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Overlooking the Portage Canal in Houghton, Michigan

Overlooking the Portage Canal in Houghton, Michigan

So what do you think?  Can it be an outdoor adventure when you visit the city?  I vote yes.  My husband votes yes.  Would you agree?

Years ago, in Wilderness Survival class, our instructor told us we could find amazing wildlife in the midst of cities and suburbs.  Get down on your hands and knees, he said.  Look under bushes, around brushy areas, on the edges of empty lots.  You’ll be surprised.  There’s voles and shrews and rabbits and mice and raccoons and birds of every color and size.  He had even spotted coyote and deer in the cities.  You just have to look in less-obvious areas.  The city contains lots of nature, usually hidden from us in our fast cars and pre-occupied mode.

Today we traveled up to the Copper Country, about an hour from our house.  Years ago the Keweenaw Peninsula boasted many copper mines; there’s still remnants of the old mining operations wherever you look.  It’s even a National Historical Park now.  Michigan Technological University is in Houghton; the population of the city counts about 7,000. 

We like to travel up there every week or so to buy good fresh organic fruits and vegetables at the Keweenaw Co-op (across the Portage Canal in Hancock.)  Today we bundled up in our warm clothes and boots and followed a snowmobile along the canal.  “Be prepared to jump off the trail if a snowmobile comes along,” my husband thoughtfully warned.  Luckily, the snowmobiles stayed away until our walk finished.

Portage Lake Lift Bridge

Portage Lake Lift Bridge

All sorts of interesting outdoor sites seduce the eye in every direction.  There’s a bridge over there, and the hint of sunlight between clouds.  Snow half-covers park benches, grills, walkways.  The city has already pushed huge piles of snow into out-of-way places.  The snowmobile trail crunches under foot, the snow packed nice and tight.  It’s 15 degrees, but not too unpleasant. 

Look!  Over there!  Someone has painted murals on the wall.  A splash of human creativity amidst the white snow and winter skies.  I don’t know about you, but the art somehow lifts the spirits.  It makes me think of how creativity can help us through the long winter months, through the days of darkness and cold.  It brings hope and good cheer….

Mural in snow

Mural in snow

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