Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Friday, November 8, 2013

Porcupine Mountains Series: Some Final Thoughts

As far as mountains go, the Porkies are not very big.  They are nothing like the Rockies, or the Tetons, or K2, Denali, and Everest.  But they are older than all of those other mountains; in fact, they are the oldest mountains in North America, and the second oldest in the world.  The Porcupine Mountains also have a rich history, and many other distinguishing characteristics.

Despite my excitement to explore the mountains upon my arrival, I first stopped at the Visitors Center.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has an excellent reputation for providing information and helpful tips for visiting any of the state parks, and I found this center to be particularly helpful in understanding what I had gotten myself into this time.  Mounted boards told the story of the Porkies, and I greedily read each one, absorbing as much information as I could to enhance my hiking.

Over a billion - yes, I said billion - years ago, far below the surface of the earth, the crust began to shift and pull apart, or "rift".  The bedrock of the Porcupine Mountains belongs to the Keweenawan Supergroup, a thick sequence of volcanic and sedimentary rock deposited throughout the rifts.  As the mid-continental drift was developing across Michigan, and as far south as Kansas, volcanic eruptions continued over millions of years.  Some 40 million years after the first rift rocks were deposited, shifting tectonic plates uplifted areas along the rift, forming the Porcupine Mountains.  In the past several million years, the mountains have been eroded flat, and pushed up again, several times!

In other places in the world, these rift rocks lie buried, but in the Lake Superior region, they are exposed.  Over 40,000 years ago, glacial movement carved out the Great Lakes, and deposited sediment to the area to give birth to the shape, flora and fauna of the Porcupine Mountains.

This is all fascinating scientific information, almost incomprehensible, but it's not what I thought about while hiking.

Google Images
Even though the Porcupine Mountains are very old, they are easier to access than other mountain ranges.  You don't need any fancy equipment, or permits to climb.  You won't have to fix any lines, or belay, or hang from a cliff in a tent at night.  You don't even need a particularly adventurous spirit.  If you can walk, you can hike the Porkies.  It helps to
be a somewhat active person, but even if you are not, you can see some of the grandeur by walking.  But if you want to experience all that the mountains are, its best to hike and immerse yourself in the environment.

P.J. Hoffmaster, Google Images
I am very fortunate to be able to do this, and to live in a State that recognized the importance of preserving these mountains for all of us to enjoy.  People like P.J. Hoffmaster, Raymond Torrey, W.C. Edens, Governors Harry Kelly and George Romney, and the fine people of Michigan's DNR were responsible for acknowledging and

Governor George Romney
Google Images
protecting the natural and historical significance of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.  But I wasn't really thinking about them either, as I continued to hike up and up the Escarpment Trail, until I became a solitary figure standing at the top.

I climbed a mountain.  I didn't need picks and ropes, or a partner to climb with.  I had a day-pack on my back with water, granola bars, and a basic first aid kit.  I had a small camera and a knife in my pocket.  My dog climbed with me.  After a half day of hiking, I stood on top of a mountain, and looked out over Lake of the Clouds, and realized I was standing on rock that formed over a billion years ago.  But I wasn't really thinking about science and rifts and volcanos and glaciers.  I was wondering about the other explanation for the birth of the world; I was thinking about God.

In the Bible, the book of Genesis has God creating the world in 6 days.  We know that's not true, at least not in the way we understand time.  So I asked my favorite Priest, Fr. Geoff Rose, about science and creation.  He explained that those who wrote Genesis were not trying to give an historical and scientific explanation of earth, they were sharing their experience of God.  For Fr. Rose personally, he sees the "four billion years of the universe as proof of how awesome and intricate creation is, and how patient God is with creation".

I often hear people say standing among the mountains reminds them of how insignificant their lives are; they lose themselves to nature, allowing it to lessen their petty worries and let the vastness and complicated balance of nature bring them peace.  When I stood at the top of the mountain, I understood that, to science, I am insignificant.  I am a tiny, tiny speck in the world, unseen and unknown.  But to God, I am huge.  I matter.  I can make a difference.  Like the mountains, I can teach, and bring balance, and be beautiful.  I can be grounded flat and rise up again.  I can turn my worries over to my faith, and be like the mountain, strong, living, giving, and balanced.

That's what I thought about on the mountain.  I didn't feel small; I felt empowered and inspired to go home and do more.  Love more.  Be more.  God created me, and placed His faith in me to do what I can to make the world a little bit better.   I will try, and sometimes fail, to live up to God's promise for me, knowing that He will be patient with me, His creation.

I had the distinct thought that I was lying in the hands of God.  Later that day, when I returned to the tin can, I came upon a centuries-old tree stump that Lake Superior had carried to shore from some distant place.  It looked like a hand, turned up, waiting to cradle me, and I smiled.  I had gotten a wink and a nod from the Big Guy, and I knew that I was where I was supposed to be.

I climbed a mountain.  I will climb many more, always knowing that when I stand on top and look out over the vastness, I am not a tiny speck.  I am significant.  I am huge!