“The most expected thing you can expect is what's unexpected.” Dick Allen
State 9: Michigan – July 29, 2017
We woke up in Marquette, MI, ready to further explore the town. We were getting good energy from the area, and were confident it had more to offer than just yummy pasties. Boy were we ever right! As we were driving through the town we noticed a massive congregation of humanity in two of the city streets, and decided to investigate further. As it turns out we had stumbled upon the Annual Blueberry Festival. They also had a congruent music festival for local artists appropriately and amusingly named the Blueberry Jam. All of the local businesses had pop up tents in front of the store and highlighted a product or service they offered using blueberries. We saw blueberry coleslaw, blueberry beer, blueberry soap, blueberry frozen yogurt, blueberry shirts, and on and on. I had no idea there was so many things one could do with a blueberry. What a great idea for a festival to highlight small local businesses, and kudos (to) the local merchants for their creativity!
One thing that shocked both of us about the town is it is extremely progressive. Every restaurant we went into, not only had ample creative vegetarian options, but interesting vegan options as well. It is so hard to eat out as a vegetarian aside of a salad and eggplant parmesan. This is so refreshing and rare to find, and we can’t even begin to explain how excited we were! They also have a farmer’s market that runs from May to December every Saturday. We have been to a lot of farmer's market's. However, the farmer's market in Marquette was to the likes of which we have never seen before. There had to be at least 50 local vendors selling produce, honey, bread, sprouts, jams, sauces, cutlery, sustainable products, locally made furniture and so much more. The place was packed with hundreds of people, and everyone was very friendly!
We then went to Presque Isle, a quaint park on the outskirts of town that offered unprecedented views of Lake Superior.
One thing that immediately caught my eye was a concrete sea wall that extended one mile out into the lake, and then took a 30 degree left turn before extending another mile out into the lake. However, the second mile of the seawall consisted of large wet jagged boulders that protruded directly up from the bottom of the lake. At the end of the 2-mile sea wall was a lighthouse. None present that day were able or willing to complete the last mile of the seawall, and I am not one to back down from a challenge. I am an avid hiker, and am no stranger to rock scrambles. I also happen to be wearing my Merrill Mohab Ventilators, which are the best hiking shoes in the entire world. I took one look at that light house two miles out on Lake Superior, and knew what I had to do. I began my journey, out to the lighthouse in the middle of the greatest of the great lakes. Lori also has her Merrill Moab Ventilators on that day, and joined me on the first mile of the walk along the concrete sea wall. When we reached the end of the first mile, she said she would wait for me, since she did not feel comfortable crossing the mile-long jagged boulder sea wall. She told me to be careful, and gave me a kiss goodbye.
From here on out I was alone. It was just me, the sea walls and the vastness of the lake surrounding me on every side. The boulders that make up the seawall began level and smooth for the first ¼ mile, and I passed them with ease. From there, things got progressively more challenging requiring increased balance and coordination. The last quarter mile was treacherous rock scrambling requiring careful hand and foot placement. One wrong step on the slippery sea wall could result in a nasty fall onto jagged rocks, and an unplanned swim in the lake. I had no cell phone signal and there was not a not a single soul in sight to help! I progressed forward, step by step and rock by rock until I finally reached the base of the lighthouse.
I then climbed up the metal ladder, and was rewarded with the views pictured below.
The whole experience was absolutely exhilarating! I usually get a similar feeling after hiking a mountain. However, this time I was all alone standing on a lighthouse 2 miles out in the middle of the Lake Superior surrounded by the most beautiful water I have ever seen. There was a cool gentle breeze, and I could literally see the bottom of the lake! The boaters sailing by actually did a double take when they saw me! They then waved to me, and to which I reciprocated! I then began heading back over the mile of wet jagged rocks of the sea wall to reunite with Lori who was waiting for me. When I arrived, she was having a conversation with a huge sea turtle that had swam close to the sea wall. Interestingly, the sea turtle appeared to be responding to her non-verbally of course. On the walk back, we also saw a mommy duck with 8 of her babies in hot pursuit, which was absolutely adorable to witness.
After returning to the shore, we decided to dig a little deeper to discover more about Marquette, and this is what we learned. The town of Marquette is located in the center of the UP right on Lake Superior's southern shore. The town is surrounded by 150 miles of beautiful Michigan wilderness in every direction providing endless opportunities for hiking, boating, even dog sledding, and any and every imaginable form of outdoor recreation you can think of. It’s remoteness is not concerning, because the town has everything you could want or need within it’s city limits. The town is 18 miles by 20 miles and has approximately 20,000 full time residents. Marquette, already has a large hospital, with a level 2 trauma center, and is in the process of building a brand new state of the art hospital to be completed in 2018. This will provide the area with plenty of job opportunities especially for those in the healthcare field like us. Marquette is also home to Northern Michigan University and 9000 students are currently enrolled. The school also has a nursing program, so I can further my education. During the summer months Marquette, is a destination for thousands of tourists who come to enjoy local festivals, food, breweries, and of course the beach’s and beauty of Lake Superior. The housing prices are reasonable, and the size of the houses are actually appropriate to a person’s actual spatial needs. There are also many affordable rental options as well. The town has a bustling and adorable downtown district with dozens of small shops to cater to any and every need, and on the outskirts of the town, is every chain and big box business you could think of. Actually, there is no reason to ever leave the town limits unless going on vacation, or visiting out of town family, and there is an international airport just outside of the city. Michigan’s UP would still place us within a reasonable distance to New England, so visiting friends and family would not require a cross country flight. Speaking of vacations, one thing about Michigan we found extremely unique is the people who live in the state actually vacation within their own state. This is not a staycation due to economic hardship. The residents actually love their state, and from the lakes to the history, sporting events and 4 season outdoor activities, there is so much to see and do! Why doesn’t everyone pack up and move out to Marquette, MI? For 6 month’s out of the year, the temperature is a comfortable 60 to 80 degrees. The other 6 months the winters are long, cold, snowy and can be extremely intense. That is a definite concern, but not necessarily a deal breaker considering all of the other wonderful attributes the town offers.
When we decided to move out of Connecticut, there were a few states that were of particular interest to us. We originally contemplated just flying out to visit these states, but ultimately decided against it. The main reason is there would always be this nagging doubt in our minds if we made the right choice. Would we have been happier in another state? Even worse, could that state have been one we didn’t even consider? It is from this reasoning, we decided the only way to know for certain where we wanted to live was to see the entire continental US. We agreed our trip would last 1 year, and we would continue our trip until we had seen all 48 of the states. We would judge each and every state solely on its own strengths and weaknesses and independent of one another. One of our greatest hopes during this trip was that we would come across a state that we never even previously considered that would woo us, and we found that in Michigan. More specifically, we loved our time spent in the mid- western portion of the state. However, the town of Marquette on Michigan’s upper peninsula knocked our socks off! Never in a million years would either one of us have considered Marquette, if we hadn’t visited it in person. However, it was now time to leave Marquette, and continue on our cross country trip. We found a Walmart in Enansaba, MI 60 miles from Wisconsin border. We must wipe Michigan from our memories, because tomorrow we enter our 10th state on our year long cross county trip Wisconsin: America’s Diaryland! Oh boy, don’t even get me started on that state motto!