North Manitou Island Backpacking, Bushwhacking, Tim Allen & Sunburns in the Great State of Michigan

Hike from our cars – the start of a journey…

I now consider myself a backpacker – I love it, I love nature, I love the challenge…it is simply awesome. I recently went on a trip to North Manitou Island and I think I just may be hooked and committed to becoming a backpacking enthusiast as a lifelong hobby. It was a wonderful trip which actually got delayed because we had to take the “big boat” instead of the little one because Lake Michigan had 5-8 feet swells and the small boat wouldn’t be able to dock. One thing I noticed was the size of some people’s backpack – holy cow some of them were monstrous and must have weighed at least 60 pounds. I thought I packed to many t-shirts (I did), but wow my backpack was dwarfed by some of the monsters people packed.

Getting on the boat.

When we got off the boat after a sea sick inducing ride on the boat we had backpacker orientation, which accounted for, in a nutshell, you have to camp 300 feet from any water, 300 feet from other campsites, no campfires, and your latrine needs to be at least 6 inches deep. After that we were on the trail. The first hour or so on the trail was exhausting getting use to wearing a 30 pound pack on my back, but after my muscles were warmed up we all found our rhythm backpacking across the island to the northwest side of the island. What we didn’t realize was that we missed the unkempt trail we needed to take to the dunes where we wanted to camp, so we took a risk and bushwhacked it at about a 50 degree incline 900 feet up. At the end of that day we hiked around 6-7 miles which was definitely a good start.

Bushwhacking at it’s best!

The campsite we found!

The next day we enjoyed our awesome campsite, but yikes getting water going down an uber-steep hill of leg cramping sand which was a good workout to say the least. Also, when we got water we had to go at least knee depth in Lake Michigan and filter our water into the water bottles. I don’t think I have ever valued water so much in my life. It’s amazing how you find out how important something is when you don’t have it by just turning on the tap.

Filtering water in the coldness of Lake Michigan.

Later that day we went on a day hike on the beach and that’s where we all forgot to apply sunscreen early enough. The beaches on North Manitou Island were a thing of beauty. If I didn’t know where I was at I would have thought we were on a tropical island. When I was on the island I thought about those “Pure Michigan” commercials with Tim Allen as the commentator. What was really crazy was when we were waiting for the boat at a coffee shop I thought I recognized someone, but couldn’t place his face and then I realized it was Mr. Michigan Tim Allen. I said “Mr. Allen? Mr. Allen? Tim Allen!?” and he replied “Yes” stunned by my discovery I could only muster the response of “I love your work” and Tim Allen said back “Thanks” and proceeded to get his coffee.

One of Tim Allen commercials for “Pure Michigan.”

Our last day on the island was spent it trying to find a dry way across the middle of the island. We thought we found a nice meadow to go across, but we got a little more then a quarter of a way there and our feet started to get wet and poof we discovered we were in a swamp! In my head I irrationally started to imagine we were endanger of getting eating by an alligator. So we turned around and went back the way we came to try to find some higher and dryer ground to make our way to the main trail.

After some navigating we went to higher ground and crossed and found a dry spot to make our way to the main trail. The only other issue was all three of us on the trip got sunburns in places you don’t normally get them. I got sunburned on the tops of my feet, my girlfriend Ela got sunburned pretty bad on her legs and behind her knees and so did Ryan our friend. So this made the backpacking across the island harder then normal. We did find our way to a nice campsite on the east side of the island and found some time to play the card game Uno in our tent.

Tent party on our last night on the island!!

All in all our backpack trip I think has inspired a lifelong love affair with backpacking and the wilderness for myself. It was so nice to get away from things like cell phones, computers, text message and all the creature comforts one has when they’re not in the wilderness because it helps me appreciate those things when I come back (Although, I did bring my Flip Mino HD and took all of the awesome video you see posted). It was also nice to just live in the present and do things like go for a walk on the beach, eat wild strawberries and see nature in action.

I think we hiked over 20 miles with our time on North Manitou Island. We also went on a winery tour before we left for the island.

Yay for nature!

I can’t wait to go on our next trip whether it is a day trip of a trek across the wilderness. Yay for backpacking!!

2 thoughts on “North Manitou Island Backpacking, Bushwhacking, Tim Allen & Sunburns in the Great State of Michigan

  1. I don’t think you climbed 900 feet- elevation of Lake Michigan is about 577 feet above sea level. If your GPS altimeter read 900 feet at the top of the hill that means you climbed 323 feet if you started at the beach. I bushwhacked thru that same area and I agree it was rough stuff!

    Next time check out the Crescent area… it’s only 10 -20 foot elevation change down to the water.. a whole lot easier!

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