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TRAVEL JOURNAL INDEX > Let There Be Light

White Pine, Michigan  06/22/06 (Day 58)

Let There Be Light

 

The power returns sometime late in the night and by breakfast it’s all systems go, so we reluctantly check out of our room at The Michigan House and head over to Toni’s Country Kitchen in Larium, one town over from Calumet. The menu features all your classic breakfast favorites at classic prices you haven’t seen in years. They even bake their own bread and sweets (huge cookies are just 75 cents each).

After so much time in a part of the world built on the past glories of copper mining, we figure it’s about time we learned a bit about the region’s underground heritage. The long-closed but very well preserved Quincy Mine National Historic Landmark offers two tours: $9.50 gets you the above ground tour only, but add three bucks and you get to tour a section of an underground mine shaft as well. Both the above ground and below ground tours are surprisingly compelling and informative and, honestly, how often do you get to spend a couple of hours in a hard hat and an ill-fitting Carhart coat?

The star of the above ground tour is the Nordberg Steam Hoist, the world’s largest (picture a grooved, solid steel spinning top the size of a five or six elephants and you’re just about there). The underground portion of the program features a steep fernicular ride down to the opening of a mine shaft followed by a slow, cold, dark, damp and bumpy tractor ride through the mineshaft itself to an area deep inside where the guides turn off all the lights for a moment (very spooky) and give a blast of the drills used by miners to demonstrate how they pummeled the ore out of the solid rock (very loud).

Our learning complete, we turn tail toward the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagaon, Michigan. Taking advantage of the fact that it’s light until 10 pm or later, we head out on the Trap Falls hike around 8, confident we’ll have plenty of time to return to the Silverado before dark. Almost immediately we see what (to us) looks like bear and wolf tracks in the same muddy patch, so we spend the rest of the five mile hike looking over our shoulders.

The trail is undulating and lush and moody and well-maintained. Oh, and infested with mosquitoes. The upside is that the only way to avoid being sucked dry is to keep moving. Fast. The little buzzers push us to a pace that has us speeding down the trail so fast that we practically bump into an unwitting deer near Trap Falls.

On our way back out (quickly) to the truck we see a porcupine lumbering clumsily along a log. It seems an appropriate end to our first hike in the Porcupine Mountains, which got their name because the slope of the summits look like a porcupine’s back.
 
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