CCE EssentialsCCE Notes

Chasing Butterflies…

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…

Show More


  1. Does this mean we’ll be getting a cherry country explorer, uncovering long lost orchards, vineyards, and wineries? As a father of a young boy I can relate to wanting to have the opportunity to better your career and provisions for your family. Good luck and God bless in your endeavors.

  2. You’ll grow to like the Traverse City (and Leelanau Peninsula) area really fast. I’m from up near Northport and I’m going to be a Sophomore up at Michigan Tech here in the fall. Hope everything works out for you and your family.

  3. We just got back from a trip exploring some of the things that you have brought to my life through your wonderful blog. I am new to your blog about a yr. now. I have enjoyed every post, and anxously awaited the next . Thank you so very much, for your labor of love. I wish you the best of luck in finding your dream, it is out there waiting for you.

  4. I have enjoyed all of your post and have passed along your blog info to many across the country that had also enjoyed growing up in the Copper Country.
    Good luck with yourgrowing family and all of your new ventures.

  5. Much success in your new endeavor.
    I had the pleasure meeting Mike last year when my family and I went on vacation to the Copper Country. He came to the motel where we staying. One the first things he did was to offer to take me to some of the places he had explored. He answered questions about some of the sights he has explored.

    The information Mike has given has been very informative. In almost every case the information was about places that I did not know existed. The pictures of the sights were of professional quality. The fact that his sight never charged for any of this shows how much this sight is a labor of love.

    It seems to me the people in the UP are some of the most friendly people you will ever meet. My wife is legally blind. She has a Golden Retriver Leader dog named Harvard. Almost every time we went to eat someone strike up a conversation. In every case they talked to us like they had know us for a hundred years.

  6. You will like Traverse its just like here only south of the bridge but nothing can replace the Copper Country. Wish you well

  7. It’s ironic, your decision to move away from the Copper Country coincides exactly with my shift away from being a CC enthusiast, as I worry about my senior year of high school, applying to colleges, jobs and the like. At heart, I’ll always love the Copper Country – and I’ll never forget all that I’ve learned along the way, or how your site inspired me to become a CC enthusiast. But times change, and new challenges are met – and I hope you successfully balance this site’s future with your own dreams. I wish the best for you, your wife and your son.

    The Leelanau Peninsula is one of the greatest places in the state, I’ve only vacationed there and I love the area. I’m sure you will too. Look into the area’s local history, there’s plenty there to be found between the historic farms, lighthouses, wineries, long-gone railroad ferries, and the ever-present fishing influence on every community. Plus, the sunsets are beautiful, as are the towering dunes and quaint beach cottages – I’d prefer it to lower Michigan any day of the year.

  8. Go and camp at the tip of the peninsula you will be glad you did. Great job on this project, I have enjoyed it. Best of luck on your journey.

  9. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts about places I’d like to visit someday. Someone once smarter than me once told me “sometimes you have to move out to move up”. I’m guessing that is your goal here.
    Traverse City has much to offer. I recently researched N Manitou Island for several months before visiting there. This history there is almost as rich as the history Copper Country. I love the West Michigan area, although I’m a bit partial to the Grand Haven area myself, a place I’ve called home for the first 35 years of my life, and probably the next if I’m lucky.
    35 was a life changing year for me as well, life has changed for the better for me and I hope that yours improves as well.
    Good luck, stay in touch.

  10. Best of luck Mike and your family! The present Copper Country is a great place to live, but for most, it is a poor place to earn a living. Life is what it is and we all have needed to make hard choices for ourselves and those who depend on us.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed this site and hope you keep it on the web, it is a great resource. Do not under estimate your contribution to the Copper Country. We are in your debt.

  11. Don’t forget your fishing poles,theTraverse area has some exellent fishing.Spent many a weekend in a twelve foot row boat with my grandpa around Interlochen.Stephan would have some fun with that.

  12. I have very much enjoyed all of your posts, and wish you the best in your new endevors.
    if you ever feel the need to post about the Traverse City area, there are always the lumber mills, gohst towns and railroad grades to investigate. :-)

  13. Wow… I’m shocked and bummed. The most interesting and intelligent site left on the internet and it’s over. You did an incredible job Mike, and I wish you and Trish all the best in your future endevours! Good Luck, and don’t be a stranger! Thank You for all the wonderful history; you’ll be missed!

  14. It rots
    Always assumed you were a crusty old timer speaking from experience.
    Had too leave the Copper Country after an all too brief sojourn, coming here has been great
    Best wishes on your new endeavor

  15. Best of luck to you and your family Mike. I’ve learned so much about my wonderful history and how beautiful the Copper Country can be. So much history that that you have brought to the attention of several dozen reader, I’m sure we all thank you for your time and the knowledge you have bestowed upon us. Copper Country explorer FTW!!! lol

    Again, good luck in all your endeavours.

  16. Thanks for the well wishes and good will everyone, its much appreciated. But though I have moved, its my intention to try to keep CCE alive, with your help. Tune in on Monday to learn how…

  17. I understand completely. I love the Copper Country too, but it’s a tough place to make a living. Best of luck to you and your family.

  18. Thanks Mike for the outstanding history & coverage of the copper country and its copper related industry and its people. You wnet all over the penisula and brought out top noch coverage on all your posts and helped people learn alot as I did and was glad to share pics and info as did many others in your audience.
    Very well done ! ! And I’m sure you awill be attached to the copper country for life. Good success for you & your family in your transition to the lower penisula

  19. Mike,
    This is my favorite site on the entire internet. We are all in your debt for turning us on to parts of the U.P. we never even knew existed. Your contribution to our understanding and the U.P.’s economy can not be measured.
    GREAT JOB!!!!!
    Don’t let it die!
    Thank you!
    Thank you!
    Thank you!

  20. Many thanks for your many posts. I have learned much and apply it in my searches of the iron mining areas here in Dickinson County.

  21. Thanks for the wonderful site and many contributions to the Keweenaw Mike. Sorry we did not get a chance to “do” the Military Road, Clark and Star Mines this summer.

  22. Mike,
    Many thanks to you for this site. You have taught us so much about the Copper Country. The information you gave us lead to many fantastic explorations including The Saint Clair Mine, and The Cliff Protestant Cemetery (with the added bear bonus on that one). These experiences will remain with my family and myself for the rest of our lives. You will be missed. I wish you nothing but good luck and happiness in your new Traverse City adventure. We visit TC quite often, I know the area well. Maybye we can meet up for coffee at some point.

  23. It’s been a hell of a six years, Mike. Thanks so much for your labor of love, and providing me with such an excellent (and entertaining) free research tool, and a free portal into the woods of the Keweenaw. It’s been one of my most frequented sites in my favorites list from the beginning. And thanks also to Tricia for her efforts as well.

  24. Having (well, sort of) “grown-up” among the skeletal remains of Trimountain Mine, spending most of my life roaming the rivers and valleys of these world famous Copper Range hills, I sure have more than enjoyed, as much as I have related to, the Copper Country Explorer over the years that I’ve been stopping by, however silently as I have been, until now. Now, at age 53, I guess you might say that I’m somewhat the reverse of your 35 years – and still counting, hopefully many more full years for all of us.

    Funny how some things about life, as we often see in totally unexpected ways, is so much the same in so many ways for the otherwise fairly diverse lot of us; Whether a few years or centuries apart in age and time. Such is the maybe not so odd coincidence that hardly a week has passed by since I had the painfully solemn but happy opportunity to rummage through the recently razed remains of the old Champion Copper Company pay office that stood fast and tall for many years just behind the number four shaft house that still stands today – but, who knows for how much longer in these quickly fading dog days of our lives and cultural remains?

    Among the many tattered papers poking here and there, waving like struggling hands, reaching out to be helped from the piles of dust and rubble, like stranded survivors begging to be rescued, through the mounds of shattered windows and splintered boards, and battered bricks, cast iron radiators, rusty, bent and broken file cabinets, and grotesquely twisted steel frames of the old Champion pay office’s three-floor tier of company strong-safes, my eyes were drawn to a long weathered fold of faded blue over white wilted paper that I now feel so lucky to have been there to save from the soon to be set ablaze ruins.

    To my surprise I discovered I had found two forgotten sets of old blue prints entitled “General Layout of Machinery – Powerhouse for the West Jersey & Seashore Rail Road,” dated 1906. Still clearly, darkly penciled in the lower right hand corners of both pages of the set of otherwise all white lines on blue print are the words in cursive, “Champion Copper Co.” This naturally got me to wondering, could the Champion Copper Company have utilized the design for their power house? Might this have had something to do with the now nearly forever lost in time foundation of a building left stuck in the tangle of woods behind the town site of Seeberville? No, I thought to myself, you rummy, that was the PUMP house, not the POWER house.

    Before I had any time to be too embarrassed to me and myself, I suddenly, sadly realized just how little I actually know and hardly remember about the Champion Copper Company and the not so long defunct mines of the Copper Range Consolidated, where I long ago heard the lonesome shift whistles and rumbling wheels of the Copper Range trains and other echoey sounds from the mines where I once watched my dad ascend from the shadowy depths of the mother lode among a swarm of fellow subterraneans (both hollow-eyed humans and flocks of bats) from – surely to him – just another day of far too many days and nights of his life that was so laboriously spent digging his life away waging for dollars day after day all in spite of his good sense in those most vigorous days of his youth.

    One by one I began to (almost desperately, before it would be far too late to) gather every paper I could pull in mostly one piece from the ruins soon to be set ablaze. Though surely just a thirsty drop in the abysmal bucket of the oceans full of priceless records and memories quickly drowning in the seas of progress and change, I did somehow manage to salvage a couple hundred water-stained pages or so, mostly all relative to endless gallons of water being drawn from the depths of the underground spring (that I just learned about only today, here on the “Final Post” pages of the Copper Country Explorer), and then ingeniously piped to all the family-filled company houses scattered among the hills of the old mining town of Painesdale.

    Of course, it’s that communal thirst for knowledge and understanding that brings us all to sooner or later find ourselves here – in these adventuresome, memorable pages of the Copper Country Explorer. May the explorer in all of us live on in the pages of our lives yet to be lived and written and read in the ages yet to come.

    The world sure could use a whole lot more people like you who certainly do show that you care about the things in life that really do matter the most. People such as you, and those wistful soles who sojourn here who are not at all afraid or unsure too much or too little to follow their heart’s pursuits – purely for the sake of life’s principles, if never anything “more profitable” is realized in time.

    When I read where you said you’re “moving on,” I could not help but instantly recall what another somewhat older, often wiser old Trimountain boy often quips to me for the sake and benefit of pondering:

    “Wherever you go … there you are”.

    Thanks for sharing your travels. They sure do prove to show, as someone else I know sometimes says something of the likes:

    “Life truly begins for us when our journey becomes the destination”.

    And, last but not least, another truly fitting thought to ponder that I just learned yesterday, and am now reassured today:

    “Only by knowing where we come from can we know where we’re going”.

    May Copper Country Explorer live on – wherever you find yourself to be led to go by that longing, wandering spirit of adventure.

  25. Mike, It’s hard to believe I’ve been following along with your adventures for 3 years now, I’d like say how much I’ve appreciated this website and all your hard work you’ve put into it. It may not have opened the doors you would have liked it to, but it to me it seems a testament to your technical skills, passion, and general determination in what you choose to do. One thing is certain, you have brought great joy to people all over. This site has connected people far away to a place they love, united people with a shared interest, preserved history, and is a digital memorial to generations past. Personally, I would like thank you and wish you the best of luck in the future. Traverse City and the surrounding towns are a beautiful place and have an interesting history of lumbering and iron smelting all their own. Best Wishes, Phil PS If you ever get as far out as Grayling, the Deward area has some very interesting mill ruins as well as good hiking and canoeing on the Manistee.

  26. yeah good point…there is an iron furnace and some other ruins in Elberta i been meaning to check out…maybe you could run some recon for me?


  27. Mike,

    “Thanks for the well wishes and good will everyone, its much appreciated. But though I have moved, its my intention to try to keep CCE alive, with your help. Tune in on Monday to learn how”

    Is it Monday yet?????

  28. So once a year you take a week’s vacation, travel to CC and get a bunch of pictures. That’s enough for maybe a couple months of posts from LL, right? Then locals and other traveling adventurers coordinate with you to explore other sights. This could require some format changes, but you already have several guest posts. CCE slows down but doesn’t stop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *