Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manganese Falls

Manganese falls in the middle of summer.

There's not much to Manganese falls, which is just south of Copper Harbor. It does drop through a relatively deep cut -- perhaps it's better in the spring, when there's more runoff.

For the moment, I'm posting this from the dorms at the University of Wisconsin, where I'm attending the MAA Mathfest. Yes, math camp, again!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Uff da!

Uff da! You betcha, eh?

A blaze on the red ski trail at Lake Manganese. Later along the trail, we came to a branch with signs: Keweenaw Mountain Lodge one way, and "Berries!" the other. Down that path were a whole bunch of thimbleberry plants -- no ripe berries just yet, sadly. But we sure are in da Keweenaw, eh?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rant: Missing out on a Keweenaw summer

Alright folks, it's time for me to enlighten my lovely horde of readers with a minor rant.

As some of you know, I make my living teaching math at Michigan Tech. Due to insufficient reluctance, I tend to be assigned to teach 8 am classes. That's the case this summer, when I've been getting up nice and unreasonably early to teach Differential Equations four days a week. I'm actually getting pretty good at getting up at those evil hours, and the advantage is that I have afternoons mostly free.

On another, seemingly unrelated topic: the golden hours. This is the name photographers use for the hour or so right around sunrise and sunset. The sun is low in the sky, the light is golden and soft, clouds are hilighted in brilliant colors, and basically everything takes on a beautiful glow. I've played around in the golden hours myself a bit, such as these up from Quincy. Which one was taken at sunset?

Mmmm, golden glowy goodness!

And finally: lenses. I just bought a new lens (the awesomely awesome Nikon 18-200mm VR general-purpose zoom of the gods). I really, really, REALLY want to get out to try it. But my only option is to go out in the harsh light of day, instead of the beautiful golden glow of evening of early morning, or even the weirdly colored night.

So the upshot of all this is: I feel like I'm really missing out on my favorite times and awesome opportunities for photos. That will get fixed eventually, of course. Perhaps things will improve once the semester is over in mid August! Until then, I'm hiking on the weekends in the bright, harsh sunlight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mossy Tree

A mossy tree on Silver Creek during the spring runoff.

Silver creek runs along the back of the cliffs, then turns and makes a lovely little unnamed waterfall just before it crosses Five Mile Point road. Back in early spring during the runoff, Kyle, Squiggly and I headed out on a lovely day to follow the creek. It eventually started snowing -- it was amazingly beautiful to be in the middle of the woods when it started snowing.

I had fun playing around with a long exposure on this tree, to get the smooth water effect. The moss was so green on the tree -- I'd like to go back to clean things up a bit (move that annoying brush in the bottom left...) and take another photo.

I haven't been out taking many photos lately, but I should be this weekend. Until then, I'm digging into the archives!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quincy Overlook

Houghton at night from the Quincy #7 rockpile.

The Quincy #7 rockpile is one of my favorite hidden spots in the Keweenaw -- and it's almost in the middle of Hancock! The rockpile is at [location redacted because I want to keep it to myself, suckers!] -- ok, ok, it's located just at the top of Quincy Hill, just where US-41 meets Kowsit Lats road. The rockpile is hidden by Quincy Hill itself, and has an amazing view of the Portage and Houghton.

Someone has built a makeshift seat out of big, flat chunks of poor rock at the top of the rockpile. It's a perfect place to go to after a stressful day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cliff Cemetery

Joshua Schick, 1884, at the Cliff Catholic Cemetery
Joseph Schick, 1884, at the Cliff Catholic Cemetery

Turns out there are two Cliff cemeteries -- a Catholic one and a Protestant one. I've been to the Protestant one many times, which is just off Cliff Drive, in the shadow of the cliffs, near the rest of the mine ruins.

However, on US-41 about a mile from the north intersection with Cliff Drive, there is a small sign on the side of the road which say "Cliff Cemetery". For years, I'd drive past it and think, "Boy, that sign sure is a long way away from the cemetery, it's not even on this road!" Then one day I actually stopped to look, and sure enough, just down from the sign there is a tiny little path going into the woods. It passes a tiny stream, past some huge old trees, and through a patch of thimbleberries. All of a sudden, the ground becomes covered entirely by some very low-growing dark green leafy shrub, through which very old headstones poke up. There's also a very old poor rock foundation, maybe from a small chapel, and a small stand of pines.

Edit (2/18/2009): Recently I had an email conversation with Mary Drew over at She had looked through my blog, found this post, and passed along this story about the grave in my photo:
I have an Adult Foster Care Home where I care for 6 residents, some elderly, others not so elderly, but just needing assistance to get through each day. One of our elderly residents up until she passed away at 96, was a sweet little lady named Irene. [The grave in this photo] is her Grandfather's grave and her Father and she, planted the flowering ground cover you see in the photo there around his grave, then it spread and started covering everywhere. I think it's called phlox. Up until the last couple years Irene lived with us, her nephew (who is 78) would take her up there to the Cliff Cemetery each summer and they would take the short hike in to visit her Grandfather's grave. My husband and I have been there several times since she passed away, just to pay our respects to Joseph and the others buried there.

What a wonderful story! (And now we know where that nifty ground cover came from.) I wish that I'd had a chance to talk to Irene about her memories. Mary also mentioned that, a few years back, some group of people was doing interviews with people who remembered the Italian hall disaster, for the purpose of making a documentary. Neither of us knows anything about that documentary though -- anyone out there have an idea?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Looking through a series of identical doors at the old Ahmeek Stamp Mill in Tamarack City
Like it? Prints of this photo are available!

The Ahmeek Mill was a copper processing mill. Copper-bearing rock from the Ahmeek mine would be sent down to the mill (on the shores of Torch Lake) in trains. At the mill, the rock was pounded into tiny particles by giant steam-driven hammers. One of those hammers is actually still standing today -- I may show it in a later post.

However, this part of the mill isn't the part with the hammers. This is a long line of identical poured-cement rooms, all with these doors leading through them. The rooms are empty nowadays, and a handful have heavy metal doors attached to them. I have no clue what part of the milling process went on in them. At least they gave a cool photo!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Regina: That's All, Folks

It's time to wrap up a few odds and ends. I'll start with my roommates, who were a unique bunch ("Yegor, what did you do today?" "Every good Russian must be a spy, so I spent the day bugging your rooms.") We also had Ewout the MATLAB wizard, and Ortho, who knew how to make homemade pierogies. In fact, that's what we're up to in this photo -- a regular assembly line for mashing potatoes (with a homemade masher... you don't want to know), chopping cheese, putting them in wraps, sealing, and boiling them. The folks are, from left to right, Ewout, Giang (also in our working group), Yegor, Rachel (background, growing out of my head), and me.

I also mentioned crazy Aussies, and indeed here's a photo of the combined forces of Houghton and Australia, outside the dorms on the last day. That reminds me... we had to call a cab to get to the airport at the end of the IPSW. When the fellow picked us up (me, Rachel, and Hu, also flying to the US), he said "So did the folks at the cab service tell you that they were all out of regular cabs?" Of course we were confused, so he said "Yeah, they had to send this special cab instead. It's a karaoke cab! You have to sing a song before you get out, or pay double fare!" He then proceeded to regale us with all manner of songs (mostly oldies) and stories about famous people he'd known. In the end, I got out by singing "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," and he let the girls go anyhow!

Back to the Aussies for a moment -- here's something useful for all y'all who aren't from Australia. Apparently there is a thing called "Iced Chocolate" in Australia, which is so common that even the Starbucks there sell it. Of course, we have nothing like it in the US. It's a sort of cross between a milkshake and chocolate milk. The Australians decided that we needed to experience the One True Iced Chocolate, so they made some for us. Here below, I give away their secret recipe (shh! don't tell!):

There were plenty of other things going on -- like actual math, but that's boring for a photo blog! Perhaps I'll write about it sometime. But for now, I'll leave you with one last photo -- a 360 degree panorama which I took from the top of The Hill, the one and only hill in Regina (which was formed by dredging Lake Wascana). Enjoy!

Click for full size

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Regina: Campus!

The University of Regina campus is a pretty unique place. Saskatchewan itself is very flat, and the winds (and Chinooks from Alberta -- winds coming over the Rockies at enormous speeds) get very fast and very cold. Temperatures regularly hit -40, and it doesn't matter what scale you're using then!

As a result, all of the buildings on campus are connected as part of one giant ring. Buildings either connect directly, via underground tunnels, or by specially built above-ground connections like this one. This is basically a greenhouse built entirely to connect the Education building (where we spent most of our days) to the student union (where we spent most of our lunches). It's almost entirely glass, with lots of exotic plants in pots and hanging from the ceilings. There is lots of natural light (and even full-spectrum artificial lights at night). Any Tech student knows the importance of getting your sunlight in winter!

We could easily get from the dorms to our various work rooms without ever going outside -- down the elevator, through the tunnel, down the walkway, and into the next building! Then for lunch, head through the greenhouse and there you are!

Regina is so cold that most cars are built with a special wire running around the engine block which connects to a plug on the front. In the winter, you can plug your car into one of these little posts, which are located in front of every single parking spot at the university. The "engine block warmer" apparently warms things just enough that you can start your car and get the heck out of there!

Another interesting fact is that apparently our favorite hotheaded French Mathematician, √Čvariste Galois, donated to the construction of the University of Regina Library. Or at least, someone donated in his name:

For those who don't know the story, check out "Final Days" at that link -- he fundamentally changed mathematics even though he only lived to age 21!

I think I'll be writing one more entry about Regina, this one about the various cool and amusing people I met there, and the trip home. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Waterfalls: Tobacco River Falls

We interrupt this series on the distant wilds of Saskatchewan to bring you an important message:

I found a new waterfall!

As some of you may recall, I spent the summer of 2006 doing a photo project: cavorting running around the Keweenaw, photographing every single waterfall I could find. In August 2007, I officially finished my tour of named waterfalls when I made it to the elusive Montreal River Falls. The only named falls I haven't seen are Douglass Houghton falls, which I probably never will -- they're on private land, and the owner is famously unhappy about trespassers. Oh, and I photographed the location of the Gratiot River "upper falls," which were stone dry when I went there.

However, there are plenty of unnamed little (and sometimes not so little) waterfalls around the Keweenaw, and every now and then I happen upon a new one. I had seen, in the distant past on someone's website, a photo of some falls "on the Tobacco River." While my friend Becca was visiting this last week, we toured around the Gay/Tobacco River area, and stopped at the Tobacco River park. Naturally, I headed up the river, and lo and behold, there were the waterfalls!

Only one photo turned out, which is the one at the top. Here are the details, for those who are interested:

How to get there: From Houghton, Take M-26 east towards Lake Linden. In Lake Linden, turn right at the sign for Bootjack (this is before M-26 turns left towards Calumet). After about half a mile, turn left onto Traprock Valley Road, and then after just about a mile, turn right onto the Gay Road. In Gay, follow the signs towards Lac La Belle -- you'll end up on the Gay-Lac La Belle road, heading north. After about a mile, you'll see a sign for the Tobacco River park on the right. This is just before a small bridge crossing the river. There's also a neat smokestack base made out of sandstone right at the entrance. Park in the park, and to the north will be the mouth of the Tobacco River. Walk up the river (or cross the road), and poof -- there are the falls! There are a series of small drops, but they're definitely waterfalls.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Regina.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Regina: The Lake, again

Squeaky says hello!

As promised, there was lots more to see around the lake. For one thing, these furry little buggers. There were prairie dogs all over the place, digging holes and running around like squirrels. In fact, they really are squirrels, just ones that run into holes instead of up trees when you chase them (not that I tried... honest...). Their holes were good places to trip and twist your ankle, so you had to be careful.

Near the lake, on U of R property, we found this neat sculpture. It was actually a big octagon made entirely of wrought iron, with a small dedication plaque in the center. This side caught my eye, especially with the moody sky we were having at the moment. I'm not certain what the story behind this nifty piece of art is, but I love campuses with actual sculptures on them -- Tech has exactly one such thing, and it's near the Humanities building of course. I suppose they make snowplowing hard.

A bit further on, we found something which I'd never seen before: a Canadian cemetery! As it turns out, Canadian cemeteries are just like US cemeteries, except that the flags tend to be different. This was the veterans' section of the cemetery.

Also in the cemetery was this little temple. It was in a section filled with Japanese names. The plaque explained that the temple was built to let Regina's (apparently large) Japanese population remember their ancestors in a more traditional way.

There were a lot of other neat parts of the lake, but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me -- such as the artificial waterfall on Lake Wascana, which we tried to push one of the Australians under (didn't work: she grabbed our kayaks and pulled us under with her!) or the Saskatchewan Legislature Building (don't ask me how I missed that!). Regina also had some amazing sunsets. Unfortunately, there was no way to see them, because everything was so flat. I spent a lot of time running around trying to catch beautiful clouds hilighted by the setting sun, and totally failing. I did manage to get this one panoramic of the sun setting behind the lake: