Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Yooper Beauty

We added a new state to RVentures when we crossed the border from Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. The inhabitants of the UP, many who descend from the hard-working Finnish ore miners and loggers, fondly refer to themselves as "Yoopers". 

Doug remembers well the tough winters in this area when he studied at Michigan Technological University. It was not uncommon for 200+ inches of snow to blanket the area. Thus the Yoopers have developed a tolerance for the UP weather,

as well as a culture and humor that is very unique.

When the 200+ inches of snow melts (usually by the end of May), the glistening blue hues of the Great Lakes of Michigan, Superior and Huron luer many up to the UP. During our recent visit to Gladstone and Marquette, Michigan, we too were mesmerized not only with the Yooper humor but also with the Yooper beauty that fills the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Lighthouse lovers will jump with Yooper joy over the vast amount of lighthouses that adorn the rugged lakeshores. Peninsula Point Lighthouse on the tip of Little Bay de Noc reflected the historical value of these beacons of light ... 

... as well as the natural value. Thousands of monarch butterflies gather in this area during late summer to get their fill of the abundant milkweed as they prepare for their southern migration.

The Gladstone Lighthouse adds a beautiful silhouette to the evening sunset ... 

... while the lighthouse at the entrance of Marquette Harbor still guides the incoming sea vessels.


One only has to travel down any of the narrow roads of the UP to find hidden gems of Yooper history. Fayette Historic State Park, located on the lower end of Big Bay de Noc, reveals the remnants of a bustling community that manufactured charcoal pig ore between 1867 and 1891.

The limestone cliffs that line Fayette harbor ...

led to the prominent blast furnaces in the center of the once bustling industrial town.

Refurbished structures from the grand home of Fayette's operating supervisor ...

to the community buildings and houses of the common worker

provided insight into the everyday lives of immigrant workers and their families as they faced challenging work conditions as well as harsh weather conditions.


With the majority of Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes, its majestic shores creates a beauty that any Yooper can be proud of.

Of course, the Grand Champion of shoreline has to be the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the northern border of the UP. Sandstone cliffs of tan, brown, white, orange and green rise above the pristine blue waters of Lake Superior. There are several ways to admire the Pictured Rocks: boat cruises, kayaking and hiking. 

We resisted the temptation to go the true Yooper route, and decided to see it from above as we hiked two different sections of the park.

Our first hike was a three mile out and back from Miners Beach to Mosquito Beach. The blustery winds off the lake made me glad that I didn't let Doug talk me into kayaking. 

We followed the path through the forest,

stopping quite often to admire unique fungus growths, 

spectacular lookouts,

and sandy beaches better left for a much warmer day!

Our second hike was a much more ambitious ten mile loop that covered the most picturesque portion of the shoreline from Mosquito Beach to Chapel Rock. The calm winds and abundant sunshine brought out the hue of magnificent colors that give these "Pictured Rocks" their name.

From lunch in the shadow of Chapel Rock,

to agate hunting along the beach (and taking only pictures),

to "you better not get too close to the edge" moments,

we were happy that we took the time and effort to explore the Pictured Rocks from the trails above.


The waterfalls of the UP are a sign of the power of water at work. Mosquito Falls and Miners Falls were two of the many waterfalls that sang to us as their waters plunged towards Lake Superior.


Yes, the true Yooper beauty is found just about everywhere you look. Miles upon miles of hiking trails through serene forests provide shade,

give you a colorful display of wildflowers,

and allow you to pass by deer who are more interested in the tasty foliage than in you.

It is no mystery ...

... why I love all the Yooper fun and beauty that my hiking partner shows me.

Until next time ... kiss a Yooper or a Yooper wanna-be ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Habitat For Humanity Build #7: Reedsburg, Wisconsin

We are back on the construction crew after an eight month hiatus. This time RVentures took us back to familiar stomping grounds ... the Baraboo, Wisconsin area where we did our second Habitat build last year at this time. 

The amazing beauty of ...

and Pewit's Nest Natural Area brought us back for another build.

This time, however, the local affiliate had finished one Habitat home and not yet started on the next. But happily, we were to work once again with "Super Joe", the Habitat construction supervisor on similar homes financed through a USDA rural housing program. Five of these homes are being built down the road in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

The hope was to give the five future home owners a "boost" and help them enclose their houses before ol' man winter decides to make his cold and snowy appearance once again.

Despite some challenges of working on five houses all in the early stages of construction, six Care-a-Vanner couples came together to raise trusses, sheet and foam two of the houses and raise exterior walls on a third.

When working on a construction build site, there are three important priorities to consider: 

Safety: The #1 priority! Habitat for Humanity volunteers need a knowledge of proper use of ladders, scaffolding, harnesses, power tools and hard hats. I was able to graduate from hammer to the power nailer after passing "Power Tools 101" ... skillfully taught by Doug and the other knowledgeable team members!

AccuracyHabitat for Humanity volunteers need to build homes with straight walls, secure roofs and well insulated rooms to keep the future homeowners safe, dry and warm.

Speed: Habitat for Humanity volunteers come from all aspects of life, therefore, speed in construction is usually the 3rd priority. Construction sites and tools, to amateurs like me, can be new and mysterious. And I have to confess that sometimes there is just too much fun taking place on the sidelines. 

How long does it take these women to sheet and foam a small section of a house? All day ... especially when laughter and side discussions get in the way of finishing the job any faster!

But during a discussion between my husband and another experienced volunteer, Doug presented another priority that is somewhat unique and very important to Habitat for Humanity builds ...


Habitat for Humanity volunteers need to work together to not only build houses, but to also build community.

Community is shown through
dedicated team leaders like
Joe and Cherilyn!

Community is shown through collaboration
of great engineering minds!

Community is shown through the willingness
of volunteers to try something new.
We were happy to work with our good friends,
Joanne and Gary on their first Habitat build.

Community is shown by neighborhood
children sharing their harvest of
beans, broccoli and tomatoes with us!

Community is shown through the teaching
of new skills ... like how to operate
the gas-powered truss lift.

Community is shown through
amazing local volunteers
like Amber ... giving up
her free time to help a friend!

Community is shown through all the
future homeowners who work
not only on their own home, but also
on the homes of their four neighbors!

Community is shown by the future
homeowners both building with us
and preparing us lunch that included

delicious Wisconsin brats!

Community is shown through the
love and hugs of our Care-a-Vanner friends
whom we look forward to working with
again somewhere down the road!

Until next time ... build up the community around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!