By Amanda Kautzer
Fall in the Keweenaw
As a skier, I feel pressure to claim winter as my favorite season, but every fall I am reminded just how strongly I feel about the beautiful little bit of heaven squeezed in between summer and winter.
In a normal year, the unofficial start to my fall season is training camp with the Michigan Tech team. Now that I have graduated, some things have changed, but this year I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time here in the Keweenaw. For those unfamiliar with the UP, the Keweenaw is the peninsula that sticks out into the middle of Lake Superior, and its geography is responsible for the large amounts of snowfall that make its winters infamous in the Midwest. While there are endless reasons I love it here, I’ll pick out a few to highlight.
First, the fall colors in the Keweenaw are absolutely spectacular. The best way I can describe the intensity of the color is if you somehow found yourself in the middle of a Crayola crayon forest, but all the crayons are special edition fluorescent colors. While there are many ways to enjoy the views, my personal preference is on a mountain bike. Copper Harbor, about an hour north of Houghton, has some of my all-time favorite trails, and some of the best views in the peninsula. It’s hard to beat rolling down a smooth flow trail surrounded by a blur of fall color.
Taking a break to enjoy the view.
Another event that epitomizes fall for me is Michigan Tech’s 5K running time trial. In a typical year, this TT would kick off our fall training as a team and was always a fun way start the season. This year, I was unable to compete in the TT with MTU, but instead organized a small socially-distanced community 5K. Given that my final season of cross-country running eligibility got cancelled, it felt REALLY good to lace up the spikes and break out the jersey again, even if it was only a race against the clock. I also gained a new appreciation for course marking, as I accidentally led some people astray by poorly placing pin flags on the course. Fortunately, the participants in my “race” were great sports about it.
Along with the time trial, another go-to fall event is the Lake Superior shoreline rollerski. The normal route starts in Ahmeek and finishes at the top of Brockway Mountain (it’s worth a quick google maps search). For me, the joy this singular workout brings me each year makes up for all the rollerski scars, ripped clothes, and broken poles I have acquired over the years. As per the theme of fall in the Keweenaw, the route is gorgeous. This year, the icing on the cake was mile after mile of fresh pavement, making it possible to enjoy the view rather than constantly be on the look out for killer pebbles.
Shoreline ski on Lake Superior.
If you haven’t gathered, I LOVE the Keweenaw; but it’s important to remember that other people love it just as much, and for different reasons. While rollerskiing has always been inherently dangerous, I’ve noticed an increase in aggressive and/or careless driving this year, making it all the more crucial that we as rollerskiers, and endurance athletes in general, are seen on the road. Lights, reflectors, and high vis clothing are all great options. My personal favorite is a high vis vest with reflectors. With the changing leaves also comes earlier sunsets, and I have found the reflective vests to be a great option to toss over any training gear.
High vis keeping me safe during a classic sprint TT effort.
Considering that I’m seeing the sun for the first time in 5 days as I’m writing this, I realize that my high regard for fall in the Keweenaw may be an unpopular opinion. As endurance athletes, it is easy to get bogged down in the grind of hours upon hours of training and lose sight of how lucky we are to be able to do this as a job. As Tara put it in a recent article, even the worst days as a skier are better than sitting at a desk every day. Stay safe, enjoy the ride, and keep your eyes open to the beauty of the world around you, even if there isn’t snow on the ground yet.