Going Wild


Lake o’ the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains, on a windy day.

The sensation of Lake Superior and the Porkies keeps resonating after my recent visit, including an insight during the ten-hour drive home: Wilderness like that found in the Upper Peninsula offers so much, yet “wild” sojourns often are “off radar” for many people.

The impression was partly sparked by empty sites where I stayed around the 4th of July: Presque Isle Campground of the Porcupine Mountains State Park. At this time of year, Lower Peninsula parks are packed. I certainly enjoyed the low-key surroundings, yet I think that people are missing out on phenomenal nature.

It’s true that more of us humans live under than above the Mackinaw Bridge — at least, relative to Michigan’s borders. (Remember, there’s a whole lot of North America beyond the Superior Sea!) Nonetheless, it seems that just the thought of “going wild” may be more remote than the matter of access.

Out of curiosity (primarily mine!), compare a celebrated travel destination with your nearest natural spectacle. Which would come to mind more “naturally” for a trip among your loved ones? Then how about this: compare the time and expense of flying to that popular “hot spot” versus driving and camping to the earth-made one. I imagine the latter is a better deal, but you let me know, would you?

Despite likely savings, I venture that a fair number of our familiars rarely entertain adventures to the great outdoors — that is, wilderness areas. For instance, my excitement about bears living in the woods doesn’t warm the hearts of loved ones from Belgium! Maybe this hesitation stems from cats and birds being the most common “wild” animals in Flanders.


Tracks along the Pinkerton Creek Trail of the Porcupine Mountains.

Admittedly even around my home base in Lansing, deer are the largest animals living in the open. “Getting to nature” here means stopping by a local nature center like Fenner, which is a treasure and treat for urban dwellers.  But, without a doubt, sampling the outdoors among grazing “four leggeds” is very different from sighting predator tracks along Pinkerton Creek of the Porkies. That’s why I wore a rattle on trails there to announce my progress!

For as much as I wanted to witness a black bear in its habitat, I was not adventurous enough to seek out that encounter intentionally. A friend of mine passed one while driving that week, which I would have loved to seen from the security of a car. Maybe with more frequent “wild” sojourns to places like the Porcupine Mountains, I may get secure and savvy enough to walk the forest with a rattle in hand’s reach rather than bouncing with my every step.

From this recent wilderness trip, I am deeply grateful for the collective presence I experienced: the plants and animals, the rocks and sand, the water on the ground and fire in the sky, and many more relations. Hopefully, the poem and gallery I’ve shared so far convey some degree of this gratitude, and bring courage where needed to venture the great outdoors.

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