´¯`•. June 04, 2015

Vacation Time!

((day eight: Copper Country))

Okay.  We were officially worn out.
And we hated Houghton.

Yes, I realize it’s where Michigan Tech is, but it sucks.  Too many people, too hard to navigate, too much in too little space.  The only good part about Houghton?  Is Hancock.  See, on the SOUTH side of the bridge, it’s Houghton.  On the NORTH side of the bridge is Hancock.  Which is smaller, older, more spacious, a little more run down and homey.  So basically, if you’re into yuppie, money, ego, BS, showy… go to Houghton.  If you move at a little smaller, slower, simple pace, you’ll prefer Hancock.  Which has Finlandia University (the Lutheran College).  Which is also a study of contrasts – in Houghton it’s science, in Hancock, it’s religion.  Kind of fun, that.  ((And Hancock had a Jewish synagogue, which thrilled my kids to pieces… and was just beautiful!))

We had spent the night in Houghton, and woke up to people.  LOTS of people, crawling all over the breakfast area of the hotel.  Yuppie, noisy, showy people.  We took one look, turned around, and fled back to our room… where Brian grabbed a shower while I made lunches, readied children, and packed what we needed for the day, and we went to McDonald’s to eat breakfast away from the shiny people.  Yes, there are people at McD’s, but they’re a different kind of people.  They’re Merle and Joe and Pete, who get together ev’r Saturdee mornin’ t’have coffee n’ watch the folks come in fer breakfast.  OUR kinda people.  People who, like me, don’t use cellphones.  Who have a hundred stories and don’t mind taking the time to share them.

IMG_6454 (555x308)Quincy Mine, north of Hancock, as seen from Houghton (by our hotel).

Then we drove up to the Quincy Mine.  I could do a whole post on the Quincy Mine, alone!  Up until last year, it was the deepest mine in the world, at 9,260 feet.  It was also the safest of the five mines in Copper Country.  And yes, these are copper mines.  They’re still full of copper, although all of the mines closed by 1995, and the Quincy is now submerged in water for 85 of its 92 levels.  We only went down to level seven (360ft underground), because that’s where the water is drained to. It was fascinating.  We first toured the surface level, seeing the hoist houses and the ride the men took down (15mph, three men in a row, 30 men at a time, at a 45 degree angle in the pitch black.  Yikes!)

IMG_6462 (416x555)The tram the men used to ride down into the mine.
The box next to it is their bailer – how they got the water out.

IMG_6495 (416x555)The hoist.  The man in this building could bring men to
any of the 92 levels without seeing a thing – with no errors.

We suited up in hard hats and Carhardtts, rode a tram down (5mph, two families, at a 30 degree angle on an outdoor track – FAR milder than what the miners did!).

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Then we entered the shaft in a covered wagon pulled by a tractor.  It was really amazing, down there, and the kids LOVED it.  We learned how they extracted the copper, how it got hotter the deeper they went (people who worked on level 90 worked in 100 degree heat with 100 percent humidity!)  And we got little copper bits at the gift shop.  Oops… but you’d like pictures, right?

IMG_6507 (416x555)Riding the tram down to the mineIMG_6508 (416x555)Entrance to the seventh (of ninety-two!) levels.IMG_6529 (555x416)You have NO idea how hard it is to photograph
underground, like this.  It was dark down there.  They shut the lights out on us,
too… to simulate what it was like if the candles on the miners helmets went out!

We got to talk to the family (of four) that were on our tour – he was a logger from Iron Mountain, and his kids were very well behaved.  We all hunted up the bat shaft (to protect the animals) together and tossed rocks down 360ft to hear the plunk.  They wondered where we were going after, but… I evaded.  It’s just too much to much to get into!  They weren’t sure where to go – they thought the Fort (which we planned to avoid, too expensive).  But they weren’t sure.  So see?  The benefits of having a full Excel plan!  They probably would’ve scoffed at my anal itinerary.

IMG_6538 (555x416)Our next stop was Hungarian Falls.  Which we barely saw from 200ft above them (there wasn’t a good trail to them).  It was kind of a bummer, after all the hiking to try to get to them.  I was severely annoyed… we kept climbing and climbing and climbing on this trail, and I could hear them, way down below… but couldn’t get to them…!!!!  Brian poked fun of me, of course.  ((Some people’s husbands…))

IMG_6541 (555x500)Then we went to Sand Hills Light, but it’s a hotel that wants to make $$, and doesn’t want non-staying guests walking around.  So mostly we just took a picture and left.  Our family’s just too big to fit in one of their rooms.  Or two of their rooms, for that matter.  ((In case you were wondering, we’re sardines when we travel.  I keep trying to talk Brian into letting us take our camper, but he’s afraid of taking it too far.  We’re… working out the logistics on that.))

IMG_6542 (409x555)Eagle River falls was right in the town of Eagle River, but they boarded up the middle of them to make the falls.  Kind of cheatish.  Okay, a LOT cheatish… and ugly. I was irritated.  Bring in rock and build up the middle if you want, but this was just wrong.  I’m apparently too naturalist to put up with this. ((snort!))

IMG_6544 (555x278)We also stopped and saw the Eagle River Light.  Because I’m a crazy lighthouse lady, and some things just have to be.  On our way out of town, we saw a hitch-hiking Scotsman in kilt.  Due to seven people in one van (with a ton of our stuff), we didn’t stop to pick him up, but I kind of regretted it, after.  Would’ve been interesting to say we picked up a hitch-hiking Scot in a kilt.  And besides, it would’ve been a mitzvah.  Brian says I have to stop being so fanciful.  Ah, well!  And as if that’s the strangest thing we saw on the peninsula…?

IMG_6548 (394x555)Just outside of town were the Jacob Falls (also right on the side of the road) – right next to a tiny shop called ‘Jam Pot’ that sold jellies.  Suddenly this guy dressed in long black robes and a beard down to his navel comes out and starts walking down the road.  I thought, ‘What is this?  A medieval festival or something?!’.  First Scottish McKilt, and now I was watching Friar Jampot walking down the road… while walking up the road toward us is a younger version of the same thing!  Weird, weird, weird!

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So then we were pulling out and driving, and the next building we saw was… funky.

IMG_6553 (555x410)There’s no other word for it.  And so we pulled over, and there’s a gardener there, so I (being me) ask him what that place is.  “It’s the monastery.  The monks own the little store, and their jellies are fantastic.”  the caretaker told me.  Well!  How about that!  That was interesting!

IMG_6560 (416x555)Driving on, we saw some amazing shoreline, but we didn’t get out and pick up stones, because once we hit Copper Harbor… well, let’s just say that it’s not called that just because of the copper in the mines.  All of the rock – the outcroppings on the side of the road, the stones on the shore… it’s all ruddy red.  It makes for a pretty colorful photo, but it wasn’t really fun, all of the stone exactly the same.

IMG_6586 (414x555)Then we hit Eagle Harbor and visited the lighthouse, there.  IMG_6568 (416x555)The rocks were amazing… we climbed all down and around on them.IMG_6581 (555x494)There was a gift shop across the street, and they had copper postcards, so we were really geeked about that… also about finding something cold to drink.  Hiking, climbing and traveling is hard work!

IMG_6592 (416x555)And we then were traveling on the Brockway Mountain drive.  It was beautiful – lots of motorcyclists apparently like doing the drive.  It was crazy, but a lovely view, glimpses of the water here and there, the blossoms coming out, and the winding road…!

Along the road were the Silver River Falls, but there was a trail that went back, back, back into the woods, and the further we went, the prettier and bigger they got.  Besides, the smell of the pine was just intoxicating.  It was nice to stretch our legs again, too.

IMG_6601 (555x286)Had to stop to see an ore freighter out on the lake, but wasn’t that a treat?  Anyhow, we were up almost to the tip of the Keewenau Penninsula, by then, and started coming down around.  The Fort is out on the tip, but being that we just spent our quota on the Quincy mine tour, we passed on that.

IMG_6605 (555x551)Our next goal was Bete Gris Lighthouse, followed by Haven Falls.  Both were very easy to get to, and dipping our hands in the Haven Falls was refreshing.

IMG_6609 (416x555)Haven FallsIMG_6613 (555x241)I started it… but it was fun, dipping in.  And they liked it.

And then we were on our way back down to Houghton.  All seven of us, and two more ticks.  ((O_o))  Nightly tick checks are common on our vacations…  oi m’vey.

Ah… Houghton, how I loathe thee!  We supped at Pizza Hut where they didn’t bring us sauce with the bread sticks, screwed up our pizza twice, then didn’t bother to bring us the check or box at the end.  We just sat… and sat… and sat…  Houghton, where we went to the hotel pool to swim, and the water was so frigid that my kids wouldn’t get in it… and the hot tub was so hot that it turned our skin red and hurt to be in.  On the way back to the room after not swimming, we saw postcards.  Everywhere else over the last seven days, postcards have been 3/$1… in Houghton, they’re 2/$1.  The town did not make a friend out of me, on *any* level.

But by the end of the night, we were DONE.
Thank goodness the next day
we’d be traveling home.
((((TEN. HOURS.))))

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PoST SCRiPT:  Since this is the last vacation post, I should mention that on the way home, we did see a wolf.  It was standing on the side of the road, just staring at us, it’s mouth open, and it’s tongue hanging out.  And I said, “Watch out for the dog… wait, that’s a WOLF!!!”  And my Lydia (who is ALL about the wolf) squealed and hyperventilated for about sixteen miles straight, after that.  I had kept my eye open for moose and black bear, but ended up seeing her wolf.  I can live with that.  ((wink!))

day oneday twoday threeday four
day fiveday six aday six bday sevenday eight

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1 Comment

  1. Sounds like a great trip! Thanks for linking me to it. My kids are super into mining, coal mining because we live in coal country. But I would LOVE to visit a copper mine!


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