Archives—June 2015

The 2015 Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe Team

Hello Parents,

The 2015 Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe team's canoe: Talvi Sielu, meaning Winter Soul in Finnish
The 2015 Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe team’s canoe: Talvi Sielu, which means “winter soul” in Finnish. Photo courtesy of Brad Roberts.

I hope you’re all having a great week! Everything in Houghton has been going wonderfully this week, as students are preparing to  take their Track A final exams, Summer Youth Program campers have taken hold of the campus, and prospective students tour the campus to learn more about Michigan Tech. The weather here has been pretty finicky; mother nature can’t decide if she wants the sun to shine or if she wants it to rain and the last few days it’s been raining while the sun is out (which makes for absolutely beautiful scenery!). But as usual, there’s been a lot going on this week. It was pointed out to me in an email from a parent that the Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe team went to nationals last weekend at Clemson University in Seneca, South Carolina!  In response, I’d like to write a short piece to congratulate the team and spread the word of the Concrete Canoe team.

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the concrete canoe competition consists of both a regional and national contest that judge undergraduate teams in four components:

1) Technical Paper
This professional paper outlines the engineering and design of the canoe, including the concrete mix proportions, design of the boat, construction methods, and everything else that went into creating the canoe.

2) Technical Presentation
The team must summarize the technical paper in a five-minute presentation in front of a board of judges.

3) Race
The team must compete in the following five races: Two-person Women’s Sprint, Two-person Men’s Sprint, Two-person Women’s Endurance, Two-person Men’s Endurance, and Four-person Co-ed Sprint.

4) Final Product
The canoe is then judged based on appearance and adherence to the official rules of dimensions and components of the concrete mix.

A photo of the female race in the National Concrete Canoe competition. Photo courtesy of Brad Roberts
A photo of one of the 2015 Women’s Races in the National Concrete Canoe competition. Photo courtesy of Brad Roberts.

The regional competition that Michigan Tech competes in includes teams from universities such as Western Michigan University and Michigan State University. There are over 200 other teams from across the nation that compete in their own regional competions. The top 10 teams from each regional competition then go on to compete at the national level.

Every year, the Michigan Tech team chooses a theme for the canoe that represents the team in an inspirational and creative way, and this theme is incorporated into the design of the canoe. The Concrete Canoe team works year-round during the academic year to design and build a well-engineered canoe; each member contributes over 3,000 hours of work to complete the final product!

This year, the Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe Team finished 13th overall in the national competition with their canoe, Talvi Sielu! They deserve to be recognized and congratulated for all of their hard work! For more pictures of the 2015 National Concrete Canoe Competition, feel free to visit this informative blog, written by Mr. Roberts, a parent himself. For more information about the National Concrete Canoe competition, please visit the official NCCC website.

As I mentioned last week, this will be my last ParentNet Weekly post and the new writer, Erica LeClaire, will be taking over next week. I will be leaving for Grand Rapids, Michigan to begin medical school at Michigan State in August. I just wanted to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of you as I conclude my last post; writing for ParentNet has been a great learning experience for me and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time on the site and hearing from some of you through email. I wish you and your students the best of luck as they continue their careers here at Michigan Tech, and if you have any questions about anything, please feel free to email me at Thank you all so much!


2015 Bridgefest/BridgeFEAST Celebration!

Hello Parents,

I hope you’re all having a fantastic week! Everything is going well here, as the  sun continues to shine and the summer continues to fly by. Track A courses are almost over, as final exams quickly approach next week. Track B courses will begin Monday, June 29, and the new ParentNet Weekly writer, Erica LeClaire, will take over.

A beautiful photo taken of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, courtesy of The annual celebration of this fantastic structure will take place this weekend from Friday, June 19 - Sunday June 21
A beautiful photo taken of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, courtesy of The annual celebration of this fantastic structure will take place this weekend from Friday, June 19 – Sunday June 21

There’s a plethora of exciting events taking place this weekend, most notably the Bridgefest festival starting on Friday, June 19 and spanning through Sunday, June 21!  Bridgefest is an annual celebration of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Opening in 1959, the Portage Lake Lift Bridge is the widest and heaviest double-decked vertical lift bridge in the world. The ancestral structure of the modern day bridge was a wooden swing bridge in 1875. It was eventually replaced by the Portage Canal Swing Bridge, a steel swing bridge, in 1905. The Portage Canal Swing Bridge was finally replaced by the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, and continues to serve the Houghton and Hancock residents today. Bridgefest has been an annual tradition in the Houghton and Hancock communities since 1987 and includes an fun-filled weekend of local festivities and activities. Special events will begin on Friday, June 19 at 10:00 am and the celebration will continue until Sunday, June 21 at sunset. Some of these events include helicopter rides, a parade, sport contests such as hockey, volleyball, and ping pong, outdoor concerts, street vendors, fireworks, and the most important thing: the food!

Which brings me to the next celebration: in conjunction to the Bridgefest celebration, BridgeFEAST will be taking place from Friday, June 19 through Saturday, June 20! Known previously as Seafood Fest, BridgeFEAST is an annual food festival that is celebrated every year alongside Bridgefest to provide for one magnificent and delicious local celebration, and now includes a wide variety of other tasty meals in addition to its seafood roots. BridgeFEAST will be catered by some of the best restaurants in the local area, including the Library restaurant, Fitzgerald’s, Habeneros Mexican restaurant, and many more! Tokens for the BridgeFEAST celebration can be purchased on the BridgeFEAST website, and all of the proceeds go towards the Rotary Club of Houghton.

This annual festival has had a long-standing history in the local area and it is not a celebration that will go away anytime soon. The fun it brings and the appreciation for the bridge that comes along with it goes a long way for our local residents. The Portage Lake Lift Bridge is an iconic local landmark that holds emotional and sentimental ties to the area, especially for Michigan Tech students. I hope that if your students are in Houghton for the summer that they partake in this dazzling and memorable event!

That’s all I have for you this week! If you have any questions about the Bridgefest of BridgeFEAST festivities, or would like to see more information written on a specific topic, please feel free to email me at I look forward to writing for you next week, which will be my last article. Have a great weekend!


Outdoor Activities in the Keweenaw

Hello Parents,

A group of students taking advantage of the outdoor activities in the Copper Country as they kayak around the Portage Canal
A group of students taking advantage of the outdoor activities in the Copper Country as they kayak around the Portage Canal

I hope you’re all having a great week! The summer weather is finally here to stay which means the adventurous outdoor activities that the Keweenaw has to offer are more popular than ever. There are a plethora of activities for students and community members alike to enjoy during the summer months. Some of the most popular activities include hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and canoeing. As promised last week, I’ll outline a more detailed description of these activities with various locations below.

Hiking is probably the most popular local outdoor activity and we have an incredible number of venturesome trails to explore. The Keweenaw and surrounding areas have over 30 established hiking trails with an extensive amount of backpacking trails as well. Here are some of the most beautiful and popular hiking trails. (For more details on these trails and for the trails not listed, please visit the Keweenaw Visitors Bureau website.)

1.) Marsin Preserve
The Marsin Preserve is owned by the Keweenaw Land Trust and is located along the Portage Canal. The sanctuary was designed to make the natural land open to the public to explore and enjoy the outdoors. There is both a preserve and a short hiking trail that includes shrubby areas, wet meadows, and a wide variety of wildlife to observe.

2.) Gratiot Lake Overlook Sanctuary
These trails include over 100 acres of Michigan Nature Association Sanctuary and one mile of nature trails. The terrain is fairly strenuous and includes a gradual 400-foot hike. This beautiful trail also encompasses a panoramic view of Gratiot Lake from a high peak as well as a gorgeous view of the waterfall on Eister Creek.

3.) Central Mine and Village
The Central Mine site houses two hiking trails of various length and difficulty. Sponsored by the Keweenaw Historic Society, these trails explore the woods and the historic site of the Central Mine, an early copper mine that was in operation from 1854 to 1898. The Central Mine and Village is especially unique because it not only encompasses wooded areas in its trails, but explores a historic copper mine as well.

4.) Estivant Pines
Estivant Pines Wilderness Nature Sanctuary in Copper Harbor is an absolutely gorgeous woodland that constitutes over 510 acres of hardwood and eastern white pine trees. Some of these trees have a diameter of over 3 feet! This Nature Sanctuary includes three looped trails of  rugged terrain. These incredible trails are open year round to for hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.

5.) Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary
This most beautiful and challenging hike to Bare Bluff in Bete Gris is one of the most phenomenal sites in the Keweenaw. This robust and demanding three mile hike is at a high difficulty level, and it’s advised to allow three hours for the trip. The top of Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary overlooks the southeast view of the Keweenaw Peninsula in an absolutely stunning view of Lake Superior and the surrounding areas of the Keweenaw. The trek is worth the challenge, however, as this is truly one of the most breath-taking locations in the area.

Mountain Biking
We have some fantastic mountain biking trails here in the Keweenaw with some nationally recognized courses! Michigan Tech students have the Michigan Tech trails right in their backyard, but if they are avid mountain bikers they might want to check out some of the other local trails. (For more details on the mountain biking trails and to explore more areas, please visit the Keweenaw Visitors Bureau website.)

1.) Copper Harbor
The Copper Harbor mountain biking trails has some of the best trails in the nation. Spanning over 30 miles, the trails range in difficulty from beginner to expert with most of the trails being for the advanced rider. The trails are very scenic with paths going along various inland lakes and beside the shores of Lake Superior. For more information on the Copper Harbor mountain biking trails, please visit the Copper Harbor Trails Club website.

2.) Bill Nichols Trail Rail
The Bill Nichols Trail connects Houghton to Mass City and spans a distance of 41 miles. The trail coasts along the former Copper Range Railroad for a smooth and adventurous ride around the Keweenaw. The trail crosses 3 bridges over the Firesteel River. This grade is also open to off-road vehicles.

3.) Swedetown Trails
The Swedetown Trails are located near Calumet, Michigan and span a total of 22 miles of single-lane trails. These trails are fantastic for both the beginner and advanced rider, and offer a plethora of loops and segments to allow riders to customize their own ride. In addition, there are also 8 miles of two-track trails to allow for side-by-side riding and running.

Kayaking and Canoeing
The Copper Country is also an absolute paradise for kayaking and canoeing. Because Houghton is an area surrounded by a variety of lakes, rivers, canals, and streams, kayaking and canoeing are a huge part of culture here. There are countless places for students to stick a kayak or canoe in the water and start paddling. Here are some of the more popular places where paddlers like to visit:

Copper Harbor
Copper Harbor offers a wide variety of waterways to explore. Most of these are inland lakes that are all within a ten-mile radius of the Harbor’s village limits. These lakes include Lake Fanny Hooe, Lake Manganese, Lake Medora, Lac La Belle, Schlatter’s Lake, and Lake Bailey. These lakes provide beautiful scenery and a wide variety of wildlife to observe along the way, all within a short drive from the Houghton/Hancock area.

Chassell: Sturgeon River and Sloughs
The Sturgeon River also offers an exciting adventure for local kayakers and canoers to paddle. The site offers a ramp for launching and landing small boats, which is especially convenient for launching a canoe. Explorers can make their way around the bay, down the Pike River, or Sturgeon River. The Sturgeon River offers beautiful scenic views, complete wildlife and animals.

Keweenaw Water Trail
The Keweenaw Water Trail runs along a beautiful, rugged coastline of the Keweenaw Peninsula and explores wilderness areas with parks, nature preserves, and sheltered harbors for camping spread intermittently throughout the trail. This waterway is unique because it allows the paddler to make a loop without having to backtrack along the pathway. The entire route can be paddled between six and eight days, so it’s a great trip for the adventurous paddler!

In addition to these exciting waterways, there are also plenty of kayaking and canoeing options right here in Houghton. One obvious choice for many paddlers is the Keweenaw Waterway, which includes Portage Lake on one side and the Portage Canal on the other. Paddlers can launch from anywhere along the canal and enjoy a beautiful trip that’s a little closer to home.

That’s everything I have for you this week! As you can see, there’s so much to do in the Keweenaw during the summer months. It’s such a beautiful outdoor paradise and I hope your students take advantage of these activities if they are up here for the summer! If you have any questions about outdoor activities in the Keweenaw or would like to see more information on a specific topic, please feel free to email me at Have a wonderful weekend!


Quincy Mine Tours and Other Local Happenings

Hello Parents,

A glowing photo of the historic Quincy Mine, located in Hancock, MI. Public tours of the Mine begin on Friday, June 5.
A glowing photo of the historic Quincy Mine, located in Hancock. Public tours of the Mine begin on Friday, June 5.

I hope you’re all having a great week! It’s been warmer here this week and it’s finally starting to feel like summer as we begin June and mark the halfway point through Track A courses. Campus has been lively and flourishing with busy students as they continue their hard work with classes, assignments, homework, and exams. Community life has been humming as well with various events taking place including the weekly Wednesday night Car Show at our local Culver’s restaurant, outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking, and a plethora of other special events.

Speaking of local special events, the famous and historic Quincy Mine Hoist will begin its public tour season starting this Friday, June 5. The Hoist will be open daily for tours from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm until Saturday, October 17. Located across the Portage Lift Bridge in Hancock, The Quincy Mine was established in 1846 and continued action for almost 100 years until 1945. It’s the world’s largest steam hoist and was one of the most successful commercial copper mining companies in the nation. Quincy Mine Tours take guests around the shaft house and continue down below ground into the actual hoist itself, where guests can get a glimpse of where the action took place during the mining era. It’s a very educational and engrossing trip that brings its tourists into a captivating excursion through time. For more information on the Quincy Mine and its tours, please visit the Quincy Mine Hoist Association website.

On Saturday, June 6, UP Cruising will be hosting a charity ride for war veterans. UP Cruising is a website dedicated to the avid motorcyclists in Michigan and provides a guide to biking in the UP. The website is one large road map of all the greatest biking routes in the UP, and offers suggestions for tourist stops, provides information on local fishing and snowmobiling, and much more! This Saturday, the organization is hosting an an all-day motorcycle riding event that will be dedicated to various charities in the Upper Peninsula that benefit local veterans. The ride will be based out of Gladstone, Michigan, and will span the entire day and include lunch, dinner, and a wide variety of prizes for its participants. For more information on the organization and the charity ride, please visit the UP Cruising website.

That’s all I have for you this week! Stay tuned for next week’s more lengthy post, as I dive into a more detailed article about some of the local hot spots for popular outdoor activities. I hope you all try take advantage of the summer weather, and enjoy the rest of your week! Until next time!