Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Porcupine Mountains, MI August 3-7, 2014

First and foremost, our Tiger Boy  seems to have made it through the scare that he gave us.  He remains on some occasional medicine but is back to his old playful self.  He is a big part of our lives and we are so glad he is back to feeling well.

On to our travels.  The Porcupine Mountains in Michigan are called the Porkies by the locals.  The area is beautiful and the days are long in the summertime, with daylight lasting past 9:30 PM.

We were busy the few days we were here. We went hiking to Lake of the Clouds, Mirror Lake and also the Manido Falls.  We visited the Ontonagon Historical Museum, walked along the beach shore, went to see the light house, ate lunch at Syl's and did a really cool Coppermine tour.  Our last day we spent in the small towns of Old Victoria and Rockland MI.

Lake of the Clouds is feed from the east end by the Carp River inlet and outflows to the Carp River on the western end.  It is a prominent feature of the Porcupine Mountains State Park.  It is easy to see why, as it is beautiful.  One morning we woke to our campsite being right within some clouds.  As we gazed across the campsites at first it looked as though some campers were sitting in a fog and others had a clear morning.  We could not help but think how this must have contributed to the name of this lake.

Mirror lake was also nice.  We viewed beautiful forests on the hike getting there, as well as our first sighting of  the area's fall colors.  There were lots of bugs and bogs to hike through, however.  But the lake was peaceful when we arrived (like it was basically ours to enjoy) and we had packed sandwiches, coleslaw and brownies to enjoy by the lake.  We were surprised by how little wildlife we saw along the trail getting there (a frog, a chipmunk and a snake).  We saw more wildlife as we drove back to camp ( a couple of deer and falcons).  After Mirror lake we were tired but being so near the water falls, we just had to do one more hike to the falls.  The Manido Falls at just 15 feet, are the smallest falls along the Presque Isle River. The multiple falls and carving in the rocks, however, make for a beautiful sight. While we caught some rain from the parking lot leaving Mirror Lake, the rain had let up by the time we were out on our adventure to see the falls.  We were fortunate to have a beautiful day and miss the few sprinkles of rain during our various adventures.

Next day out we visited the local museum, the light house in Ontonagon, had lunch at Syl's  and also did a fun tour of a local Copper mine.  The museum housed lots of local fair, yet was still interesting. The antique oven shown below was unlike any we have seen before. 

The lighthouse, which we only viewed from the bank, was in operation for over 100 years (1853 - 1963).  Each area's lighthouse where we travel is a little different and we always try to see the local lighthouse if we are near one. 

Thinking we may not see Pastys much after we leave the upper peninsula of Michigan, we had Pastys again when at Syl's . 

The copper mine tour was intensive and very informative.  The mine we visited operated from 1850 - 1920.  The mine consisted of 5 shafts.  Four of these were inclined at 45 degrees as that is the angle that follows the ore body.  The deepest of these shafts, the Number 3 has 13 levels, extending 1300 feet, following the ore body.  Our underground tour lasted about 2 hours and included the Number 1 and Number 2 shafts.  While on the tour we learned how the mine workers went months with seldom seeing daylight.  Their days were spent underground working by only the light of a candle.  Candles were expensive and had to be provided by the worker so most workers shared a candle amongst 3 people. Mine work was not only dark but also wet work and the workers would leave their work clothes in drying baskets, so their work clothes would be ready for wear the next day.  Drilling was done by pounding a drill (held by one worker) with a hammer (swung by a second worker) and then turning the drill.  A couple of workers would spend 10 hours making a 6 foot deep hole.  While there was/is a lot of copper in this mine, the copper is in very large pieces and there just is not a cost effective way to remove it from the rock.  As a result, even though over 2 million dollars was invested in this mine over the 70 years of operation, none of the three owners during this time managed to ever turn a profit.  This was our first mine tour and it was a fun and an interesting adventure.

Old Victoria, now a ghost town is one of the first areas ever mined for copper in the US.  It is located just outside of Rockland MI and the place where the famous Ontonagon Copper Boulder was found.  The Ontonagon Copper Boulder is a 3708 lb. chunk of almost pure float copper.  This specimen now resides in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. . This large chunk of copper was important, however, as it is this very specimen that fueled the investor frenzy for so long to mine Copper in an area that was so expensive to remove the ore from.  The Victoria mine operated from 1849 - 1921. 

On our arrival we were greeted by a wonderful lady, Patty.  Patty's grandfather had lived in Victoria and she was a wealth of information as she gave us a wonderful, personal tour of the various restored houses/cabins and buildings in Old Victoria. 

The town of Victoria at one time included over 80 houses.  All houses were owned by the mining company and the mining company provided the main essentials, such as stoves, pots etc..  The inhabitants of the town were almost all miners.  Many of the homes had a family that lived downstairs and the upstairs would be filled with beds for boarders.  The wife of the downstairs family would cook for the various boarders.  If the boarders did not pay her in a timely manner, the mining operation would withhold their pay and see that she was repaid promptly.  Approximately 50 percent of the miners were Finish and the area even had a Finish Sauna that we also got to tour.  Patty was a wealth of information and we were surprised to find so much to see in a town that presently has no fulltime residents.

After our lovely tour of Old Victoria with Patty, we traveled a short distance down the road to Rockland, MI, population 200 plus.  Rockland is the home of Henry's Never Inn where we had a great lunch.  This inn built by Peter Gagnon, first opened its doors in 1898, then known as "the Sample Room".  The family has been involved ever since and is run today by Henry and Sally Gagnon. 

For many years the establishment operated as a 'blind pig' and dance hall.  A blind pig was a slang term used to describe a lower-class establishment that sold alcohol during prohibition.  During prohibition, the city of Rockland, then with a population of over 5000, had over 40 blind pigs.

Bootlegging flourished during this time.  Story has it, however, that someone reported Elias, Anna Gagnon's brother to the Revenuers because the Gagnon family was getting better cuts of meat from the local butcher during meat rationing.  The night before the bust, Henry got word that the law was coming and he left in a hurry for Chicago, where he stayed for several years. Elias was not as fortunate, however, and spent 10 years in Leavenworth.

The food at Henry's was good and the charm was fantastic.  The walls and ceiling still have the painted stamped copper panels and the dark wood bar is original too. There was a sign behind the bar that indicated that the establishment is looking for a buyer.  We couldn't help but sadly wonder how this place will keep its charm if it leaves the Gagnon family.  It was a great way to end our day.

Lake of the Clouds
Mirror Lake
First Signs of Fall
The Trail to Mirror Lake
Manido Falls
Antique Stove in Museum
Ontonagon Lighthouse
Miner's Dry Basket
45 Degree Line at Copper Mine
Copper Mine Bats
Embedded Mine Copper
Victoria Finnish Sauna
Downstairs of a Victoria Miner's cabin
 Antique Broadaxe
Unusual Antique Grinder
Antique Saw Vise
Rockland's Weather Station
(hope you can read it as the paint has faded)


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