North Manitou Island And
Sleeping Bear Dunes, September 2002

Day 2

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I woke up this morning at 9:00 a.m. feeling well rested. The sky was bright blue and nearly cloudless, the air was refreshingly cool and there was no wind. The rain cover was saturated with condensation so we hung it over a tree and ate breakfast while waiting for it to dry. After breakfast we went to look for Swenson's barn. We walked around and found the barn near a tree line in the distance, but did not see an easy way to reach it from where we were standing. We decided to go down to the beach to filter water and then pack up our gear before looking for a path out to the barn.

Eventually we made our way back to the main trail where we discovered a sign indicating we were near Swenson's farm. Right next to the sign was a well-traveled trail that led right to the barn. As tired as we had been yesterday, we had walked right past and never noticed the sign or the trail. The trail led us directly to the barn and a collapsed building. We looked around for a bit, took a few pictures and headed back to the main trail by 12:30 p.m. It appeared that the Swenson farm must have been pretty large because we walked north along the trail, through mostly open field (I figure it had been cleared for crops and/or cattle) for quite a while before the trail turned to the northeast and re-entered the trees.

The dense tree canopy provided a lot of shade from the sun that was now directly overhead. The ranger referred to this part of the trail as "the old grade" because it followed the same path as the old railroad grade. At one point in North Manitou's past, railroad tracks had been laid across portions of the island. A steam engine was then brought to the island to help transport cut trees for the logging business on the island. Since the island has not been built up and modernized it was easy to take a step back in time and picture the old steam engine chugging through the forest carrying stacks of logs to the sawmill and cargo ships.

The hike through the woods ended when we arrived at the clearing near Stormer's camp. There was a grassy clearing in this area and it looked like a nice place for a break. We left the backpacks near the sign and walked around. Ken ventured into the trees and discovered numerous old pick up trucks and delivery trucks left behind by employees and residents of the island. The trucks formed a small "train" through the woods and were partially stacked on top of each other. Some vehicles were upright, some were on their sides, some were fairly intact and others were in various stages of disassembly. It looked like the trucks had been used as backstops for target practice or as targets themselves due to all the holes in them. Some of the trucks still contained readable business addresses on their doors. One door displayed the following: Michigan Industrial Harwood Company; 22180 W. 8 Mile; Detroit. Another had the company name, 'Michigan Lumber Company'. Not far from the vehicles were hundreds of rusting tin cans littering the ground. It did not appear that people here were too concerned about conserving their environment as was evident by all the garbage left behind. We eventually ate lunch on the grass near Stormer's camp and then resumed our hiking.

Approximately one half mile from Stormer's camp we crossed a small, wooden plank bridge across a large, swampy, wetland area. According to the map this swamp was almost one mile long. It contained tall grasses, reeds, skeletons of old tree trunks and quite a few small birds flying into and out of the swamp.

A short time later we came to a path that headed west toward Lake Manitou. The trail was roughly ½ to ¾ of a mile long, one way, but was worth the extra time and effort. Lake Manitou is located near the center of the island and is roughly one mile long from north to south and 1/3 of a mile wide. It is a beautiful lake with shores outlined by the forest that surrounds it. It had only been a short time since we left Stormer's camp, but this location was worthy of another extended break to absorb the bright sun and the cool breeze. Though the water appeared very inviting, it held an unseen menace. Fortunately, the park ranger warned everyone ahead of time about the parasites that live in the lake, otherwise I would have gone in for a quick swim.

When we finally left Lake Manitou we continued south for roughly one mile before hiking through the southern end of the apple orchard near what used to be the Frank's farm. The trail meandered on for another two miles after leaving the apple orchard before we exited the woods. When the trail left the woods it turned into a two-track through a large grassy field that led to the village area where we had started out. The grass was tall and the trail was flanked on both sides by a row of trees. On both sides of this two-track we saw a large clearing covered by tall grass and vegetation. This large clearing was situated in a northeast to southwest direction just west of the village area and the village campground. We later learned that the clearing had been the site of an aircraft runway from years past. The two-track ended in the village area, but the campsites are located approximately ¼ mile north of the village area in order to preserve the old stone homes and buildings. We filled our water containers at the fountain in the village before continuing on to the campsites so we would not have to make a trip back just to get water. Along the way we passed an array of solar cells that are used to provide power to parts of the village, an old barn and an old piece of farm equipment.

We checked out the unoccupied campsites and found a good spot for the tent at site #6. After we set up the tent and ate dinner we walked over to the fire pit a couple campsites away. Several other hikers were already there and had a large fire burning. We introduced ourselves and sat down with them. A short time later park ranger Kevin Kavanagh joined us. He had just finished making his rounds of the village area and the campsites when he saw everyone sitting around the fire. He had a great personality and was a bit of a comedian. He stayed and talked with us about what it was like to be a ranger for the National Park Service. He also explained some of the finer points of the law in regard to his job and told us several stories about his personal experiences over the previous eight years of being a ranger. This was going to be his last year of a three-year stint at the Manitou Islands and he was going to be transferred to a new park the following year. We also learned why the rangers are "so passionate" about the "300 foot rule" and the no fire rule. He went on to explain that he had just ticketed a group the previous night for being closer than 300 feet to the water. He said people would often argue with him that they were farther than 300 feet away, so he began taking a 300-foot tape measure with him so there was no mistaking the distance. Kevin had only planned on staying by the fire for a few minutes but after 1½ hours he was still there. His famous line was, "just one more story, then I really have to get going."; there had been quite a few "last stories" that evening! We sat around the fire for a while after Kevin left us but went back to our campsite when it began to rain.

Miles covered today: 8.5
Total trip miles: 18.5

Day 3

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