FYI...I have a very well-worn Michigan map--this map has tagged along, everywhere I have traveled in Michigan; I bought this map sometime back in 1993; not all that long after I moved here. You'd think I'd get a new map--and I have. But there's just something about THIS map...it's like an old friend--and you just don't throw away old friends! After this latest excursion--I have the seams taped together with clear packing tape--makes it a little squeeky & stiff when opening and closing...kind of reminds me how I feel some days!
In our last blog entry, it was Monday 20 July & we were at Van Ripper State Park, just outside of Champion MI. We are planning on heading west across Hwy 28/Hwy 41; north on Hwy 41 through Baraga, Houghton/Hancock & onward to Copper Harbor--camping at Ft. Wilkins State Park for the next two days.
The drive through this area is beautiful! The short drive along Keweenaw Bay (Lake Superior) just outside Baraga, reminded me of a vacation I once took along the coast in California.
What visually impressed me a short time later, was our arrival into Houghton and crossing the river over into Hancock. These two harbor towns, are what I envisioned the coastal areas in Maine to be; with its small fishing harbors and such. We didn't stop here initially, hoping to make it to Copper Harbor in time to set up camp before the rains came; the heat was beginning to build and NOAA was predicting thunderstorms!
As we drove further north on Hwy 41, the road became rather hilly and narrow--eventually, meandering through pines so thick, their boughs touching each other overhead. This created a tunnel--maybe more like a cathederal...boughs high enough overhead that trucks could drive through--yet close & thick enough to block out the sky above. You had no idea, that as you came out on the other side--how close you really were to Copper Harbor.
I imagine towns in Alaska to resemble something similar to this; buildings were small and very close together; many had weathered wood siding. I saw totem-poles...reminding me further of what I imagine Alaska to be like. This town is small (just a few blocks long actually)...quite a rustic ambiance. [Something very endearing & familiar about this place for me--hmm...]
Ft Wilkins Historic State Park:
(Tuesday 21 July) We checked in at the rangers station, after driving through town (our campsite had been reserved for two nights). After inquiring about the surrounding area...conversations surrounding the weather surfaced--knowing full well what NOAA predictions had been indicating, one of the park personel relayed that the weather had been rather cool with some rain earlier in the week--and that currently, the building heat would cause the thunderstorms to break loose.
Driving to our campsite...I noticed two things: VERY few campers (initially, figuring this was due to being the middle of the week); those that were there...had either a travel trailer, pop-up camper or a fifth-wheel trailer--WE had a tent! GREAT!!! After much conversation, we opted to drive back into town and see what other type of lodging was available; this didn't look like a good night to be camping!
Driving to Copper Harbor, is the start/finish of Highway 41 (Yes, this is the same Hwy 41 that runs through Hammond to Saint John IN. & points south.) Driving as far north as we possibly could, it was the "end-of-the-road" quite literally! To mark this event...a turn-around loop and what appeared to be a wooden sign. [We had officially driven the road to nowhere!] It was a let down, considering the length of the drive and, how many years I had been wanting to come this far north! (NOT IMPRESSED!) What started out well over 100 years ago, as a rutted dirt road into Wisconsin and points south (to haul copper, iron ore, timber & such) was eventually cleared and paved to make it the highway it is today!
Swede's Gift Shop & Keweenaw Minerals:
Copper Harbor--Want to know what got me to stop here? Ask anyone who knows me...ROCKS!!! I have a "thing" about rocks (maps & coins too!). Beautiful array of rocks, jewlery, maps, books and just plain "stuff"! Amazing amounts of copper items (after all--this IS Copper Harbor!) There were so many "rocks" I fell in love with--until I saw the prices! One "rock"--[what was referred to as "seed-copper"] couldn't have been much bigger than a 50 cent piece...$1100.00...(NO, I didn't get the decinal point in the wrong place!) Okay, I thought...I have expensive taste! So, I moved on to other displays--only to find more and more very expensive items! I wandered into one of their very back rooms--to find very LARGE rocks (some I would classify in the boulder category). It was mezmerrizing!!! Parts of these rocks were brillantly polished! I thought the owner had taken the time to polish out a small portion on these rocks, in order to get them to sell. As I read closer--these rocks were refered to as "flood-copper"; this is where the glaciers that once inhabited this area had, over thousands of years, erroded the surrounding minerals away...polishing the copper to a high gloss. It was both very beautiful--and VERY expensive! [I fell in love with a piece about 12"--15" high and 8"--10" across. This definately was a rock you wouldn't want to drop--it WOULD do some severe damage to whatever it hit...like a toe!] With everything being SO expensive [and my frugal side manifesting itself] I finally settled on a topographical map of the Copper Harbor/Keweenaw area. [This poor map proceeded to bounce around in the back of the truck, for the remaining part of the trip--amazingly, without damage!] I need to work on getting it mounted somehow.
(Tuesday 21 July--evening) Once we officially decided that we were NOT going to tough-it-out with the thunderstorms, we opted to head south, back to Houghton. Crossing the the river from Hancock to Houghton, we noticed what appeared to be the skelton of some sort of factory (of which we later learned it was one of the main copper mills in the area). We pulled into a Motel 8 (located right on the river--across from the old mill) for the evening. Ordered "cheese-less" pizza and called it a night! We'd work on exploring in the morning...I was exhausted!
(To be continued...)