Monday, January 17, 2011

Touring Michigan's Past

In June of 2000, I took a new position working in Family Practice at the clinic in Tomahawk. Finally, back in town, less than ten minute drive to work each day. The other bonus, Friday afternoons off. I didn’t even ask for it; they just said this is the deal. Twist my arm to say yes to that.

The only down side was that for the first time in many years, I was dealing daily with coughing kids with runny noses, their parents with sinus infections, the elderly with bronchitis. I thought I had a fairly good immune system. And I think that now I do, but that first month working with all these sick people, it took its toll.

July 2, as we were packing the car to leave on our family vacation to the eastern part of Michigan’s UP, I was sicker than I ever remember being. I just wanted a tapper in the side of the head to relieve the pressure, a little feed bag like they put on horses, only tie it under my nose to catch the drainage. I won’t share the details of the fact that it was also “that time of the month”. I was not happy, but I was determined to make the best of it. After all I had made all those reservations, all those plans. I would not be thwarted.

Our first stop was the Iron Mine in Norway, Michigan. The tour, into the cool, damp mine, wearing a yellow slicker which had already been worn by countless tourists, was just what I needed to heal my illness. I am also claustrophobic, so the tiny spaces and darkness of the mine also helped immensely. What really matters, though, is that the kids, ages 14 and 10 at the time, thought it was great.

Another two hours down the road and we arrived at Fayette State Park, just past Garden on Big Bay De Noc.

In the late 1800’s, Fayette was one of the Upper Peninsula's most productive iron-smelting operations. The town consisted of two blast furnaces, a large dock and several charcoal kilns and grew to a population of nearly 500 residents, many immigrants from Canada, the British Isles and northern Europe. During its 24 years of operation, Fayette's blast furnaces produced a total of 229,288 tons of iron ore. By 1891, the iron market began to decline and the Jackson Iron Company was forced to close its Fayette site.

Soon, all that was left was a ghost town. Until the state of Michigan stepped in, started restoring it and turned it into a state park. It is a very cool. I had naturally been there before, but my husband, daughter and son had not. They were not at all disappointed.

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