Hiking to North Manitou Island
Posted by bob on Mar 7th 2014
While it was reassuring to know the ice was quite thick, we knew the power of Lake Michigan's currents makes for a dynamic environment that puts the ice pack under great stress. Large cracks and fissures were everywhere around us. While the crevices were frozen over, it was evidence that we could not take a single step for granted.The awesome forces of nature, shattering this ice sheet and creating a crack 8 inches wide.
After 2 hours, we reached the Crib. This lighthouse has saved countless lives and shipping expeditions. The Manitou Passage has seen scores of terrible tragedies as numerous ships have met their demise and brave crew members have lost their lives. It was a very humbling moment to be in such a potentially wild environment. To learn more about the history of the shipwrecks along Manitou Passage, visit the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve.The Crib. Five miles out from Pyramid Point.
The Crib was truly something to behold. It was an awe-inspiring and surreal moment. We were struck by how weird it felt to be walking up to a lighthouse in the middle of Lake Michigan.The Crib, caked in ice.
Its base towered 25 feet above our heads and was covered in cascading ice formations. The lighthouse itself looked haunted, but that didn't stop us from trying to climb it in order to find a better view for planning our route for the next half of our trek to North Manitou. Unfortunately, the ice was just too thick.
Had we been able to get a better vantage point, we would have seen that a "road" of perfectly smooth ice would have led us straight to the island. Instead, we chose what appeared to a direct route. It led through a field of jagged slabs of ice, some of which would shift as we stepped on them. We nicknamed the field the Boneyard and wished we had gone around it.The Boneyard! Picking our way through a field of jagged ice fragments just off North Manitou.
As we neared North Manitou, we encountered smaller versions of the ice caves and cliffs that can be seen along the Leelanau shoreline. They posed only a small barrier between us and the beach.Climbing up the ice and onto the beach on North Manitou Island.
After 4.5 hours, we finally made it to the southeast shore of North Manitou Island. After a few cheers and high-fives, we sat down and grabbed our lunches out of our bags. We didn't talk much, instead taking time to internalize what we just accomplished.A well-deserved rest and a late lunch on the beach on North Manitou
The afternoon was getting on and we had an arduous slog ahead of us. After taking a quick photo to mark the achievement on the island, we prepared for the return.Successfully on the island! From left, Bob Sutherland, Andrew Pritchard, Tom Bisbee, and Andrew Moore.
We knew our job was only half done. Like mountaineers in the Himalayas, our "summit" was exhilarating, but we still had to get down again.The "Ice Road" leading us back to the Crib and to Pyramid Point beyond.
Our return trip was much smoother than our outward trip. We discovered that the "highway" of ice we had veered off in our "direct route" through the Boneyard in fact made a nearly straight line from the island back to the Crib. We got on the "road" and double-timed it homeward.The sun setting behind the Crib on our homeward journey
Exhausted though we were, northern Michigan put on a show for us on the homeward journey. With the sun sinking in the west, the light turned amazing colors that reflected off the snow and the dunes of Pyramid Point.A 180° panorama of our trek home. Pyramid Point is in the distance on the left. To the right is the Crib and North Manitou behind it.
It's no surprise that northwest Michigan consistently ranks among the most beautiful places in America and the best places to watch a sunset.A setting sun and a well-deserved rest out on the ice on Lake Michigan. From left, Bob Sutherland and Andrew Pritchard
To cap a near perfect day, the sun looked just as tired as we were, beautifully setting after a hard days work while we slogged back to Pyramid Point.Bob striding for home as the sun sinks behind the islands. The setting sun reflected in the face of an exhausted but exhilarated Bob Sutherland with Pyramid Point in the background. We made it back to shore at 8pm and promptly collapsed on the beach to rest. We gazed upwards at the sliver of moon and the emerging stars as the last glimmers of twilight faded in the west. Exhilarated, exhausted, and above all grateful. Grateful to live in beautiful northern Michigan, grateful for the perfect weather that had made this expedition possible, and grateful we had made it home safely. A GPS tracking of our route out to North Manitou and back We'll have many more northern Michigan adventures on the lake, but it's safe to say we will never do something like this again. As far as we know, no one has done this in the last 40 years, and we're in no hurry to get back out onto the ice. Please note: The ice on Lake Michigan is extremely dangerous. Even our journey in perfect conditions was not totally without mishap. Tom fell through. The photo below is where he went for a quick swim. As well prepared as we were, we were lucky. Trips like this can very easily end in catastrophe. We urge caution on the lakes at all times of the year, but especially in winter. Near disaster! The ice around this fissure gave way and sent Tom for a swim!