North Manitou Island And
Sleeping Bear Dunes, September 2002

Day 1

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This year's hiking trip began at 2:45 a.m. when I woke up, packed the car and drove over to Ken's house. We left Ken's home at 3:50 a.m. and arrived in Leeland, MI at 8:30 a.m. We found our way to the office of the Manitou Island Transit Company and picked up our park passes and boat tickets. The transit company's parking lot was about 1½ blocks away so we left the backpacks by the dock, parked the van and took the shuttle back to the dock. We eventually boarded the boat along with approximately 60-65 other passengers and were on the way to North Manitou Island by 10:00 a.m. It wasn't until we made it past the breakwater that I observed numerous whitecaps out on Lake Michigan. The waves were approximately two to three feet at first, but the farther we traveled, the larger the waves became. It wasn't long before the waves were roughly five to six feet high and the boat continually rolled from side to side. The sky was very overcast and there was a pretty strong wind blowing over the lake.

By 11:20 a.m. we were tied off on the dock at North Manitou. The passengers all got off the boat and formed a line on the dock to help off-load the hiking gear. We passed backpacks from one person to the next down the line. Everyone placed their own gear on the dock behind them when it came by, until all the gear was off the boat. In reality, it only took several minutes, but it seemed much longer because the temperature was fairly cool and the wind was really blowing.

After collecting our gear we took a short hike to a nearby stone building where we received our permits and the standard leave no trace speech from highly energetic, outgoing NPS ranger, Kevin Kavanagh. During his speech Kevin made one point very clear, the rangers are "very passionate about the 300 foot rule". He said we would be wise to pace off the distance between two nearby stakes so we would be able to mark off 300 feet while on the trail; violators of the 300-foot rule would be ticketed! What is the 300-foot rule you may ask? It means that no camp may be set up within 300 feet of any water source, such as a river or the coastline. The reason for this is so hikers don't distract from the beauty of the surroundings or contaminate the water sources. Kevin said there are not many things more aggravating than to be in the middle of nowhere with natural beauty all around, only to look up to see tents and camps being set up by the water's edge.

We started down the trail immediately after the speech was over. At the beginning of the trail near the "village" area there were numerous houses in various states of collapse and some that were being repaired. The blowing wind and the sound of waves crashing on the beach gradually diminished as the trail carried us farther inland. The trail headed south from the village and into the forest. The sky was still gray and dreary and the temperature was cool, but it was just right for hiking. About three miles into the hike we came to a side trail which headed generally east to the cemetery near Stormer's dock. We hiked out to the cemetery, looked around, took a few pictures and headed back to the main trail, which turned and began to head west.

About two miles after the trail turned west we arrived at a clearing. When we got out from under the tree canopy we discovered that the clouds had broken and the sun was shining. We were now on the west side of the island by a small bluff overlooking a nice beach and Lake Michigan. We could also see South Manitou island in the distance. This area of the island is known as the "cable box" because it apparently is where telephone lines joined an underwater cable that linked the North and South Manitou islands to the mainland (Source: North Manitou Island Between Sunrise and Sunset, Book Crafters, 1991. Page 83. Written by Rita Hadra Rusco.) This looked like a good place to stop for a break and a granola bar. We walked down the sandy bluff to the beach area below and took a few pictures before getting back on the trail. From the Cable Box the trail swung north past the Fredrickson Place and the Johnson Place; both families were past residents of the island. By this time I was getting hungry and tired and was looking forward to reaching our destination for the day. We eventually came to the trail that leads to the Crescent camp area. We followed the trail through an open field and tall grass until we reached the Crescent dock ruins. Crescent was the name given to the city that was established at this location many years ago. The name comes from the crescent shape of the beach (Source: North Manitou Island Between Sunrise and Sunset, Book Crafters, 1991. Page 96. Written by Rita Hadra Rusco.). We searched the area for a while before finding a good location which also complied with the "300 foot rule". The site was a level valley area in the middle of two small hills and a small stand of trees. It was the perfect spot to shelter the tent from the northwest wind blowing in off the lake. We set up the tent and walked down to Lake Michigan to filter water for dinner. Ken set up the filter and walked into the water. After approximately one half hour we still did not have water because something was wrong with the filter. We finally figured out that the rubber o-ring inside the pump had dried out and was not creating enough suction to draw water through the filter. We took the filter apart, put some water in the plunger cylinder to prime it and soon we had full water containers. By now the sun was beginning to set and the temperature had dropped quite a bit. We made our way back to the campsite and had Velveeta Shells and Cheese and Chicken Teriyaki for dinner.

The day had started off pretty gloomy but turned out to be very pleasant. Most of the trail was level which made hiking very easy. Much of the forest area consisted of birch, beech, maple and oak trees. I was a bit disappointed not to have seen any wildlife, but it's not like there is a whole lot on the island. The ranger said there were about 100 deer still living on North Manitou but all the raccoon had died off from a disease. When I look back on this trip there is one aspect of it that seems a bit more rustic than backpacking at Isle Royale or Pictured Rocks - the camp areas. On Isle Royale there are designated group and individual camp areas, which often contain a picnic table, sometimes a fire ring and usually an outhouse. None of those things exist on North Manitou except in the village area where we got off the boat. Out here we had no fire ring and we had to find our own place to set up camp.

It was dark by 9:00 p.m. and it had become very cool and breezy. Since I was exhausted it seemed like the perfect time to go to sleep. It didn't take long to fall asleep lying in my warm sleeping bag listening to the wind blowing through the trees and the waves rhythmically crashing on the beach.

Miles covered today: 10
Total trip miles: 10

Day 2

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:24 AM