Friday, December 19, 2008

Copper Harbor's "Extraordinary Event": Part 2, "Babette's Feast"

By Michele Bourdieu

COPPER HARBOR -- Chef Malcolm Hudson's Dec. 13, 2008, version of "Babette's Feast" at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge would have to be called Keweenaw's most extraordinary event of the year. Not only did Malcolm imitate the feast presented in the film of that title -- course by course, with a perfectionism learned and refined during his own years of cooking in France -- but his labor of love attracted a whole community of volunteers who worked together to make it a successful fundraiser.

"I had some of the best aid and help in the kitchen I've ever had in my life," Malcolm said. "This is about community. We're all in this together."

video

Here is a scene in the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge kitchen during the countdown for Malcolm Hudson's fundraising version of "Babette's Feast," held in the Lodge on Dec. 13, 2008. Our video clip shows various volunteers on the kitchen staff assisting Malcolm and Peg Kauppi of the Mariner North, one of his chief organizers for the event; filmmaker George Desort in action; and photographer Jillian Betterly of Houghton. (Video clip © 2008 Keweenaw Now)

Peg Kauppi, co-owner of the Mariner North and one of the organizers of the event, who worked with several of her own staff helping Malcolm in the Mountain Lodge kitchen, commented on working with Chef Malcolm.

"Malcolm Hudson is a complicated and amazing person," Peg said. "His respect and love for community family borders the intense. Working with him, one can see he is talented and appreciates the efforts of others, while he obviously considers straying from the genuine to be a desecration. Unforgettable!"

Peg Kauppi, right, co-owner of the Mariner North and one of the chief organizers of Malcolm's feast, works on salad preparation with Isabel Wescoat of Copper Harbor as Malcolm puts finishing touches on one of the main courses. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Malcolm and his team spent not just hours but long days on the dinner preparations. He said he had actually started the puff pastry for the main course the previous Sunday in order to be ready for this meal. Friday, Dec. 12, was "a big day" of about 16 hours.

"We made a lot of progress yesterday," Malcolm noted. "I've got a good team -- people doing a really good job. I'm so pleased."

Chef Malcolm gives last-minute directions to his wait staff just before the serving of his version of "Babette's Feast." Pictured here, from left, are Isabel Wescoat, Rachael Slagh, Tony Schwenn, Sam Raymond, Photographer George Desort (behind video camera in background), Aaron Rogers, Malcolm, Greg Mielcarz (in background, right) and Kristen Kauppi. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Joe Kirkish, a connoisseur of both film and gourmet cooking, said Malcolm had previously made this feast, was itching to do it again and found a good reason -- in the fundraising effort to raise a match for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. If awarded, the grant would allow Keweenaw County and the Copper Country Trails Club to acquire up to 1900 acres of land adjacent to the Mountain Lodge to be used for silent sports trails.*

The $100-a-plate gourmet meal at the Lodge was held the same day as Copper Harbor's first annual tree lighting ceremony, bazaar and bake sale in town.

State Representative Mike Lahti presided over both the tree lighting in town and the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the trails near the Mountain Lodge. Lahti and his wife Sharon also stayed to enjoy Malcolm's feast, which was preceded by the showing of the film Babette's Feast in the new Conference Center addition to the Mountain Lodge.

State Representative Mike Lahti, left, and his wife, Sharon, right, shared a table at the feast with Ole Van Goor of Eagle Harbor, second from left, owner of the Dapple Gray Inn, and Andy and Marilyn Murtagh of Rabbit Bay. Not pictured, but also at the table were Ole's wife, Ruth Van Goor, and Diane Eshbach. Charlie Eshbach was busy taking photos of the event. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

The film, a contrast in cultures, based on a story by Isak Dinesen, tells the story of Babette, a Parisian chef who prepares an incredible, ceremonious French meal for the rather straight-laced residents of a remote Danish village.

Joe Kirkish, center, chats with guests enjoying their apéritif in the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge lounge before the showing of the film Babette's Feast. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

"I introduced the film to about 100 eager people, who watched as the French chef built her meal in great detail," Kirkish said. "Finally, everyone moved from the community room to the dining room, and the feast was held as closely as possible to match what was seen just minutes before."

In the new community room of the Mountain Lodge Conference Center, dinner guests watch the Danish characters in the film Babette's Feast, learning to enjoy French food and wine from Babette, a former Parisian chef. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Several guests commented on the mouth-watering effect of seeing the film before the actual dinner.

"I loved seeing the movie and then having such an elegant meal that so closely resembled Babette's," said Elizabeth Flynn of Hancock Township. "I was really hungry watching the movie, but the actual feast was truly worth the wait."

Before the meal, violinist Libby Meyer, Copper Country Suzuki Association director and instructor, plays classical pieces in the Mountain Lodge dining room. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

More raves of appreciation came Jay Green of the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club, accompanied by his wife, Phyllis Green, Superintendent of Isle Royale National Park.

"Fabulous dinner!!" Jay said. "I didn't expect it to be the same and look the same as the feast in the movie, but it did except for the Beluga caviar which was wisely substituted with a delicious cold smoked lake trout. I can't wait for Chef Malcolm's next fundraising dinner."

Malcolm's meal began exactly like the one in the film -- with Potage à la Tortue -- Turtle Soup -- accompanied by an Amontillado -style sherry.

"Nothing short of superb!" Kirkish noted.

Besides working hard as one of the main organizers for this "Extraordinary Event," Sam Raymond, Copper Harbor Trails Club vice president, joins the kitchen staff to help out by mincing shallots for the beurre blanc sauce for the blinis. (Photo © 2008 Jillian Betterly of JB Photography. Reprinted with permission.)

Next came Blinis Demidof -- Buckwheat Blinis with Caviar, including smoked Lake Trout in honor of Lake Superior, served with a Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc.

On his Web site Malcolm's culinary notes written in advance of the meal indicate he made a slight variation on the Blinis of the film, since the actual Blinis Demidof (blini, beluga caviar, chopped egg, chives) -- "vaguely Russian" -- does not exist in France, Babette is French and the Beluga whale should be protected.

"And while it is indeed decadent and seems sophisticated, it is in no way elegant; in fact, it is inappropriately odd considering Babette’s sensibilities," Malcolm writes.

Malcolm notes his substitution is beautiful and easy to serve.

"And the flavors, in proper balance, should explode on the palate," he adds.**

The main course, Caille en Sarcophage -- Quail in Puff Pastry with Truffles and Foie Gras -- has the same preparation as the center-piece of the film, he notes, with a small modification of the stuffing.** At the Lodge, this was served with a Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon.

Greg Mielcarz, foreground, of Copper Harbor, a cook from the Mariner North and volunteer for "Babette's Feast," and Jim Wescoat of Copper Harbor work together preparing the puff pastry for the main course, Quail in Puff Pastry with Truffles and Foie Gras (Photo © 2008 Jillian Betterly of JB Photography. Reprinted with permission.)

In truly French fashion, the salad -- La Salade Pelligrine -- followed the main course. Kirkish notes it had "a subtle, delectable dressing."

Anitra Bennett, who cooks for the Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock, mixes the roasted garlic and shallot vinaigrette dressing for the salad. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Les Fromages (Selection of Cheeses) followed (with some authentic refills of Cabernet in some cases since in France one is expected to finish drinking the wine before the salad but to continue red wine with fromage). Malcolm's notes add these cheeses were imported from Hirt in Detroit.**

The dessert was Baba au Rhum avec Figues (Rum Cake with Fresh Fruit and Figs), served with nothing other than champagne.

Enjoying the dessert, Baba au Rhum avec Figues (Rum Cake with Fresh Fruit and Figs), with champagne are, from left, Tom and Sandy Collins, part-time residents of Lac La Belle; Don Keith, Keweenaw County Board chair; Carol Rose, Keweenaw County commissioner and founder of Keweenaw Krayons; Jane Van Evera of Calumet; Jim Billings of Copper Harbor; and Felix and Virginia Fournier of Laurium. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"Baba au Rhum, mounded with fresh cut fruit effectively neutralizing the sweet cake, is a winter tradition in Nordic lands," Malcolm writes; and so he followed the tradition.**

The champagne was also part of an after-dinner toast to Malcolm, followed by nothing other than a standing ovation -- these last two additions added by a very joyful crowd of 90 or so guests. Winners of the silent auction -- based on donations from local business sponsors of the event -- were announced at this time.

Appreciative diners offer a toast to Chef Malcolm Hudson, standing, right, with his co-organizers, Peg Kauppi of the Mariner North and Sam Raymond, Copper Harbor Trails vice president and owner of the Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

It was an important event for the Mountain Lodge, which, up to now, has only been open in the warmer season. With the recent addition of the Conference Center, it will soon be open year round.

"This is really exciting," said Cormac Ronan, manager of the Lodge. "There's a lot of energy and a lot of support here tonight. All those folks are volunteering their time."

Darlene Bjorn, assistant manager and banquet manager of the Lodge, noted she, Carol Autio and Carolyn Stevens had decorated the Christmas tree in the dining room.

Darlene Bjorn, center, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge assistant manager and banquet manager, poses with Carol Stevens, left, and Sara Autio, next to the Christmas tree they decorated for this event -- the first Christmas tree ever in the Lodge. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"The three of us decorated the first Christmas tree ever at the Mountain Lodge," Bjorn said. "We bought it at the Mohawk Superette at 9 p.m. last night."

Paul and Bobbie Freshwater of Eagle Harbor sent some after-dinner comments on the feast via email:

"Our comment would be that 'Babette's Feast' was a tour de force by the Copper Country Trails Club and their supporters. The movie, introduced by Joe Kirkish in his usual engaging way, was a welcome change of pace from the 'faster and louder' film genre so popular today. And the recreation of the feast by Chef Malcolm Hudson was the culinary highlight of the season, for which he received a standing ovation at nearly midnight. The planning and hard work of the Trails Club and their supporters was evident by donations of food, labor and venue which cut their costs to almost nothing and yielded more than $9,000 in matching funds for trails grants. This exceptional evening, together with the day's earlier dedication of the new trails and the illumination of 50,000 holiday lights in Copper Harbor by Representative Mike Lahti, made us proud to live in Keweenaw!"

Actually, according to Sam Raymond, Copper Harbor Trails Club vice president and one of the event organizers, the total amount raised could exceed $10,000 once all has been tallied.

"When combining the proceeds from the dinner, silent auction and donations from people who could not attend, we should be in the neighborhood of +/- $10,000 by the time it's all squared away," Raymond said. "Definitely a great start to the fundraising campaign and a significant amount we can build upon!"

Carol Rose of Mohawk -- newly elected Keweenaw County Commissioner, artist, photographer and Keweenaw Krayons founder -- said her $100 for the dinner was an investment for future generations.

"I'm just so glad we're claiming the land for the people and making it accessible for the Keweenaw County residents and visitors," Rose said. "I could not NOT afford $100 toward a land trust for my children and grandchildren. I have four grown kids, so at Christmas time each one is going to get a card from me saying their gift is part of my contribution to preserve the land for them and my grandkids."

Avid mountain biker and Copper Harbor Trails Club board member Tony Schwenn, who volunteered with the wait staff, summed it up for his generation: "This is awesome, seeing all this going on."

Mac Marzke, a member of the Keweenaw County Trails and Recreation Committee, was equally enthusiastic.

"I think it's just a phenomenal event," Marzke said, "and probably the most rewarding is the sense of community that everyone has."

Christa Walck of Houghton commented on adding another memory of the Mountain Lodge to her Keweenaw experiences.

"I love the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge--it was the first place I ever stayed in the Keweenaw before I moved up here," Walck said. "It was wonderful to see it used for such a gala holiday fundraiser. We need more events like this to get people out."

Film buff and critic Joe Kirkish concluded the "Extraordinary Event" was so successful the idea of another similar evening for next year is burgeoning.

Table with candlelight at the end of "Babette's Feast." (Photo © 2008 Joe Kirkish. Reprinted with permission.)

"I have a few suggestions, from the hilarious, slightly naughty Like Water for Chocolate to the Japanese satire Tampopo," Kirkish said. "Wonder if Malcolm could top this one with one of them?"

Kirkish -- who, like many of the guests, spent the night in Copper Harbor rather than driving home -- said Malcolm could be found the next morning chatting with Lodge Manager Cormac Ronan at the Pines Restaurant.

"He was relaxed, still basking in the glory of his success and raring to try it all over again -- next year," Kirkish said.

Meanwhile, the deadline for the Trust Fund grant application is April 1, 2009. Anyone wishing to donate to the funds for the local match can send a check to the Copper Harbor Trails Club at the following address:

Copper Harbor Trails Club
Attention: Land Acquisition Fund
PO Box 37
Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Editor's Notes:

* See Part 1 of this series of two articles, "Copper Harbor's 'Extraordinary Event': Part 1, Trail Dedication," posted Dec. 15, 2008.

** Visit Malcolm Hudson's Web site, The Community Table, for more comments on his version of "Babette's Feast."

Thanks to photographers Joe Kirkish and Jillian Betterly of JB Photography for contributing some of their photos of this event. Visit Jillian's Web site to see more of her photos of "Babette's Feast." She is also currently featured on coppercountry.com.

The volunteer organizers of this event -- Malcolm Hudson, Peg Kauppi and Sam Raymond -- wish to thank the following volunteers:
Kitchen: Cory Osienczonek, Anitra Bennett, Jim Wescoat, Greg Mielcarz.
Bartenders: Jeff Gilmore, Don Kilpela, Jr.
Wait staff: Kristen Kauppi, Isabel Wescoat, Rachel Slagh, Amanda Weis, Alissa DuPuis, Sam Raymond, Aaron Rogers, Tony Schwenn, Brian Cygnan.
In-House Printing: Carol Meilahn.
Silent Auction: Diane Eshbach.
Keweenaw Mountain Lodge Personnel: Cormac Ronan, Darlene Bjorn, Sara Autio, Karita Latvala, Steve Baasto.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hancock City Council to hold public hearing on land sale, hear report on sand / gravel survey Dec. 17

HANCOCK -- A PUBLIC HEARING on the proposed sale of a .21 acre parcel of City-owned land, which includes 54 feet of Portage Lake Frontage located along Navy Street, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, preceding the regular Hancock City Council meeting in the Council Chambers, City Hall. The parcel is located in Section 35, T55N, R34W; and the price is $40,500.

Also on the Agenda, as part of the Administrative Report, will be a presentation from Ron Haataja, PS Licensed Surveyor, on a gravel estimate process for Government Lot 5.

In October, the City received a letter from Patrick Thornton, president of Superior Sand and Gravel, Inc., concerning an agreement between the City of Hancock and Superior Sand and Gravel, Inc., in which the City agreed to sell and his company agreed to purchase material from a portion of Government Lot 5 located above the 730 ft. contour.

The area is included in what some Council members and many residents consider to be a park that includes a portion of Swedetown Creek. The agreement between the City and the company was made in 1980.*

Swedetown Creek, located in Government Lot 5. This photo was taken on Nov. 1, 2008, from the hiking trail on the west side of the creek near its mouth at the Portage Waterway. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

"Since it has now been determined that the material was never the city's to sell, it is our attorney's opinion that the City is in breach of its contract," Thornton writes in this letter, dated Oct. 22, 2008.

Thornton notes also in the letter that he instructed Haataja of Hitch, Inc., to survey the parcel in question before the onset of winter so that the results can be used in financial calculations. Thornton proposes sharing the cost of the survey with the City (Each would pay $1000).

In this Oct. 22 letter, Thornton states that is considering these options:

"1. Determine the value of our lost profit resulting from mining and selling the material and ask the City for that amount.

"2. Determine the value of our lost profit and apply it towards the acquisition of other property within the City."

Thornton also says in the letter he is open to discussing other suggestions.

A letter from Hitch, Inc., dated Oct. 20, 2008 states that they understand both Superior Sand and Gravel and the City of Hancock would like to know the volume of material above the 730 foot contour line in Government Lot 5, Sec. 28, T55N R34W.

At their Nov. 19, 2008, meeting the Hancock City Council approved a motion to invite Haataja to the December meeting to discuss the survey, scope of work and content of the report.

The Agenda for the Dec. 17 meeting also includes an item that the Council consider participating with Superior Sand and Gravel for ½ cost of the gravel material survey for Government Lot 5.

For several months citizens have been waiting for the City Council to act on the Council's Swedetown Creek Ad Hoc Committee recommendation that Government Lot 5 be recognized as a park.

At the Nov. 19, 2008, Hancock City Council meeting students from Heather Bradway's Hancock Middle School science class present a report on their study of the water quality and environmental aspects of Swedetown Creek this fall. Their slide reads: "How Does This Affect us? What we do in the Swedetown Creek watershed will also affect Lake Superior and eventually the entire Great Lakes watershed." Council members Lisa McKenzie and Tom Gemignani are pictured at left. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Last May, Lori Underwood, Land Use specialist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), wrote to Councilor Tom Gemignani, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, stating, "The State of Michigan retained the mineral rights for this parcel, including sand and gravel, as described in the enclosed (1941) deed. In 2003 when the reverter clause on the public use deed was released, the minerals were not included. As such, any sand and gravel, or other mineral extraction, will require approval from the Department of Natural Resources."

At that time, Thornton told Keweenaw Now he was not aware of the DNR letter. He did express his willingness to work with the community and his support of recreational activities near Swedetown Creek.*

Council members Lisa McKenzie and Tom Gemignani, both members of the Ad Hoc Committee, have said that the Council has been reluctant to vote on confirming the park status of Government Lot 5 because of the sand and gravel issue and also some ownership issues concerning a house and a shed located on the property.

The Hancock City Council discussed the Swedetown Creek/ Government Lot 5 issue in a closed session, but they have not released the content of that discussion to the public.

According to City Manager Glenn Anderson, release of that information would require a vote of the Council.

Editor's Notes: * For background on the Swedetown Creek / sand and gravel issue, see our May 20, 2008, article "Hancock's Swedetown Creek 'issues' include mineral rights."

Newly elected Hancock City Council Member John Slivon, representing Ward III, expressed his strong concern for conserving public recreation land in Hancock, giving the example of the Government Lot 5 issue, in a
Viewpoint article published on Oct. 28, 2008 on Keweenaw Now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Copper Harbor's "Extraordinary Event": Part 1, Trail Dedication

By Michele Bourdieu

On Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008, State Representative Mike Lahti cuts the ribbon for the dedication of a new 9 K cross-country ski trail near the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Also pictured, from left, are Keweenaw County commissioners Don Keith, Carol Rose and Frank Stubenrauch; former State Representative Paul Tesanovich, representing State Sen. Mike Prusi; and Dr. Steve Rowe, trail designer and builder. In the background, from left, are Don Kauppi, Keweenaw County Trails and Recreation Committee chairman; Sharon Lahti; and Tom Collins, board member of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District. The event marks the beginning of a fundraising effort to acquire a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for acquisition of 1900 acres of recreational land in Keweenaw County. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

COPPER HARBOR -- The "Extraordinary Event" to kick off fundraising for the purpose of acquiring, through a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, 1900 acres of land for recreational trails near the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge began with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 13. The dedication took place at the trailhead of a new cross-country ski trail built near the Lodge this summer.

Acquisition of this land is contingent on a Trust Fund grant worth more than $800,000, 25 percent of which needs to be raised by the local community. The trail dedication preceded a fundraising dinner, "Babette's Feast," modeled on the film of that title and prepared by Chef Malcolm Hudson and a volunteer community staff.*

In the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge kitchen, Chef Malcolm Hudson prepares a foie gras stuffing for Quail in Puff Pastry with Truffles and Foie Gras, the main course of the very French $100-a-plate fundraising dinner that followed the trail dedication on Dec. 13. Watch for a STORY ON THE DINNER, coming soon. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

State Representative Mike Lahti was on hand to cut the ribbon, officially opening a 9-kilometer cross-country ski trail, six kilometers of which are in the woods and three on the golf course. The trail has five loops.

"It's another big day for the Keweenaw," Lahti said. "What they do in Keweenaw County really makes the Keweenaw a great place to live and a great place for tourists to visit. It's a beautiful setting here -- a 9-K course. It's set up well."

Lahti expressed thanks to the builders of the trail, particularly Dr. Steve Rowe, who designed and built it this past summer.

After a quick ski on the new trail, Dr. Steve Rowe, second from left, designer and builder of the trail, and Sam Raymond, left, vice president of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, chat with State Rep. Mike Lahti, right, and Keweenaw County Commission Chair Don Keith during the dedication of the new trail near the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"It's going to be another attraction for winter business here in Keweenaw County and for our whole area," Lahti added. "It's nice to be here for this dedication."

The symbolic ribbon cutting represents the potential of purchasing -- for additional silent sports trails -- an area of land located primarily between the Mountain Lodge, owned by Keweenaw County, and the State-owned land at Lake Manganese. It includes about 93 acres of land currently owned by the Fort Wilkins Gardens Conservancy. The proposed trails will be used for hiking and mountain biking in the non-snow months and cross-country skiing (both classic and eventually skate-ski trails) and snowshoeing in winter.

Former State Representative Paul Tesanovich represented State Senator Mike Prusi at the trail dedication.

"I work for Senator Mike Prusi," Tesanovich said, "and I just like coming up here."

Tesanovich, now a resident of Herman, near Baraga, Mich., noted he first came to the area in the spring of 1976, when he worked at the Mountain Lodge cleaning cabins, weeding the garden, raking and getting the golf course ready -- and fighting black flies.

Originally from Gary, Ind., Tesanovich said he knew then that he wanted to live in the Upper Peninsula. Eventually he was employed by Michigan Tech University and served as District 110 Representative in the 1990s, the position later held by Rich Brown (D-Bessemer) and presently by Mike Lahti (D-Hancock).

Three Keweenaw County Commissioners -- Don Keith, County Board chair, and Commissioners Frank Stubenrauch and Carol Rose -- were on hand for the dedication.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stubenrauch warm up in the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge as they await the trail dedication ceremony on Dec. 13. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Stubenrauch said he wanted to commend all the volunteers who put so much work into building the trail.

"I hope they get a lot of use since they've put a lot of effort into it," he noted.

Sue Ellen Kingsley and Terry Kinzel of Hancock Township, both avid cross-country skiers and owners of the Churning Rapids trail at Maasto Hiihto, skied on the new Copper Harbor trail on Dec. 13 and attended the dedication and dinner celebration.

"The trails are wonderful," Kingsley said, "narrow enough that you feel you're enclosed by the woods and you're eager to see what's around the next curve; and at the same time the curves are never too difficult (no sudden turns at the bottom of inclines); and the hills are exhilarating, never overwhelming. We were lucky that Saturday was pretty still, which meant that the perimeter trail around the golf course was clear. If there's a wind, I'm sure it would be covered with snow, but it has a nice long hill out in the open that was delightful that day. Steve Rowe has done a tremendous job laying out these trails and we thank him."

The trails also accommodate beginning or novice skiers, according to Gina Nicholas, board member of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, who skied there with her family on Dec. 13.

"Rex, Nick and I skied some of the new trails on Saturday," Nicholas said. "It was Nick's first time out and my first time in 15 years or so. The trails were beautiful, and even as novices we all had great fun. As soon as we finished, Nick was asking when we could do it again."

Jay Green, Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club board member, who also skied the trail on Dec. 13, noted "no real steep ups or downs except one down swoop on an open section of the trail; mostly nice rolling terrain, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers."

The Copper Harbor Trails Club is working with Keweenaw County on the Trust Fund grant application and fundraising for the match.

Aaron Rogers of Copper Harbor, the Club's president and summer trails coordinator, said he designs and builds all the hiking and biking trails (separate from the ski trails built by Steve Rowe). Rogers is the Club's sole paid employee and works full-time.

Aaron Rogers, Copper Harbor Trails Club president, points to an area on the map that potentially would include more recreational trails, should the Trust Fund grant make the land acquistion possible. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"I'm a snowboarder," Rogers said. "I do cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In the summer I'm a mountain biker by choice."

Rogers said the club now has 150 members, most of them from outside the area.

"We've been building our mountain bike customer base in the last few years," Rogers explained. "The mountain bike population has grown exponentially in the last two years."

Rogers said the mountain bike trails are used for snowshoeing in the winter.

Lori Hauswirth, associate planner for the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) and also a member of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, is assisting with the grant application process. She mentioned that volunteers from outside the area also help with trail building; for example, a trail care crew from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) built a trail near Copper Harbor last summer.

"They did a two-day trail-building school here," Hauswirth said. "It included a classroom session at the Copper Harbor Community Center and a trail-building session at the Michigan Nature Association Garden Brook Preserve."

Houswirth noted the group re-routed an existing trail between the Mountain Lodge and Copper Harbor so it would be more sustainable.**

Meg Vivian North, former Grant Township supervisor, who teaches science at the Horizons High School in Mohawk, praised the work of the Copper Harbor Trails Club.

"As a resident of copper Harbor I've seen what the Trails Club has done for Copper Harbor," North said. "When I'm skiing or hiking on the trails, there's never really enough of an opportunity to say thanks; and to be part of an evening like this gives you a chance to do just that. They're responsible for the trails that allow me to step out the back door and enjoy the Keweenaw on skis, and that is pretty much my dream. That is why we live here."

Tom Collins, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District Board member, and his wife Sandy also attended the ribbon cutting for the new trail. They are part-time residents of Keweenaw County, spending much time in Lac La Belle.

"Hopefully it's the beginning of a wonderful start to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge winterization project and promotion," Tom Collins said.

"And," added Sandy, "enjoying our beautiful Keweenaw."

Cormac Ronan, manager of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, said the goal is to have the Lodge open year round. Right now the Lodge is open during the day on weekends -- from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through December and January. Some menu items and hot drinks will be available.

"We're doing that to test the waters," Ronan said. "The trails will be open seven days a week -- as late as people want to ski. Those trails are beautiful. I walked the trails when Steve was building them this summer."

Dan Dalquist of Hancock, president (for life) of the Keweenaw Trekkers, a group that meets weekly for cycling or snowshoeing, also commented on the Copper Harbor trails.

"We really are blessed with a marvelous system of trails," Dalquist said. "What's happened to Copper Harbor in the last five years is amazing. "We've got a world-class system of trails for year-round access -- biking, snowshoeing, all that fun stuff."

Anyone who wishes to support the future the Copper Harbor Human-Powered Trail System (for silent sports) with a donation to secure land acquistion projects, please send contributions to:

Copper Harbor Trails Club
Attention: Land Acquisition Fund
PO Box 37
Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Editor's Notes:

*Watch for Part 2 of Copper Harbor's "Extraordinary Event," an article coming soon, on Malcolm Hudson's $100-a-plate fundraising dinner served at the Mountain Lodge the evening of Dec. 13.

** See photos of the IMBA trail building session in Copper Harbor on the IMBA Web site. Visit the Copper Harbor Trails Club Web site for more information about the trails and the Club's activities.