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Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Another family member has become a Yooper.  A resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

It’s my nephew, Doug.  He’s attending orientation tomorrow at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  And, lucky us, he traveled up north with my brother, Scot, his wife, Karen, and sister Keely. 

Tonight I am coming to you live from the Cyberia Coffee Shop in downtown Houghton after hours and hours and hours of outdoor adventures.  I am soooo tired.  But will attempt to type faithfully, upload photos and stammer out a narrative.

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

We  ate a rather nice meal sitting out on the deck at the Downtowner Bar and Restaurant watching the sailboats and power boats and talking about Mount Ripley and winter skiing.  Doug already seems to know more about the Keweenaw after one day than I do after thirty years.  (Well, maybe not, but that kid sure knows a lot!)  His roommate, Gabe, seems like a nice fellow and I’ve promised to call them when I’m up in Houghton.  Maybe we’ll even come back to this coffee shop some morning in between class.  Or perhaps we’ll meet for lunch.  I am SO thrilled to have an extended family member this close.

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

After a leisurely dinner in which we sat next to other friends, we wandered downtown to watch…are you ready for this?…the band “Wolfgang” play for the Thursday night concert series.  And guess who plays bass guitar in the band Wolfgang?  You guessed it, I’m sure.  My husband, Barry.

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

The streets in downtown Houghton have been torn up for most of the summer.  They have been digging up the old street and replacing it with brick.  You have to maneuver through a series of detours to make your way around the city.  It’s been challenging.  The concert series was probably intended to keep folks in the downtown area. 

Wolfgang plays classic rock ‘n roll.  It’s fun to listen to them.  A lot of the time they play bar gigs or weddings, so I don’t have an opportunity to hear them that much.  It was especially fun to sit on the curb between Scot and Karen, swaying to the music and sometimes singing along.  Keely bought some fudge.  It was a lovely warm summer evening; a novelty in the Copper Country this summer.

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Yawn…  Oh excuse me.  It’s really past my writing time.  I would drink some real high-potency coffee just to make the hour-long drive home, but that would truly interfere with sleep.  So I am nursing a decaff iced coffee americano or something similar.  I am still thirsty.  But you probably don’t care to know those kind of details, so we’ll return to a photo of Scot and Keely:

Keely and Scot

Keely and Scot

We’re planning a hike to the Sturgeon River Waterfalls tomorrow, if it’s not raining cats and dogs.  If it’s drizzling lightly, we’ll go.  We may even do more sightseeing around Baraga County…trying to figure out where to take guests…and which places might make a good outdoor blog!

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

It is this kind of summer night which sustains us through the long cold winters.  Memories of twilight wearing shorts and short sleeves, moving to the beat of good music, spending time outdoors with family and friends.

Ahhh, we are blessed…

The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

I called my friend Jan today.  We’re trying to arrange a trip to a tea house in Houghton next Friday.  Along with another friend, Joanne, we’ve been planning this trip for a year or two now.  It seems we can never arrange a day when we’re all available.  It looks like this Friday might hopefully work.

Jan said, “You’ll never believe what I did yesterday!”  I was all ears, but never expected her next sentence at all.  “I was sailing on a ship from Keweenaw to Huron Bay.”

Jan was one of the passengers on the three-masted schooner that Barry and I waited for yesterday for two hours in the rain!  As promised, here is the photo of the Denis Sullivan ship.  The expedition was offered in conjunction with Michigan Technological University and the Keweenaw Land Trust. Participants, as the flyer announced, were challenged to work aboard the traditionally rigged Great Lakes Schooner while exploring important links between land and water conservation.

Jan said she stood near the operations and watched the crew work with great interest.  She marveled how they made precise nautical adjustments with such skill.  It sounded like it was a fantastic experience.  Her story sounded so fun and intriguing I almost wished I was on board ship rather than wandering along the shore of Lightfoot Bay for two hours peering for the sails on the horizon.  Which we never saw.  Barry eventually photographed the ship from Witz Marina near 6 p.m. when I was cozily at home writing yesterday’s blog.

Here are two websites for interested readers:  http://voyage.pierwisconsin.org/ds/schooner.php shows a virtual tour of the ship and answers the intriguing questions A) Who was Denis Sullivan?  B) Why did they build a schooner and, most important,  C) What is a schooner?

http://www.discoveryworld.org/denisSullivan.php tells interested folks how they can become a part of day, multi-day or semester-long voyages on this ship.  It says:   The S/V Denis Sullivan is a modern educational sailing vessel with two 180 hp diesel engines, a scientific laboratory, two computer workstations and a modern communication and navigation equipment. She maintains single bunks in co-ed areas, shared toilets (heads) and showers, and limited storage. The vessel can carry up to 21 participants overnight and 50 passengers on day sails. She is complemented by a professional crew of ten.

Circles in the sand

Circles in the sand

While Jan was sailing in Lake Superior, feeling the wind and rain on her cheeks, I was wandering around with my camera admiring the many beautiful images and natural art on the shore. 

Sand and water art

Sand and water art

I loved the way this reddish branch lay planted in the sand, sideways, dangling over the rhythmic rush of the waves.  See its reflection?  If you look closely you can even see glistening raindrops.  And this pollen-stained indention of the pond also looked so intriguing.

Inland pollen bay

Inland pollen bay

And a gift for the land from the magnificent bald eagle.  He (or she) dropped a tail feather onto this beautiful shoreland, perhaps to honor the sand and waves, the commitment of the Keweenaw Land Trust members, the memories of children who once built sand castles here, the cold June rain, the frozen snowy winters or…maybe the tail feather simply was ready to fall from sky to earth and rest gently between the green beach grasses.

Beautiful eagle feather

Beautiful eagle feather

Finally, some of you may have noticed I changed the header photo.  The red berries are gone!  Time for another view.  A wider more expansive view, at least for now.  (P.S.  today’s outdoor adventure involved taking a walk along the road in the rain. It’s been raining for days now, it seems.  And it’s cold.  In the 50’s.  Since when did the 50’s become cold?  My mind kept trying to convince me how miserable it was…until finding those wild ripe strawberries.  If it wasn’t for Part 2 of the sailing ships the title of the blog would have been:  Eating Wild Strawberries in the Rain.)

Ripples in an inland pond

Ripples in an inland pond

Jilly the Cow

Jilly the Cow

Since today’s outdoor time involved stacking firewood (who’s surprised?) I am going to share about last night’s adventure.

We traveled  north to Houghton/Hancock and ran our usual errands before driving to the backwoods beyond Atlantic Mine to visit an old friend and his family.  Except for a brief “hello” at the Aura Jamboree last summer, I hadn’t seen David since the early 1990’s when he worked with my husband.  Now he’s aiming toward a doctorate at Michigan Technological University and has a wife, three daughters and a beautiful cedar-shake country house.  He also serves a great Greek Pizza!

But first things first.  If you live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s probably a good bet that you’ve seen Jilly the Cow.  She parks herself at county fairs, carnivals and parking lots to advertise Jilbert’s Dairy, a milk company in Marquette.  Since most locales probably do not boast a giant trailered cow, I thought she might interest some of the blog readers.  Do other communities trailer around huge plastic animals?

Coast Guard boat docked in Houghton

Coast Guard boat docked in Houghton

As we drove through Houghton, we noticed a rather large Coast Guard vessel along the Portage Canal.  Ever in search for photos, I implored Barry to pull over and explore.  We shot about seven pictures, none of which appeared entirely satisfying.  The boat contained at least a half dozen buoys which will be placed out in Lake Superior.  The craft, the Hollyhock, hails from Port Huron, Michigan.  I wanted to strike a conversation with the crew, as my hometown lies in that vicinity (and I get to visit there next week!)  However, the opportune moment for chatting did not present itself and we drove toward our family dinner date in Atlantic Mine.

Old wooden carved fellow

Old wooden carved fellow

After following directions to turn left, turn right, don’t go straight…we thankfully discovered this small piece of the Upper Peninsula never before seen by our eyes.  We enjoyed talking with David’s wife, Tracy, and their three girls who ranged from eighth grade to four years old.  After dinner we wandered around outside, following a trail behind their house into the woods and swamplands.  We heard tales of a recent visiting black bear. 

Now which one took that perfect shot?

Now which one took that perfect shot?

Barry played basketball with two of the girls after dinner and had a great time.  David covered the tender plants in the garden, a necessity at this time of year, due to the cold temperatures at night.  You never know if it will freeze.  The thermometer always seems to be hovering somewhere near 32 degrees and we must constantly debate:  cover or not cover?

David covering the garden plants

David covering the garden plants

I loved the look of this old garage or shed.  It looks so rustic and appealing as it ages…

Old garage or shed

Old garage or shed

For the final photo, I keep debating:  gleaming-eyed chickens in the rafters of the barn or a pile of bikes?  It’s simply too challenging to decide, so you shall have both, even though it’s far too many photos to fit in one blog.  (Do you know they start charging you at WordPress if you surpass an allotted limit of space?  I’m afraid, due to the high number of photos, I’m going to have to upgrade by the end of the year.  Heck, maybe by September!  But who cares?  This is so much fun, probably I should be paying!)

This family loves to bike!

This family loves to bike!

And finally…don’t these chickens look like their dancing on the rafters?  How funny!

Chickens strutting their stuff

Chickens strutting their stuff

One small step for mankind....

One small step for mankind....

You guessed, didn’t you?  Show of hands, please!  How many of you guessed that yesterday’s outdoor adventure was the Winter Carnival 2009 at Michigan Technological University up in Houghton?

You probably didn’t know the theme this year:  “A Frigid Place Gets a Blast from Space.”  Yes, this is a frigid place.  As for the blast from space, you will have to decide…..

Back in 1922 the carnival first started.  Any of you alive back then may still recall the festivities.  However it wasn’t until ’27 that events expanded to resemble today’s carnival.  The students, fraternities and sororities begin building the snow statues weeks before (there are some constructed the night before, although these one-nighters don’t get dozens of photographers snapping pictures in most cases as they’re not as elaborate and magnificent). 

We’ve lived here maybe 30 years and only really seriously examined the statues once or twice before.  In my memory as of yesterday afternoon, we had never done it.  However, my husband teased out a memory of at least one event years ago when we meandered among the statues, oohing and ahhhing.  I guess I believe him.

Would you like something to eat at the "Galaxy Grill"?

Would you like something to eat at the "Galaxy Grill"?

Barry and I cut across campus near the library and attempted to view many of the statues.  We never found the first place winner, unfortunately, so you can’t view that particular sculpture.  It is amazing how the students craft these statues!  I really have no idea how they technically do it (many of them are studying engineering) so let’s find some links.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_sculpture  or how about this Michigan Tech website:  http://www.mtu.edu/carnival/index.php?

An errant thermometer announced it was 64 degrees mid-campus, but no one believed it, as the statues wouldn’t still be frozen in that heat.  Instead it was probably in the 20’s.  (I would LOVE to be sharing today’s temperature & story with you….it hit 40 degrees, hurray! but we’re still covering yesterday, so please be patient.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about today and we’ll get caught up on outdoor adventures….)

Hop aboard that dune buggy or car, why don't you?

Hop aboard that dune buggy or car, why don't you?

After dinner, when the world darkened and the lights illuminated the statues, we tried to capture some evening images for you.  Not very much luck.  The statue we tried to spotlight featured no lights.  We were tired and ready to head back to L’Anse.  I was sipping a hazelnut latte and enjoying it mightily.  However, we did discover a couple final shots.  First, a group of students were playing broomball.

This is a tradition up at Tech, making it impossible to find good brooms during the winter at the hardware store.  (although, come to think of it, maybe there’s MORE brooms than one would need….)  The kids play this game sort of like hockey, except they wear no skates and sort of scurry around a rink attempting to knock a ball into a goal.  I was too busy attempting to snap pictures to figure it out, so please return to Wikipedia to study up on the sport:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broomball

Exciting broomball action!

Exciting broomball action!

One last photo for the evening.  It’s my favorite.  I know, it’s a little weird.  But I am learning to love photography and viewing things at strange angles.  We parked our car up in a student lot and walked down snow steps behind a statue.  There, behind an ice window, were two perfectly formed “ice hands”.  We probably weren’t suppose to be behind there, as most of the statues are roped off.  But no signs warned us away, so I crept close and snapped the following picture:

Carefully sculpted ice hands

Carefully sculpted ice hands

Waving at you!  Thanks for coming along to Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival with us!

Icicles hanging from eaves

Icicles hanging from eaves

Look at those icicles!  We are living in the frozen north woods, aren’t we?  So many of our houses are starting to sprout icicles as our too-warm interiors meet the too-cold outdoor temperatures without adequate roof ventilation.  Our house hasn’t grown any lengthy beauties yet, so I’ve been on the look-out for majestic icicles for weeks. 

Random fact from Wikipedia:  when those icicles grow long enough to hit the ground (or a corresponding ice spike growing up from the ground) they’re called Ice Columns. 

Remember these facts.  There will be a quiz.

As for today’s outdoor adventure, it hasn’t happened yet.  Not until later this afternoon and evening.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure a computer will be handy until much later (at which point the bed & pillow may be more appealing than sculpting a blog) so tomorrow you’ll get today’s scoop!

The actual destination is a secret.  Some of you know it already.  For the rest of you, I am leaving hints lying around everywhere.  There’s been a hint in almost every paragraph and photo.  Janet and our personal offspring, do not tell.  I will have to fiercely edit your comments.  Some locals among you may guess.

OK, here’s a little hint.  It’s “up the road”.  For you non-local readers, up the road means driving north up to the Keweenaw Peninsula.  The home of Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Hancock, Findlandia University, Calumet and the far reaches of Copper Harbor.  It happens every year at this time of year and it’s almost famous. 

Enough said!  You can not pry it out of my lips or typing fingers.  (and for those of you concerned that I will be cheating tomorrow and NOT going outside….already having a blog squirrelled away….never fear.  Snowshoeing or walking will happen tomorrow.  I just might not write more than a sentence about it.  You will not die in boredom over another snowshoeing saga.)

Sometimes I feel like the storyteller in the famous tale One Thousand and One Nights.  Do you all know the story?  Here’s the synopsis:  Some crazy Persian King (I think he’s crazy; you will too after you hear this!) discovers his wife’s infidelity and has her executed.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He then generalizes to judge all his new wives in a similar manner and executes them all the morning after their wedding night. 

You are wondering, aren’t you, what this blog has to do with that?  Well, one sly and crafty new wife realizes what’s going on and decides to entertain her new husband with a story.  Just as the plot thickens and interest quickens, she announces that the rest of the story will be told the following evening.  She thus keeps postponing her execution for 1001 days and by then he’s fallen in love with her.  At least, I think that’s how the story ends, never having read it.

Sometimes I feel like all you dear readers troop over here day & after day, and I must find some sort of interesting tale to tell you so it wouldn’t have wasted your effort.  But, thank goodness, it’s only for 365 days!  And no one is threatening execution so far….

Making tracks....

Making tracks....

P.S.  Quiz time!  What were those icicles called when they grow long enough to hit the ground?   🙂

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