We saw the birthing of a new event in the U.P. this last weekend–the Suicide Hill Mud Plunge in Ishpeming. The Plunge, which involved running a 5K in the woods through a course of obstacles, culminating with about 20 yards of crawling through a pit of mud, seems classically Yooperish.
How have we not had one of these until now?
It was the idea of Elizabeth Peterson, the director of the Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce. Elizabeth, of course, is the former anchor at TV6 and Fox UP who finally decided the TV lifestyle (a rigid daily schedule and little time off during the holidays) was not for her. Fortunately, the merchants and citizens of western Marquette County saw in her exactly the kind of person they needed to get the new Chamber off the ground.
And that she’s done: the Chamber, against all odds, now boasts more than 150 members, and this Mud Plunge, which was little more than a hope and plan just a few months ago, was ridiculously successful.
Elizabeth had been hoping for 200 entrants in the first year Plunge. That, she thought, would represent something to build on. The final total of entrants? More than 700. The morning of the event, cars were lined up along the side of the highway, a half mile away. Some of the cars carried Wisconsin license plates.
Scores of volunteers–friends of Elizabeth and others who just wanted to be part of something new and exciting–helped out everwhere from the parking area to the obstacles, to the turns in the course, to the refreshment shack, to the start and finish. Her husband Landon spent countless hours out there building and prepping the course and the obstacles.
Long lines, some waiting, a little frustration? Yeah, there was some, but it the was the first time they’d ever put this on! And it was a fricking mud plunge!
Again, this seems like a classic Yooper event, and it seems like it’ll only get bigger in the years
As for the Plunge’s birth mother, Elizabeth Peterson, she’s a transplant from downstate. She came up to the U.P. to work in TV, fell in love with the place, but then reluctantly returned downstate when another opportunity came up. The story goes–as she, Landon and her daughter were driving back on US 28 and passing Deer Lake, she suddenly said, “Stop! Stop!” They got out of the car and she started crying. “I can’t leave here! This is where I belong!”
Landon, likewise, was sick about leaving. This was a place–in the great outdoors–where he felt at home, more than at any other time in his life.
But they did leave, for only about six months, and came back. It was inevitable.
Now, with a second child, they’ve put down roots in the U.P. Permanent ones.
They say you have to be born here to be considered a true “Yooper.” Seems to me, in the case of Eliabeth, Landon and their family, there might have to be an exception.
(Full disclosure: I happen to be a friend and admirer of both Elizabeth and Landon)