Extreme Northwestern Part Of State, Ontonagon County. Closest Town: Silver City. Once You Get To Silver City, On The Southern Shore Of Lake Superior, You Will See Signs Directing You To The Park.
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The Visitor Center Is A Good Place To Get A Map And See If There Are Any Cabins Or Yurts For Rent. There Is Also A Display Map Showing Where The Old Growth Is (Almost The Entire Interior Of The Park). If You Want To Reserve Ahead Call 800-447-2757 Or Check Www.Mi.Gov/Porkies. There Are Also Hotel Rooms Nearby In Silver City.
I Was Told The Hike To The Yurt Was About A Mile. My Pack Was Strapped To My Back, And The Green And Brown Arms Of The Forest Surrounded Me. The Sun Was Already Setting. Although I Had Never Been To This Particular Place, I Had Been Spending So Much Time In Forests Recently That I Immediately Felt At Home. The Species I Had Come To Know So Well Were All Around Me: There Was Sugar Maple, There Yellow Birch, And Look, Hemlock Again. The Ground-Level Plants Seemed To Vary More From Forest To Forest Than The Trees Did. There Were No Mayapples Here; Instead, The Glossy, Green Leaves And Blue Berries Of The Bluebead Lily Were Everywhere.
This Is A Plant You Almost Never See In A Garden, Because It Grows Only In Dense Shade And Doesn’T Begin Flowering Until It Reaches Age Twelve. If I Had Been Here Earlier In The Spring, The Pale Yellow, Lily-Like Flowers That Grow In Clusters On Its Stalk Would Have Been Everywhere; But By Now The Flowers Were Pollinated, Probably By Bumblebees, And Where Each Flower Had Been There Was Now A Blue Berry. Bluebead Lilies, Like Mayapples, Depend On Insects For Cross-Pollination, So The Abundant Blue Berries Indicated That Pollinators Were Plentiful In These Woods. Earlier In The Summer, The Oblong Leaves With Parallel Veins That Grow Close To The Forest Floor, Usually In Clusters Of Three, Would Have Been Shiny, Green, And Looking Good Enough To Eat Which They Are But By Now The Leaves Looked A Little Dull And Some Had Begun To Yellow.
I Was Alone Now In The Darkening Woods, And All I Could Hear Was The Whine Of Mosquitoes. They Were Starting To Take More Blood Than I Was Comfortable Giving. Where Was That Yurt, Anyway?
At Last I Saw A Sign For A Side Trail Leading To The Yurt. I Didn’T Know What To Expect, But High On The Hillside I Reached A Newish-Looking Circular Structure With An Attached Deck. This Forest, Like Many Others, Has Cabins For Rent, But More And More Frequently The Managers Are Erecting Yurts Instead Of New Cabins.
Mongolian Nomads Get Credit For Designing The Yurt, A Circular Building Not Fixed In Place, But Rather Constructed To Be Collapsed And Moved If Necessary. The Original Yurts Were Covered In Animal Skins, With Rugs Spread Over The Ground For Flooring, But This One Was Instead Covered In Thick Plastic And Built On A Wooden Deck That Served As Its Floor. Clear Plastic Windows With Screens Were Manufactured Into The Walls. Like The Mongolian Yurts, This One Had A Woodstove Inside For Heating, Connected To A Stovepipe That Carried The Smoke Outside. Two Sets Of Bunk Beds And A Small Table With Four Chairs Completed The Furnishings. The Sign On The Door Warned, “No Cooking In The Yurt”; A Compact Kitchen Built Into A Cabinet Was Out On The Deck.
I Stashed My Pack On A Bed And Opened The Windows. Was This Plain Old Fatigue Or Blood Loss From All The Mosquitoes? Whatever It Was, I Collapsed On A Bunk And Fell Asleep Without Supper. Had I Been With Someone Else, I Would Have Carried On. Had I Been With Someone Else Sympathetic, Perhaps He Or She Would Have Taken Over While I Rested. But There Was No One Here Except Me Tired, Dirty, Hungry.
I Woke Early, Took A Sponge Bath, Made A Good Breakfast, And Started Down The Trail To See What This Wonderful, Shiny New Day Had In Store For Me. Just A Half-Mile From The Yurt I Came Upon A Diminutive Moss-Covered Waterfall, The Kind Of Shady, Ferny, Moist Place That People Stuck In The City Daydream About. Across The Stream Was A Dry, Level Place Perfect For Lounging The Day Away, But I Had Barely Started My Hike, So I Continued On. A Little Farther Along, However, I Found Myself In The Midst Of Hemlock Heaven A Place So Lovely I Had To Stop. It Was Visually Beautiful, Of Course, With Towering Hemlock Trees Lining Both Sides Of The Path And Nothing But Deep Woods In All Directions, But I Think There Is Something Even Beyond Physical Beauty In These Old-Growth Places Unchanged By Humans. Four Billion Years Of Evolution And Planetary Change, And This Is What Had Come To Be On This Very Spot. There Is Another Type Of Beauty Contained In That History Of Life.
Humans Have Dominated Much Of The Planet And Altered It Profoundly, But Here, Just Off The Trail, Was The “Actual World,” As Henry David Thoreau Called It. Judging By How Frequently This Phrase Is Quoted, It Clearly Resonates With Many. While Hiking Up Mount Katahdin In Maine, Thoreau Was Struck By The Deep, Mysterious Relationship We Have With The Earth. I Think It Was No Coincidence He Was Hiking Through A Forest When This Epiphany Happened. These Places Feel More Real They Are More Real Than The Landscapes Through Which We Generally Pass.
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