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Coming Full Circle at the IMBA Great Lakes Summit: A Tribute to Dad

Life will often come full circle. It did for me recently as I addressed the mountain bike advocates and enthusiasts at the recent IMBA Great Lakes Mountain Bike Summit held in Copper Harbor, Michigan, home to the Copper Harbor Trails Club and an IMBA Epic Ride. You could say that my journey to this Summit was 60 years in the making.

Copper Harbor is nestled on the south shores of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee. It's at the very northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula which juts far into one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world, Lake Superior. If you could see across to the north shore, and you can not, you'd be looking at Canada. Nearby, also on the peninsula stands the Fort Wilkins Historic Complex, a well-preserved nineteenth-century military post and lighthouse complex. Built in 1844 to keep peace during Michigan's Copper Boom, the fort was abandoned just two years later, then briefly re-garrisoned in the late 1860's.

The copper has long been mined out. The new economy is outdoor recreation for this otherwise economically challenged area. And most recently the economy is looking up with the advent of trails - well designed and purpose built mountain bike trails. And the trails augment an otherwise incredibly beautiful northwoods landscape. For you geologists, this area has some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. Designing and building trails here is challenging and yet Aaron Rogers (no, not the Packers QB) who is employed full time by the CHTC has been well up to the task. These are great trails that flow oh so well and climb and descend from awe inspiring vistas. Here's a video taken during the Summit to give you a taste.

For me, this Summit all began when a young newlywed couple honeymooned in Copper Harbor in 1953. That couple is my parents, Robert and Mary Van Abel. That's them in the photo standing by the Fort Wilkins flag pole. It was pretty cool to see that landmark still standing there today. And throughout the Summit's weekend I could sense my Dad's approval. He would have loved these trails and mountain biking. I learned my love and passion for the outdoors from him. My Dad passed on at a relatively young age. So I wonder if it's too much of a stretch to give him some credit, part of his legacy if you will, for the IMBA Epic level of mountain biking that is going strong in Copper Harbor today? It seems a fitting tribute to him and especially so as Father's Day approaches this weekend. Thanks Dad.

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full circle

I know that photograph, I look at it everyday on the picture wall in my home and I know you too Mike Van Abel! I'm also certain that Dad was riding those trails right along with you and the other riders. He knew about the magic of the place and he and Mom loved it up there. It is no stretch at all to see his legacy in your commitment and hard work with IMBA. Great piece-thanks for sharing!
Your Sis,

p.s. Lake Superior IS THE largest fresh water lake in the world.