Posted by: mesabimisadventures | April 11, 2009

How’d you end up here?

Warning: after reading this over, I’ve realized I sound like a major geek.  Disclosure: I am 😉

“How’d you end up here?”  As someone who has lived on the Range for almost 7 years (May 30, 2002 but who’s paying attention?), I’ve heard that question quite a lot.  Packsackers seem to shock the natives – “we know why we’re here, but why are you?”  The Iron Range isn’t a place that I ever aspired to end up in someday.  In fact, all through high school and my undergraduate years, I can guarantee that the Iron Range never even crossed my mind.  At various points I envisioned myself in either a really big city with an “important” job and an amazing apartment that looked over a stunning skyline or I pictured myself in a small farming community (that was my brilliant idea in 1997/1998).  The Range?! 

Until that fateful day near the end of my Senior year of college.  I was wrapping up my Biochemistry B.S. and was feeling fairly non-confident about my path in life.  I had been accepted into the Toxicology Ph.D. program at UMD and given an internship with the EPA for the summer (yes, I do find the irony in this now that I work at a mine – Earth First! We’ll mine the other planets later).  I should have been bouncing off the walls Julie-style, but instead I was feeling numb.  There was no passion, no excitement, no sense that I had made the right choice.  Then Dr. Johnson (Tom) called me into his office…

“Did you get the internship?”  “Yep!” I chirped, beaming with forced pride.  “S*^t!”  I stared at Tom for awhile, not exactly understanding why he wasn’t excited for me.  “Are you familiar with the city of Virginia?” he asked.  I told him I was more than familiar with it because as a little kid my dad’s girlfriend lived there and we went up there a lot.  I told him that all I remembered was a really nice park (Olcott Park), watching fireworks over the lake (Silver Lake) and really cool streetlights (Chestnut Street and 5th Avenue West).  Before I knew it, I had called the EPA, declined the internship and then called the U and told them that I was actually not going to be entering the Toxicology Ph.D. program.

That was almost 9 years ago this spring. 

I spent the summers of 2000 and 2001 in Virginia collecting water samples from Virginia and Silver Lakes for my M.S. in Water Resources Science and the school years at UMD running lab samples and attempting to learn something about limnology.  When I was finishing up my M.S., I travelled to Pittsburgh to scope out the University (I had been accepted into their Geology Ph.D. program).  I thought back to the advice a tour guide gave me when I was a high school Junior looking at colleges – “find the place where you can visualize yourself living.”  I couldn’t “see” Pittsburgh (even though I do think it’s an underrated , underappreciated city). 

Surprisingly, I could “see” Virginia.

Through sheer luck I was given a temporary teaching job at Mesabi Range.  It was for Summer and Fall semester 2002.  That temporary teaching job has evolved into more teaching, other environmental jobs, two apartments, two houses and a life that makes me really happy.  A 7-month temporary job has somehow, surprisingly blended into a 7-year life up here.

That’s how I ended up here – memories of a beautiful park, fireworks over a lake with a floating loon (largest one in the world, doncha’ know) and really cool, historic downtown streetlights.

Never underestimate simple.



  1. I love your last line: “Never underestimate simple.” So true.

  2. Well I could not be happier that you ended up here!!

    • Thanks Lisa – you’ve been one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay 🙂

  3. Lots of people I know left and came back. They are here by choice. I’m here by choice, but there are those who’ve never been anywhere else. They are only here because they have no sense of adventure. But they seem the most judgmental, like why would you ever move here? Well, actually, living north of Da Range, I’ve been with people who’ve moved here because of employment and retirement and we love it here. Just wish more people would be here having babies so that the schools would keep going.

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