Monday, June 4, 2012

Keweenah Peninsula: May 27-28, part 2

Continuing from yesterday...

Sunday, May 27th

The day started out with pouring rain.  Joe and I went out for breakfast.  What started out as "just breakfast" turned into the entirety of our activities for the morning.  It took 15 minutes for them to seat us, probably another 15 to bring us menus and water, and then we sat and waited for our food for another half an hour.  Pancakes, scrambled eggs, nothing that should have taken that long!  I think it was just the first busy weekend, two new and stressed out waitresses, and perhaps a slow kitchen staff.  However, I was irked.  Good thing there was wi-fi: Joe and I spent our looooong wait enjoying the wonders of the internet.  I ate the whole giant plate of food out of spite and determination, and I regretted it later with a stomachache.

We went for a drive, hoping to find the Estivant Pines, but were not successful.  The signage was kind of confusing, the road was muddy and uneven, and I was still grumpy from the breakfast debacle.  We needed to cheer up...time for ghost towns and copper mines!

I asked the proprietor of our motel about mines in the area, and he suggested the Delaware Mine.  I will not torture you all with Gimli jokes ("and they call it a mine.  A MINE!!!")...okay, just once.  :-)

Apparently there were no tall miners!  Joe was hunched over much of the time.
After a short video about the history of copper mining in Copper Harbor, we donned our excellent Miner's Hats and headed down the 100 steps to the top level of the mine, 110 feet underground.  It was very cold and damp, but very neat.

Long creepy mine tunnel, lit at the levels that the miners would have had.
The tunnels went off in either direction, and it is kind of hard to say how long they were.  We certainly didn't zip down the tunnels, but they felt hundreds of feet long each.  There were other people down there with us, but it still felt how eerie and old.  Joe mentioned that there were more levels below - going down to 1,400 feet - and they were all flooded.  We saw a few mine shafts that lead to deeper levels that were filled with water.  All of the timbers, the mining cars, personal belongings - all left behind and covered with a thousand feet of water.  I started thinking about drowned miners, trapped forever in the depths. 

Some copper miners of olde: note the candles on their mining hats.
I completely freaked myself out but managed to hold it together until we got outside.  I do wish I'd had more pictures of the mine tunnels - but it's not easy to take pictures in the dark. 

Ahh, that's better.  Outside, away from the spirits of angry dead miners.
There were many buildings on the property: the blacksmith house, power house, stuff like that.  I was still not feeling great from the giant breakfast - and it was starting to rain again - so we headed back to the motel for some gaming and relaxing.

We played lots of cribbage.
And I knit a pair of socks.
When the rain cleared up, we went back out to Hunter's Point.  This time we headed to the left, away from the point.  We walked along the rocky beach and enjoyed the crashing waves, the rock formations, and the life along the shore. 

Joe walking along the shore, dodging waves and looking for skipping stones
Even though it was a cold and off-and-on rainy day, we got outside and had fun.  I really liked the mine tour.  If I were 10 years old again, upon exiting the mine I would have immediately grabbed a notebook and started writing a terribly ill-informed story about a girl that worked in a mine.  :-)  After our second trip to Hunter's Point, we played more cribbage until it was time to crash.

Monday, May 28 (Memorial Day)

We passed through the town of Calumet on the way back to Minnesota, and it really captured our attention.  You may wonder why a town of 800 people on the Upper Peninsula would interest us!  Well, Joe was intrigued by the stonework on some of the buildings in the historical center of town.  We drove through it, amazed at the sheer number of grand stone buildings - lots of churches, the vast majority of them abandoned and boarded up.  What had happened??

Well, Calumet had a copper boom in the late 19th century, and by 1900 over 25,000 people lived in Calumet and the surrounding area.  As we drove through, I joked about "the Finnish Lutheran church, the German Lutheran church, the Swedish Lutheran church, the Estonian Lutheran church...".  It turns out that I wasn't that far off: immigrants from literally dozens of European countries flooded into Calumet, creating what must have been an amazing mix of humanity around this wealthy town.  Wealthy enough for each group to build their own giant churches, at least!

It was intriguing to think about what it would be like to try and run a town that had lost 97% of its population since it's huge building boom.  I admire Calumet's determination to keep their history around - even if the buildings are not being used.

Anyway, we headed back to Minnesota.  As we got closer to Duluth/Superior, we became aware of the black, black clouds ahead.  Once we were in range, we turned on the local broadcast of the Twins game.  Severe thunderstorm warning: large hail, high winds.  Just as it started to rain, Joe saw a gas station with an overhang.  We pulled under it just as the hail started.  Unfortunately, the trunk of his car stuck out from under the overhang.  Quarter-size hail began to pelt it.  Luckily, we thought quickly and put our coats on the trunk to keep the hail from dinging it.

Sacrificing coats to protect Rasputin
And that was our trip!  Mines, hiking, going out for food, great views, cribbage, general nerdery at the historical site, driving around, and enjoying time with my best guy.  Couldn't be better. 

Hooray Michigan!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you guys really had a little bit of everything on your trip! Even if the weather spoiled things a bit, I hope you look back on it with much fondness. :-)