|Last weekend I travelled to South
Manitou Island in Lake Michigan to visit the Valley of the Giants, a stand
of old-growth white cedar. Some of the trees there date from the
time of Columbus. I am a big fan of old-growth forests, having
visited most of the remaining virgin stands in Wisconsin and
Michigan. This was a two day trip and quite an adventure, since I
had to drive all the way to Glen Arbor in Lower Michigan (about 3/4 of the
way up, just West of Traverse City), then sail across the Manitou passage
to land on the Island and make my way to the Valley of the Giants.
To cross the Manitou Passage
I used my vetaran sunfish left over from my travels in the Apostle
Islands. I originally purchased this hull for $20 and converted it
for heavy-duty use. All the fittings have been strengthened and the
deck seal re-fiberglassed. In addition, the interior can be used for
storage and then sealed with port hole covers.
is my landing spot just West of the abandoned light house on South Manitou
Island. The advantage of using a Sunfish for this type of work is
that you can land it almost anywhere. The hull is extremely tough
and takes to being pulled over rocks quite nicely. A heavier boat
requires a harbor and a dock to land, which are in short supply in this
area of Lake Michigan.
Actually, the approach to the Valley of the Giants was quite
nice. It was only a 3 mile hike or so, but some of the forest was
quite old and the weather was very pleasant. Ideal conditions for
playing with the camera!
Here I am about half way across the passage. The
sail over was very easy, downwind the entire way and very calm. A
little too calm, maybe, it was quite slow (about 3 hours to make the
7-mile crossing), but very pleasant. I actually managed to lie down
and read a magazine for awhile.
There are quite a few buildings left on the island, as
recently as WWII there were still 70 people living on the island.
But now I think there are only a few vacation cottages left, most of the
buildings have plaques in front of them. There are also some
abandoned farms and at least one cemetary.
After landing I put on my hiking gear and made my way to the
Valley of the Giants. South Manitou Island is inhabited only by a
single National Park Ranger, whom I never did find. So I was alone
on the Island for the weekend, very very nice.
Well, this is what I came to see, after 9 hours
of driving, 3 hours of sailing, and two hours of hiking. The
North American Champion White Cedar. At least I think it is, this is the
only tree there with a fence around it and it is quite large. But it
is also quite dead, as far as I can see. But I have had
this experience before, when visiting the "MacArthur Pine" in Wisconsin, this
champion tree also looked quite dead. I think a tree remains a champion as
long as no one mentions anything contrary to the judges. Here are the specs
I found online about this tree and its championship status:
|Location: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,
|Circumference: 216 inches|
|Height: 113 feet|
|Spread: 42 feet|
|Most Recent Measurement: 1978|
Nominator/s: Paul W. Thompson
After spending some more time among
the giants, it was getting late and I needed to find a campsite. I
hiked out of the valley and made my way to one of the NPS campsites on the
South Shore of the Island. I got to camp on top of a nice bluff
overlooking the Manitou Passage. The stars came out for some time
and I ate a nice meal and got plenty of sleep. I woke up, made my
way back to the sunfish, and headed out into the passage. The wind
on Monday was much better than the day before, but unfortunately mostly
out of the South. So I spent three hours beating into chop, a lot of
work and water everywhere. Some water even made it into the camera,
some of my photos were trashed. But it was a great great trip!
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