Monday, September 22, 2014

Hartwick Pines State Park

Because my boyfriend Greg and I are both odd, we decided to make Hartwick Pines State Park our first stop on our vacation last week. Specifically, we were there to partake of their gas lamp tour of the Logging Camp Museum which included people in costume pretending to be people from that time period (the late 1800s or so). If there is a gas lamp tour for pretty much anything, I am there, especially if the price of admission is nil. (We needed a recreation passport to get into the park, but as that is an easy $10 extra when renewing our license plate tabs, most people I know who drive in Michigan have them on their cars now. And if they don't, then they should.) 

The first thing I learned is that there were women in logging camps and they made more money than the men. It was often women who did the cooking which apparently was so important that men would leave a well-paying camp for a lower wages elsewhere just because he heard the latter camp had a good cook. The women peeling apples for pie told us they made $5 a day while the man in the front of the camp told us $3. Whichever it was, the loggers, or shanty boys as they were known then, made $2. There were also jobs for children, and sometimes whole families lived and worked in the camps. Sometimes the shanty boys were local farmers who wanted to make some extra money in the winter while their fields were just collecting snow. (Yeah, logging was done in winter. That was the second things I learned.)

We toured a recreation of the bunkhouse which included a store manned the camp clerk, the kitchen and dining area where the aforementioned women were making pies, and the bunks where they slept 2 to a bed in 40F at the warmest even with the wood-burning stove right there in the middle of the room. Brrr!! The man there told us there would have been an awful smell permeating the place after just a few weeks. (Gross.) 

Greg and I also got to create our own souvenir with a two-person crosscut saw. They had set up a thick limb between some saw horses and had a kid sitting on the limb to stabilize it while two tourists sawed away to see how difficult sawing timber was back in the day. A man supervised to make sure no one cut themselves and died. A lot of people were acting like "OMG this is sooo hard!" so I expected it to be difficult. 

It... was not. I mean, I'm sure it isn't something I'd particularly enjoy doing all day in the freezing forest on a trunk 10 times the size of the limb they had us cutting, but it was most decidedly not "OMG haaaard." Greg and I both were surprised how easy it was. We instantly fell into a rhythm, used our whole bodies instead of just jerking our arms back and forth like a lot of people seemed to be doing, and asserted enough pressure to let the saw do its job, but not so much that we were really applying pressure. It reminded me of how much I like working with my hands (or, in this case, entire body). 

I like physical jobs. I like building things. Chopping down trees because they're living, breathing beings who scream when you cut them (only out of human hearing range) probably would bother me more than the actual work itself. I wish I'd gone into architecture or construction in school. (I don't need a degree to write. It would help to have a degree to beat over sexist bitches' heads to let me do construction.)

Once we sawed off a wooden nickel, we took it out to the blacksmith who then branded it with a pine tree shape. He had what looked like a grill with a hand-cranked bellows. It was so cool! (Or the literal opposite of that.) Never saw one of those at the Victorian festivals. If we get the house I've got my eye on in Ypsi, I think we need to build one of those in the back yard. For... reasons.

After the blacksmith, we stopped and talked with the land-looker (basically a surveyor), portrayed by a local historian. We told him that we are both writers of steampunk and interested in that time period. I mentioned a short story idea I have kicking around that takes place in a lumber camp during the late 1800s. He got really excited and gave me his email address, which I found really exciting! And when I find it, I have a few questions I'd like to ask him. (I hate getting back from a vacation and being unable to find all the nifty stuff I collected during said vacation.) 

Hartwick Pines State Park is more than a "monument to the logging industry" (Wikipedia). There is also an absolutely enchanting 49 acre old-growth re and white pine grove. (Fun fact: the white pine is Michigan's state tree.) Before the logging era gutted it, most of northern Lower Peninsula looked like this. (I'd just call it "northern Michigan," but I know that phrase confuses non-Michiganders.) If you ever find yourself traveling up that way along I-75, make a stop at Hartwick Pines. It's really beautiful! There are accessible trails that are paved and with ramps, so everyone can enjoy.

Next up, I think we need to visit Warren Woods State Park so we can see virgin maples and beech trees. That is located way in the far southwest corner of the mitten, though, so it may be a while. (There are also some stellar dunes out that way I'd like to slide down.)

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