A sense of belonging

Every once in a while you wind up somewhere and you feel the natural pull of something greater than yourself. That feeling could be ancestral, from another lifetime, or something that you have hyped up in your own mind to a fever pitch. Regardless of where it comes from, I hope that you have experienced this at least once in your lifetime. I feel like I get this experience in a few new places each year. Usually it only happens in very specific place; it may be a panoramic vista, a mirror-flat lake, a gnarly old tree, or a cool stream. Regardless of where this happens I always try to pause and fully soak in that feeling. I always make note of these places and try to bring others to them to see if they too get the feels or if it is just me. I want to share that special with them. Sometimes that is my gauge as to whether or not they really get it. You know? The difference between, “welp, this place is neat, what’s next,” and “whoa…. (followed by either 1. prolonged silence while really taking in the situation, or 2. nearly out of control whooping and hootin’).” I tend to prefer folks that experience the latter (the whoopin’) but either reaction is correct.

I always try to fan the spark of curiosity and childlike splendor while outside but I find myself eliciting a bored reaction in between bouts of wonder. However, there is one place, one very large place, where I have a perma-grin and sensory overload: the Huron Mountains. Located northwest of Marquette and running right up to Lake Superior this region is truly something special. It is as close as I have been to the forest primeval; wild, peaceful, tough, beautiful, unforgiving, and raw. While I had driven through a few of the sparse main roads in this area looking for brook trout, it wasn’t until I starting “racing” The Crusher that I felt the true gravitas of this place.

The Crusher is a gravel cycling adventure put on by the non-profit, the 906 Adventure Team, that pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a gravel event. We ride through rivers, up sugar sand climbs, and bomb down truck trails completely unsupported with very limited resupply options. This is some of the best of Michigan. While I love participating in official Crusher events what I enjoy even more is the sense of belonging that I have found out in that area.

You know that feeling I talked about above? Well, for me it’s here. Like in that entire place. Every single inch of those maps above is a special place that brings out the best of me. While out riding this area I have seen moose, ran over sloppy wolf poo, bonked, triumphed, fallen into rivers, and made much personal growth. Since moving up here I have gone to the Hurons to get away and get into my own head.

I have ridden with, and made, many new friends there.

No matter how many times I go out there I will always be at awe when I enter the Mulligan Plains from either direction, sneaky views of the Big Lake through mottled and dappled trees, the mouth of the Huron River, chunking down rocky truck trails with a fully loaded bike, and the sounds of true wilderness while taking a break. This is where I belong; where civilization ends and the wild begins; where my soul lives.

-J

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