It was six years ago this week that I sat down at my computer to write the first paragraphs, and edit the first photographs of what would become the very first post for a humble little exploration journal you all know today as Copper Country Explorer. Over half a decade later I am sitting down to do the same for the 900th time – yet another CCE milestone. In the beginning I would have been writing these words on my intimidatingly large and loud PowerMac G5 tower which took up over half of my desktop. Today, however, I touch-type the words you are reading on my incredibly small and light iPad on my lap, posting to the world wide web through a wireless cellular connection. Such is the progress of time.
I still remember with much nostalgia and reverence those early explorations throughout my beloved Copper Country, explorations that provided much needed sustenance to a young and hungry blog. Over my shoulder was draped my old Sony video camera, a remnant of a failed dream that had become the impetus for another. On my side was my old friend Chris, initially asked along to keep me from falling down any mine shafts but would end up exploring with me for several years after. Behind me I pulled a large wood wagon with off-road tires, within which I brought food, water, and other supplies I might need on the trek. The wagon also carried my young son Stephan, who would often accompany us on our less dangerous adventures.
Steve turns up in many of the old photos and videos I took with that old Sony camera in CCE’s early years. There’s a panoramic of him sitting atop a hoist foundation at the Franklin Jr, sitting in his wagon looking up at awe at the massive stone walls of a railroad cut near Quincy, and looking out across Traprock Valley from an old poor rock pile. Once, as we were exploring the old Redridge Timber Crib dam, I turned the video camera on him as he began to chase around butterflies fluttering along the lakeshore – laughing and giggling all the way. While he doesn’t remember the butterflies, he still tells me stories of watching Quincy’s cog-wheel tram chugging down the hill as we watched from along the old railroad grade, his red wagon by his side.
Later this year my son will turn 11, an age in today’s world that is far and removed from the giggling kid chasing butterflies I remember from all those years ago. He worries about mortality; he has questions about girls. His red wagon was sold during a yard sale, so too was that Sony camera that so much of CCE’s early years was shot on. My friend Chris graduated from college, married, and moved on to start his own life. While I was living in the Copper Country’s past, the rest of the world moved forward. While I was busy writing about history, everyone else was making their own. I had somehow let life pass me by.
When I started CCE all those years ago I did so without any fantasies of getting rich or famous. But as the site grew and its reach expanded I began to get the crazy notion that perhaps CCE could be a stepping stone to something bigger and better. I had the crazy notion that with CCE’s help I could perhaps build a career in the Copper Country doing what I love to do and living where I loved to live. Thus the minimum wage job that I slogged through day to day was only a temporary inconvenience, and all the time, money, and effort I was putting into CCE was an investment in my future – a future I anxiously awaited. Only six years later I found myself still slogging through a dead-end job, and spending most of my free time contributing to CCE. Yet no bigger or better thing had ever arrived. The future I was so anxiously awaiting never arrived. But I was still here.
This winter I turned 35. Not a particularly momentous event to be sure, but the type of occasion that tends to make a person take a more critical look back at their life. During that exercise I recalled an old idiom relating to the practice of doing the same thing over and over again but expected different results. For the past six years I had been doing just that, and I finally realized that the result from yet another year of doing the same would only result in the same. There was no bigger and better thing on my horizon, at least not here. It was time for a change, and a rather momentous one at that.
That’s why I’m writing these words not in the century-old miner’s house from which I’ve written CCE for the past decade, but from a motel room on the outskirts of Traverse City, Michigan – a place that will soon be my new home. I’ve traded the rocky shores of Lake Superior for the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan and traded the thick forests and rugged landscape of the Keweenaw for the rolling hills and farmlands of the nation’s Cherry capital. Along the way I also hope to trade that minimum wage job for a career, and those stagnant dreams of the past six years for fresh opportunity and new possibilities.
Of course such revelations must bring to mind a rather pertinent question for most of my readers out there: what does this all mean for CCE? Well that’s a great question, and one that I’l answer tomorrow…