Though I’ve been living on the plains for ten years now, I still think of the woods as Nature. Like my affinity for winter and snow, my love for the woods is rooted in the experience of growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Some of my earliest memories are of walking with my dad and sister across a snowy field behind our house in Daggett to a big stand of trees, where we’d have a bonfire and roast hot dogs. Later, we spent many weekends at our "hunting camp" outside Ironwood, a one-room shack near "Mount Iilola" in the Ottawa National Forest. (Though our family doesn’t own that cabin anymore, I still fantasize about biking in to it for a stay…) And Houghton-Hancock are really just clearings on the forested shorelines. I loved skiing and running in the woods outside Hancock, and finding old mining ruins among the trees reminded me that the forest was far older and stronger than it seemed.
I was surprised when I started college to read in William Cronon’s seminal environmental history of New England, Changes in the Land, that English settlers in the New World were repelled and terrified by the forests they found. I couldn’t imagine a more opposite reaction to my own feeling of being welcomed and enfolded and dwarfed by the woods, and I still can’t.
One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about cycling has been the discovery of new woods to ride in: Farmer Trail and Shady Lane Trail near Northfield; chunks of the Almanzo south of here and most of the Lutsen 99er and Heck of the North up north, and of course almost every yard of the Arrowhead 135 way up north
and the Fat Pursuit out west.
I can’t wait to get back to those snowy, dark, imposing, familar woods again soon.