What to do in Houghton

US. Senior Nationals is only 5 days away, and there are many questions people will ask themselves as they make their way up to Houghton.

“Where is this place?”
“Are you sure we aren’t going to run into Lake Superior?”
“Will my skis make it to the Hancock Airport the same time I do?”
“How many hours a year do people spend shoveling their driveways?”
“What am I going to do here for an entire week?!?”

Well my friends, as a 5th year student and Senior Staff at the Outdoor Adventure Program, it is my job (actually!) to let people know what kinds of activities a person can enjoy during their time in the Keweenaw. Most of these things include getting outside and exploring (ie. Mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, tree climbing, yeti hunting etc.). These activities are great for people who aren’t going to be racing four times in one week, so……..

I’ve adjusted my suggestions slightly and behold, a list of things to do while you’re in the Keweenaw.

1. Look up the ski trails in the area
We have a lot of ski trails in the area, on top of those on the Michigan Tech campus. Think about all of those 2.5k man-made loops you’ve skied. Wouldn’t it be great to do a 3 hour OD and not have to ski the same trail twice?
Also, Watch our super cool interactive trail map/course preview of the US nationals 5k loop!
Trail Genius Map

2. Go to Roy’s or Amy J’s and eat a Pasty
A staple to the mining community pasties are one of the best ways to satisfy the bottomless pit that takes over your stomach after a long workout (post 20k snack anyone?). Traditionally filled with potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, onion, beef and pork, all wrapped up in a neat eatable package, it’s not uncommon for people to dream of these after they leave the UP.


4: MTU Skier Friends!

3. Go Bowling
A favorite activity of our head coach, bowling at the Mineshaft is exactly how you remember  bowling from gym class in middle school. The family fun, low impact activity is sure to keep you busy for at least an hour.

4. Make friends with a Michigan Tech skier!
I promise we don’t bite.

5. Go to a movie
Yes, there is a movie theater in town. Yes it shows more than one movie at a time. The theater is located just south of Wal-Mart on US-41 in the Copper Country Mall. Or just watch one on the T.V. in your hotel room…. that works too



6. Have an ugly face making contest

photo (1)photophoto (13)


Moonlight Ski

9: Ski or Snowshoe under the moonlight!

7. Go on a campus tour
I’ve never gone on one of these… but I hear they’re good!

8. Make a video about your life
“What Wax Techs Do” 

9. Enjoy Hot Cocoa or Cider at the Nara Chalet
On January 6th, there will be a moonlight/candlelight ski & snowshoe event at the Nara trails. Free cocoa and cider will be available to everyone who shows up. (Click on poster for more details.)

10. Go to the KBC
Order up a cold pop and converse with a local. Admire the Yooper Accent.


12: Attempt at Gourmet cooking!



11. Go on the Quincy Mine Tour
I’ve actually gone on this tour, it’s not bad. The gift shop is pretty neat too. Although  the tours don’t run regularly during the winter, it is still cool to walk around on the grounds and see how the mine used to work.



13: 10 inches donated to Beautiful Lengths

12. Make something that tastes good
Harder for some than for others, this always takes some time. Plus, when you’re done you have some awesome food to eat! (just don’t set off any smoke detectors)

13. Get a hair cut
Makes you feel like a new person and hey, that’s less weight to carry up every hill!

14. Go to Mt. Ripley and have a debate about why Nordic is the better type of Skiing
Because we all know it is.

15. Check out the historical sites in the Calumet area
The Italian Hall Memorial, Laurium Manor, Historic downtown, one of the first concrete roads in Michigan, and more! (Always read the plaque)


16: Snowcaves at Breakers

16. Go to Breakers and see how the ice sculptures are coming along 
This is my personal favorite place to go in late January and February. It feels like you’ve landed on Hoth.

17. Learn a dance
Dance #1: Dlow Shuffle
Dance #2: Shake it Off
Dance #3: Macarena

18. Ask any Michigan Tech student their feelings on either
a. The Husky Statue   or
b. The computers in the library
If you’re lucky, this conversation will last a good while without too much participation on your behalf.

Picture not taken in Houghton

21: Build a Snow-creature (Picture not taken in Houghton)

19. Drive around the Keweenaw (don’t miss the snow thermometer)
It’s a beautiful drive with lots of waterfalls along the way. The snow thermometer is located on US. 41 as you drive up to Copper Harbor. It shows how much snow we’ve gotten so far this year, along with how much we got last year (just about darn near broke the record!)

20. Thrift Stores
There’s one in Houghton, and one in Hancock. You never know what you might find.

21. Build a Snowman
Our students are known for making beautiful snow sculptures during Winter Carnival. Try your hand at it! There’s no lack of snow up here, so if you don’t like what you’ve started there’s always snow to try again.

22. Find the flushing toilet at the MTU Trailhead
(If you find it let me know, I’ve been looking for 5 years…)

23. Shop the little stores downtown (Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet)
I do not like shopping, and even I find that the little stores downtown have some cool things to look at.

24. Watch for the Northern Lights
It’s not uncommon for us to walk out of the labs late at night and see the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. Even if the lights aren’t out, the amount of stars you can see from the stadium (our stadium, not the football one) is unbelievable.

25: Examining the literature found in our house

25: Examining the literature found in our house

25. Read a book
If anything, at least it will help you recover via putting you to sleep. The more I read the more I want to slip into the darkness of dreamworld.

26. Play with the animals at the Humane Society
They are always looking for people to help walk dogs and play with the cats. They are super friendly and I always leave wishing I could bring one home.

27. Visit a Lighthouse
Being surrounded by Lake Superior, there are a bunch of Lighthouses in the area, all of them beautiful. While you work on completing number 19 (Drive around the Keweenaw) make sure to stop at one of these beautiful buildings.

28. Car Watching

This is like people watching, but instead of watching people do their thing, we set up lawn chairs at the top of a really steep road and watch the cars try to drive up it after a heavy snowfall.

29. Get Crafty 
Last year we made a gingerbread house. I wonder what kind of crafts or tasty treats (number 12) we are going to make this year!

Last but not least….

30. Play in the Snow!
Let your inner child run wild and play in the fluffy white stuff. We are super lucky that the great snow machine hasn’t frozen over yet and that we keep getting new fluff every week. This really is a magical place and I hope you can find the same beauty in the Keweenaw that has drawn me back year after year.

Good Luck next week! See you on the trails.




This week was all about surprises. From having to evacuate the building during one of my final exams, to the race results this weekend, each day seemed to add an unexpected twist to the week.

Surprise #1: It’s Monday morning, and I’m halfway through the final question on a final exam when, a police officer comes into the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to have to ask you to evacuate the building on account of a suspected gas leak.”
Well shoot, could he not have asked us to leave 10 minutes later? I only have one problem left! In a slight state of confusion, my classmates and I quickly grabbed our exams and calculators and walked out of the building. It didn’t take long for the fire department to clear the building and let us re-enter,  but not before I took over a rock as my new desk to finish circling my final answer.

The rest of my finals went as expected. Go in feeling confident about the material. Leave feeling like my brain just got sent through a Hobart mixer and became mashed potatoes. There’s nothing quite like a good intensity workout to recover from the mashed-potato-ey state, so under the Wednesday night lights, Anna and I broke out the skate skis and went as fast as we could around the new sprint course. With the fresh snow fall, newly groomed trails and stars glistening, that ski felt like heaven.

All ready for the team dinner

All ready for the team dinner

Fueled off the of the endorphins of a great workout and being sick of seeing our house look like Godzilla came to visit, the rest of the week was spent cleaning the house. (Surprise #2: Housemate leaves for Alaska leaving rotting food in fridge and dirty dishes all over the kitchen = Not cool)

This house cleaning motivation came with perfect timing for our “congratulations-you-made-it-through-the-semester” team dinner. Friday night everyone packed into our house for some great food and company. It was super nice to see everyone outside of a school or skiing setting. There were lots of desserts, veggies and (Surprise #3) no bacon.  This was the perfect start to a classic weekend of racing.

Surprise #4: The Classic sprint. 
With beautiful rock solid tracks in the snow, magic skis in hand and our entire venue buzzing with parents and racers, I stepped up to the gate and tried my hardest to beat the clock. Since the race was a classic sprint, and after the races last weekend, I wasn’t expecting too much out of the results. However when the qualifier list came out I was sitting in 11th!

My cousin's first experience at ski races, and they're already asking if I can teach them to ski!

My cousin’s first experience at ski races, and they’re already asking if I can teach them to ski!

Surprise #5: Getting to see my family
As soon as I saw the results I called my parents to tell them the good news. That’s when the told me my two younger cousins were on their way to Houghton to watch the races! I just about jumped through the roof with excitement.
With spare cow-bell in hand, I waited anxiously for them to arrive. These were their first ski races, so I was determined to make them as fun as possible.

Closing in on the finishing stretch of the quarterfinal, I was sitting in 3rd. Due to the way we were doing lucky losers, I knew the clock was my new competition and friend.  After the heat I explained to my cousins what a “lucky loser” is and together we waited to see if any of the other girls would have faster times. Surprise #6: Making it to the semi-finals.  Both our Men’s and Women’s teams did well in the sprints and I’m excited to see us continue to improve as we race at home for US. Nationals! Fingers crossed for some more positive surprises.

Post race snowshoeing with the cousins

Post race snowshoeing with the cousins

Surprise #7: Starting at the top of the chevron in a Classic mass start
I was nervous for the race on Sunday. Not for the normal reasons (classic race, mass start, new competition loop, etc) but because I was positioned at the top of the chevron. This is a new place for me, and with it being a classic mass start my confidence levels were not at their highest. That was until…

Mass start

Sunday’s Mass Start

Surprise #8: My coaches nailed the wax on the first try! (You guys are awesome!) Walking up to the start with amazing skis for the second day in a row, I was so excited to see what we could do as a team, that I completely forgot about how nervous I was. Despite some mishaps during the race, I had a ton of fun out on the course, and might even say that I’m excited to race the 20k Classic at US. Nationals.

It feels good to be able to spend 100% of my focus on ski racing. If three days off of school allow this much improvement, I can’t wait to see what 3 weeks will do.

Saturday’s Press Release

Sunday’s Press Release


Side Note: Congratulations to Haakon for winning the race on Saturday! Ulrika for kicking butt both days. Deedra for qualifying second in the sprint. Lisa for getting back in the game. Ruth for making senior heats. Tom for also kicking butt both days. Sam for making semi-finals. Carolyn and Anna for applying the skating beast-mode to classic. Dave and Thomas for working together and pulling ahead. Kyle for staying strong. Sonja for coming back to us, and Scott for surprising us. Its a great weekend to be a Husky!
(If you had a good race and I missed it, I’m sorry and I’ll try to catch you next time. There we so many good results I couldn’t keep track!)

Racing vs. Finals: The great showdown

Finals week during the competition season is one of the greatest tests of a student-athlete’s ability to multi-task.

The challenge begins with project week. This is the week before finals week, where every class has final reports, projects and presentations due. Stress levels are high as students attempt to finish everything before the end of the semester. The goal: make a presentation that won’t be embarrassingly awful.  Once all of the major assignments have been turned in, there is a momentary period of bliss that is quickly blown away by the daunting task of studying for final exams while traveling for races all weekend.

This critical weekend begins  with making a detailed schedule of how time should be spent to optimize productivity.

My predicted weekend schedule:

Last day of classes! All assignments have been turned in! *celebratory dance*
Go skiing
Pack skis for weekend
Pack for races
See friends who are graduating

Shake out run
Finish packing ski equipment
Drive to Marquette
Prepare classic skis

Pack for Houghton
Drive home
Study all night long.

Looking at the outline for the weekend, things don’t seem too bad. There will be plenty of time for studying or napping in the van, not to mention all of the time that we will have at the hotel after the races. At this point, things are feeling pretty positive. However deep down we know; things never go according to plan….

Actual events of the weekend:

Friday (Post Classes):

Expressed stress level

(Attempted) Expressed Stress Level

Pack skis for the weekend
Shoot the bull with the Cross Country Graduate Assistants for a half hour talking about skiing (oops, that wasn’t planned for)
Make an awesome homemade pizza for dinner, wait for pizza to cook, while snacking on everything else eatable in the house
Pack for the weekend (but actually just make a packing list)
Watch dumb (but funny) videos with housemates
Decide nothing productive is going to happen tonight
Realize the team van leaves in 9 hours
Go to bed

 Ok, so I’m a little bit behind schedule. I’ll just have to wake up a little earlier so I can finish packing, then everything will be back on track!


Actual Stress Level

Wake up
Finish (Start?) packing
Shake out run
Pile into van for departure (making sure that proper music selections will be made)
Drive to venue
Race to the bathroom upon arrival
Test skis & warm-up
Prep skis for Sunday
Lunch with family (it’s so nice of them to come watch our races!)
Finally make it to hotel
Post dinner walk
“Study” (but actually just figure out what grades I need on each test)
Bed time!

Well shoot… I didn’t study at all today, and the race didn’t go too well either. This is not good. Tomorrow I will be more productive. I need to be. But I can’t stress out, because if I stress out I’ll race poorly. Ok, game plan: go to sleep and do just enough in the morning to feel good about myself again. We’ll see how this goes. 


Stress levels reach all time high

Wake up
Actually start studying (short lived, but effective!)
Clean Skis
Nap (definitely the most productive use of time)
Get home
             (this is the point where I realize I have an exam in less than 10 hours and have only spent 30 minutes looking at the course material. Let total freak-out mode commence)
Rush to campus to study (after 2.5 hours of studying, things are looking up! so….) 
Time to go search for a Christmas Tree
Find the perfect tree and decorate it (I didn’t really need to study for those exams anyway…)
Take one last look at the practice exams
Go to bed feeling confident


Needless to say, neither the races nor studying went as planned this weekend. Saturday was a warm beautiful bluebird day, but the results were not nearly as sunny for me. Sunday’s race was a pursuit, something that most of us college folks haven’t done since high school. It was fun to revisit the old format, although it reminded me why I never liked having the classic races as the second event. Given everything that happened last week and everything happening this week, it’s easy to see that skiing has not been the top priority. After all, it’s pretty hard to keep your eligibility as a student-athlete if grades come back unsatisfactory. Next week, skiing will once again top the priority list as we race at home. Zero homework or classwork will be a much needed and welcomed change. It’s pretty easy to say I’m excited to have a “stress-free” weekend of racing on our home course.  This is going to be great.


My little Christmas tree

Saturday’s Press Release
Sunday’s Press Release

Civil Art

The firing is done and the pots turned out great! I’m super happy with how my civil themed dish set has turned out. It has been so much fun to have a creative outlet from school and skiing! It has also feels amazing to create something other than lab reports and complicated matrices.

For the plate I used the wax resist method to get the Quincy Mine and UP designs. These had to be re-fired because the first time they went through the kiln the sky came out looking like leopard spots because the glaze didn’t flow correctly. The mug is mixed media with the “cables” on the suspension bridge being fine wire that has been glued to the bridge frame with epoxy. Definitely not microwave safe, but makes a sweet pencil holder! You can’t see it in this picture, but the bowl has melted glass in the bottom making it look like a frozen lake.  It was so much fun to make the little truck going across the bridge. I’m pretty sure my classmates thought I’d been taken over by a toddler due to how much fun I had playing in the muddy water.

Civil Themed Dish Set

Civil Themed Dish Set

I never realize how much I miss the arts until they push themselves back into my life. This semester ceramics saved my sanity. It was the few hours a week where I could let out all of my frustrations with skiing and school and end up with something beautiful.  I’m super excited to share all of my projects with everyone and even have some cool ideas for what to make the next time I’m in an art class! Civil themed tea party to come soon!



The Last Lab

It’s 11:54pm and I’m done! The last lab report of my undergraduate career is being sent to the printer, and it’s not even midnight.

One of the perks of being a civil engineering student is that you get to break stuff and there aren’t many things more satisfying to the nerd in me, than seeing a perfectly predicted stress-strain curve show up on the computer screen as load is applied to a beam.  This week in lab, to wrap up a semester filled with preparing samples and breaking them (some of which exploded!), we revisited our freshman year classes and designed beams using CAD software. The beams were 3D printed and then we got to put them in the load frame to test their behavior.


Our super awesome beam design

My group’s beam was the first one tested, and it did pretty well considering that this small piece of plastic and was able to hold 596lbs applied to (almost) the center of the beam.

photo (10)

Max Load: 596 lbs

This semester has been a true college experience and I am so happy that the late nights in the lab have come to a close, at least momentarily. Looking back on all of the things I’ve learned this year, it’s really cool to think about how much I got to do in all of the classes. Soil Mechanics (as anyone who talked to me this semester probably knows) was not my favorite class, but we still got to do some cool work in the lab. One thing we did was test the strength of soils in Houghton and we built models to predict how the soils will act under various foundation designs. In Civil Materials (the one where we get to break stuff) we got to make our very own super secret concrete mix and test its strength. Our sample totally exploded, and failed in a close to perfect 45 degree failure cone. Turns out the textbooks are actually right about some stuff!


The final report

Walking out of the lab last night, with the last lab report of my undergraduate career in hand, was a great feeling. A great feeling made even better by my classmates who decided to litter campus with snowmen. I am reminded all the time how lucky I am to have found Michigan Tech and the civil engineering department. The people here are so happy and haven’t forgotten how to embrace their inner child. Watching adults chase each other around campus, push one another into snowbanks, build snowmen and have spontaneous snowball fights, are all things that remind me how important it is to keep having fun. With finals week right around the corner, and stress levels reaching all time highs, it’s important to keep this in mind. As my dad often says, “everyone’s a kid of somebody.”

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Snowmen guards outside Dillman, protecting the students from too much brain strain

My homework is done and the sun is out, I think its time to go play in the snow!

You win some, you lose some…

Woah what a weekend! This weekend was our home opener against NMU and boy was it a good way to start off the year! Saturday girls did a 5k skate (boys did 10k) and Sunday we did a 10k classic (boys did 15k). It feels so good to race back in the Midwest! There’s air to breath and the snow is actually white.  Not to mention getting some extra practice races on the courses for US. Nationals is always a plus!

Saturday started out on a super positive note, with some major cleaning of my bedroom and dancing to music that could be heard throughout the entire house. It’s always hard for me to figure out what to do with myself when we don’t start our races until the afternoon. Although listening to pump-up music typically seems to win out over doing homework or anything else that’s actually productive.  It was a beautiful blue-bird day in Houghton, and it seemed like everyone was outside soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible; we even had some spectators for our race!


Photo Credit: Tyler Giddens

It felt really weird to do such a short skate race. After doing so many 15k’s last year, I wasn’t sure I would remember how hard to push during a 5k. Although it felt fairly rusty at first, I’m super happy with the results (check out the press release here). I’m also super happy to have a list of things that I want to work on and fix in these weeks leading up to US. Nationals.

After the skate race on Saturday was over, the second race of the day began. The race to lunch! It’s a well known fact that I don’t really eat much the morning of races (it makes my stomach to flips), so after races food is almost always the first thing on my mind. Evidently this weekend I was thinking a little too much about lunch and not enough about which buttons I was pushing.

Note to self: Make sure you turn on the correct burners


Of course, in my haste, I turned on the wrong burner and filled the entire kitchen with plastic scented smoke. Awesome. Luckily I caught my mistake before all of the pasta had turned into burnt-plastic-cheesy-chicken mess, it only ended up being a little crunchy. I guess you win some, you lose some.

The races on Sunday weren’t quite so sunny. Figuratively and actually. Houghton’s normal overcast and windy weather made a reappearance (much to our dismay). Due to the strong winds, the oak trees decided it was a great time to drop more of their leaves, filling the classic tracks with little brown hazards.
This was a really good learning race. Similar to how I couldn’t remember quite how to pace during a 5k skate on Saturday, the same holds true for remembering how to stay calm during the longer classic races. Last season I was able to improve my classic skiing a lot, a good part of that, because the races were so short. With the longer race at Nationals being a 20k classic and NCAA’s having a 15k classic,  I have been focusing on making those changes in technique and application of power last for longer distances. It’s a hard switch, but there’s progress in there somewhere. The early season races have done their job, in that now I know what I need to continue to focus on moving forward.


Blurry Classic Results: NMU kicks our butts, we’ll do better next time


Our entire team had kind of a rough day, at least, those of us who were racing. Our Cross Country teammates who were helped with timing rocked it and had race results up within minutes of the last person crossing the line. They even managed to write some impressive press releases that made all of us feel better. Thanks guys!

Sunday’s win came from the classroom, when I opened up my notes for my final lab report as an undergrad and realized that I had already done almost all of the calculations for the report a month ago. I love it when this happens.

On a separate note: I’m super happy to congratulate our teammate Sean Pengelly on his race at NCAA’s for cross country this weekend. Being a sophomore and only 18 seconds out of All-American is AWESOME! Sean, you are a rock star! Read about how awesome Sean did here.