My name is Mike Forgrave and I’ll be your guide through all the remarkable beauty, history, and heritage there is to be found in the north-western end of Michigan’s upper peninsula – a place known as the Copper Country. Why is that? Because a century ago this place was home to a vast industrial empire dedicated to just one thing – copper mining. In no other place in the world did it occur in such purity and abundance. Its discovery led to one of the great colonizations of the modern age, transforming what was once nothing more than a remote and rugged wilderness into a modern metropolitan Mecca of industry.
What resulted was a shining oasis in a vast and remote wilderness. Opulent buildings of sandstone and marble lined streets paved with bricks where streetcars mingled with both horses and motorcars. Excursion trains took patrons to manicured parks on high bluffs, or amusement parks along white sand beaches. Multi story department stores offered the latest in Paris fashion, and grand Opera houses seated thousands while showcasing the theater’s best and brightest. Nearby the massive industrial machine employed thousands while providing neighborhoods of homes, staffed schools, stocked libraries, and modern hospitals.
It was not to last however. After over a century of rule the great copper empire collapsed into ruin. The sprawling industrial acropolis was reclaimed by the wilderness from which it had sprung, the remnants of the mines, mills, and towns integrating into the forests and lakes of the landscape. Natural wonder had replaced man’s industrial might, and with it a peninsula reborn in lush greens and opulent blues. Both man’s and natures great achievements now lay side by side for all to see – and for all to explore.
It is these shadows of a lost empire – the ruins and remains scattered within the Keweenaw’s natural wonder – that have captured my interest since first arriving to the region over 20 years ago. For years I explored the remains of the great empire in earnest, increasingly finding myself drawn to the region’s haunted beauty and intriguing history. It was an obsession that led me to the creation of what you are reading today – an on-line exploration journal documenting what I was finding during my travels.
Copper Country Explorer is your digital guidebook to the Copper Country. Inside can be found all the history, heritage, and natural beauty this historic region has to offer. Mine ruins, small towns, scenic areas, parks, old homes, railroad remains, roadside attractions, beaches, historic sites, great architecture – a virtual cornucopia of things to explore right on your computer, phone or tablet. Better yet put on some hiking boots, get some water, and head out into the Keweenaw to explore the old Copper Empire for yourself – just make sure to bring CCE along as your guide.
The Old CCE
Copper Country Explorer was born thirteen years ago on this day in 2006. Back then it was little more than an experiment, a side hobby conceived to provide purpose to the Copper Country exploring I was constantly embarking on at that time. That purpose was to share with the world the beauty, history, and awesomeness of the Keweenaw. Back then the posts were daily but they were small – just a few paragraphs and a couple of small grainy photos.
For the next ten years I continued exploring and writing and as I did CCE began to grow. It also began to evolve as I got better and learned more. Before I realized it I had a website of incredible size and scope which included an archives of over 1300 posts and some 30,000 photos, diagrams, maps, and illustrations. But all that took a great deal of time, an increasingly exhaustive commitment that I was juggling along with my family and my career. For a while I managed to juggle it all, but then I got a substantial promotion at work. This new position required a great deal more of my time and attention then I had needed to give my work in the past. Because of this CCE had finally become too much for me to maintain let alone create new content for. For sake of myself I decided to shut it down, take CCE offline and wipe it from the internet. That was two years ago.
A New CCE
While the site may have been gone, my interest and love of the Copper Country had not waned. I became determined to bring CCE back to life, but I knew that I could not just return to what I was doing before. The CCE of old was no longer possible. The site had become too large, too costly, and too involved to maintain within the confines of the lifestyle I was living now. I needed to tear down the CCE of old and rebuild it from the ground up – in many regards starting the site anew. Thirteen years ago on this day CCE was first born, and today it is born again.
While newer visitors to CCE may not notice, long time readers are sure to have discovered a few major changes as they explored this new incarnation of the site. There are of course the usual design choices (white background!) along with some editorial changes that usual accompany a site re-design. But there are a few changes – two specifically – that I know will be of interest to long-time readers of this site. While these may be controversial I assure you that they were done with only the best interest in this site and its future in mind.
The End of the Long-Form Post
There is one essential change that had to be made in order for CCE to return – the long-form post had to go. Over the ten year lifespan of CCE its posts have increasingly expanded in both size and scope – culminating in posts of multiple parts spanning weeks of time. Posts were on average over 1000 words in length and illustrated with nearly a dozen photos, archive images, drawings and maps. Known as long-form posts, these odysseys could easily take me several hours of time to create each day, adding up to over 30 hours of work each and every week. There was no way I could continue these types of posts in light of my new job requirement. Therefore it was essential that the posts shrunk in size, resembling those found on the old Keweenaw Free Guide site I toyed with half a decade ago. These short-form posts feature just a few paragraphs along with a handful of images. This is far more manageable for me to keep up with during the course of a week.
The Missing Archives
At its peak CCE featured over 1300 posts in its archives, with articles exploring over two dozen sites all across the peninsula. Reading all those posts would take easily months for any newcomer to the site, and it was a great place to explore the Keweenaw from your home. Today as many of you no doubt have discovered those archives are gone. While no longer accessible they still exist however, safely stored on my servers along with all the comments and discussions that went with them. They have just been taken off line and kept from being served out to the internet.
While the archives may have had quantity going for them, they didn’t necessary have quality. Years of that material was illustrated with my old videocamera, with images of incredibly low quality and resolution. A great many of those older posts are also just not that good, continuing a great deal of mistakes and errors that reflect badly on the site today. Then there is the fact that the site was original built with limited bandwidth and low resolution displays in mind. Today the modern internet requires a far more higher-quality product for our modern phones, tablets, and laptops.
Thus it is my plan to rebuild those archives from the ground up – post by post, image by image. Along the way I will convert them into the new short-form format of the site and upgrade their content for a high-resolution responsive ready internet. I will keep the comments intact and include them in the new versions, all the while insuring that CCE’s – or the Copper Country’s – history is not lost in the process.
More In Store
These changes are just the beginning of what I hope to be a new future for CCE. In the coming weeks I will provide more updates to what is in store for CCE, including a few new projects and endeavors I hope to start on very soon. All I ask in the meantime is for some patience as we move forward. I want CCE to continue for a long time, but I have to make sure it does in a way that is sustainable for me going forward.
With that out of the way, lets get out there and do some exploring!