Curtis Dahlgren
Why would anyone live in the U.P. of Michigan? [a change of "pace"]
By Curtis Dahlgren
September 20, 2011

"From Lake Superior's southern shore to the Door County peninsula, the vast pinestral forests of the north woods give off an exhilarating scent that spells "elation" — an ever-present invitation.

"Shimmering lakes and waterways, thousands of them, lure the fisherman, the white-water wafter, the waterskier and swimmer. Verdant forest, dappled meadows and cascading falls harbor both recreation and relaxation. Even spiritual inspiration and revelation."

— paraphrased from a Wisconsin tourist information pamphlet

I WAS TALKING TO SOMEONE FROM WISCONSIN and had mentioned that about 3 percent of the population of Michigan lives in the Upper Peninsula, and she said:

"Why would anyone live in the U.P.?"

William Penn (1644-1718) once said that "the country life is to be preferred, for there we see the works of God, but in cities little else but the works of men."


Some say this is God's Country (God lives in heaven, but He goes to the U.P. on vacation). Those words above about the "north woods" apply as well to the whole Wisconsin/U.P. border area.

Houghton, Hancock, and Marquette like to boast about their annual snowfall totals, but down here in the south-central Banana Belt, we're too embarrassed to publicize our meager snowfall totals. We have the cleanest air in the Lower 48, and the humidity is low. I only mow my lawn on average four times a year.

Three-fifths of the Great Lakes help moderate our weather. We don't have prettier horses and faster women, but we do have longer autumns, warmer winters, and cooler summers (my house never gets over 74 degrees — without air conditioning)!

We have ten waterfalls not much more than half an hour from my house. The U.P also has the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi other than Niagara. We have more coastline than California, Oregon, and Washington combined. There are economic and political reasons for living here too, but first some words adapted from a Michigan tourism booklet:

"The U.P. of Michigan has 1,700 continuous miles of shoreline on 3 of the Great Lakes; it has 150 major waterfalls, a National Park, 4,300 inland lakes, and 12,000 miles of trout streams. It is further west than St. Louis and as far east as Toledo (almost 400 miles), but further north than Montreal. It stretches 233 miles from south to north, Menominee to Copper Harbor. The Soo locks are the largest and busiest lock system in the world, and the Copper Peak ski flying slide is the world's largest. And the U.P. is larger than the four states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Massachusetts combined.

"The mystique of the north country echoes in the plaintive plea of the loon, aurora borealis painting rainbows in the night sky, blue diamonds on the snow, lingering sunsets, road signs designating moose areas, and stars that take your breath away. We have one of the world's most beautiful bridges [and] . . We tend to boast a bit."

[I was once watching the northern lights dancing to the music of Mozart (he would have been flattered, no pun intended).]

We have almost all the wildlife Wyoming has, including bears, cougars, and elk. I've seen 8 American "bald" eagles in the past week or so. My dog and I went for a September swim in the river and had an eagle watching us from a nearby tree. He was so motionless that he wouldn't have set off a trail camera.

I went for a September canoe ride and saw an eagle dive and catch a fish. Shortly thereafter a dragonfly landed gently on the bow of my canoe — almost as cool as the eagle. I had a Buckeye moth emerge from a cocoon in a tree right next to my house this year, both wings four or five times the size of the cocoon.

One recent morning, coming out of my house, I startled a deer that proceeded to snort at me a few times. We have pileated woodpeckers who seem to be laughing when they fly from tree to tree. We have owls that go "Who cooks for you?" The gods must be laughing at the lady who asked why anyone would live in the U.P. Yes, "why?" indeed:

Not to mention the screaming eagles, we have geese flying over at treetop level, and their honking is a lot more pleasant than the sound of your cars, trucks, and buses. I came out of the house yesterday morning to the sound of a Sandhill crane being answered by his mate a ways away.

Yoopers catch 4-foot muskies and 7-foot sturgeon right in the front yard on my road. You can get free meat if you hunt, and the firewood is virtually free, with 340,000 acres for every man, woman, and child. Oh, and I once cut down a tree up here that was seven feet in diameter. [We boast, but only a little.]

Many of us live on Social Security alone, even though you're not supposed to be able to do that! I moved up from Wisconsin in 2002. My property taxes were $2300 a year and rising. They're probably way over three thousand dollars a year down there now. Up here we know whose side the politicians are on — the taxpayer's.

Yes, "why would anyone live in the U.P., eh?

P.S. I wish every "city kid" could spend at least a week up here every year to contemplate the answer to that one. Frances Bacon (1561-1626) once wrote:

"The knowledge of man is as the waters, some descended from above, and some springing from beneath; the one informed by the lot of nature, the other inspired by divine revelation."


PPS: As someone once said: "If God is your co-pilot, change seats with Him."

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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