Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(28) The Copper Country, Houghton & Hancock Michigan

The Copper Country
Hancock/Houghton Michigan

I’ve arrived in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) where the folks are known at Yoopers. My sister Ann still lives here, but has big plans for a move. She’s planning on moving to Minneapolis to be closer to one of her daughters and to find a better paying job. She has the education and experience in the field of elder care, working in an assisted living facility and I know she’ll be able to find a much better job in a bigger city.

I’m staying again at the Hancock Beach campground, $18 a night for elect. & cable T.V. The campsites aren’t as pretty as last year, as they’ve had virtually no rain all summer and all the grass has died out. Many of the leaves on the trees are wilted from lack of rain and a couple of the maple trees have already turned color from the lack of rain.

This is a time to relax and just hang out. Ann of course has to work so we don’t get a chance to see each other every day as her work schedule changes constantly.

There’s a short walk through the woods lining the Portage lake canal that leads to the swimming beach. I love walking along this old path, listening to the birds and the gentle lapping of the water against the rocky shore line. The trees forming a canopy overhead. Occasionally the wake of a boat will reach shore and I can hear the crashing of waves for a couple of minutes… then back to the quite lapping of water once again.

My home town of Houghton is getting some grant money and a number of downtown building are sprucing up, putting new siding on and renovating a number of the stores. This town has such potential being a University town. It’s nice to see improvements being made. I had lunch at a fairly new chain restaurant called Joey’s Seafood and Grill. It’s Canadian owned and is a pleasant touch of urban upscale in an historical town. The foods pretty good too.

Driving past the Swedish Lutheran Church where I was baptized and went to Sunday school as a young boy, the Lode Theatre where we used to get a summer season pass to see all the great serials like The Lone Ranger or Superman who always ended up in a cliff hanger, (to be solved the next week) cartoons and a movie, and the Carnegie Library where I learned to improve my reading skills and gained a love of books.

I’ve been to the Quincy Mine for tours of the mine and inside some of the buildings, but on Wed. I took a walking tour of the grounds led by a young ranger. A perfect day, sparkling sunny and the temperature hovering around 82 degrees. We walked around some of the abandoned machinery, learning how each piece had a specific purpose for mining copper, peaking into one of the old company homes with it’s layers of wallpaper peeling off. Wallpaper was a real hit back in the early 1900’s. Initials and dates carved on the old wood siding by youngsters just learning reading and writing. Talking about the local history in the shade of the birch trees, seeing the water towers used along the railroad lines for the steam engines and how they had wood or coal heaters to keep the water from freezing in winter. They used steam hoists in the mines and train cars would drive right through the steam hoist buildings to deliver the coal, an operation that ran 24 hours a day.

Watching the local news from Marquette or Escanaba, some of the news broadcasters being very young and inexperienced. Almost embarrassing to watch. The big story in Hancock is the new condo building that has gone up right next to the lift bridge. Although they had gotten approved to build the Condo’s, they didn’t have final plans for connecting water/sewer lines or access to the extra parking needed. Besides that, the builders apparently went over the height restrictions and construction has been halted. No one in the community likes this new building and are upset that it blocks some of the view of the bridge. Progress is difficult up here in the U.P.

Hancock is celebrating Grandmothers by displaying stories of local Grandma’s on old doors artistically painted. Cute but a bit overdone. There are a lot of decorated doors in town.
Ann and I had another outing, going to Ming’s Restaurant up on the hill in Houghton. Excellent Chinese food, perfectly prepared and piping hot. We then went to a Used book store and had fun finding some great books to read. An evening of playing domino’s and eating popcorn with Ann and Jim (Ann won) and we completed a fun day together.

Simple pleasures, small towns, Dollar Bay, Calumet, Laurium, Gay, Eagle Harbor, country drives surrounded by maple, birch and pine forests, views of Portage Lake and Lake Superior, squirrels and chipmunks playing around the campsites.

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