Yoopers At Heart

Recently we went to visit our daughter and son-in-law who live in Michigan’s upper peninsula, commonly referred to as “The UP.” Once you cross the Mackinac Bridge going north, it is like entering a whole other world. There are two views: either the UP has a whole lot of nothing or there is just about everything one could want. Jim and I go with the latter.

People who call the UP home are affectionately known as “Yoopers,” whereas, anyone who hails from the other side of the bridge are tagged as “trolls.” It is a lot slower-paced way of life in the north. People aren’t always in a hurry, they actually take time for their neighbor or for a stranger.

Traveling west on US-2, there is a scattering of small towns where maybe you will find a gas station and a place to get a bite to eat. Rapid River, where the kids live, is no different. It is a charming little town that sets right on Lake Michigan. You can’t get much more quaint than this. Well, yes you can. Kim and Arnie like to “get away” and go to their “camp” on weekends. This time we stayed there too.

Camp is about 20 miles from their place and is literally in the middle of nowhere. Don’t get the idea that this is merely a primitive little hunting shack. It has a thoroughly modern kitchen, indoor bathroom and a comfy living room with a big picture window that overlooks Pole Lake. We stayed there three nights, and I saw two vehicles go by. Cell phones worked sporadically and that was only if you were almost standing in the lake.

I was mesmerized by how peaceful Pole Lake was. It is pretty shallow so there were no speed boats or no jet skis. One night I was taking pictures of the full moon glistening on the lake and I just had to call everyone else out. “Listen,” I said. “Do you hear that?”

They all agreed they didn’t hear anything. “Exactly,” I said. I don’t know if I have ever heard complete silence before.

Yoopers do things differently and whatever they do they do it simply. Driving along the road to their camp I noticed sticks stuck on the shoulder of the road every so often. They weren’t stakes or county markers, just ordinary sticks. Our daughter told us they were guides so the snow plows could find the edge of the road. You go to a grocery store, and they have huge walk-in coolers that they call beer caves. Most every night someone in the neighborhood has a bonfire and everyone drops by to drink a few, chat a spell and share a few laughs. A lot of the evenings end in card games.

Being a Yooper isn’t for everyone. For those who like a hectic lifestyle with something going on all the time, they would probably find life in the UP to be quite boring. For those looking for a simpler life and who enjoy nature’s pleasures, they would find the UP to be paradise. Jim and I may be trolls, but we are Yoopers at heart.

Published on Nov 7, 2013

Grit Magazine

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