If you walk into the Copper Harbor Visitor Center today, it would look nothing like it did during the summertime. Whether you stop in to seek information or to mail a package, you just might forget why you came at all once you feast your eyes on…
Don’t worry, the building didn’t blow up. Nobody has been harmed.
But all the Christmas lights that were rolled up and stuffed into boxes last spring have now sprung all over the entire post office/Welcome Center.
I will spare you the Full Nelson view of the room and just give you an idea of the chaos — I mean — progress with a couple pretend artistic shots.
Fake tree. Real lights. You know that wall!
Bulbs line the entire walkway.
Now, I wasn’t kidding when I said that this is progress. Two weeks from now most of these bulbs will be bursting with life out in the park. After all, that is their final destination.
Who does all this? Is there a Copper Harbor Christmas light committee? Do Santa’s elves fly down to drink eggnog and decorate the northern most town in Michigan?
No and no.
We have to give this guy credit: Donny Kilpela Jr.
A few years ago Don decided to put up lights in the park to spruce it up a bit. I mean, it’s so dark this time of year. He started getting donations and doing it mostly himself. People would come by to help here and there, and each year his main helpers are different.
Here’s Donny dictating the next move.
After a few years, he started using the community building to decorate the trees indoors where it’s warm and (when I stopped by today) Siberian orchestra music played energetically from an iPad.
It looks a little chaotic in there, I know. But that’s where the magic happens!
He even dimmed the lights and turned on one of his favorite trees, so you could have a sneak peek.
Kind of looks like the grand finale at the Copper Harbor fireworks show, doesn’t it?
Don articulated how he was going to get this tree through the door. So don’t you worry. He already knows where it’s going to go.
He also mentioned that you can be a part of this project!
What are you doing next Saturday, December 7th? Decorating trees at the Copper Harbor Community Building? Sweet! Come on by any time from 3-6pm. One of our lovely local ladies is making her famous chili. Don says you can dress for inside jobs or outside jobs. Whatever you prefer, he’ll have plenty of jobs for you!
And if you can’t make it in a week, make it here in two weeks. That’s the countdown to the big moment where all this hard work gets showcased: the lighting in the park!
Yoopers of the Keweenaw are looking around at all this snow and saying, “What the heck? It’s only November!”
Of course, many people in the Midwest are saying the same thing. “It’s only November! What’s with all this snow… every single day for the last two weeks?”
The Keweenaw County Snowfall Report tells us that we’ve gotten 27 inches of snowfall since October, 2019. Approximately 9 inches have settled on the ground. In the harbor, it’s shaken out and condensed to a bit less than that, depending what bush you’re standing in.
Want to know the funny part? We had 27 inches fall by this time last year too! How did we all forget that? I don’t know.
Some people refuse to shovel because it might start to melt next week, if the weather report is correct.
Regardless of what might happen, the Keweenaw Country Road Commission has already been keeping the roads safe. One of their plows makes it all the way up to Copper Harbor before 7am every single morning that it snows.
There you have it.
We are not stranded here in the winter (except maybe an occasional day in the thick of it). The county plows know we’re here, and we are part of their routine. Thank you Keweenaw County Road Commission!
As for the 100 or so local residents who are still here for the winter, well, we are still here.
For the most part.
Many locals travel this time of year. To someplace warm, to see family, to take care of business in their hometown city — wherever. Just to somewhere because, as you know, there isn’t a whole lot going on.
People who live up here are often talented with hobbies and side hustles just for this reason… and this season. Yes, there’s enough to live and entertain yourself if you are creative and low-maintenance, but don’t expect a ton of external stimulation.
Unless you like to watch the morning light illuminate the horizon.
Or hear the wind in the trees.
Or look at driftwood ice sculptures.
Here you go. Here’s a shovel. Get to work. It hasn’t melted yet!
Do you know what Copper Harbor is like in November?
Chances are, you don’t. Unless you live here.
How do I know that? Because the locals recognize pretty much every person and vehicle that passes through or stops in. Besides the 100-ish residents, a few fishermen and even less than a few hunters, this town becomes remarkably quiet and peaceful during this month.
That’s exactly why you should come.
When were you here last? February to snowmobile? August with the family? September for the colors?
Those are busy months, my friend. You may think you’re coming to the end of the earth to get away from it all, but you’re doing it just when everybody else is.
Pay attention now. This is the local scoop. These are the reasons you should come to Copper Harbor in November:
You Can See Everything
Once those leaves fall off the trees, you get views you never knew existed. Lake Superior is visible from the trails on the north side of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. You can see all the logging paths in the valleys right off of the Covered Stretch. New rock formations suddenly become visible as you hike through the woods.
It’s like a whole new world! Come and see it for yourself!
The Waves Get Massive
They don’t call ’em the gales of November for nothing! As the temperatures change and pressure systems shift, Lake Superior can get rockin.’ You may have seen pictures or videos on the internet, but you haven’t seen or felt that power until you stood on the shore and watched it yourself. That little pang of fear and awe always adds to the experience.
Here’s a video from a few years ago. (Cheater note. Yes, this video is from the spring, but spring and fall both stir the beast in her!)
Help Decorate the Park
For most of the month of November, Captain Donny and friends put up lights, trees and decorations in the park to prepare for lighting it up at Winter Wonderfest (mark your calendar for that on December 14th). Wouldn’t you feel proud and honored if you could be there and say, “I decorated that tree!” or “I remember helping with those decorations!”
It’s a community effort, and anyone is welcome to help.
Here’s a video of what the fruits of your efforts can look like!
It’s You and the Locals
I know. This can be a bit daunting. Especially if you stop in to the General Store in the morning for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich while the locals are having coffee talk. Oh, boy. You’ll learn things you never wanted to know about people! And even if you don’t know the people, the stories can be pretty juicy. For some reason, we just don’t hold back.
Maybe that’s why they say “we’re all here because we’re not all there!”
But you will also get more personal service.
Gilly at the Mariner with time for a trick!
Have you been to the Mariner North a dozen times in July? Well, come visit in November, and you might get to know them a bit better. Your server will have time to chat, and the owners might even be out enjoying a meal. This is the time to come if you ever wanted to hobnob or get in with the crowd.
The Fishing is Good
Don’t tell anyone that I told you that.
The splake usually bite in the harbor once the big lake cools down. I’ve seen plenty of boats trolling the harbor and solo or groups of people fishing right off the docks lately. It’s a good time to try your luck!
But no promises. I mean, that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.
You Can Truly “Get Away”
This picture was taken on Wednesday, October 30th. Need I say more?
What a peaceful time to walk the streets of Copper Harbor and take in the solitude!
That doesn’t mean that there are no amenities, however. You will get your needs met in the following ways for the month of November:
Gas Lite General Store – hot coffee, breakfast items, fishing licenses, groceries, snacks, clothing, all types of gear, a variety of adult beverages and, of course, the juicy local gossip.
The Mariner North – lunch and dinner daily with a full bar! Cabins and motel rooms.
Copper Harbor Fuel Stop – open daily for fuel, snacks, local art, automotive items and fishing gear.
Minnetonka Resort and Thunderbird Gift Shop – warm motel rooms and a gift shop until the middle of November.
Brockway Inn Motel – cozy motel rooms open until the middle of November.
Spirit of the North Massage and Wellness – massage specials and energy work until November 25.
Brickside Brewery – local craft beer on the weekends.
The Post Office – buy stamps and get that package shipped 6 afternoons a week. Access to local brochures and displays.
See? You won’t be stranded!
You’ll be flexing your fortitude. Yeah. That’s it. See you soon!