It is a Kralovec family tradition for us to go on a hike before Owen or one of our children leaves for university. Oliver, Owen, and I did a 5-kilometer hike on the Ge Che Trails the Ottawa Lake Nature Area. I used to cross-country ski these trails often and it was nice to re-visit them . We hiked from Ottawa Lake to Hagerman Lake and then looped back to Ottawa Lake. The public beach at the Ottawa Lake Campgrounds was deserted, and we saw no one on the trails. With only 11,000 people living in Iron County, we have much of the place to ourselves. No one apparently was enjoying the beautiful Ottawa Lake on a perfect, sunny Monday afternoon in late July.
We then had a final tennis game on the Nelson Field Courts. We played a lot of tennis while in Caspian and always found open courts. On this day, some older people were playing pickleball and the tennis courts were not being used as usual. Oliver improved quite a bit with his daily playing. Often, he would play his cousin Beau, and I would play against Owen. Today we played the best of 5 game sets and rotated. This was a great day and the perfect ending to summer holidays in Iron County.
I am staying this week at my childhood home and while decluttering the house, I came across my father’s notebook record of his career in education. He worked for 35 years in education in Stambaugh Public Schools and when the district consolidated in the 1967-1968 school year, West Iron County. He started as a teacher at the Caspian Elementary School and after 7 years, became Principal of the school. Sadly for him and me, the Caspian Elementary School closed after the 1969-1970 school year, the year before I was to start kindergarten. It would have been nice to walk to school and have my dad as the principal of the school. Charlie was the last principal of Caspian Elementary School, serving for 5 years from 1965 to 1970. The closure of the Caspian Elementary School was probably because of declining enrollment and cost savings. The building was vacant for years, into the 1980s before being torn down and replaced with a state employment office. The depopulation of Iron County and declining youth enrollment in schools continues today. I see another consolidation in the future, like in 1967 when Stambaugh, Bates Township and Iron River consolidated to form West Iron County High School. Perhaps West Iron County will merge with Forest Park (a consolidation of Crystal Falls, Amasa, Alpha) on the east side of Iron County. The challenge for a possible future Iron County Public Schools is distance. Iron County is large and commuting times would increase.
With the closure of the Caspian Elementary School, my father was transferred to the Stambaugh Elementary School, just up the hill from Caspian. He was my teacher in the 1975-1976 school year when I was a grade 5 student. I went to his classroom for science and social studies. He taught at Stambaugh Elementary School for the next 14 years, teaching mostly grade 5. In 1984-1985, he was transferred again to the Bates Township Elementary School where he was the lead teacher for 3 years.
The Bates Township Elementary School eventually closed and he was transferred back to Stambaugh Elementary School to teach an additional 6 years in grade 4. He retired after the 1992-1993 school year. His career spanned 5 decades (1950s to 1990s) and two school districts (Stambaugh/West Iron County) and three campuses (Caspian,Stambaugh, Bates Township). He was a principal or lead teacher for 9 years total. He taught Grades 4-8 and he also led federal programs for Special Education and Head Start. Most importantly, he influenced the lives of thousands of students in his 35 years in education.
Last weekend we visited Houghton/Hancock, the sister cities in the center of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The peninsula is the “ear” of the rabbit that juts out into Lake Superior on the northernmost part of the UP. The drive from Iron River is just under 2 hours. We were there to participate in the 47th annual Canal Run. Proceeds from the run support a non-profit organization that reaches out to senior citizens.
I was surprised at how many people were running in the races. We decided to run the 5-mile race. A bus dropped us off 5 miles out of the town of Hancock. We started on top of a big hill overlooking the Portage Canal that runs through the peninsula. As you can see from the results, all of us completed the race. I finished 35th out of 184 and my time of 42:49 was the best time in the men’s 50-59 year old age group. My nephew Beau finished just ahead of me in 34th place and a time of 42:20. My son Owen finished in 42nd place with a time of 44:10. Oliver finished 47th and a time of 44:42. Ocean finished in 102nd place with a time of 53:51. Nadia was the final Kralovec family member to finish with a time of 58:34 in 127th place. We all liked the course because the first portion was downhill and in shade and there were some nice views of the canal coming into Hancock.
On Friday night Nadia and I drove south to the Ojibwe Indian Reservation near the town of Baraga. She won $300 on the roulette machines! We also filled up with gas because reservation prices are much cheaper without state or federal taxes. We paid $2.99 a gallon when it is usually over $4.00 a gallon. Lake Superior is so big, cold and beautiful so we did stop a couple of times for photos and on Saturday a swim.
We also watched my nephews Tony and Beau play for the Iron Mountain Golds against the Copper Country team in American Legion baseball. The game was at Houghton High School. They got beat by the mercy rule but was good to see them play.
I would like to thank the officials responsible for the making of the Apple Blossom bike trail between Iron River and Caspian. I also appreciate the newer trail from Caspian to Chicagoan Lake. I’ve ridden the entire trail several times during my holiday. It is convenient from my house and good for encouraging people to exercise. A couple of nights ago, Nadia and my sister-in-law Chantal joined me in a ride to the lake and back. The path is paved and runs alongside Highway 424, and cycling from the Iron County Museum in Caspian to the Chicagoan Inn Hotel and back is around 23 kilometers. A good workout!
Most of the ride is through a forest or alongside the road. There is not much traffic so crossing the road is not dangerous. A few hills provide good exercise but are not leg or lung crushing. There are benches periodically along the trail to stop and rest. I combined the trail with going on the George Young Fat Tire Bike Trails that are located near the path and go around Scott Lake. You can also connect to the old railway grade, now ATV/snowmobile trail back to Caspian to make a long loop.
The girls are shown above on another trail from the Chicagoan Lake Boat Landing to the public beach. We met the boys there and I went for a swim. I spent many a summer afternoon growing up at Pentoga Park, the public beach on the lake.
This summer, I have been interested in demographics and the role it plays in the culture, economy, education, and future implications. What sparked my interest was the release of population data last month from the Uzbekistan State Statistics Committee. I used Vizzlo to convert the data into a population pyramid. Uzbekistan is a very young country, and as you can see, the bulk of the population is under 40, and very few older people. I was especially taken aback by the fact that 60% of the population is under 30 years old. The total population of Uzbekistan is between 34-35 million people so that is over 15 million young people. No wonder there were fewer deaths in Uzbekistan than in more developed countries.
The demographics in Uzbekistan are much different from my previous school in Osaka, Japan, and much of the Western, industrialized, developed world. As you can see below in the pyramids from Population-Pyramids.net, the Japanese population pyramid looks much different and presents countries with different challenges. In Uzbekistan, the problem will be finding jobs for the big cohorts moving through working age, especially the 0-9 cohort. Japan is in trouble because it will have a decreasing number of working people to support a top-heavy, retired cohort. The USA looked like Uzbekistan in the 1950s and 1960s, but fortunately, through immigration, the USA has been able to have a stable cohort of younger workers coming up through the system, unlike Japan.
I also listened to the Sam Harris podcast interview with Ian Bremmer and Peter Zeihan “The End of the Global Order.” Bremmer and Zeihan are experts in global politics and they both said China is in trouble because the 1-child policy has warped their population pyramid. They will be facing a huge retirement cohort and few workers to support them. The population will be half (700 million) in 2100 what the population is today. The population pyramid website that a neat feature that projects the populations into the future. Here are some countries in the year 2087. I picked 2087 because that is the peak year of retirees in China. Looking like a mushroom is not good. It will be fascinating to see how humanity reacts to declining populations in most nations over the next couple of centuries.
Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer’s USA Facts has a lot of good demographic data for the USA. The USA increased population from 2010-2020 by 7% overall. The increase was uneven with gains in the south, Texas, LA, Phoenix, Miami and North Carolina and losses in the north, Detroit, Illionis, Pittsburgh, Long Island. People are moving to warmer weather with the exceptions of Denver and Seattle. I was curious to see that in the 2020 census, 60% of Americans (197 million) are white. The next largest groups are Latinos (61 million), African-Americans (38 million) and Asians (15 million). My home state of Michigan increased 1%, although the Upper Peninsula (UP) lost population. Iron County, where I am from, lost .3% over the last 10 years, and is down to 11,000. The peak of Iron County was during the iron ore boom years and the 1920 census counted over 22,000. Iron County is projected to lose even more over the next 10 years as over 30% of population is 65 years or older. This is in contrast to the US average of 17% 65+ cohort. The most populous and economically viable county in the UP is Marquette. They only lost 1.6% and has a population of 65+ at 20%.
The entire Kralovec family participated in today’s “Run Your Bass Off” Road Race. The 2022 version was the 41st annual race and I ran in the first race in 1981. The race is part of the Bass Festival which is held at Runkle Lake Park in Crystal Falls, Michigan. Crystal Falls is the seat of Iron County and one of our sports rivals was Forest Park High School, the school district for the east side of Iron County. I ran the 10KM race and the rest of the family completed the “Half Bass” 5KM race.
I was pleased with my performance. I don’t run often because I want to preserve my knees but I am glad I can still crank out a 10KM at a decent pace. With some training, I think I could have done better and I used the race as a training run. I always joke the name of the town should be Crystal Hills instead of Crystal Falls. There was a long hill at the 8-kilometer mark that really slowed me down as you can see with my splits below.
Once we get the official times, I”ll post them. I finished third in my age group. Owen finished 13th, Oliver 12th, Ocean 7th, Nadia 8th in their age groups.
I can see why Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the USA and the Mountain West (Boise, Denver) is also growing so rapidly. It is the quality of life. The dry climate and sunny skies are so much better than wet climates with many overcast days. The views and access to outdoor pursuits are also world-class so I see why people are deciding to leave Ohio/Indiana/Pennsylvania etc and set up a life in places like Salt Lake City. Much of the growth is internal because LDS members marry young and are encouraged to have many children, although this is changing. The growth in population has brought diversity and the percentage of LDS members is probably around 50%. It is still a very white, conservative place. I would like to see the state maintain its unique characteristics and manage growth so it doesn’t ruin the place. A threat to the great lifestyle here is drought and the possibility of Utah and Salt Lakes drying up, which would add to the already growing concern of low air quality.
We spent the 4th of July at a classic backyard BBQ with friends in the suburb of Highland. It is closer to the Wasatch Range and with the backdrop of mountains on three sides, pure blue skies and a large pool and green lawn, it made for a stunning backdrop to a fun day. We discovered the sport of cornhole, which I want to bring back to our school in Tashkent. It is similar to horseshoes and can be played by anyone. We also ate hamburgers from the grill, potato salad, and an ice cream/popsicle mix called “Creamies” which is famous in Utah. I love regional differences and besides creamies, we also discovered that Utah specializes in french fry sauces. Thanks to the MacPherson family for hosting us!
We’ve been playing a lot of tennis on the courts in the development. We haven’t seen anyone else playing tennis and Owen and I are always surprised that Americans do not do more exercise and use the free courts. In Tashkent, we need to reserve courts and pay a fee and sometimes they are difficult to get court times. I feel like we are playing our Indian Wells Masters tournament with the desert environment around the courts. Attending the Indian Wells Masters is on my bucket list but the tourney is usually in March when we are in school.
Last night we went to the soccer field of a local high school that overlooks the SLC valley. We watched literally hundreds of fireworks ignited by private citizens. It was quite a stunning scene and the cool mountain breeze made it a perfect evening to watch. The highlight was a fire that was most likely caused by fireworks gone astray. I think it was in Centerville and I got the photo below from the city’s Facebook page. The city did not have an official fireworks display this year because of the drought conditions. We saw several firetrucks speeding down the freeway to the fire.
We visited the epicenter/headquarters of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in downtown Salt Lake City Sunday night. We toured the Visitor Center and Tabernacle, but we were not able to see Temple Square because it was under construction. Our friend Aria is a former “sister” tour guide in Temple Square and she was quite informative about all the little-known facts about the buildings. It would be the equivalent of visiting Vatican City or Mecca as a center of a world major religion. We also finally found some run-down, older parts of the city after being in the shiny new suburbs for most of our trip. We saw some homeless people and abandoned buildings that we didn’t think existed in SLC. The downtown is quite small, with the capital, basketball arena, church headquarters taking up most of the center of the city. I guess after living in larger cities, a metropolitan area of just over a million people would feel small.
The LDS Church is very organized and the Visitor’s Center is a really good introduction to the beliefs of the church. I learned that the LDS church believes Jesus visited the Americas and South Pacific before Columbus discovered the New World. They point to the legend of the “white god” as partial evidence that this is true. The painting above is famous in the LDS world depicting the scene. We also saw the portraits of church leadership. The top position is called “The Prophet” and he has 12 “apostles”. and two assistants to lead the church. They are all older men, retired from successful careers but faithful enough to devote their “golden years” to running the religion.
My favorite part was the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The acoustics were excellent with a curved roof. One of the sisters tore a piece of paper and dropped a pin to demonstrate how well sound travels in the hall. The choir is world famous and competitive to get into.
We ended the tour on the rooftop gardens of the center that gave us a good overview of the complex and SLC. As you can see below, the LDS administrative building is to the far left, the cranes mark the construction site of the Temple and to the far right is the tabernacle dome.
We spent the day exploring the awesome mountains around the Snowbird Ski Resort. Noah works at the resort and got us a free pass to the amusement park at the resort. We also hiked up to Gloria Falls on the White Pine Fork.
The kids continued on to Red Pine Lake and camped overnight by themselves. Nadia was worried about them, but they all made it back safe and sound. The scenery was spectacular and I wish I could have gone with them.
I put together a short video of our hike to the falls.
We are enjoying seeing our good friends the Tsubaki family and relaxing in the beauty of the desert topography of Utah. I went for a morning hike and an afternoon bike ride in the nearby Juniper Canyon nature area. These are the hills adjacent to the Juniper Point development where they live.
I rode the BlackRidge Trail to the Diamond Head Trail to form a 12-kilometer loop. The views were spectacular and the trail had the perfect amount of technical aspects. Being in my 50s, I don’t want to risk falling and so the trail was mostly rock-free and at a reasonable vertical slope. I can’t wait to explore more trails!
I’ve also enjoyed helping my friend Art with his side business of vending machines. They provide snacks and drinks to employees of warehouses in SLC. I didn’t really think too much about warehouses but there is a huge system of manufacturing and distributing products. Warehouses and factories allow American consumers to have just about anything they want whenever they want. I am also learning the business of vending machines and the snacking habits of most people. It takes a lot of work to supply the machines and deal with customer concerns. We moved two of his machines to a new warehouse yesterday and I was impressed with Art’s engineering mind and know-how. It was difficult to move such a heavy, large machine and get it into the employee’s lounge in the warehouse.
Suburban Salt Lake City is new and clean, much different from the older suburbs and towns I’ve been visiting in the USA.