Friday, August 19, 2011

Copper Harbor south to Calumet

We left the campground and headed south on Hwy 26. The stretch of road between Copper Harbor and Eagle River is the most beautiful we’ve ever seen in MI. I noted the coordinates for two great boondocking sites on the map for our next trip. The picture of the rocky coast could have been taken in Maine. In another area there were sand dunes and a wonderful wide sandy beach. Just beautiful.

The coast of Maine?

In Eagle Harbor we visited the Holy Redeemer Church which was built in 1854. In the church, there is a guest book. Look at the note a recent visitor left. His great-grandfather was baptized in this church.

Our camping destination for today was the Gratiot River County Campground. It’s not a campground in the conventional sense. A four mile graded, not recently I assure you, dirt road simply stops at a cul-de-sac on the shore of Lake Superior. A few paths lead off here & there. You find a spot you like and there you are. There is a pit toilet but that’s it. The access road is a bit of an adventure. It starts out as two lanes of washboard. After the first mile the quality of the road improves somewhat but it begins to get narrower. The last mile, or so, the road is barely a full lane wide. You just hope no one is coming the other way.
But when you get to the lake. Wow!! We cannot recall staying in a more beautiful setting. We’re parked under a canopy of aromatic cedar trees but with enough open space to let the sunshine in. Behind us is a combination sandy & rocky beach and then Lake Superior. This is one of the few places where Carol can actually get an unobstructed view of the lake from the campsite. This is as good as things get. Between the great site, and the adventuresome access road, we’re going to just stay put for a while. This morning I topped off the water tank before we left the campground and we just dumped the tanks yesterday. We’re all set.
The County Park is a very popular day-use area. There were perhaps a dozen cars here at any given time. Some people came in search of pretty rocks, some brought their dogs and let them run, a few came to pick thimbleberries and some to just enjoy a perfect, sunny, summer day. One guy came with his diving dog. A first for me. The dog was a male German Shorthair Pointer. Stood perhaps 30" at the back. He would rush out into the water until it was almost over his head, dive down until all you could see was his tail sticking out of the water, and come up with a large rock which he deposited on the beach !! He did this time after time for a couple of hours. Amazing.

Tonight we have the place all to ourselves. The cost? It's free!!

The mouth of the Gratiot River

Change of plans. About 3am we were awakened by thunder. The lightning display over Lake Superior was spectacular. It rained for perhaps an hour but nothing bad. In the morning the sky looked very dark. We turned on the weather radio and there was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect for our area. Torrential rain, damaging hail and 60mph plus winds!! were in the forecast. The last place we wanted to be if this came to pass was at the end of a four mile long dirt road that was in marginal condition to begin with so we packed up and headed into Calumet. It rained most of the way and all morning, but nothing nasty. Took advantage of a gloomy day by doing the laundry. Later on I looked at some of the historic copper mining exhibits in the area. Copper mining is certainly interesting, but I’m about maxed out.
Tonight we’re at the City of Hancock Recreation Area campground. It’s us and 50 other RV’s jammed side by side. Turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. Bummer. We could have been all alone on the shore of Lake Superior.

Tonight's view. The check-in station for the campground. Only cost us $22!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The day started with a trip to Roy’s Pasties and Bakery. Locally, Roy’s is touted as being the very best place for pasties. I stocked up on chicken/broccoli. Plus a few goodies, of course. The ginger/molasses cookies were the best we’ve ever tasted. Years ago during a trip to Prince Edwards Island, we were exposed to this great French origin cookie. Been baking them at home ever since ever since.

This morning we drove to Lake Linden which is only about ten miles from where we were. Per the GPS, a 17 minute drive. Our kind of day.

During the copper boom, Lake Linden was home to a number of stamping mills. When the copper bearing ore was mined, it then had to be “stamped” to a finer consistency before the copper could be extracted. Lake Linden has water access to Lake Superior so it became the main stamping and smelting area in this region. Copper bearing ore generally only contains from 1% to 4% copper. As refining practices became more advanced, it was discovered that the stamp sand contained a good amount of copper even after being processed once. The dredge in the picture was used to recover the stamp sand that was routinely disposed of by dumping into Torch Lake. The entire area is now a designated Superfund Site. One article I read, said the stamp sand is so hostile an environment that not even weeds can grow. And the House of Representatives wants to clamp down on the EPA because they make it much more difficult to repeat this sort of thing.

The dredge

The Lake Linden city campground is on the shore of Torch Lake, part of the Superfund Site. There is a designated swimming area near the campground so I suppose the lake water isn’t so bad as to present an immediate and obvious health hazard plus when we were walking around town, I didn’t see an unusual number of people with two heads. When Gopher & I were taking a walk around the campground area we followed a path up a nearby hill. At the top of the hill was a large fenced pond. The signs on the fence said “Keep out. Raw Sewage”. I needed water for the camper but decided to find it someplace other then Lake Linden.

A number of years ago we used to plan our trips around different themes. Sometimes bike riding, sometimes kayaking. One year it was Rails-to-Trails in the general New England area. We were biking along the tow path of the old Erie Canal around Syracuse, NY. There were signs all along the canal saying “This water is unsafe for human contact”. The local boys were fishing. I’ll pass.

The campground is located very close to the downtown area. We took a walk and had lunch at the historic Lindell Chocolate Shoppe. The building was constructed in 1893 as a beer warehouse. The Lindell Chocolate Shoppe was opened in 1922. The interior is one of the best examples left of early wood and stained glass decor. Golden oak was used exclusively in the combination restaurant/bar with an elaborate archway separating the two areas. The lunch was OK but nothing special.


After lunch we walked down the street to St. Josephs Church. It was built in 1912 by the predominantly French population. The interior is just beautiful. Very high ceilings, stained glass and a huge organ in the mezzanine.

On Wednesday we continued north following the coast to Gay, Betsy, Lac La Belle and Bete Grise. I had hoped to find a nice place to spend the night on the lake shore. No luck this time. The good spots were either already taken by other campers or signed for No Camping. We wound up at the Fort Wilkins State Park in Copper Harbor. Fort Wilkins was built in 1844 to keep the peace in Michigan’s Copper Country. Carol’s not much on such things, but I enjoyed touring the reconstructed fort.
Not very impressed with Copper Harbor. Very touristy. We wanted to come here because it's as far north as you can go on the Keweenaw Peninsula (Copper Country).

The commercial copper industry started in the 1850's, flourished until the Great Depression and ended in 1996 when the last copper mine shut down.

Monday, August 15, 2011

L'Anse & Houghton

We left the Van Riper SP about 10am heading towards L'Anse. On the way, we stopped by two very nice roadside parks with waterfalls. Unfortunately, neither of the falls was wheelchair accessible so we continued on.
We came across a roadside stand and bought some wild blueberries and two huge yellow squash for only 50 cents each.
When Henry Ford was building the early Fords, there was a lot of wood involved in the construction. In order to control both the supply and quality of the wood, he purchased thousands of acres of timber land around Alberta, MI and built a saw mill as well as housing for his workers. Carol doesn't have much interest in such things but I toured the mill then we drove through the remainder of the town. The sign tells the story.

The Yelp! program on the iPhone told us we just had to have breakfast at the Hilltop Restaurant just outside of L'Anse. They serve breakfast until noon time. Excellent choice. We'll be back on our next trip this way.

For the night we wound up in the L'Anse Township Park Campground. The community park, and campground, sit on a bluff overlooking the L'Anse Bay. We got a great site with an unobstructed view of the bay. Gopher & I took a walk along the water.

From our campsite, we could see some RV's camped right along the bay. In the morning we drove over to take a look. It's the Ojibwa Recreation Area. We drove around and had about decided to stay there but the place was just too trashy. We've stayed in, and driven through, other Native American camping areas and for whatever the reason might be, they tend to not be very well kept. We continued on.

The City of Houghton has a small RV park located right on the Portage River. There is a paved path running from the campground to the downtown area perhaps a mile away. When we pulled in, the Campground Full sign was up but I inquired just the same. There was a small grass area used for overflow. $10/night. It turned out to be the best camp site in the park. Lots of grass, a nice unobstructed view of the community beach & park, and no neighbors jammed right against us.

We took a nice walk along the river to the downtown area. Very pretty. We've been here before but stayed in the city campground in Hancock which is just across the river.

So can you trespass before 10 p.m.???

From the copper mining days

There was a large mural depicting life during the copper mining period in this area.

Two more enjoyable days in the UP.