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A stick fort in the pine forest of Glacial Hills County Park

Sixteen reasons to build a fort in the woods

March 10, 2020  |  Topics: Spotlight, Stories

Story and photos by Eddee Daniel

1.      As an excuse (if you need one) to be outdoors.

2.      As a shelter; you can say it’s from the wind, snow or wildlife, but you admit to yourself it’s from other people—and monsters.

3.      As an escape; from home, the city, the daily grind, civilization; a place where your imagination can roam freely in the wilderness.

Stick fort in the Milwaukee River Greenway
Milwaukee River Greenway

4.      Because sitting in it for any length of time will lower your blood pressure, calm your nerves, relieve your aching head.

5.      Because making a fort is less about building a structure than it is about being in the woods and being surrounded by nature.

6.      To visit with the neighbors; the Silver Maple, Red Oak, Shag-bark Hickory or the unidentifiable, decomposing log against which you prop your sticks; the Woodland Vole, Chipmunk, Squirrel, Opossum, rummaging through the leaves; if you’re very lucky and quite still maybe a Mink, Marten or even a Coyote will slink stealthily by.

A stick fort in Riverside Park, Milwaukee
Riverside Park, Milwaukee

7.      Because sitting quietly inside allows you to listen more closely to the singing in the trees; the high-pitched buzz and chip of the Savannah Sparrow; the short, lyrical phrases of the Red-eyed Vireo; the bubbly cheer of the rare and endangered Kirtland’s Warbler; as the light dims toward evening, the haunting cry of the Red-tailed Hawk.

8.      Because in the time it takes to build a fort you will have forgotten your mortgages, obligations to bosses, injuries you’ve received—or given—to friends or lovers; or maybe you’ll have discovered the words needed to redress those injuries.

9.      Because you remember being ten … or because you don’t remember.

A stick fort along the Root River, Caledonia
Root River, Caledonia

10.   To rekindle the sense of wonder and adventure that you may or may not remember; if you build it with sufficient reverence and awe, they will resurface.

11.   As a place to read and reread “Where the Wild Things Are” with your children and your grandchildren.

12.   If you are in fact a child you won’t need a reason.

A stick fort at the Southern Vermont Health Center, Bennington VT
Southern Vermont Health Center, Bennington VT

13.   As a place of contemplation where you can reflect on the virtues of home, your city, daily life, civilization…and wilderness.

14.   Because the structure you build isn’t really a fort, after all; it’s a time machine. It can transport you not only back to your own youthful past or imagined future, but also back to a time when you didn’t need an active imagination to experience a deep and dark forest wilderness.

15.   To leave a token for the next child-at-heart who wanders through the woods.

16.   As a tribute, so that the woods will remain woods.

A stick fort in Gordon Park, Milwaukee
Gordon Park, Milwaukee

Note: This story and an edited selection of photos were first published in Minding Nature, Volume 13, Number 1, (Winter 2020), which is produced by the Center for Humans and Nature.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and currently serves as ARTservancy Artist in Residence in the Milwaukee River Greenway. You can see more of his forts in the woods (among other things) on his website.

Parnell Woods, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit

The featured photo at the top is from Glacial Hills County Park, Washington County, WI.