Sigh...autumn in the Keweenaw never disappoints. This year seems to have extended the fall color show, with the maples turning flame-red two or three weeks ahead of the birches letting loose their golden glory. Right now, the landscape is as warm and colorful as grandma's afghan, with the days alternating between snappy blue skies and moody pearl-grey cloud cover.
Still, the beauty of this season has a melancholy undertone, knowing that its time is all too short. Fortunately, a little recon trip to Copper Harbor over the weekend showed that there is still lots of color left to be admired along the peninsula's coastal fringe.
If you haven't gotten out to soak in the beauty of our Keweenaw Peninsula autumn (or just haven't gotten enough yet), the next two weeks are the perfect time to do it! We've even got the perfect place for you: one of the many trails within the Copper Harbor trail network. And we're not just saying that because the folks at the Copper Harbor Trails Club are our nonprofit partners in 1% For the Planet. Through our partnership with these folks, we've come to learn what an incredible resource this is for our little community.
Adventure Is Waiting -- The Story of the Copper Harbor Trails Club
The Copper Harbor Trails Club started in the 1990s with a crew of dirtbag adventurers who wanted a place to shred on their mountain bikes. Over the years, as mountain biking has grown from a fringe movement to a family pastime, the CHTC has evolved into a robust team of land stewards who work to build, maintain and spread the word about Michigan's northernmost non-motorized trail network.
Our pal Nathan Miller leads the charge as executive director of the CHTC. And as a somewhat new mountain biker himself (he got his first bike the same year he took over as CHTC director), he was the first to assure us that the Copper Harbor trail network is built for everyone to enjoy, not just veteran shredders.
As ringmaster to the CHTC's hardcore volunteer crew, Nathan spearheads innovative solutions to the challenges brought on by our trail network's growing popularity. For example, when the last summer's influx of outdoor adventurers threatened to overwhelm Copper Harbor's emergency crews, the trails club helped spread messaging about how to travel safely and keep our community healthy during the pandemic. The club also found funding to build a new public changing room to help out local residents who, in Nathan's words, "are tired of seeing buttcheeks in downtown Copper Harbor” when bikers change out of their their muddy trail togs.
Along with keeping bikers safe (and clothed when in public), Nathan's job also involves going after government and private grants to enlarge the trail system, collaborating with trail building crews for maintenance and improvements, and working with local municipalities and landowners to protect public trails that happen to run through private land.
That last task has made some headlines recently, especially over the past summer. The COVID-19 lockdown sent the entire country into a full-blown biking craze, which meant that Copper Harbor's typical tourism numbers went right off the charts. This understandably rattled some local residents about the prospect of, you know, change. But Nathan says that the last thing they want is to subject the Keweenaw to "overtourism." The CHTC is just as concerned about environmental stewardship as they are about bringing more folks here for non-motorized adventure. And it can't be denied that the Keweenaw's world-class trail network is a big part of what gives our peninsula its unique quality of life.
So how can you join us in supporting the CHTC?
Get Out There!
The more people who use the trails, the more stakeholders we have invested in keeping these trails open, safe, and accessible to everyone. If you're a new mountain biker, Nathan suggests the Back 9 at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge or the trail out from Fort Wilkins State Park as ideal spots to master the basics while having fun. You can also sign up for the CHTC's mountain biking clinics. (Be forewarned: they fill up FAST.)
Mountain biking not your thing? Not to worry! Much of the trail network is open to any non-motorized use, including hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Plan your adventure with their online maps or grab a paper map at Keweenaw Adventure Company
Become a Trail Partner
Show your commitment to nature, adventure and community by donating your time or funds to the CHTC. In addition to making a monetary donation, you and your family can adopt a trail of your own by helping to open the trail for the season, watching for trouble areas, and assisting with seasonal maintenance. You can also join the volunteer squad for seasonal work days, or help staff a CHTC event like Trails Fest or Experience the Keweenaw.
If you're looking to build your Keweenaw business, sponsoring the CHTC is a great way to attract talent at your company. The Copper Harbor trail network is a prime target for folks who are looking to relocate to a place with more nature and less traffic. And it's hard to imagine a candidate pool more adventurous, self-motivated and resilient than mountain bikers. What better way to reach these folks than by broadcasting your connection with the Midwest's only IMBA Silver Level Ride Center?
Shop with Local CHTC Supporters
The CHTC runs on the support of companies and organizations who believe in their mission to responsibly steward the land while providing opportunities for outdoor adventure. When you do business with CHTC sponsors (subtle hint: like us at KCW), you're helping support the resources that give us our rare quality of life here in the Keweenaw.
Which reminds us--have you enjoyed your Brockway Buzz recently? We developed this special roast in collaboration with the CHTC board, and sharing it has been a great way to spread the word about our peninsula's outdoor adventure culture. Plus, every purchase sends a percentage of profits to support the CHTC.