Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Keweenaw Peninsula


At this point, some people might turn around, satisfied that they'd seen the most popular attractions on the UP. But not the Beams - that's not how we roll.


Instead, we headed west through Marquette, picking up another lighthouse along the way (Marquette Harbor). The weather grew dull and rainy, and I napped - right up to the point when my mother poked me awake. We'd reached Houghton and were about to cross the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. I've seen drawbridges before - we used to have to cross one to get to the beach each summer - but instead of levering up into two parts when a boat needs to pass, a lift bridge raises vertically. Pretty cool.


Now we were on Copper Island, the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the northern-most point of the Michigan mainland. The peninsula as a whole was the site of the first American copper boom. So of course, my mom - the school-teacher - had us pull over at the Quincy Copper Mine.


Quincy Copper Mine operated for about 100 years, between the mid-19th to 20th century. Today it operates as a museum. After learning a bit about the mine and checking out the world's largest steam-powered mine hoist in the No. 2 Hoist House, visitors are given hard hats and a(n optional) Carhartt jacket and taken for a little ride on a cog railway. Then it's time to enter the mine.


At the time of its closing, Quincy Mine Shaft No. 2 was the longest in the world, measuring 1.75 miles on a 55 degree incline. It went over ninety levels deep and ended at a depth of 6,225 feet. Today, everything below the 7th level is flooded. As we hopped on the little golf-cart-train type vehicle that took us deeper into the mine, I was reminded of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


And it was her idea to visit!

After emerging on the surface, we drove up to Copper Harbor for dinner. The Harbor Haus Restaurant is German/Austrian-themed and sits right on the shore of Lake Superior. The waitresses wear dirndl and when the evening ferry comes in, they all go out to ring the bell, wave, and do a little dance. The food was pretty good as well, especially dessert.


The 'I love you, but really?' smile.

Now here, I'm skipping ahead a bit - while we stayed at an unremarkable little motel in Copper Harbor for our first night on the peninsula, upon returning to the mainland (spoilers), we stayed at the Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in Ahmeek for two nights. After seeing so many lighthouses, it only seemed right that we stay in one.


Bill and Mary Frabotta are a retired couple who decided to restore the lighthouse in the 90s. Staying at Sand Hills was like staying with some of my mother's older relatives - all very 1950s middle-America gracious. Bill and Mary serve an amazing spread for breakfast and Mary does a little piano concert each evening.


Mary showed us up the the top of the light. If you ever wanted an in-depth tour of a lighthouse, this is the place for it - as a personal labor of love, Mary and Bill know its history backwards and forwards. In a cute coincidence, they share names with the first couple to live in the lighthouse, a Bill and Mary Bennetts.


But the best thing about Sand Hills?  Both nights we stayed there, we witnessed some of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. I mean, seriously...


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