Friday, July 26, 2013

2013-24 Houghton & Hancock Michigan Continued

Houghton Michigan, continued
Yooper Country

Houghton Michigan, Lift Bridge
I’m not going to cover all of the tourist attractions up here as this is my hometown and I’ve done all of that many times and written about it in past reports.  Do know that if you explore the U.P. you will be immersed in mile after mile of forests, lakes, lighthouses, Lake Superior, small mining towns many with colleges and universities.  Hiking, biking, rails to trails, fishing and hunting. Oh and tons of snowmobile trails and cross country skiing in winter.

View of Hancock Michigan

Quincy Copper Mine, now a museum

Michigan Technological University, Houghton
After a few more heavy showers the sky cleared up and after straightening out the outdoor carpets, cleaning off the side tables and chairs that had gotten thrown around during last nights big storm, I was peacefully reading a mystery book when I noticed a little critter coming down one of the stabilizer legs on the camper.  Now where do you think that squirrel came from and where was he off too.  

I got back to my book not thinking too much of it, when wiley squirrel came back with a mouthful of damp wet mulch.  Hmm someone was making a nest in my camper.  I opened one of the side compartments, then the front storage area and aha, there it was.  wiley squirrel had already chewed up a cotton tote bag and I could see serious signs of the mulch.  Opening up the cover over the battery compartment I discovered he’d already produce enough of the mulch to create a mighty fine den right on top of the battery.  All that wet mulch and a squirrel on top of a battery is not ideal safety wise.  I had visions of baked squirrel over smoking wood chips and eventually the camper going up in flames.  I didn’t particularly cherish the idea of a squirrel as a traveling companion either.  Out the den material went.  I sprayed down  the area with chemicals I hoped would disway further house building on the part of the little fella and went back to reading my book.

A short while later, I hear a loud chattering coming from behind me.  The squirrel sitting half way up a tree on a tree branch is now abusing me verbally with foul squirrel language which I won’t repeat here. But be assured it was mostly four letter squirrel words on his part.  Later, he attempted a circuitous route to get back to building his little den, upon which I sprayed him with said chemicals, getting him mainly in his tail as he leapt back into the woods.  I haven’t seen him since.  

had another nice evening with my sister Ann and friend Jim.  After getting back to Ann’s new apartment, she even had a birthday cake waiting for me.  Nice surprise.  I think it’s the first one I’ve had in 30+ years or more.  

Ann and Jim

The next day I was driving around and decided to check out the Quincy Copper Smelter down near the Portage Lake across from Houghton.  It would be open for tours in another hour, so I walked around the exterior of the site and tooks some great pictures of the place and some wildflowers and birch trees.  Our tour guide wasn’t all that familiar with the place but did give us an adequate tour.  A couple of the guys on the tour are actually Historical Archeologist who delve more into the recent past, like this copper smelting site.  They helped provide some insight into the workings of the smelter as well.  I was interested in some of the buildings other than the candy striped sandstone used on so many of the buildings.  The others were concrete and had well designed facades that made them look like large gray bricks or stone.  Interesting to see the length the original owners went to for a factory operation.  The assay office was perhaps the most complete.  Much work has been done over the past two years to stabilize and put new roofing on many of the buildings.  I mentioned how I had worked at a tourist site when I was in my teens called the Copperama, the site of another stamp mill.  The owner would craft beautiful bowls and other items out of copper at the end of the tour, all for sale of course.  I asked him one day where he got the copper from, as all the mines had closed down so many years earlier.  He said he’d gone to a dump or an old salvage yard and would pick up the copper tanks from old toilets.  The copper was thick and in nice sheets that he could cut and then form into those wonderful hand pounded bowls and trays.  

Well I don’t ever remember it going from the high 80’s a few days ago down to 56 like it did overnight.  I even had to turn on my electric fireplace.  Ann and Jim came over to the camper last night for dinner and a game of Mexican Train.  I went to Roy’s pasties and Baker and got a fresh loaf of NISU and my favorite U.P. dessert, Date Bars. A tad on the expensive side, but I figured if the dinner didn’t turn out, we could fill up on the bread and dessert.  Of course the salad and main course did turn out pretty good, so all was well.

On another visit to Ann’s new apartment, I’ve learned more about her community there.  It’s subsidised housing and is the very top of the line.  The place looks brand new and is kept in pristine condition.  Ann’s one bedroom apartment is on the top floor and her balcony looks out on the tops of all the trees.  it will be spectacular in the fall with all the fall colors.  

Ann has gotten to know many of the neighbors so it truly is a community of senior citizens enjoying a new chapter in their lives.  She even sits with many of them for an evening chat in one of the community rooms on the main floor, a circle of rocker/gliders gliding back and forth as someone tells another story from the past or present.   On Saturday they will have a potluck BBQ.  Another opportunity to get to know the neighbors.

I understand Jim has finally filled out the paperwork to get one of those apartments when one opens up.  Now I just hope he actually submits the paperwork. He’s currently living in a run down mobile home and it’s taking more effort each year to keep up and maintain.  Those snowy winters are not easy on homes up here in the U.P.

Ann and I drove up to Atlantic Mine to visit a shop that two sister run out of one of their homes.  They make rag rugs and stain glass pieces.  After looking at all the beautifully made rugs, I purchased a couple of them.  I have a great camper layout with vinyl floors covering the heavy traffic area and I thought it would be great to have a couple of the rag rugs down especially during the cooler months of the year.  It’s nice to have something handmade and from my hometown area. 

The two rugs I purchased
Well my last couple days in the area the weather has taken a turn towards fall type weather. Can you believe highs of 59-54-61 and lows of 46-46-50.  Time to turn on the fireplace.  Kind of hard to believe with it being the end of July.  It’ll be back up into the mid 70’s next week as I head across the U.P. in search of the elusive moose.  Will I find one.  You’ll find out next week.

Hancock shoreline homes and condos

formerly Suomi College, the first college I attended

Downtown Houghton

I used to live two blocks up the hill from downtown Houghton

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

2013-23 Houghton Michigan, my Home Town

Danbury Wisconsin
Houghton and Hancock Michigan

Campground:  Eagles Landing Rv, Danbury Wi.  $20 full hookups.  This is a casino owned campground, but is separate from the casino.  Feels like an old fashioned mom and pop campground.  Sites are close together, but if you're lucky you might get on that backs up to the river.  Good Verizon 4g signal.  3 pbs tv stations.  ATV trails start right from the park and river is great for canoeing and kayaking.

Campground:  Hancock City Park.  $20 electric and cable tv.  They do have sites with water as well if you make a reservation far enough in advance to get one.  Campground is a short walk to the Hancock beach.  Great campsites near the water, but once again, call ahead for reservations.  Also awesome tent sites each set deep in primitive thick forests with rocks and boulders bordering some of the campsites.

Campground:  Houghton City Campground:  $30, full hookups, paved sites with cable tv and wifi.  I don’t stay here because of costing $10 more than Hancocks park.

I left the Minneapolis area where the mosquitos were out day and night at the campground.  Using mosquito repellant was a must when outdoors.  

As I headed out, following my GPS navigation, I ended up traveling right through the heart of Minneapolis.  Across on hwy 694, traffic steadily flowing along on 4, 5 and 6 lanes as lanes were added then disappeared just as quickly.  I did a good job of keeping in the middle lanes and as I was directed onto 35W, one of the many highways in, around and through the city, I hit a traffic jam.  All in all, it was probably a good thing in that we all had to travel at a snails pace through the most congested area of the city and then it was pretty much smooth sailing as I headed north to hwy 35 and eventually east into Wisconsin where I’ll spend a few days before the final leg into Michigan’s U.P.  

I prefer being out in the country and smaller towns and was happy to get out into the open countryside once again.  As I entered Wisconsin along a country road 48 it became a real washboard type asphalt road.  With horizontal stripes of asphalt where they have continually filled in the cracks from all that freezing and thawing, it was one bumpy ride.  Apparently an older 5th wheel camper didn’t fair too well, as it had just tipped over recently with cop cars and tow trucks directing traffic around it.  Hope the driver of the truck is ok.  The truck and passenger(s) had already been taken away.  

My campsite in Danbury WI

Danbury Wisconsin is just a layover for a few days before heading into the U.P. of Michigan.  The casino has a separate RV park which I’m staying at.  Small towns in the area with populations of 550 to 600 people.  Lots of lakes, I’ve passed by some that look like virgin lakes, no cabins or roads leading to them.  Also I’ve noticed in Minnesota and Wisconsin there are lots of wetlands as well.  

The little town of Webster Wisconsin has a nice library and once a month during the summer months they have a book sale.  I got a bag full of books for $3.  Plenty of reading material for the next couple of months.  

Distance Traveled:  243 miles

I loved the drive heading into northern Michigan.  The woods are thick with hardwoods, pines, maples and I’m seeing more and more white birch trees that I love looking at.  Farms are few and far between as I begin to see the Porcupine Mountains off in the distance.  I’m going to have to go back and explore Ashland Wisconsin as I really enjoyed the drive along Lake Superior on one side and the small city on the inland side.  Wonderful pull-outs and picnic areas along Lake Superior.  

Did you know that Iron Mountain, which is right on the Wisconsin/Michigan border has a huge statue of Hiawatha, the largest and biggest in the world.  I didn’t get a chance to stop and see it, as it’s in the outskirts of the town.  Towing a camper, I didn’t feel comfortable driving around looking for a 52 foot tall Indian.  I’m sure I’ll make it there one day.

Well I continued my trek along M-26 and M-28, by the way their are no highways leading into the U.P.  they are all two lane country roads although I think they do call them highways.  Mostly well maintained and all have paved shoulders.  Not a lot of traffic in northern wisconsin and northern Michigan.  

I'm here visiting with my sister Ann when she has time to visit. Ann is still working and enjoying her job at the Bluffs. It's a beautiful place for seniors who need a little bit of care as they get older. Ann brought over some old pictures one evening which of course brings back memories of growing in Houghton.  Like the time we climbed up on the Douglas House Hotel roof, just to see what was up there.  We actually had a pretty good idea, since we could see the top of the building from a few streets higher up where we lived.  But it was the adventure and Mom and Dad never found out, which was even cooler to have a secret like that.  I also remember when my two sisters Ann and Dorothy and I walked across the bridge to go into the town of Hancock.  Just as we got to the other side of the bridge and started to head into town, A bird pooped on Ann’s head.  Well you know she was not happy to say the least.  Dorothy and I couldn't help but laugh, but not for long, as Ann insisted we walk back home so she could wash her hair.  

roof of the Douglas House Hotel

I barely have a recollection of being in a parade in Houghton with my bike.  But here’s a good picture to prove I was in a parade as a kid.  

Doug in the Houghton Parade
my sister Ann

My sister Ann with Grandma Anderson

The first morning at the Hancock City park, we had a gully washer of a storm.  Just a single dark cloud that produced lots and rain, thunder and lightening.  Didn’t think much more of it, as the day cleared up quickly.  Later in the day, a camp host pointed at a tree deep in a campsite that had gotten struck by lightning that morning.  At the time there was a tent on one side and a travel trailer on the other side.  The tree split and fell right between the two camp units.  Fortunately no one was injured.   it was only 4 campsites from where I’m staying.  Whew, we all dodged that one.

In the late afternoon a crew of cross country skiers came into the park practicing on their short ski’s on wheels.  Quite a site as they continually skied past my campsite going up and down the hill to the lake.  What endurance, all in preparation for their winter cross country skiing.  On another note, I noticed many cross overs along the roadways where the pavement is a stretch of white concrete.  Indicating a place where snowmobiles cross the roads in winter.  If you like to snowmobile, this is the area to do it in.  As there are tons of snowmobile trails in northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan.   

Another plus is that I've not encountered any mosquitoes since arriving in Northern Mich.  The weather is ideal for sitting outdoors in the shade and I've enjoyed sitting outside my camper many a night so far.  With narry a bug is site.

sunsets at 9:43 pm

Hancock City Beach

To be continued:

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

2013-22 Minneapolis Minnesota


Minneapolis Minnesota

Campground:  Mystic Lake Casino.  $35.07 full hookup.  Paved sites.  Exceptionally clean and neat.  Discounts during off season.

Campground:  Baker Park Reserve.  $22 Water/Electric (30amp).  Over 200 sites, most with electric. This county park has it all.  Paved bike paths for walking and rollerblading as well.  Large lake with swimming and boating access.  Always crowded on weekends so one must make reservations in advance for weekend stays.  Water and dump station available.

Distance Traveled:  100 miles

Maple Plain Minnesota.  

I arrived on Saturday, after the 4th of July and won’t be able to get into Baker Park until Sunday.  So I’m staying at the Mystic Lake Casino for one night.  A tad expensive for my tastes, though it’s a really well maintained Rv park and owned by the casino.  They tell me it’s the 3rd most profitable Indian Casino in the country.  

By the way, the drive up Interstate 35 was pretty rough going for quite a distance, until finally getting closer to Minneapolis.  I guess those harsh winters are pretty brutal on the highways up here. And for any Rv’ers like me, the major highways around and through the city are quite daunting.  With traffic lights on the on ramps to permit one car at a time onto the major highways, backcountry drivers like me get a bit uptight navigating such roads.  

But I finally landed in a small town on the outskirts of the city, Maple Plain and have settled into the Baker Preserve campground.  

Now Minneapolis has some memories early on for me as it was the first place I ever went too completely on my own for a couple days vacation.  I was around 19 and I remember my parents driving me to the greyhound pickup spot near MTU in my hometown of Houghton Michigan.  With tears in their eyes and a lump in my throat, we were all thinking it won't be long before I head out on my own to start life who knows where.  That Greyhound bus drove all night long, south into Wisconsin, the full moon following us all the way.  I was so excited on my very first adventure, that I couldn’t sleep a wink.  Staying up all through the night as the bus stopped at each small town along the way, picking up passengers.  We arrived in Minneapolis the next morning.  I pulling my luggage behind me as I walked to the nearest hotel to get a room for a night or two.  I didn’t have a lot of money but they gave me cheap room, with no view, actually overlooking the big a/c units on top of a roof.  I explored the city as best I could on foot going into the biggest department store I’d ever seen.  Floor after floor of departments.  I ended up on the seedy side of town and went to a movie to have something to do.  I remember it was a most depressing moving and I couldn’t wait to get back outside in the sunshine.  

Now many years later, I’ve arrived with my own transportation and my home in tow.  A little wiser but still with a sense of adventure and a desire to explore.

Since I’m in the area, I just had to drive over to The Mall of America.  You know it’s the biggest mall in the U.S. so I had to see what it’s all about.  Nickelodeon has a huge theme park with all those crazy roller coaster rides that spin you around, dipping and turning and swinging up and down.  I did not go on any of those rides.  Though if I were with someone, I probably could be persuaded to go on one or two of the more tame rides.  The Mall of America is huge, but nicely divided into sections that don’t make it seem overwhelming.  And it’s between 2 and 4 levels high depending on which section you're in, so there’s lots of walking and exercise to be had while window shopping and people watching.

Tip:  use your phone to take a picture of the parking garage level and row you're in so you won’t get lost.   

Of course my main reason for being here in Minneapolis is to visit with all my relatives.  I’m meeting up with Jay and his new wife Lee and their brood of 8 children as well as my niece Renee and her husband Tim and 5 children.  I’ll list all their names and ages but don’t hold me to being able to point out what name goes with each child.  

Jay’s home is a rambling mansion with 9 bedrooms to accommodate all those growing kids.  It was built around 1911 and was the original estate  home on many acres, now filled in with high end homes surrounding the place.  As all modern families go Jay met me at the door while on the phone.  After completing a quick business call, I got the grand tour with explanations of when each addition was made to the house.  I love an older home with all those unique turns  and twists and add ons.  One of the dens and the veranda were my favorites, though the master bedroom suite was pretty awesome too.  

Of course we all gathered around the kitchen, past the butlers pantry, at an angled granite counter top with tons of seating where Jay would take command of the dinner preparations.  We were to have homemade pizza using their wood fired pizza oven and each one would make their own pizza with whatever ingredients they wanted.  

my niece Renee
While sipping on a good red wine, I was gradually introduced to each child that wandered in.  We adults shared our lives and adventures and I told some family stories to Renee that I think helped make her feel closer to my sisters (her mother) and myself and what it was like to grow up in the Palosaari family up in Houghton Michigan.  

Little Calvin the youngest of Heidi’s children took a liking to me right away.  After Jay and I went to wake up the smaller kids from their naps, little Calvin wanted me to carry him downstairs and later would come over and sit on my lap.  What a little charmer.  Little Jillian sat with me as we watched the other kids and dads play 4 square.  We talked about how it’s harder to breath at higher elevations and how after a while you're lungs adapt to the thinner air and become stronger.  She wondered if bugs had trouble breathing at higher elevations too.  What a smart little girl and what a good question.  As we looked off into the distance, she pointed out all the birds sitting on the tops of some trees and then we had a grand discussion about clouds overhead as they turned pink in the evening light. 

Well, I had a most wonderful time telling family stories, sharing my adventures with all those relatives and learning a bit about their lives, dreams and hopes.  One couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a Minnesota summer evening than with family and Happy the dog.  

So here’s all the names of the kids I’m a Great Uncle too:
  • Heidi’s children: Sarah, Elisa, Minnie, Noah, Natalie, Jillian, and Calvin.
  • Lee’s son is Eli
  • Renee’s children are: Ryan, Kevin, Andrew, Matthew, and Bella (Isabella) (Bella loves shoes)

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