Bags of Bran


The Old Stompin’ Grounds
December 28, 2013, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Biography

While I was a scholar at the local Infinitesimal University, I lived in Iron Mountian, Michigan. It’s one of those places you don’t arrive at by accident. It’s not really on the way to anything unless you’re going to Marquette from Green Bay, on a Thursday, with your lucky nickel in your pocket, singing “Tra-La-Laaa.” Its strengths are not typically what people are looking for in a community, but I was very happy to call it home for four years.

Recently I was able to visit again. Some things have not changed in five years (or whatever), but other things have. There’s a Jimmy John’s on the busy end of town now, and the local hospital has just moved into the world of electronic charting. The bike shop I used to work for has some new faces as well as an interior facelift, but they don’t sell fat bikes yet. Main Street Pizza is still thriving. Ahh… Nostalgia bubbles!

Since it’s not bike season for me at this particular time, I’ve been snowshoeing and running so that I do not turn into a blob. It’s a genuine hazard. Running is what it is: I tend to hurt during and after most times, but it slowly gets better, and then it’s summer again. But snowshoeing is just plain fun. Deep snow is just about impossible for running, biking, dancing, needlepoint, jai alai, hopscotch, butterscotch, scotch bonnets, &etc. But snowshoes are designed for all of those things and more.

When in Iron Mountain with snowshoes, it is an imperative to go to Fumee Lake Natural Area on the north end of town. It’s a couple of small lakes and a couple of big hills, with cedar swamps and stuff thrown in for variety. There are trails that are normally groomed for XC skis in the winter, plus some singletrack trails on the sides of the hills. When the trails are groomed, it’s not polite to walk on them; but when they’re not groomed, fair game.

Since we are only in town for two whole days and I have many pleasant memories at Fumee, I took advantage of some afternoon down time to tromp the happy hills. It was utterly terrifying! I haven’t been in carnivore-infested woods in the dark for a while, and every little pop or rustle was a mother bear robbed of her cubs, stampeding down the hill to visit murrain upon me. In short time I settled down, reasoning that wolves were busy filing for Obamacare, bears were hibernating, weasels were too small to eat me, and porcupines were friendly but misunderstood. But one cannot account for owls: they are large, silent, spectral creatures with little fear of lone Minnesotan snowshoers. A large owl swooped about ten yards ahead of me, passing in and out of the beam of my headlamp like the shadowy remnant of a nightmare. It was probably ten feet tall and I think it was carrying a sheep in its scythe-like claws. It glared at me balefully and said “MMMMMMRRRRRAAAAAWWWWWWRRRRR” in a crocodile’s voice as it passed. Sparks of static electricity danced on its wing-tips as it flew, lighting the snow with a flickering blue.

Not really.

But it scared me pretty good.

Fumee in the dark

Owls haunt these woods!

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