Thursday, February 25, 2010

A person and a place

Some of my special, unique places have a person associated with them.

One such place is the Algoma Highlands and Stokely Creek properties. I was fortunate to have known Chuck Peterson who owned the properties and worked to preserve them. (For more information on Algoma Highlands Conservancy, visit, and for Stokely Creek Lodge, visit Better yet, why not visit in person. There is time to XC ski or snowshoe. Summer and fall are wonderful times to visit, too.)

It’s a special place for me, partly because it’s a large forest area on hilly terrain close to town*. The ecology of the area is fascinating, the scenery is spectacular (I’ll let others describe how the place is special to them). What makes it even more special for me is that I associate it with Chuck. I had the opportunity to get to know Chuck for a few years. I was able to hike the area with him (and ride around in his field car – a CrownVic!) and talk about his plans for conserving it. Now, when I hike the area, I’m reminded of Chuck and those conversations (some of which were randomly timed phone conversations or over a nice dinner and fine beverage).

The fact that the area is in conservation status is a tribute to Chuck’s memory. It took many people working hard and providing funds to make it happen (especially the Byker/Phair family, and many volunteers and donors to the conservancy). For many of these people, Chuck’s memory was part of their motivation and adds to their appreciation of the place. It does for me.

For another area that connection feels different and I hope stays feeling different for a long time because the person I connect to the place is still here. That place is Vermilion, two miles of lonely shore on Lake Superior

I’ll let others describe what makes it so special – the views, the ecology, the history, the isolation. The point here is that I can associate the place with a specific person, the former owner who continues to work hard to help preserve it (Thanks Evan, and thanks Little Traverse Conservancy for taking the property on and to the principal donor for this purchase). The association with Evan adds to my appreciation of the place.

Neither the Algoma Highlands property nor Vermilion are named for the people involved in conserving them. Other conservation areas have someone’s name attached. Is that name just a name on a plaque? Or is it someone who worked tirelessly to help preserve his/her special place? Would knowing that story make the place more special for you?

*The hills of the Algoma Highlands are worn-down, ancient mountains. When I first came to the area, I was reluctant to call them ‘mountains,’ but as I get older I’m more inclined to do so. I say they are getting taller from isostatic rebound. I don’t want to think that they just seem to be getting steeper to me.

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