averaging about 40 miles per hour through increasing snow and decreasing visibility.
Tomorrow we will explore a bit around here. Both of us used to live here, different years and different reasons, and we look forward to seeing what’s changed. I moved away 43 years ago. Lots will probably be different. But Lake Superior will always be Lake Superior and I look forward to seeing more of it again.
I just hope all the roads are plowed.
It’s Lake Superior Day! Well. OK, it’s not a nationally recognized holiday but for me day 3 was all about Lake Superior. I couldn’t be in the Upper Peninsula, so close to the big lake, and not go for a visit.
So I drove from Tahquamenon Falls State Park up to Grand Marais which sits on the shore of the massive Great Lake and arrived just as a storm was rolling in.
Perfect timing! Some people might be bummed out that there was rain (literally) on the horizon. But not me. The sky was amazing and I rushed down to the shore.
I was not alone.
Though there was wind and the threat of rain, several families strolled the beach.
Once the clouds rolled through I went for a quick lunch at a local restaurant, wandered the town and checked out the bay. I don’t know why, but this kayak caught my eye. I still haven’t figured out just why I like this shot. But I do.
With some advice from friends I traveled along the shore of Lake Superior, visited a waterfall….
…and explored a campground, potential for a future adventure…
…but my all time favorite place on this adventure was along the trail to the Au Sable Lighthouse. I’d visited the lighthouse two years ago, and this year I didn’t walk all the way out there. Too many tourists.
This time I took a short trail out to the lake and walked along the shore. I love Lake Michigan, enjoy Lake Huron, was pleasantly surprised this past spring by the beauty of Lake Erie. But there’s something extraordinary about putting your feet in Lake Superior.
Lots of people had been before me. But I had the place all to myself for the time I was there.
I climbed up on some big rocks and listened to the lake gurgle against the underside of them. Watched the water move, the clouds, the seagulls. Took a gazillion photos. Smiled.
Eventually I climbed down, gathered up two rocks from the shore and headed back to the car. Someday I hope to camp at the Hurricane River campground which sits right across the trail from the lake. Not during a hurricane of course.
My last stop of the day was Munising. By the time I arrived it had begun to rain in earnest so I stayed only long enough to check out the harbor and grab a sandwich for dinner.
Pictured Rocks is there, and it would be fun to take a kayack tour of the cliffs. But that would have to wait for another trip, a sunnier day. I headed back to the campground, two hours away, satisfied with what I had seen on this trip to Lake Superior.
I ate my sandwich in the tent as the gentle rain fell. And fell. And fell. It rained for nine hours, luckily all overnight. In the morning I’d head out again. Time to go home.
I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the last installment of vacation photos. Those of you on Facebook have already seen where we were on Monday, our last day of vacation, but to keep my blog complete I’ll show you again!
Monday we were still in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so we stopped by Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We were only going to take a quick look, but it was so beautiful we couldn’t keep our visit brief.
Early in the morning there was still a mist over the water down by the lower falls.
Of course we had to stop and enjoy that view…then we wandered down the boardwalk to get up close and personal with the river. If any of you have been here in the summer you know that people row boats over to the island in the middle of the river and play on the big flat rocks. Last Monday the roar of the water made even the thought of playing in the river impossible.
Like every waterfall we saw last week the water flow was much more than normal for this time of year. We stood there mesmerized for a long time.
Eventually we headed over to the upper falls, where you can stand on a platform right at the edge and watch the water rush by your feet.
Isn’t it beautiful? You can also go down 116 steps to the river…
…and get another stunning view.
Now we were really behind schedule, but we wanted to see one more lighthouse in the UP…and it wasn’t that far away, so after we climbed back up the stairs we popped over to the Point Iroquis lighthouse. Meet the man lucky enough to live in this one…
…and his cat Ziggy.
It’s a beautiful lighthouse sitting right on the shore of Lake Superior, built in 1870. Part of it is a private residence, and part of it is a museum.
You can go up in the tower for free; here’s one of the many beautiful views:
Then, reluctantly, we headed south for home. That included a foggy trip across the Mackinac Bridge, always a thrill regardless of the weather….
…and a stop in Mackinaw City which has the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse…
…and believe it or not, just two miles up the road the McGullpin lighthouse, built in 1868 and privately owned from 1913 to 2008.
It’s a beautiful little lighthouse with a view from the tower of the bridge. Don’t miss this one if you’re ever up in the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula! I didn’t know it was there, and it’s only been open for a few years. They take donations, but you can go up in the tower for free.
By now it was late in the day and we still had hours of drive ahead of us to get home. No more dawdling, I had to be at work in the morning. So we headed for the freeway and hurried home. We’ve been home all week and I’m still missing ‘up north.’
Till the next trip I’ll just have to enjoy the memories.
I know you just can’t get enough lighthouses and waterfalls are always a favorite, so here’s how we spent Sunday in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along Lake Superior’s shore. Sit down…this might take a bit of time.
On our way out of the Copper Country we stopped in Marquette, one of the largest towns in the UP. There we saw the Marquette lighthouse.
It was built in 1866 and is the oldest building in Marquette. There’s a tour available, but we had so much to see that day we decided not to wait. We’ll be through Marquette again, and it’s now on our list of things to do on the next trip.
The museum there has a few retired Coast Guard boats out front, and I’m putting this photo in just for friend Michelle who is retired from the Coast Guard.
These guys have seen better days, but still, they’re being recognized for their work keeping the waterways safe, so it’s all good.
Then as we were passing through Munising we stopped for a quick visit to Miners Falls.
We and about 30 of our closest friends walked the short walkway back to the falls and shot the obligatory picture. Then husband and I climbed stairs and shot one that was more interesting. There is a lot of water falling over the cliff, unusual for this time of year, which made it especially pretty.
Onward we went, heading east across the top of the UP to the Au Sable Light Station, located way out on an isolated point of land near Grand Marais. This is, perhaps, my favorite lighthouse, both because it’s beautiful and because it’s so isolated. As early as 1622 this bit of land was called the most dangerous place for ships during storms because of reefs just offshore. To get to the lighthouse, after you drive miles through beautiful countryside, you walk down a 1.5 mile path along the shore of Lake Superior.
We had a beautiful day and enjoyed listening to the quiet little waves roll against the shore just feet from our path and the golden light streaming in through the fall colors. But still, the 1.5 miles seemed like more. And then finally, finally you could just catch a glimpse. Do you see it?
It’s a window and a bit of the tower. And as you move closer, and then explore the grounds you see what a wonderful building it is.
And inside the rooms were huge, painted as they would have been in 1910, with wonderful views of the lake outside the many windows.
We stayed there a long time, and not just because we were resting up from the 1.5 mile hike in and the 94 stairs up to the top of the tower (where you could see views like this!)…or the thought of the 1.5 mile hike back to the car.
Really. It was just that it was so beautiful there.
We eventually had to move on…we wanted to get to Whitefish Point for sunset…many miles to the east. But first we stopped at Sable Falls, a waterfall quite close to the lighthouse. The information we had said the walk to the falls was only 500 yards from the parking lot. We knew we could do that, though we were stiffening up on the drive over there.
It is an absolutely beautiful waterfall!
They apparently didn’t think it was important to mention the 166 steps you needed to climb down in order to see this wonderful waterfall. Or the 166 steps you had to drag yourself back up after.
But we made it, and lived to laugh all 500 yards back to the car.
Now we had to really hurry to get out to Whitefish Point, along the eastern edge of the UP, up at the top, it’s near where the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a November storm in 1975.
We arrived as the sun was sinking, the evening was warm, the light was pink.
Sunday night the lake was deceptively calm and as we waited for the sunset we watched another freighter pass silently by.
We walked maybe a half a mile or more down the beach, clambering over logs tossed to shore during past storms and slipping on smooth Superior polished stones as we chased the sun. We must have taken hundreds of pictures of the sky filled with peach and pink and then orange light. I’ll share just one. You can imagine the rest.
After the sun went down and the freighter slipped over the horizon we picked our way through the growing darkness to the car.
And we smiled.