Copper Harbor: A Different World

I’ve written about our adventures at the Estivant Pines near Copper Harbor over the years. If you go to the search box of the blog and type “pines” you’ll come across several. Alice and I have been volunteer stewards at the pines for many years now. We make about a half dozen trips per year to the pines, and try to do one early in the season to clean up the windfalls on the trails, and late in the season to prepare the place for winter.

Late April/early May is the time frame for our first trip of the year, so last night we decided today would be the day. I should tell you that all the snow is gone from our woods except for the most sheltered places. There is a bit of snow also on the sides of our road where this winter’s banks were very high. We set the alarm, got up and going after tossing the chainsaw, Pulaski, and some granola bars in the truck.

Our habit is to stop at Slims in Mohawk for breakfast, and we had a very enjoyable one this morning. It is mostly a local hangout, and we enjoy each other’s company as well as observing the local color. Heading north again, we made it north of Phoenix to the covered-road section of US41. This is a hilly, twisty, and lovely stretch of highway that has large trees close on both sides. Much to the chagrin of some of the commuting locals, I drive pretty slowly through this stretch. There seemed to be quite a bit more snow in the woods here than we’d seen so far on the trip.

When we came to the T intersection at Copper Harbor, the place was mostly deserted. There were a couple of guys with reflective vests standing next to a public works pickup, and they looked at us driving by with some interest. My guess is they knew most of the vehicles that went by this time of year, and ours wasn’t one of them.

We turned off US41 at the visitor’s center, and headed towards the trailhead. When we came to the turn-off to the Clark Mine Rd, the road was blocked with a Road Closed sign. Uh-oh. There was a well worn path around the sign, so we followed it. The dirt road leading to the old mine was a little chewed up here and there, but in pretty good shape otherwise. After a bad stretch on an uphill, I stopped, locked in the hubs, and shifted to 4wd. We made the turn to the Burma Rd., and proceeded down the road for about 1/4 mile until the snow took over. We decided to back up and park the truck on a little side pocket. We shouldered the gear, toilet paper, and walked the rest of the way.

pines2As we walked up to the entrance to the pines’ parking lot, we could see there had been few or no visitors yet this year, since the snow was relatively undisturbed across the entrance. We did our chores in the bathroom, shouldered the gear, and started hiking up the trail. It got interesting pretty quickly. The small cool creek that normally meanders under a small bridge along the trail was chuckling right across the trail. A little further on, there was a deep snowdrift that required some careful steps to get safely across. Around another corner, and we were confronted with a field of snow drifts extending as far as we could see up the trail.

pines1I took this selfie with my chainsaw across my shoulder at the point where we gave up our quest to improve the trail. We’ll be back later on in the year when the snow is gone and the spring birds are singing. After I took the picture, I did force myself to stand quietly for a few moments. The magic of this place, which hasn’t been very much disturbed by humans for a long while started to seep in. Seeing big marketable trees lying on the ground with moss and lichens growing on them in patterns only mother nature can conceive was the highlight of the day for me. We reluctantly turned around and headed back to the truck, looking forward to our next opportunity to visit the pines.

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