Monday, July 15, 2013

Without Salt, Sharks Or Seashells

Our visit to the City of Houghton (MI) Campground has been sheer joy.  We've spent most of our days relaxing on our private covered deck where we keep the wire playpen out for an enlarged play area for Lexie and Ozzie.  The weather has been beautiful most days.  A few hot days have crept in but how can we complain. 

We did steal away for occasional shopping sprees a few sightseeing days.  A day trip around Keweenaw Peninsula and to Copper Harbor would be meaningful to us because our arrival there will mark our visits to both ends of U.S. Highway 41.... Miami, Florida (many times) and Copper Harbor, Michigan (first time).  Cool.

The day was absolutely perfect with brilliant blue skies overhead, comfortable temperature and pretty good roads.  We started at Houghton and drove part way on the interior highway to see the Village of Calumet. Later we drove along the coast to catch Eagle River Falls, Eagle Harbor and then Copper Harbor where we'll be famished -- just in time for lunch. We're hoping to find some fresh whitefish ... maybe at a small "hole-in-the-wall" place.  Yum.

This giant map of Keweenaw county shows the route we'll take from Houghton to Copper Harbor.

The Village Of Calumet

Entering the Village of Calumet is a little like stepping back in time.  It was a special treasure for us to find as we'd not heard anything about it in advance! 

Downtown Calumet
Originally named "Red Jacket" this community was the center of the mining industry in the late 1800's and is now a National Historic Landmark District. The village sits on some 2,000 miles of underground mine shafts. It was settled in 1864 and didn't take the name of Calumet until 1929.

Our first stop was Saint Paul The Apostle Church.  It was formed in 1889 by Slovenian immigrants. The church was, at that time, known as Saint Joseph's Catholic Church. The Slovenian people came here to work in the copper mines.  The first church building burned in 1902 but was rebuilt in 1908. 

Saint Paul The Apostle Church
Saint Paul The Apostle Church is constructed of local Jacobsville sandstone, as are most of the building in Calumet and the surrounding area.  The inside of the church remains virtually unchanged architecturally and has a beautiful 18' pipe organ and lots of stained glass.

Another interesting stop in Calumet is the site of the Italian Hall. A plaque tells the story of striking miner families who were gathered in the huge building here on Christmas Eve 1913 when a false cry of "fire" precipitated a rush of people that resulted in the crushing and/or suffocation of seventy-three people, mostly children. It was a horrible tragedy.
This archway and sidewalk are all that remain of the huge multi-story Italian Hall.
Folk singer Woody Guthrie's song "1913 Massacre" is based on this event.
Our next stop was to see a small gorge and two bridges, side by side, that cross it. Turns out the older looking bridge is the newer one, the newer looking one is actually the oldest.  The old one was closed to vehicular traffic and is now used just for pedestrian crossing.

Lake Shore Drive Bridge

The Lake Shore Drive Timber Bridge - 1990
It replaced the 1915 bridge over the gorge that's here.

The Wayner is so good to pose occasionally for my picture taking.
The old bridge is the near one... it's now strictly pedestrian used.

A few minutes at the Lake Shore Bridges and we pushed on.  Getting pretty hungry now and anxious for that delicious local lunch we're hoping to find at Copper Harbor. 

I don't remember exactly where, in today's travel, we came across this stone gunship.
It seems unique enough to include here.

Great Sand Bay

Lake Superior, it's shoreline, beach, sunshine and the area as a whole, are breathtakingly beautiful. Especially as I am seeing it for the very first time.  The road up the Keweenaw Peninsula into Copper Harbor had many stops and views like this one at Great Sand Bay:

 I'm having a difficult time with large water that's without salt, sharks or seashells
I like it though -- no corrosion, loss of limbs or feet cuts during beach walks. 
Drawing ever nearer to Copper Harbor and really famished for lunch, we stumble into another quaint place. A few minutes here too:

Eagle Harbor

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Stupendous views!
And the lighthouse here at Eagle Harbor is, I am told, among those most commonly used for lighthouse calendars.  I can see why. It was beautiful from every angle. 

One more stop; this one at a simple little rest stop with rock walls, shade trees, picnic tables, shoreline and more of those perfect views.

Copper Harbor

And then we arrived at Copper Harbor.  It seemed strange to find that no restaurants seemed to be open.  It was a Saturday afternoon, after all.  Lots of people, lots of traffic, but it seemed a little like a bad science fiction move.  Noting seemed to be open.  A stop at a convenience store with an open door and I learned the reason: NO ELECTRICITY so nothing is being served anywhere on the peninsula. Horrors. What do we do?  We make a bee line out of town on US 41 to the next nearest place to eat.  By now, we're not picky... just hungry. If we find something close enough, we'll eat and  come back to explore Copper Harbor.  And so we drove, and drove and drove.  Nothing is on this stretch of road.

Snow Gauge Park

The giant snow gauge and the tiny park around it is about 20 miles back down the peninsula from Copper Harbor. We stopped, rummaged around the back of the car to find our emergency "eats": peanut butter crackers and granola bars.  There's always bottled water in the car.  That's lunch. It's late, we're tired and frankly, pretty frustrated at the whole situation. We did not go back to see Copper Harbor.  It's okay... at least we can say we've been there..

The snow gauge was a pretty impressive stop in itself. I wish now that I had stood by the towering measure and asked Wayne to take my picture. That would put it in better perspective.  The bottom line is this: the highest recorded accumulated snowfall for this area is 390.4 inches (top of gauge) in the winter of 1978-79. 

After eating our peanut butter crackers, granola bars and water, we returned to Hancock where we knew where to find a fish store that had been recommended.

Peterson's Fish Market and roadside cafe became our stop for fish.  It's all the way back in Hancock, just a bridge crossing from the campground in Houghton.  We bought smoked salmon, which we ate immediately and a few whitefish fillets that we baked back at the motorhome.  Umm ummm good.
Smoked Salmon at home with a small glass of wine.
Even without the much anticipated freshwater fish lunch we hoped for, we had a great day.  Thanks for riding along with us. Hope you didn't get too hungry.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fog Along The Keweenaw

We're still enjoying our time on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The red pushpin in the photo below puts our current "peninsula on peninsula" location into perspective. 

The land that points out into Lake Superior is called Keweenaw Peninsula
Houghton and much of the UP have a robust copper mining history but those days are over. The Copper Rush began in 1843 but by 1945, the last of the copper mines were closing.  Quincy Mine, a National Historic Landmark property and Keweenaw Heritage site near here offers tours, tram rides and a mining museum in the remains of the company then known as "Old Reliable".  It was given that nickname because it paid good dividends to it's shareholders.

Houghton, Michigan is named for Douglass Houghton who discovered the copper here.
Notice the old Douglass House Hotel on the left
Houghton is also the home of Michigan Technological University which makes it a vibrant place. Those who know us know we almost always like college towns. The buildings here are mostly made of brick in a variety of deep colored clays. It's a very pretty little town.

While visiting Houghton, our "home" has been in the City of Houghton RV Park which quickly rose to the top of our "favorite campgrounds" list.  It's tiny - just 22 sites but simply fabulous and right in town.  We are just a few steps away from the downtown, a 20+ mile walking/biking path and it's situated on the south shore of Portage Canal, which we've also seen referred to as the Keweenaw Waterway. The terrain here is mostly rolling and wooded hills.

Just across the waterway is the equally small town of Hancock. This is the second set of what I call "twin cities" we've visited in Michigan.  The first was two months ago when we spent time in the tiny town of  Montague, just across the river from the tiny town of Whitehall.

Our campsite was right along the water's edge.
That's Hancock across Portage Canal/Waterway.
We like this campground so much we asked about staying on for another week or two.  Our request was accommodated, but required a total of four moves. Each site would have it's own unique desirable attributes.  There simply are no bad sites here. 
My gang enjoying the morning sunshine on our private deck.
Notice how we fenced in the whole deck to make a big playpen for Lexie and Ozzie.
Standing on our deck, we can look to our right and see the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. The middle section can be raised to a point of 100 feet over the water's surface to allow boats to pass under.

In earlier times, the lower bridge deck was used for rail traffic. Later the railway was removed and that level too was made into a road for automobile traffic. In winter, when ice keeps boats off this waterway, the bridge can be lowered to allow snowmobiles to enter the road.

Portage Lake Lift Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge.
The next photograph captures a couple of interesting sights.
  1. The shot was taken from our final campsite. It was on the upper level.
  2. Our first site in the campground is where the small "pop-out" trailer is now parked.
  3. Heavy fog is a frequent occurrence here. It blankets the river so we can't see the city of Hancock, on the other side.
  4. The ship: Ranger III that passes comes through on occasion.
Mid-morning fog. Photo taken from our last campsite. 
The Motor Vessel Ranger III (in the picture above) is the largest piece of moving equipment owned and operated by the National Park Service. It is the largest passenger ferry providing service to Isle Royale National Park. The ship is 165 feet long, 34 feet wide, 648 ton vessel and carries 128 passengers.  It has a luncheon grill, three staterooms, four lounges, two decks and indoor / outdoor seating. It has a crew of nine and operates out of Houghton. The cruise to the Isle Royal National Park takes three hours and costs in the neighborhood of $60. There is nothing on the island, I am told, except nature -- and plenty of it. We did not go.

Gee. I Didn't Know...

That 'bout covers this part of our stay in Houghton. In another post, I'll include some of what we've seen on our day trips.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Independence Day - July 4, 2013: Let The 4th Year Begin!

We've begun our fourth year in retirement and as full-time RV travelers.  What an awesome experience it's been and we are so looking forward to more.  It wasn't planned that we would begin traveling on July 4, 2010; it just turned out that way.  Wayne's retirement was the last working day in June of that year and as we wound down the final days before the house sold, disposing of the very last of the household goods, July 1st, then the 2nd and the the 3rd rolled around.  We said our "goodbyes" to the children, finished loading the coach and pulled away from the Nashville I-24 Campground on July 4th.  We were thrilled and we remain so, never looking back, never having regrets and ever thankful for our good health our conservative financial decisions and the joy we find in one another.  Life is great. 

During the last three years, we've traveled about 33,000 miles through about 36 of the United States and six Canadian provinces. In about 1095 days of travel, we've stopped at some 275 campgrounds, viewed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, all of the Great Lakes and hundreds of bays, inlets, rivers, streams and waterfalls.  Perfect weather remains our greatest draw and we've been fortunate to enjoy splendid days almost everywhere.

Our household has grown since retirement with the adoption of Lexie and Ozzie, our puppymill survivors and they have brought a whole new dimension to our lives. Little Lexie suffered so terribly that we felt we would surely need the help of another dog to bring her around.  Sweet Ozzie came to her rescue about nine months later.  A rescued puppymill dog too, Ozzie was less traumatized and helped Lexie to overcome most of her inhibitions.  Ozzie turned out to be a "momma's boy" while Lexie is most fond of her Pop.  They bring us such joy every day.

Along the way, we have met wonderful people and have made many lasting friendships.  Some of our favorite times are those days we rekindle those friendships when we meet again somewhere on the road.  Sometimes, it's for a few weeks, sometimes a few days, but we always look forward to the rendezvous and we never have to really say goodbye.

All our days have not been easy; many of them have been fraught with trouble.  Things go wrong and break, mechanical difficulties happen and yes, we've gotten the rig stuck on occasion. We've taken wrong roads, had terrible campsites, gotten sick, lost our mail, been without good satellite signals. But the good days far outnumber the less than perfect ones and I am blessed to be married to a man with very little temper. There are no bad days.

More than ever, I enjoy photographing and blogging our travel. As it always has been, the blog is not meant to gather a following, though it is nice to learn someone enjoys reading it.  From the beginning, the blog has been a replacement for the old paper scrapbooks and the handwritten journals I kept from our weekend travels.  So the blog will continue and I thank all who take time to comment on the posts.  

And so we begin year number four.