A Weekend on North Manitou Island


    - well, after getting back from the farm at 10:OOPM, Brooks and I decided to stop procrastinating and pack our figure out menus and equipment and pack up for our end-of-summer excursion to North Manitou Island. as could be expected, things didn't come together as quickly or effortlessly as we half-expected, and so as midnight and then 2:00AM passed, our only real option was to stay up, depart for the ferry in Leelanau sometime before 5:00AM. it was my first time north of Muskegon, and I was amazed at how different and beautiful some of the drive was. things were definitely different than Grand Rapids, and at times it even felt like we had left the Midwest altogether. Brooks slept for a little bit before the sun came up, and we got into Leelanua with enough time to wander around for a bit. it used to be an old fishing village, so there are still wonderful traces of that left amongst all the craft stores and other tourist junk. at any rate, we decided to eat at the only place close and open, some cafe' named after a bird, I think, and are getting ready to head over to the ferry for departure. oh, and here's a copy of the weekend's menu:

    Day #1:
    breakfast - greasy breakfast and coffee at a diner by the ferry landing in Leelenau
    lunch - hummus and pita, snacks
    dinner - curried couscous

    Day #2:
    breakfast - omelettes
    lunch - sandwiches
    dinner - spaghetti

    Day #3:
    breakfast - oatmeal and goji berries
    lunch - quiches from a deli in Traverse City (this item filled in post-return)

    - we just went through "orientation" with a ranger, looked around the village a little, and then hiked about 3.5 miles to the cemetery for hummus-lunch and a break. there are lots of little stone crosses guarding graves from 1938 and earlier. we sat in a nice green clearing with brush and shrubs, small dunes, and the lake in the background, but other people that took the ferry over with us started showing up, so we fled the scene for less populated spaces.

    - we spend most of the afternoon hiking aimlessly around Dimmick's Point, skirting along the waterfront barefoot, riling up the hordes of seagulls. we crossed from the mainland to the side of the island open to Lake Michigan, which meant more active water and a lake-ier smell. however, we realized then that we were about to run out of water, so we were forced to cut back across the dunes to get to fresher water and less lake-slime-soup water. going back felt like a desert or apocalypstic wasteland, with rolling sands and shrubs and ancient telephone poles and fenceposts jutting out like dead trees or crucifixes. somewhat turned around with no sure trail to follow, hungry, and exhausted from our literally sleepless night before, we pitch tent in the first secluded clearing we find. I'm slightly disappointed by the lack of a stunning dune-top vista, but then again I don't need to always strive for such romantic settings, do I? we ate dinner and tried to play cards, but I annihilated Brooks (see score below). after Brook's forfeiture, we immediately passed out for what could have been hours or days, but was in fact only about a half hour. at any rate, waking up after that brief nap was surreal and mystical feeling--after exhaustion and waking up dazed in a clearing on an island, how did I get here? ah, this is wonderful.

    and the squirrels! oh, buffalo squirrel!

    Rummy 500

    Brooks Ryan
    50 215
    + 5 35
    = 55 250
    + -5 80
    = 50 330
    + 140 95
    = 190 425


    - lunch somewhere near Tamarack Lake/Pond. last night we ran around on the dunes and took beach pictures. bed at about 9:00, which may be the earliest I've had since I was a little kid. the coyotes seemed to be everwhere, or at least fast-moving along a wide circumference. from our tent, they sounded almost like neighborhood dogs, although wilder and a bit creepier. sqiurrels or bison (everything sounds bigger in the dark, from inside a tent) scampered around the tent almost all night. we slept through 5:00AM and 7:30AM alarms until about 10:30AM, which gave us a total of about 13 horus of sleep. by the time we got on the trail it was noon and just heating up. we hurried across the bottom of the island, discovering a huge patch of blackberries for a snack, got a nice dune-top view of the lake, and wound our way up the west side of the island, through wide, grassy clearings and past a few ruins of homesteads. we tried to cut through an unmaintained, but it ended in a clearing, so we decided to eat lunch and must now decide whether to backtrack a ways or blaze a trail through who-knows-what.

    - in the dark, in the tent, nearing sleep, our trailblazing didn't go so well, so we were forced to backtrack to the main path and cover another 5 or so miles on the path that loops up toward Swenson's Place. we ran out of water mid-hike, but finally made it back across the island, pumped another load of water from the lake, and set up camp at a much nicer location than last night: on the edges of a clearing with a through-trees view of the lake, and just a mile down the beach from the village, the dock, and the gorgeous poplar trees that surround them.


    - we take breakfast on the beach, with the sun setting a fire into the water that stretches down to wear we sit with our oatmeal. the sun has turned from pink to fierce yellow as we waited for our water to boil. we are pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the island's slightly crescent shape. forward to our right is Dimmick's Point, where we slept two nights ago (it looks quite far away after yesterday's 14-mile hike), and beyond that I can make out the faint shape of the Empire Dunes on the mainland. to our left is the gorgeous ranger station, nestled right up against the shore and surrounded by the poplars. on both sides of us, the arms of the beach curve forward as if they were reaching back toward the rising sun.

    - we made it back to the dock/village/ranger station by coming along some of the nicest stretch of trail we've hiked so far, with the lake coming through the thin trees on our right, quite varied foliage and plant life, and finally on our left, the remains of shackes, summer houses, and a school all sinking back beneath the tide of gravity, mosses, and roots.

    back at the village, we've sat at picnic tables, waiting for the ferry to arrive. a pony-tailed ranger gave us some coffee and a bit of conversation. Brooks tried to teach me some German fragments, but as I don't do too well with speaking, I just tried to jot down a few key items:

    10 Cool German Words, with selected helpful phrases (please forgive any inaccuracies, mispellings, or typographical deficiencies):
    hugelish - hilly
    essen - food
    baum - tree
    apfel - apple / abfel - trash
    haus - house
    bot - boat
    katz - cat
    strabe - street
    tisch - table
    schuh - shoe

    Wie heisen sie schoener Frau? - What's your name, beautiful woman?
    Wo ist du? - Where are you?
    Sie ist meine Freundin. - She's my girlfriend.

    after German class, we took care of some personal business in the outhouses (much better than digging another hole) and are trying to absorb the vibrant colors around us: the polarized light off the water, the flickering sun through leaves and branches. it's quite chilly with the wind off the water, which along with the first smoldering of orange and brown in the treetops, reminds us that it is indeed already the second morning of September. what a great way to begin not just a month but school year, with a whole new load of books and business lying just around the corner, just another morning or two from this one.