The Keweenaw is Michigan’s copper country and there is so much to see! And no better place to host my brother’s 40th birthday. This weekend’s adventure reminded me of our childhood game “X marks the spot.” Ever since we were kids, we all knew that’s where the hidden treasure was. A treasure that could be virtually anything, and was always as big as our imaginations. To find such riches today, all we need to do is follow the roads that lead to the Keweenaw Peninsula. The treasures you’ll take home are Pure Michigan.
The adventure begins the minute you cross the Houghton Lift Bridge and continue onto the Copper Country Trail National Byway. The 47-mile stretch of US-41 from Houghton to Copper Harbor follows the copper lode that lies deep underground and is the basis of the Keweenaw’s exciting and turbulent history.
The fall colors along the Copper Country Trail are something that everyone loves to see. The hills were alive with Spectacular reds, bright oranges, and electric yellows color created by the special mix of sugar maples, birch and oaks of the northern forests. The colors are now past peak and some leaves have started to fall from the trees but there is still some color throughout the peninsula.
Silver River Falls is not the most exciting waterfall I’ve explored in the U.P., but we were ready to stretch our legs and breathe in some crisp, cold air. Why not do that while searching for one of the ten Keweenaw’s lovely waterfalls? If you are feeling really adventurous, you can bushwhack upstream for about a mile to find more waterfalls of a similar size since there’s no trail to the Upper Silver Falls. We passed on that option, as we did the hike into the Copper Harbor Petroglyphs.
The state’s lighthouse heritage is well recognized by nine lighthouses on the peninsula and seeing them doesn’t require as much hiking. Michigan is the only state that supports lighthouse preservation with volunteers working hard to save and restore lighthouses. Due to time and weather constraints we were only able to see Cooper Harbor and Eagle during this visit.
A light unto the world serving Thimbleberry Jam was a main driving force for this adventure. Jampot is housed at a Catholic Monastery in the middle of nowhere, belonging to the Ukrainian Metropoly tucked nicely among the trees and shoreline of Lake Superior in Eagle Harbor. This is a sweet discovery full of candies, jams and baked goods we couldn’t resist. Whenever I suggest a visit to the Keweenaw, I will highly recommend a visit to the Jampot. It was worth the drive for the Thimbleberry jam, plum jam, chocolate muffins, blueberry muffin, fruitcake and jalapeno caramel. Warning: a single slice of the fruitcake could leave you loopy!
Established in 1992 to preserve and interpret the story of the rise, domination and decline of the region’s copper mining industry. Keweenaw Heritage Sites were established to help make a unique contribution to the copper mining story. Embodying stories of hardship, ingenuity, struggle and success, the Calumet site allows visitors to explore the role mining played in people’s lives here and afar.
We were very impressed at the work that has gone into the Calumet sites we saw, sadly most from the outside due to arriving late in the season. However, we were able to tour the Calumet Opera House. When its doors opened in 1900, the Calumet Opera House became one of the finest municipal theatres in America. Many famous traveling drama companies and musicians, from Madame Helena Modjeska to John Phillip Sousa, have performed here. The theatre still presents a variety of theatre, music, opera and dance throughout the year. The amount of detail was stunning. http://www.keweenaw.info/national–historical-state-parks-60/
Also within the National Heritage Site sits the Laurium Manor welcoming visitors to experience the opulence of the early 1900’s with modern amenities. The Laurium Manor Inn has been beautifully restored into an historic mansion hotel that has been welcoming guests since 1989. This copper baron mansion has 10 guestroom with private baths in its 13,000 square feet on four floors. A parlor, library, den, dining room complete with elephant hide chairs, and third floor ballroom. A stay here is the latest addition to my bucket list. Fun fact: At a time when miners were making 25 cents per hour, this house was built at a cost of $50,000 and $35,000 of furnishings were added! http://www.laurium.info/
In 1843, six years before the California Gold Rush, prospectors came to the Keweenaw not for gold, but for copper. In 1848, the Quincy Mining Company was established and became the second largest mine in the Lake Superior region by the late 1880’s. Today, visitors can explore many copper mines in the western Upper Peninsula. We decided to stop at the Adventure Mining Co. on the way home.
Whatever your vacation plans in the U.P. may be, be sure they include a stop by the Adventure Mining Company to boldly (and very coldly) go where no underground mine tour has gone before! The Adventure Copper Mine is one of the best preserved copper mines and it offers tours for everyone ranging from 1 hour walking to 6 hour tours that involve rappelling with a rope and harness. We had a very knowledgeable tour guide who held everyone’s attention but Gracie’s. She had a very good nap during the majority of the tour in spite of hanging bats and us turning off our headlights to experience the darkness. http://www.adventureminetours.com/
Now it’s time for the all too familiar feeling when the vacation is ending. It was a fabulous fall trip with my family and now we’ll work to acclimate back to everyday life. In the midst of this thrust to readjust to regular life, I’ll take time to reflect on our trip by sharing the details of our getaway with all of you. We learned a great deal about the lives of early miners in the area and will each take away special memories.
By next week I can start planning again! I am already missing my family, but there’s no better way to cure a travel hangover than to pull out a map, do some research and get excited about the amazing adventures to come. What do you think??