Tag Archives: Copper Country

Say it’s not so

View of the Houghton Canal, the Ranger and autumn colors

View of the Houghton Canal, the Ranger and autumn colors

Want to tag along on our trip to “The Copper Country” yesterday?

Barry had to cover an 8th grade junior high girl’s basketball tournament in Calumet for his job at our local newspaper, so off we drove through a beautiful autumn afternoon for our “date”.

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Hiking by the Hungarian Falls with friends

Lake just above the dam at Hungarian Falls

Lake just above the dam at Hungarian Falls

Last Saturday evening we traveled with friends to the Hungarian Falls, just north of Hancock, near Dollar Bay.

We aimed to hike by the falls before eating dinner in Calumet at Carmelitas, a Mexican restaurant, where you buy chips and  delicious pico de gallo for a buck.  If you want, you can buy a Thimbleberry Margarita, not that we did.

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Please join us in a tour of the Hanka Homestead. Free nisu & coffee!

Follow this small muddy two-track deep into the woods, shall we?

Follow this small muddy two-track deep into the woods, shall we?

Friday morning rain gushed from the sky.

Oh no–what a day to celebrate Finn Fest in the Copper Country.  We frowned and hoped it might clear up.

Barry had to visit the Hanka Homestead, a 1920′s Finnish farm hidden back by Otter Lake, six miles from US 41 to take photographs and write a story for our local newspaper.

I opted to tag along, the tag-a-long wife, and snap some photos, too.  Might as well have fun, right?  Afterward we would continue on to Houghton to shop and eat out.  (Eating out is one of our favorite occupations, you know.)

We prayed the rain might cease and desist.  Not just for our sake–but for the sake of all the folks planning and visiting Finn Fest.

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Wolf. Sideways blowing snow. Chicken enchiladas with spicy mole sauce.

Monday.  Brown-furred wolf runs south to north in front of my car.  His legs pump, his haunches strain.  Masterful, he sprints, his legs sure, not slipping and skidding like those long skinny-legged deer who sometimes fall and splay all four legs as they attempt to gain traction on ice.  Solid, purposeful, the wolf crosses snow-covered asphalt, his eyes staring straight ahead, almost oblivious to the barreling car.  He darts into the woods, immediately  in a grove of evergreens, concealed in plain sight.

Snowy spruce

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Time for a Heikki Lunta snow dance?

So you want some snow at your house?

You desire more of the thick white sparkling beautiful snow adorning your evergreens and freshening your winter blues?

We Yoopers (residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or the “U.P.”) know how to get snow.

Here is the secret.

You ask the Snow God, Heikki Lunta, for some of the white stuff.

Then you strap on your snowshoes or find your skis–and you’re off into an amazing winter world!

Just listen to this YouTube song by a Yooper group Conga Se Menne which talks about Heikki Lunta showing up for a sauna.   While your listening, check out photos of what a “normal” winter looks like around here.  This winter is definitely not “normal”.

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Don’t be afraid of black bears or church jokes at breakfast!

Hello Bear

Here are the promised black bear photos.  We were visiting the rest rooms/changing rooms during our camping trip at Bete Grise…mindin’ our own business…whistlin’ our own tune…when Sue spotted HIM! 

A black bear.  Tearing apart the garbage bags outside the small rest room. Less than twenty feet away.  


A bear! 

Bear stands on hind legs

We scurried forward with our cameras, even though the light was low.  We snapped, snapped, snapped and even moved closer.  The bear didn’t care.  He was focused on dinner.  This garbage pail held treasures of delight.  Who cared about the humans with their tiny machines snapping away? 

Not our black bear. 

And now for some dinner...

 We photographed for maybe five minutes before retreating to the beach and our own snacks.  However, within a short while, half of the swimmers and beach-goers had discovered “our” bear.  They stood around photographing our scavenger for the next half hour while we lounged, blase, on the beach. 

Silly people.  So excited about a bear.  (grin…) 

OK, dear reader, now I am attempting to tie in two rather different subjects.  One:  the bear dining on garbage near our camping site the other night.  Two:  the fascinating little old lady who befriended us at the cafe during breakfast the next morning. 

Sue & our new friend at the cafe

She approached our table, smiling.  She measured about four feet high, with a four-foot grin on her face.  

We chatted with our new friend for a few minutes. 

Suddenly she said, “Hey, did you hear about the streaker in church?” 

No.  We hadn’t. Hadn’t even heard the term “streaker” for many years.

(OK, all you minors…don’t read on!  This is where the blog gets dicey…  You know those little old ladies.)

She looked at each of us in the eye.  Paused for good effect, like all good joke tellers.  (Of which I am not.)  

They caught him by the organ. 

We all laughed. 

She urged us, “Don’t be afraid to laugh!  Young people these days don’t know how to laugh!” 

We laughed some more. 

They caught him by the organ. 

It was an exciting excursion to the Copper Country, you can tell.  Black bears and church jokes.  Who knows what to expect next!

When the bear rolls over in his den…

A husky. Not a bear...

Let’s still talk about the Heikinpaiva celebration up in Hancock this weekend.  Remember what “Heikinpaiva” means?  It means when the bear rolls over in his (or her) den.  What it really means is that the bear is snoozing in his den, half-asleep.  Suddenly he senses that the winter is half over.  Time to roll over on the other side.  That is, unless the bear is a mama nursing cubs.  If that’s the case, I’ll bet she doesn’t roll over.  The poor little cubs would be crushed. 

Here is a link to a real mama bear hovering over her cubs in a den.  You won’t see much action.  Usually when I check in she’s lying like a lump of black fur over her cubs. 

Clomp, clomp, clomp. Horses clomp by outside the car window.

Let’s put it another way:  we’re rolling over in our Upper Peninsula dens, convinced that this is the Midwinter Point.  Groundhog’s day approaches on Tuesday.  This is the hump.  We won’t be freezing much longer.  Spring is just…we’re sure…around the corner.  

Kick sledding

Thus a celebration is required!  Study all these photos carefully.  You will notice a husky at the Polar Plunge.  (See yesterday’s post.)  A couple of horses plod along a busy Hancock street.  I caught the duo through the window of our Buick.  They pulled a wagon filled with children and parents along the traffic-laden road.  The following photos show the fine art of kick-sledding.  Finnish kids played on kicksleds for years, I am sure.  Look at the fun the children are experiencing!  

Triple kicksled action


Even the baby is having fun.  Heikinpaiva is that kind of celebration. It appeals to all ages.   

Hi baby. You like Heikkinpaiva too?

As I mentioned yesterday, we failed to witness the Wife Carrying event.  I am sorry to report.  I wonder if there were any wives carrying husbands.  I wonder if it looks like a barbaric cave-man scene.  I really want to view the wife carrying game one of these years.  If we could figure out what time they haul one another around the playing field.

Be sure to see the wife carrying competition...


Of course we couldn’t simply attend the Heikinpaiva celebration in Hancock and return home.  We love eating out!  This time we visited Joey’s Seafood Restaurant in Houghton.  Barry ate the three-piece fish and chips.  I sampled the Jambalaya with garlic bread.  I am discovering that my photographic eye never turns off these days.  You can be spooning Jambalaya into your mouth and your eye is gauging the next photograph.  It’s getting kind of crazy.  I explained it to Barry:

“It’s like my eye keeps scanning everywhere, looking for a good photograph.  Scan, scan, scan.  No, no, no, no, YES! ”  It never seems to stop. 

And then we have to undergo photographic discussions.  I can’t seem to shut up these days, talking about shots and angles and possibilities. It’s good to have a photographer-husband. 

Inside Joey's Seafood Restaurant in Houghton. B&W ambiance...


It’s also interesting how the review on the camera often turns out differently than the review on the computer screen.  You can think you have a wonderful photograph scrolling through the camera.  Then you upload it and sigh.  Not quite.  Almost, but not quite.  

Neon fish in the aquarium at Joey's

 My ice-fishing husband loves fish.  Eating fish, looking at fish. I decided to attempt to photograph the wiggly creatures.  Look at those green neon stripes!  Amazing…

Hope you all enjoy your week.  Just think!  Winter is half over!  The bear says so.  He just rolled over in his den.

“We go Polar Plunge”

Here they come--the Miss America contestants!

How many of you would like to plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Superior for a mid-winter “Polar Plunge”?  Show of hands, please!  C’mon, I know you’ve been secretly dreaming of this for years.

It’s a little late for the 2010 Heikinpaiva Polar Plunge in Hancock, Michigan, but you can start planning for next year.  Here’s the scoop.  Figure out a crazy costume to wear (pig’s snout, perhaps, or hula skirts, or Miss America contestant or maybe just your bathing suit) and wait inside the Ramada Inn until they send you outside in perhaps 23 degree air temperatures to dive into a hole cut in the ice.

But don’t worry–the water is much warmer!  This year the announcer said it was 29 degrees.  It will seem like bath water compared to air.  Honest.

Contestant #4 heads out. Pig man!

Last year it was really cold.  Really, really cold.  It was 4 degrees.  You can read about it here. If you look closely at the photos from last year you will notice the steam rising from the frozen lake.  Wind whipping around with gusto.  I remember tearing in the wind, and tears freezing on my face.  It was brutal.

This year, as the contestants will surely tell you, was a piece of cake.  I’m sure.

Diving in!

The Heikinpaiva mid-winter celebration comes to us from Finland.  Celebrated since 1999 here in the Copper Country,where we have many Finnish descendants,  it means “when the bear rolls over on his side”. It also celebrates a Finnish saint, Saint Henrik.  You can read more about this year’s celebration by clicking here.

The Hulu skirt ladies

Besides the famous Polar Plunge, one may also participate in boot throwing and wife-carrying, as well as visit the reindeer encampment (two reindeer in a pen), operate a kicksled or a vipukelkka (whipsled).  I really wanted to see the wife-carrying, but we missed it the second year in a row.  Darn.

Splash! In go the Hulu Ladies!

People of Finnish descent around here sometimes leave out the words “to” or “to the”.  For example, one might say “We go Polar Plunge” instead of “We’re going to the Polar Plunge.”  Or “We go Hancock” instead of “We’re going to Hancock.”  It’s rather quaint.  Especially when one finds oneself leaving out prepositions. I mean, why do we need prepositions anyway?

Young guys posing for photography shoot. Cold, boys?

A lot of college students participate in the plunge.  I kind of wondered if our nephew, Doug, who is attending Michigan Technological University, would be diving in.  We looked around, but did not see him.  Too bad!  I wanted a photo of that to send to his parents.

The youngest jumpers. And they are experienced jumpers.

You might be wondering if we will ever take the plunge into our dear Lake Superior.  The answer is a firm “no”.  I couldn’t convince myself to dive in last August, let alone in the middle of winter.

Therefore, these participants need a round of applause.  Good job, plungers!  We salute your sisu.  (Sisu roughly translates as will, determination and perseverance in the face of adversity.)  We really do.