Years ago, when I rode my bicycle around the five Great Lakes, there were a few areas that I left unexplored. To be able to get around all five Great Lakes, I cut off some small areas of shoreline and a few peninsulas. One of these was north of Ashland, Wisconsin. For those readers familiar with the region, US Highway 2 cuts across the North, joining Mackinac area (St. Ignace) and Duluth/Superior this route, if taken to the Western termination would lead travelers to Everett, Washington.
The area that lies along Lake superior between Ashland and Superior, Wisconsin has a wide variety of ecotones, sandy dry, nearly desert-like pine barrens, perched wetlands, conifer forests and deciduous ones. there are great outwash plains characterized by braided rivers and massive outcrops of canadian Shield granitic rock. There are massive south facing slopes that generate extreme warmth, even in winter as well as deep chasms whose deep shade can extend the snow and ice cover of winter well into the warmer seasons. There are sandstone caves along the water’s edge and deeply fissured canyons that have avoided the long and destructive arms of men.
The people who inhabit this region are much like the Earth herself. They are varied and share an integrity that both reflects and is based on nature’s beauty and abundance. Frequently, when people find a special place, the typical response is to keep that area to one self, hoping to keep it pure and unexploited. Much of this urge comes out of fear and a lack of trust of our fellow crew on Starship Earth. Much of the region enjoys the protection of National Lakeshore status or is under tribal-ownership. Much of the Northwoods of Wisconsin are what is called “ceded territory” and as we are beginning to understand, this is a blessing for both the native people and the non-native populations who live there today. Since fishing,hunting and gathering rights are protected in perpetuity, the quality of the land has extra protection over and above what the government would normally provide.
Having an extra measure of protection, the land responds by being even more productive and the region is beginning to see a wonderful influx of people committed to sustainability and who take heart in knowing that there are still places on the planet that seek to leave the planet better for the coming generations and who appreciate the wonders and blessings of intact ecosystems, the unfettered water cycle, and the abundant living resource that surrounds us. When I passed across this region back in 1987, I could feel the pull of the people, the environment and the Apostle Islands but had no way of putting those feelings into words. now, after all of these years have passed, I am just beginning to identify what it was that drew me to that place. It is the energy and understanding that the blessings of place are more fully appreciated in this area. where I have been living since the mid eighties is characterized by a giant estuary. As we have all heard, shit runs down hill. The wetlands that were supposed to be in the mouth of the Fox River, in green Bay have been so thoroughly erased as to leave no sponge to receive and recycle the shit that flows past our door there. In contrast, the wetlands of the region that is calling me now are still intact, providing a wealth of rich biodiversity and catching the nutrients that are squandered in Green Bay. The essential character of the people is different as well. most people in green bay have little understanding of what they have had to give up, that vital part of our birthright to enjoy and intact ecosystem, cannot be valued if it has never been seen or understood. Luckily the people of the north have seen and learned that life comes from the Earth. The very land that we inhabit is alive and we are the beneficiaries of the many miracles that take place there. Not only have they seen he senseless deforestation and the long-term impacts of extraction on the ability of the Earth to provide us with the things we need, but the respect for Mother Earth that is fostered by living closely with nature rather than apart from it has led to feelings of integration with nature that are rare in our modern world.
Several of the region’s towns have declared themselves ecomunicipalities, striving for a more sustainable future. even though there are those who would flock there to exploit the landscape, most of those living in the area want to preserve the wild and free nature of the place, not just for their enjoyment, but for the health and welfare of the next seven generations. When you visit, try to appreciate what you find there without leaving any trace of your passing. My ancestors did that and with a bit of awareness and effort, we can do the same in this wonderful areas along the shores of Lake Superior. If you would like to participate in an ecotour, let us know when you wil be in the area, we’ll show you around!