In his short story, "Dr. Springer," Cully Gage described signs of spring and the euphoria they inspired, late in April, after a particularly hard winter. The crows were back! Snow was melting in "rivulets and torrents" down his hill street in "Tioga" - which, I understand, was more-or-less Champion in real life.
I'd read most of Gage's Northwoods Readers long before I moved up to the U.P. five years ago. His descriptions of his childhood life in Tioga, many of them at least lightly romanticized, gave this place some of its mystique and allure. His image of running water as a sign of spring, in particular, stuck with me.
I spent Saturday afternoon riding, occasionally walking my mountain bike on some very muddy logging roads and railroad grades between Lake Linden and Calumet. Water was running - in rivulets, more than torrents - in the various creeks draining into Traprock Valley. I could hear the water from above as I rode down the old railroad grade now known as snowmobile trail No. 3.
This past winter was a soft one. The crows never left the Copper Country in the first place. But the running water still triggered some sense of euphoria on a day with a steel gray sky and snow still hiding in the hollows.
I went out on my mountain bike Saturday to do some thinking about what to write in this column in the coming months. And I figured starting things off in the outdoors would be a good way to give legitimacy to the idea of my being an outdoors columnist.
I'm told this is going to be a regular feature of the Friday paper, at least once a month. So I thought I'd devote the rest of this first column to letting the reader know what I have in mind to write about in future ones.
"Out There" will focus on beginner-level experiences in the outdoors. I plan to use it as an excuse for trying some new things, myself, so the reader will be getting a beginner's perspective in those columns.
As much as possible, I want to focus on the people who are closely connected with the places I write about: trail builders, sanctuary stewards, naturalists. Their experiences with those places is deeper than mine could be, so including their perspectives should make for better reading.
The North Country National Scenic Trail will be a regular feature. I'm on the board of our local chapter of the North Country Trail Association, the Peter Wolfe Chapter, so I'll admit a favorable bias toward the trail. But from the Porcupine Mountains to the Trap Hills to the Baraga Plains, the NCT offers some of the most beautiful and diverse terrain the U.P. has to offer.
I hope to include, from time to time, experts in relevant sciences. Here I'm thinking about the geology of the Keweenaw, the dendrology of any given forest, and the industrial archaeology of some of the mining ruins found in our backwoods.
Finally, this column will be non-motorized. Because internal combustion engines make it hard to hear running water.