June 9, 2009

The Beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula

Reaching far into the southern center of Lake Superior is a long arm - Keweenaw, with the small town of Copper Harbor at it's tip. It's a long drive to this remote point of land in the upper reaches of Michigan's UP, but worth every mile!
If you do venture up that way, you simply must stay at the Fort Wilkins State Park. We found a private spot near the end of Lake Fanny Hooe, where the park is located. The view across from our campsite was very special, like having our own private deck into nature's mirrored solitude. Walking the lakeshore early morning we discover a sleepy fog sheltering birds and wildlife within its still waters.
A few hundred yards from camp is the old fort standing proudly along the Fanny Hooe. The canon still guarding approach from the lake. A sparkle on it's wheel catches my eye, while a lone merganser swims across to the right.
More signs of nature await on the parade grounds, Canada Geese march along to the early call of Revelee!
I find myself immersed in a world of a hundred years ago, a time gone by, when handmade barracks and homemade bread were part of a soldier's daily life.

Later that morning we stop at the harbor overlook for another glimpse into the past, one of Michigan's oldest lighthouses, dating back to 1846. As I delay to take some pictures, Kim searches the shore for agates. I find it amusing that she can be in three places at once.

Within minutes, the fog to the right of the harbor lifts, and we get a nice view of the old structure, somewhat corrupted by the presence of the modern beacon tower nearby.
One can only get a good perspective of the area by driving the "loop" from Copper Harbor to Eagle River then back through Central to the park. Driving along, we notice what appears to be a large house, maybe a church along the shore.

Across the street is a small bakery, and it's here we learn it is a monastery for a small group of monks that supplement its income from handmade breads, other baked goods and jams! http://www.societystjohn.com/vocations/vocations.php

What a terrific treat, and of course we had "lunch" a bit early...cookies and jam, of course!
Within the eagle River community we discover a picturesque stop where we pause to finish off the last of those great cookies.

Around the bend, the shores of the lake touch the towns edge bringing together an interesting contrast of river, beaches and dunes.
The town preserves it's own lighthouse, almost of replica of the Copper Harbor light some miles away.

As our journey progresses we learn more of the area history, particularly that of the copper mines that thrived here during mid-1800s. http://www.exploringthenorth.com/cophistory/cophist.html We visit the Cliff Mine and meet Bob, a fellow who has been searching the tailings for years. He uses his metal detector, passing over chunks of the green tarnished metal. Before tackling the hills of tailings, we opt for a quick tour of some of the old buildings that remain at the site. Kim enjoys the simple elegance of the old furniture while I marvel at the size of the thick plank floors under our feet!

So, up we go slipping and sliding to reach the prime hunting grounds proclaimed by Bob. We dig scrape, slip and slide for a couple of hours with only dirty hands and jeans for our reward.

But the view at the top of the tailings pile, back over the overgrown remnants of past years seems to make it all worth the effort.

It's time to move on, to another one of the peninsula's unique sites.
After quite a drive down 4x4 roads, we are in the old grove stands of Estivant Pines. Although these trees are what's left of the old growth pines that were ravaged years ago by clear-cutting,
we are somewhat disappointed by their size. Having done the Mariposa giants of California within the past year, these trees seem small in comparison. Kim managed to spot one interesting relic from the past...now how'd it get way out here!

Back in Copper Harbor, we walk the town a bit. Signs of a long winter's work lay in the front yards. And, we're surprised to find a small unused cottage built of cordwood masonry to inspect (more to come on cordwood as we move further North).

It's Kim's birthday (June 11th) and we celebrate by having dinner at Harbor House, it's entrance marked by this huge chunk of copper from the mines. We enjoy the our views of the Harbor, watching the late afternoon arrival of the Isle Royal ferry.
We are then treated to a nice dinner and splendid view of the lake as we end our vist here at the Keweenaw.