Illustrated story
(click to see more and/or larger pictures)

  Saturday afternoon, I drove for five hours straight.

Me driving

When we got to the Lake Michigan rec area, it was dark. I parked my Escort at an available site, and we pitched our little backpacking tent and watched the lights from the RVs' VCRs flickering through the trees. In the morning, we parked at the main entrance to Nordhouse Dunes and put on our packs.

Nordhouse Dunes

We backpacked at Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness for two days (one night). There are pretty short distances involved there, but it can be difficult getting around and over the dunes with packs. There are also a lot of steep hills- ridges, dunes, etc. However, we packed relatively lightly for that part of the trip, and it was really pleasant and fun. The weather was perfect, and we got some great pictures. We visited a dry lake that had different grasses and mosses growing in rings at different depths. There were blueberry bushes along the trails.

Allan, Me and the Packs

On the Trail

Nordhouse Lake: Dry

Beach on Lake Michigan

Our Campsite

The hike back to the car the next day was a little tough, even though it was only about 3 1/2 miles. We followed the dunes down the beach before cutting through the woods, and walking over the dunes with our packs was a challenge. Allan took a picture of me running toward the "You are Entering a Wilderness Area..." sign at the end of the hike.

The Last Few Yards

Jan's Cabin

We stayed on Torch Lake for two nights at a friend's cabin (Thanks, Jan!) and rested up.

Allan on the dock.

North Manitou Island

Early Wednesday morning, we headed to Leland (on the Leelanau peninsula on Lake Michigan) to catch the Manitou Island ferry. We stayed on the island for four days.

We backpacked 4 - 7 miles (6-11.5 km) a day and were able to see most of the island. It's a national wilderness area now, but in the past there were about 100 people living there. Judging from the ruins and the cemetery, most of them died off or left by the 1950's. Ruins are scattered around, some of them pretty impressive: huge timber frame barns and crumbling 150 year old houses built out of native materials. There are apple and cherry trees still bearing fruit in old, overgrown orchards; raspberry and blackberry bushes along the trails. Sandy beaches run all along the edge of the island. Lake Michigan was our water source, swimming pool, and bathtub. It's handy to backpack near a fresh water lake.

Our first two nights there, dinner was interrupted by rain. We would throw our packs and everything else into the tent in a panic, then finish eating in ponchos under the trees. In the morning both days, the sun came out and we hung everything out to dry before packing it in and going on our way. The rain on the second night was scary - a loud, bright thunderstorm with wind that brought up ten foot waves in the lake. We heard later that the ferry couldn't make it back to the mainland, and stayed on the island that night. Our tent would probably have blown away if we and our packs hadn't been in it, and I was sure a tree was going to fall on us and kill us. There were huge trees that had been blown down all over the place on the island.

For the last two days, the weather was perfect. The sunsets were stunning and the stars were so thick that you could see the universe sprawling outward in dizzying perspective. There were so many stars that I had trouble spotting the constellations I can see from the city. During the day, the woods were full of caterpillars, butterflies, chipmunks, and tree toads, all fun to watch and try to catch on film. Everything was green, blue and brown: rich greens of every value and shade in the woods, fields, and dunes, blues and blue-greens in the lake, and blue sky. Lake Michigan looked like a travel poster of the Caribbean.



Butterflies and Caterpillars

Other Critters

Sunsets and Scenery

In the Water

Us and our Packs

Taking Pictures