It can be easy to take for granted things we're so familiar with, and as a Yooper born and raised in the Copper Country, I fear I often take this beautiful area for granted.
I've been told by many people that I'll never quite grasp the beauty and uniqueness of the Keweenaw until I've spent some substantial time away from it. I'm sure there's truth to that, but I've had plenty of motivation lately to contemplate what makes our area so special, even as a lifelong local.
My in-laws from Rapid City, S.D., near Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, are making their first-ever trip to the Copper Country this weekend, and I'm anxious to show them around the northern tip of the U.P., which my father-in-law so affectionally calls "AC - Almost Canada."
Despite the proximity to our neighbor to the north, I think there's plenty that differentiates us from Canada, namely forests, cold weather and accents, eh.
OK, so, perhaps there are a few similarities, but all seriousness, there are plenty of things that make the Copper Country unique.
Hopefully, you've had the chance to read the Gazette's 64-page summer magazine, with the theme "Uniquely Copper Country," which provided me with another incentive to grasp the area's uniqueness. Dozens of interviews with lifelong, displaced and new Yoopers revealed dozens of ways in which the Copper Country is unique.
Two things in particular jumped out to me in interviewing people for the magazine, and in reflecting on my own experience in the Copper Country: the kind people and the beautiful nature.
People who visit from around the country and the world often comment on how welcoming Copper Country people are to "outsiders." And they are, but what really stands out is how local communities rally around people and families in need. Numerous instances come to mind, when tragedy struck and the outpouring of support was overwhelming.
When L'Anse's Robert Voakes died while serving America in Afghanistan, the Copper Country provided immense support for the family. When Brett Beauchamp was seriously injured in a car accident, hundreds attended a fundraiser dinner. I can think of countless other examples of the selflessness that characterizes people in this area.
Again, I've never lived in a big city or even rural towns in other areas of the country, but I've heard plenty of people describe how supportive the people are up here. I'll try to never take that for granted, and I'm thankful my job allows me to witness firsthand the effects of people's kindness and generosity.
Likewise, the natural beauty up here is amazing. It's pretty hard to put into words the sense of wonder I feel for the beauty of the area, since it often renders me speechless. Waterfalls, scenic trails and sunsets over Lake Superior come to mind, but besides the obvious beauty and easily visible attractions, there are so many hidden gems nestled away off the beaten path.
Even in a somewhat isolated area like the Copper Country, it can be easy to let the day-to-day busyness of life crowd out the sense of appreciation for the uniqueness of the Copper Country. This Labor Day weekend provides the perfect opportunity to take a break and enjoy everything the area has to offer. There are too many amazing people to meet and places to go to waste time taking it all for granted.
Stephen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.