Solitude? I was not so sure. However, it was entertaining to see what other people had brought. Ridge Rests still in plastic! Five ditty bags hanging off a backpack! Five Nalgenes clipped to a backpack! Duffel bags clipped to a backpack! Clearly, this crowd didn't get out much. The exception was a man toting a cuben fiber backpack. He stood aloof from the crowd, not inviting conversation. I was curious: who in Michigan backpacked enough to spring for a cuben fiber pack?
We shuffled onto the boat like cattle, and I was glad to see that the majority of the crowd was to be dropped off at South Manitou, a non-wilderness island with assigned campsites. However, several groups disembarked with me for the ranger orientation talk at the North Manitou dock. I'd better outpace them, I thought.
There were three main directions to go: north, towards a large freshwater lake that the ranger warned us against swimming in ("swimmer's itch"); straight across the island to the most popular beach, and south, towards some old homesteads. I chose south.
|There are lots of these old, decaying houses. You can't go in them.|
Turns out the Park Service has a 300 foot setback from water rule. Let me digress a minute here. I have worked in and managed several wildernesses, some with a setback rule and some without. In my opinion, setbacks cause way more impact than they intend to correct. What happens is that people are woefully unable to calculate distance. Thus several rings of campsites are created, as people make them and are ticketed and have to move back. When people finally find a legal site, if the terrain even permits it, they naturally don't want to hang out in the viewless woods. Many little user created paths to the shorelines develop, and people do everything but sleep at the water's edge. Not worth it. I can see how a small setback might be appropriate, but 300 feet is kind of insane.
Unable to find a good site, I marched on, noting two women miserably swatting mosquitoes as they set up in the woods at a legal site. No way, I thought. I didn't intend to end up at the old Crescent dock but it took that long to find a legal campsite. It was worth the walk, even getting into camp at seven. But no worries, the days last forever here in the north country.
Along the way I ducked into some old pastures and to the freshwater lake. There was plenty of poison ivy, striking fear into my heart. A botanist told me recently that cashews have the same compound as PI, and once she started eating them, she was immune to PI. I picked out the cashews in my trail mix and ate them frantically.
|Old cars at Stormer Camp. There's a history of orchards, logging and other development here.|