Monday, August 18, 2008

The Birds of North Manitou island

Last weekend I joined 8 other people as part of a Western Michigan North Country Trail Chapter sponsored trip to North Manitou Island. This 15,000 acre island is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and sits just off the Leelanau Peninsula. The island is a wilderness area and a great place for easy yet very interesting backpacking and exploration. You can go off to places that will challenge you as you scramble up steep forested hills or across tall sand dunes. You can take your time relaxing on the sun drenched (hopefully) beaches that look out upon the blue waters of Lake Michigan. The island offer plenty for the novice and experienced backpacker alike. I'll be providing a much richer trip journal in the not too distant future but I wanted to share this one little bit of video first.

The island used to provide home for many families. Long ago companies even did some forestry and if you go to the right location you can find rusting chunks of old vehicles that probably date back more than 50 years. You can also find the slowly decaying, though some buildings do get upkeep, buildings. Reminders of the people who used to live, and die, on this small island. Swenson's Barn is one such place. Within it you can still see where they brought their cows to be milked, the stalls they entered, the chute for hay to be dropped for the cows to consume. You can gaze upon the massive beams of the old barn and ponder life as it once must have been. Then you might gaze up at a sound faintly heard and notice a bird's nest. Within that nest, sitting very quietly waiting for their next meal, you spot a couple bird chicks. Enjoy the video.

Besides seeing these little birds and their parent we were fortunate to do so much more. Chances to swim in the chilly, though not nearly as cold as expected, Lake Michigan waters; swat at numerous biting bugs; visit portions of the island that see very few people because they require off-trail bushwhacking to reach; and so much more. The trip though just for a short weekend gifted us all with many opportunities of great enjoyment and I am sure most of us will return to North Manitou Island.