Wild Woods Guide intro

WWG_HC_100x150THE WILD WOODS GUIDE: From Minnesota to Maine, the Nature and Lore of the Great North Woods


From the time we are children, there are hundreds of questions swirling around in our minds prompted by experiences in the woods and wilderness. Such experiences make fresh the sense of wonder with which the pretechnological human mind must have viewed the natural world, with all of its sublime and spectacular phenomena. The intent of this book is to answer, from that sense of wonder, a good number of those common questions regarding the “great north woods” and relate some of the amusing bits of stories, history and ideas that surround them.

As much as possible, The Wild Woods Guide aims to incorporate the whole outdoor experience — the bugs that pester, the wind that scatters them, the trees the wind sways, the life within the soil beneath the trees, the birds in the air, animals in the night, and the stars, moon and northern lights that dance across the night sky. We have concentrated on the most commonly seen or experienced species and things in
the north, as they are what occupy one’s attention most of the time when camping, canoeing, hiking or visiting cottage, cabin or camp.

By the “north woods,” we refer to the vast, mixed-forest hinterland that sweeps from Minnesota and Wisconsin through the densely treed northern reaches of Michigan, the Canadian Shield of central Ontario, New York’s Adirondacks, Vermont and southern Quebec, the Maritimes and the mountains of New Hampshire, to Maine. It is a rocky realm of lakes and streams, mountains and hillsides, to which generations have been drawn for revitilization and reconnection with nature, and is best exemplified by world-famous preserves such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Baxter State Park, the Adirondacks, and White Mountain National Forest.

Although there are many forest types within the region, with far northern Minnesota and parts of the Appalachians taking on a more boreal evergreen character, a similar range exists throughout. The north woods is commonly considered a distinct bioregion characterized by the species of trees, plants and animals covered in this book. Many of these species may also be found in other parts of the country, but we have sought, by concentrating on this specific region, to give as complete a picture as possible within the space of the book. The timings of migrations, mating seasons and other phenological events accounted for each species are based on their occurrences specifically within the region, though they may differ somewhat from north to south, with elevation, and from season to season.

We have arranged the entries in a way that we hope is useful to readers. There are four parts: Animal Kingdom, Plant Kingdom, The Heavens and Mother Earth. The sections within the parts are arranged alphabetically; thus, “Fish” comes before “Mammals” in the part titled “Animal Kingdom.” Finally, within each section, the individual entries are arranged alphabetically by common name. An index is also included, complete with references to species not featured but nonetheless appearing in within these pages.

Being journalists, rather than biologists, ourselves, we have endeavoured to be accurate while straying from a strict scientific or academic tone in the book. Our intent is to answer the many questions of campers and cottagers in the same spirit in which they are asked. If we anthropomorphize, it is because that is indeed what campers and others naturally tend to do when they talk about and relate to the nature around them. We have striven, however, to ensure that a sense of fun does not distort the true nature of the subject.


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