Wheeling Around the UP

I can hardly remember the last ten days.  I’ve come to depend on having enough signal to produce a blog post every few days, and when that routine is interrupted, my brain jumbles everything together into one big blur.  But, here goes…..

Continuing our navigation around Lake Superior, we land at McLain State Park, about halfway between Calumet and Houghton. wpid-20140921_144350.jpg Once again, our campsite is just yards away from Lake Superior.  We’ve yet to see the big angry lake we expected – this meek body of water barely generates waves most of the time.  Surely this placid surface can’t be responsible for all the freighters that lie on its bottom.  Must be something else, right?

Calumet is a photographer’s dream.  This area was right in the heart of the copper rush, and thus drew residents of all nationalities.  Of course, each had to build their own church, resulting in a skyline dotted with crosses of various shapes and sizes.20140924_15503220140924_155908 Some still function as churches, others have been repurposed into galleries or storefronts. 20140924_160116 A few appear not to have any further use at all.  Banks, government buildings, and other impressive structures have been built of huge red blocks, which have elegantly weathered the last century.20140924_15523320140924_140547 Blocks of working-class, two-family houses reminded me of the Detroit of my childhood, where my grandparents lived for years.20140924_155706 I really wished that I had a different camera (or perhaps more skill/patience to capture better images with the one I have).20140924_155533We decided to tour the Quincy Mine in Hancock.  Perhaps the coolest part of this tour was the cog railway which took us down the ridge to the mine itself.  With a grade of 33%, it would have been a tough hike, without this transport. 20140923_124630 We entered the mine at the 7th level, the lowest currently accessible.  The levels below that (down to the 92nd level, nearly two miles beneath the surface) are all flooded now.20140923_12223320140923_121531 Perhaps the part of the tour with the greatest impact on me was discussion of the miner’s miserable working conditions, which led to a bitter nine-month strike in 1913/14.  Ten hour days, dangerous conditions, and low pay kept miners enslaved to the company, which owned their houses, and the stores from which supplies were purchased.

The community was severely divided by the strike.  On Christmas Eve 1913, a party for strikers’ children was held at the Italian Hall, with hundreds of children and family in attendance.  Someone opened a door, shouted “Fire”, and a stampede for the exit ensued.  60 children and 13 adults were crushed.  There was no fire.  The site of the Hall is now a small park, and a remembrance ceremony is held every year on December 24.

Following the mine tour, we continued our day of mineral exploration with a visit to the Seamon Mineral Museum on the campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  Had to climb one of the steepest hills ever on our bikes to get there – two blocks of it were too steep to pedal.  (Naturally, we found a better route AFTER we got to the top!)  The Mineral Musuem is a Rock Hound’s (or wannabee’s) dream.20140923_14485820140923_14400320140923_143822 My fingers twitched to touch these gorgeous specimens, most of which were in locked cases.  Geodes, gems, phosphorescent minerals…..all so beautiful.

Of course, we had to treat ourselves to a brew at the Keweenaw Brewing Company.  The big attraction of this spot (for us) was the cheap beer – $5 for two pints.  The beer itself, was middling.  But, it was a great day for the 40 mile round trip bike ride, so we were happy.

The rest of the time here is a blur in my mind.  A few more photos to view, then we’re off to Porcupine Mountain State Park.20140924_16073020140924_15152420140924_15143520140924_151711Took a tour of the old (built in 1908) Calumet Theater…..where I was treated to a private concert by the guy tuning the piano.  It was grand.20140924_134535Last, but not least, the troll murals in the bar at the Ambassador Restaurant in Houghton.20140923_15370820140923_153652

13 thoughts on “Wheeling Around the UP

  1. Wonderful pictures and stories. I couldn’t help wondering what Judy, the miner, would have been doing during that strike. I’d hate to stare you down from the other side of the picket line. LOL Maybe Lake Superior knows not to mess with you. Those trolls seem to be enjoying the brewing. Is this a piece of Irish heritage? And you get a private concert, too. You lead a charmed life, Judy. So happy for you. Thanks for sharing.


    • All the stuff about the strike really got to me. Hard to imagine families and neighbors being pitted against each other in such a battle.

      I think the heritage of the area is not so much Irish as Finnish, but those brewers did look happy.

      The private concert was interesting. Info on the concert hall said that it had perfect acoustics. After the piano tuner played for a bit (I doubt he knew I was even there, as I was perched in the top row of the balcony), he glanced at his watch for a moment, and murmured “oh shit”. I heard it clear as a bell. He packed up his equipment, and headed to the door, pronto.

      A charmed life? Hardly, Alison. You know me better than THAT!

      On Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 6:12 PM, campshaws wrote:



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