The UP Lifestyle
I can only give a personal perspective: I love it. In lifestyle and natural beauty the U.P. is much like my native Leelanau County and the Traverse City/Grand Traverse area of 15 or 20 years ago, but it has a bigger, stronger, grander side as well. This is a frontier on an inland sea. When people gather together clothes are informal and the talk is of timber, fly fishing, roads, minerals, kayaks, shipping, skiing, rock climbing, winter camping or outdoor sports. People who seek the limitless dimension of a frontier come here, and one often sees license plates from Alaska, Texas, and Maine.
I remember sitting at a table in the Lower Peninsula with half a dozen of the downtown merchants at a Rotary luncheon after a particularly cold Fourth of July weekend. They were looking glum and saying things like: "This area is too remote, too buggy, the winters are too long, airline service is lousy, the roads are no good, you can't make a decent living...it's never going to amount to anything." That was Traverse City in 1978! Traverse City now has big city traffic problems, it is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and is constantly in the national press for its scenic beauty and lifestyle. Get off the main highways and you'll find this area is every bit as beautiful and the lifestyle is just as fine. I feel like a prophet because I know this area will be discovered.
One of my favorite seasons is the winter. Few if any of my Traverse City friends believe me, but the weather is more livable here. Compared to Traverse City, in Marquette we have three times the winter sun, less humidity, less wind, and where I'd be wearing a sport coat or a sweater with a top coat below the bridge or in a city, here I'm in a wool shirt, Stand Up pants and a North Face down vest. You are as warm as you dress. I've never been as cold in a duck blind as I have in a suit and topcoat on Michigan Avenue in Chicago!
I love downhill skiing and cross country (especially at night on a lighted track or just in the moonlight), and enjoy snowshoeing. Winter warms the heart with its crystal beauty, and at the end of a day on the trail or the ski slopes there is nothing like coming home to a fire of maple logs and sharing experiences with your friends. We like to pick up gourmet takeout meals at Sweet Basil, a superb deli in Marquette, or join friends at the Italian Place or the Vierling downtown.
My favorite season starts August 1 and extends through mid-November. August at the lake in northern Michigan holds its own with any place on earth. By August the bugs are mostly gone and after Labor Day comes the spectacular color and
dramatic weather of a Michigan fall. We can get snow in early October, but in my 10 years in the U.P. there has been snow on the ground just three times for the opening of deer season November 15. I used to dislike November and thought it colorless and drab. In those days I promoted my resort in northern Michigan with a slide show that included scenes from every month. I finally realized that the photos that attracted the most comment were slides taken in November after the leaves were down but before the first snow. It changed my whole view of that time of the year and it is now a favorite time.
Spring in Michigan can be as wonderful as spring anywhere, but more often it is a cool non-event. On the first of April it seems like it should be warm, but there's still snow on the ground. It is crusted in the afternoon by a warming sun though, which makes it a great time to be out on cross country touring skis or snowshoes. Trailing arbutus, Michigan's most fragrant wildflower, blooms in sunny spots where the forest floor is clear of snow. Our seasons run about ten days shorter than the Traverse City area. There I expected little green leaves on the ends of twigs for the opening of trout season by the last Saturday of April; here I expect them by birthday May 13th. I love May. It is a great time to look at real estate and be in the woods, and you should come then! The woods smells good, there are no bugs and no leaves so you can see well through the trees. Trillium and a palette of wildflowers carpet the forest floor, the air is fresh and wonderful, and it feels good to be outdoors in lighter clothing.
In June and early July it can be buggy and you need to pick your days to be in (or get out of) the woods. I'd have to say it is my least favorite time in the U.P. I do love the fly fishing at that time though, and my attitude depends on how much time I get on the streams and ponds. The first year I lived here we fished with dry flies almost every evening just outside the city limits of Marquette for trophy brook trout up to 20". When the air is dry and there is a little breeze, it is lovely. With humidity and still air the bugs chase you out of the woods and there are usually five or six days in June and July when the best thing to do is accept the inevitable and stay indoors. I use insect
repellent sparingly as I don't think it is good for my health and find a better strategy is just to avoid any strong scents. People who work in the woods use unscented soap and shampoo and skip shaving lotion (perfume, for the women). When you do that you'll be surprised how little the bugs bother you.
Most of the time I work with four quite different kinds of waterfront. The first, Lake Michigan, is primarily a sand lake with some stone beaches on its northern shore. By contrast Lake Superior is primarily a rock rimmed lake, with occasional sand beaches in the bays that mostly reverted to the State for taxes in the 30's. The State built roads on them. I grew up on a sand beach on Lake Michigan, but now I've grown to love the rugged shores of Lake Superior. Primary roads run along both shores of the U.P. so the trick to finding good property starts with locating parcels with enough depth between the highway and the lake to silence the sounds of traffic. You don't want to drive all the way from Detroit and find on still evenings that it sounds like you live by I-75.
Inland lakes east of Marquette and Munising are sand bottom lakes. The water is clear, "white water" to UPers, because the snowmelt and rainfall soaks right into the sandy ground and is filtered by the sand before the water gets to the lake. The sandy soil means the topography is rolling, shaped by the glaciers, with little or no rock. Rivers run clear. Hemingway's Nick Adams stories were set in this country, supposedly on the Big Two Hearted River. Actually the artist in him couldn't pass up the name, but his trout stream was the Fox, still one of the classic trout streams east of the Mississippi.
The fourth kind of waterfront was a surprise to me: West of Marquette there are ancient hills that they say were once the size of the mountains in Tibet. The
overburden (surface rock) has worn away with erosion, glaciers and the passage of time and has exposed the deeper layers where the minerals crystallized. That is why this area has such great mineral wealth. Negaunee, a nearby old mining town, was once picked as the "richest town in the world" based on the value of the iron ore. Gold in small amounts is fairly common and you can pan for it on many streams. The whole Yellow Dog Plains area north of Marquette contains known gold bearing sands.
Spectacular rock faces and truly rough and majestic terrain remains. This a country filled with waterfalls, small streams and lakes with dramatic rock outcroppings and black water lakes, Laurentian Shield stuff. The water is black (actually tea colored) because the snowmelt and rainfall finds the rock just below the surface and instead of soaking in and being filtered by sand runs through the pine needles and cedar roots, picking up the tannin that colors the water. There are muskies and northerns under that dark water that strike a lure with the force of a freighter full of iron ore, and uncountable streams with native brook trout.
I've tried to give a feel for what it is like to live here. I've been fortunate to have lived and had extended visits in a variety of beautiful places: Leelanau County and the Traverse City area; Amherst and Boston Massachusetts; San Francisco; Chile in South America, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
All were great places to live and all had their own special features and benefits that were like no other place, and I guess that comes to my philosophy of life: Ever place is wonderful if you search out the best it has to offer and the features that make it different. One can't expect the next area to match the best features of the last one. Each will have its own best features and benefits, and they will be different from the ones you have experienced before. The trick is to live in the present, find what makes your new home like no other, and enjoy that to the fullest.
Marquette, the largest city in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is known for its charm, natural beauty, easy access to the beautiful outdoors, strong sense of community and much more. The city has been designated as one of "America's Most Livable Communities," one of Michigan's "Cool Cities," and is a receipt of the "All-American City" award. It is also home to Northern Michigan University
and one of two Olympic Training Center in the United States.
It's great up here. Come see how civilized our wilderness can be.