I went on my first mine tour when I was a teenager. We were on a family vacation in the Keeweenaw Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My brother and I liked the tour of the copper mine so much we struck out on our own later on for a different mine tour.
Last weekend I found myself on the road to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula again (but not so far as Keeweenaw) to tour the Iron Mine in Vulcan, Michigan. It was a beautiful cool (38 degrees when we walked out the door) and sunny fall day. It was perfect for a mine tour with my son’s Cub Scout pack.
What you’ll love about a trip to the mine if you’re eight years old
- There’s a huge gift shop full of geology and Michigan-related goodies (read: lots of rocks!).
- You go over 400 feet underground!
- Free Iron ore samples (galore).
- There are bats in parts of the caves.
- Hard hats!
- Trout in a pond in the mine.
- Stories about dynamite.
- You ride a little red train right into the earth.
- It’s pretty much like being on an episode of Scooby Doo.
What you’ll love about a trip to the mine if you’re
38 years old not eight years old:
- A beautiful drive through small towns up the eastern part of Wisconsin, especially during autumn.
- The trip back in time. The mine is no longer operating. Instead it’s been turned into an educational tourist site. Everything from the signs to the equipment make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the 60s, or maybe even earlier. There are pieces of equipment that go back to the 1800s.
- The tour guide. No nonsense, no frills and no horsing around with this guy. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably around when the mine was still operating. He knew his stuff and had clearly given the tour at least 1237 times.
- Good old fashioned tourism. Touches like Big John, his enormous tire, and the “Old Faceful” water fountain made me smile.
- Hard hats!
- Neato details like calcium deposits on the cave walls, blasting fuses and iron cores.
- It counts as an educational outing with the kids. It may seem like all fun to him, but it’s a slice of Michigan and Wisconsin geology, history and culture.
I never did find out who Big John was. Was he a real miner or more of a mining Paul Bunyan? Maybe he was even Big John from the Jimmy Dean song Big Bad John. I guess we’ll just have to go back next year to find out. Maybe this time I’ll put down the camera (phone) and listen to what our guide is saying. Maybe.