I’ve lived in the Keweenaw (Peninsula, of Michigan) a long time now—longer than pretty much all of my friends, who also moved here from other places. When people ask about where I’m from or how long I’ve lived here, my short response is “I came up here for college and stayed.”

But recently I joined Toastmasters and had to give an icebreaker speech and introduce myself. That, combined with the realization that this year will mark my 15th Keweenaw winter (What is that: 250 cumulative feet of snow?!), it was a good time to reflect on things. Why did I come here? Why did I stay? And what does that say about me? This is the written version of that speech.

One of questions most commonly asked upon meeting someone new, which you may be wondering at this very moment, is “Where are you from?” The short answer that I commonly give people is

I’m from a small farm town in southeast Wisconsin. My husband is from lower Michigan. We met while at Michigan Tech where we both studied forestry, and we’ve been here ever since.

But I’ll give you a few more details than I give most folks, and tell you 4 reasons why I moved to the Keweenaw and stayed.

This story starts back about 15 years ago when I was in high school in that small town in Wisconsin, trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up and where I would go to college.

Flashback to shooting clays in college. More than 10 years later, I live less than 10 miles from this place. How'd that happen?
Flashback to shooting clays in college. More than 10 years later, I live less than 10 miles from this place. How’d that happen?

I initially moved to the Keweenaw so that I could go to Michigan Tech. Why Tech? Science. Because at that point I didn’t have much of an idea what I wanted to do. In high school, I’d considered going into numerous subjects, including medicine, neuroscience, anthropology, biology, environmental engineering, and environmental science. When I stumbled on Tech’s booth at a college fair, I was thrilled that I could go to a school with so many types of science without having to go to one of the big state universities. My thinking was that I could start with one program and it would be easy to change majors without changing schools if I wanted to.

This hints at another reason I chose Michigan Tech for school, and have ultimately stayed in the UP: Roads—or, actually, the lack thereof. I had been considering other schools, like the University of Michigan for engineering, but I didn’t even need to go there to know that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I’ve always been a rural kid, a country mouse. One a quick look at the road atlas—this was before google maps!— was enough for me. Ann Arbor had as many roads as Milwaukee, which was way to crowded for me. But Houghton was just two highways and big lake in three directions. Less roads means less people, and that seemed good to me.

I’m also going to fess up to another reason why 17-year-old me was happy to move up here: Boys! Ha! It wasn’t so much that I was boy crazy as much as that I’d always been a bit of a tomboy and felt comfortable hanging out with the guys. But the decision worked out even better than I’d imagined because I met and started dating my husband during my first semester here. Flash forward and we’ve been married 10 years, with a little house, a pretty big garden, and two dogs.

Great days in the woods!
Happy to be way up in the Keweenaw.

And the fourth reason: Trees. Forest covers 80 percent of land in the UP, which you Tmay have noticed. I absolutely love forests, and both my husband and I graduated with degrees in forestry. He’s a professional consulting forester and helps landowners owners manage their forests for wildlife, wood, or whatever they’re interested in. I work for the Forest Service, and my job focuses communicating new and complex scientific information to forestry professionals and forest owners in a way that they’ll understand so that they can make better decisions about how to keep their forests healthy.

Even more, I’m also interested in the ways that people connect with forests and how forests can actually make us happier and healthier.

So that’s the slightly longer version of why I live here, and a few reasons why it’s still a good fit for me.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you about the place where you live and the reasons why you live there. Please leave a comment below.

7 thoughts on “The Keweenaw: Why I Moved Here, Why I Stayed

  1. I totally love your posts… I get a little more insight into my younger cousin.. and I totally can ‘hear’ you in your writing. I getting older and need more warmth… lol. I won’t move up there.. but hope to visit you someday !

    take care, karen

    1. Thanks so much! I am so happy that you read it–and even more– that you like it. You absolutely MUST come visit sometime. August and September are the best!

  2. Hi Maria. I followed a link from Tech to your blog. My daughter just started in the Wildlife Ecology program this year. I can completely relate to what you are saying here. We are from a very small rural village in southern Michigan and live way back in the forest.

    It’s so beautiful up in the Keweenaw. I can see why you wouldn’t want to leave.

  3. Found you from Blogging 101. I’m another Wisconsin girl– I was born in Madison and am still here. I’m a public health professional, so I appreciate your mission of getting people more active in the great outdoors!

  4. Thanks for the comment! I grew up less than 1.5 hours away from Madison and seem to go there a few times a year for visiting friends or for work. It’s a great place, and so I can completely understand why you’ve stayed!

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