Day 58 of our Journey
We reluctantly checked out of our room at Michigan House in Calumet, Michigan and headed over to Toni’s Country Kitchen in nearby Larium to fuel up on classic breakfast favorites at prices you haven’t seen in years. We had a big day of copper mine exploration ahead of us.
After so much time in a part of the world built on the past glories of copper mining, we figured it was about time we learned a bit about the region’s underground heritage. Large areas of the Keweenaw Peninsula are part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park including the historic buildings in Calumet. However, the main tourist attraction is the long-closed but very well preserved Quincy Mine National Historic Landmark.
The mine 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 tour features a steep funicular ride down to the opening of a mine shaft followed by a slow, cold, dark, damp, and bumpy tractor ride through the mine shaft 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).
On to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Our learning complete, we turned 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 headed out on the Trap Falls hike around 8 pm, confident we’d have plenty of time to return to the Silverado before dark. Almost immediately we saw what (to us) looks like bear and wolf tracks in the same muddy patch, so we spent the rest of the 5 mile (8 km) hike looking over our shoulders.
The trail is undulating and lush and moody and well-maintained. Oh, and infested with mosquitoes. The upside was that the only way to avoid being sucked dry was to keep moving. Fast. The little buzzers pushed us to a pace that had us speeding down the trail so fast that we practically bumped into an unwitting deer near Trap Falls.
On our way back out (quickly) to the truck we saw a porcupine lumbering clumsily along a log. It seemed 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.
Here’s more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments
Here’s more about travel in the USA