Monday, July 11, 2005

Boreal Forest

The boys went on a trip with their youth group last Thursday through Saturday so Steve and I took that opportunity to have our first vacation alone in over ten years. We headed north, north to the woods, north to the rivers. Specifically, we went to the Pine River in northern Michigan, about a six hour drive.

Thursday afternoon we set up camp (the Taj Mahal) next to the river in Manistee National Forest and purchased a permit to canoe the Pine River for the following day.

Then we headed even further north. First stop was at the Cherry Hut in Beulah for some world famous cherry pie. We would have avoided it as a tourist trap except we read about it in the Sunday magazine. As we were walking to our table, I had a close encounter with Michigan's Governor Granholm as she was leaving; yes, I ran right into her. I'm just glad it happened on the first day of the trip instead of the last day, as primitive camping means primitive bathing.

And then on to our destination - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

"From here you can see several of the National Lakeshore's key features including the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands. The names of these features have their origin in American Indian legend. Ojibway Indians tell of a mother bear with two cubs on Lake Michigan’s far shore. Forced into the lake by a forest fire, they tried to swim across but the cubs tired and drowned just short of this shore. The saddened mother climbed a high bluff, turned, and lay down to watch for her cubs. Manitou, the Great Spirit, took pity and reclaimed the cubs, transforming them into the Manitou Islands. He saved the mother as the Sleeping Bear Dune, still watching her cubs."

The little signs mark the restricted nesting area for the endangered piping plovers. They nest on this little spit of land plus one place on Lake Superior. The last time we were here with the boys, a researcher was watching the nests with a telescope and she let us look at the nests and birds. Since then we have followed the fate of these shore birds with interest.

Steve was making interesting patterns in the wet sand as the sun set. Our pockets were full of rocks. I started it and when my pockets were so full I had use both hands to hold my shorts up, Steve asked me what I was going to do with them. I explained my idea for a water feature in the garden using the rocks we have collected on vacations through the years. He then started collecting the most interesting rocks.

Friday morning we got up early and staged the canoes for a four hour paddle down the Pine River. I can't describe the beauty of this river as it cuts through the pine forest, sand dunes and flower-filled meadows. The current is fast with some white water to make it challenging. Well, it challenged me enough that I ended up in it. I made a mistake and scared us both, but emerged unscathed. We came across four biologists studying the fish population since the removal of the dam and creation of a quarter mile riparian buffer zone. The result is a very scenic and fast river, and improved fish population.

Saturday morning we broke camp and drove an hour north to canoe the Platte River, a fast and gentle river that dumps into Lake Michigan. It was crowded but there still were stretches of solitude.

The end of the Platte River and the beginning of a great lake. The end of our brief vacation and the beginning of the drive home.

No comments: