Curtis Dahlgren
From the county of Door to the Gitche Gumee shore: 2 thumbs up!
By Curtis Dahlgren
August 5, 2013

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis . . .

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

SOME DAYS I stand in awe of computers, but I stand in awe of Nature (and Nature's God) every day. Someone asked me, "Why would anyone live in the Upper Peninsula?" Well, I'll tell you why: the Upper Peninsula is an "upper" – not a downer! Maybe you have to be an outdoors person. Up here they used to say, "If you ain't a native, you ain't a Yooper," so for full disclosure, I lived in Illinois three years, 57 in Wisconsin, and the last 11 in the U.P.

I had skied up here once, but it never occurred to me to come up here in the summertime. I had even driven to Wyoming many times to see wildlife and waterfalls. I'd never heard about Pictured Rocks, the waterfalls, or all the wildlife nearby in upper Michigan. There was almost no U.P. advertising in southern Wisconsin. Down there, most people just equated the U.P. with snow. I lived just a few hours away, but it took me 60 years to get up here in the summer.


Shortly after moving to the U.P., I was driving along River Road along the Menominee when I came upon a gathering of eagles – a literal flock of them. One took off from a tree and almost served as a hood ornament for a few seconds. I wasn't aware how beautiful golden eagles are until a neighbor of mine started photographing them. Even mature bald eagles yield right-of-way to the goldens. One night my dog was barking loudly toward a neighbor's place. I walked over there and turned on my flashlight. The eyes of a bear reflected the light right back at me (my dog and I yielded the right-of-way).

The funniest thing I've ever seen was watching three otters walking all hump-backed on the river one winter. They acted like three teens out on a Friday night. First they went this way, and then that, and then changed their minds again. As they headed south, one of them ran as fast as he could and belly-flopped on the ice. Just another day in Paradise for them (Michigan has a Hell and a Paradise; Paradise is in the U.P.). And I've been there. It only gets better:

Driving home from town one day, approaching a right turn, I saw two birds flying around up ahead. At first I thought it was a mating ritual or something, but it looked more like a dog fight. As I slowed down to make the turn, I saw a mallard duck flying straight at me, with a bald eagle hot on his tail. I honked my horn and made the right turn. To my amazement, the duck made a left turn and landed on the road right in front of me! He must have thought I was his guardian angel or something; I was driving a van with a big white goose-neck boom on top. The duck calmly walked into the woods on the right – while the eagle landed in a tree behind me on the left. I didn't stick around to see if the eagle gave up or pursued it any further. Wish I could have made a video of it all.

Speaking of videos, my neighbor the photographer had a trail cam set up by some bear bait, and, instead of bear pictures, he got a video of two porcupines having a fist fight. How do you slug a porcupine? Very carefully – you'd think – but not according to his video. You can see for yourself at YouTube/porkyfight (it's accompanied by the theme from Rocky).

Anyway, people catch 4-foot muskies and 6-foot sturgeon right in the front yard on my road. I'm retired so I just watch people fishing (that's enough work for me). This is like Shangra-la. One time I saw a pair of eagles swooping along the river about 12 inches above the water. On a canoe ride, I saw an eagle dive and catch a fish. Right after, a dragonfly landed gently on the bow of my canoe (almost as awesome as the eagle). One summer a Buckeye moth emerged from a cocoon right next to my house.

And, did I mention, the people are friendly up here? Come up and see me sometime! After 11 years, I'm a Yooper (no matter what the natives say).

P.S. There really ought to be more U.P. advertising in the states to the south. Wisconsin and Michigan could even cooperate on a TV advertising campaign. At first glance that may look like a wild idea, but think about it: If the two states could lure more people to the U.P., northern Wisconsin would benefit as well as Michigan.

PPS: Being sort of a throw-back region, its citizens tend to agree on most things. Some don't agree on mines, but I agree with both the pro and the cons:
"A mine is a terrible thing to waste."

[This is a soon-to-be-published article for UP magazine. I thought it would make a good change-of-pace. Hope you enjoyed it. Seeya next week! -cd]

© 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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