Monday, May 23, 2011

First trip of the year: backpacking Sand Lakes Quiet Area near Kalkaska

It's been an annual unofficial kickoff to the summer season every year since I was 10: The May camping trip with the Christian Service Brigade from St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield. I've learned much of my outdoors skills not from the Boy Scouts, but from this group, which routinely went on trips tougher than most of the ones we did in Scouts.

Even after graduating college, I still can't get away from this group, as it's been so important to my growing up. And with the opportunity to travel still, why not continue?

This year's planned trip was to be completed as a backpacking trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but with the size of our group and the limited number of reservations at the Lake Michigan dunes, we settled for a smaller chain of lakes I had not heard of before called Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

Our trip started right outside Guernsey Lake, where we crashed Friday night after arriving. The next morning, we caught the picturesque view of the lake in the early hours of the day.

Here, my friend Adam ended up finding the first of his many wild creatures of the trip: a small goldfinch that had difficulty flying. He stood in Adam's hand shaking before he took him into the woods.

After hiking about 2.5 miles (part of which is part of the North Country Trail) to our campsite at Lake No. 2 - the lakes didn't have names, just numbers - a few of us went out to explore what was at the other lakes. After climbing up an old fire trail, we stopped to check for directions, which one of the men I learned much about the outdoors showed us the proper way to interpret this map:

Walking up the path (while, unfortunately, I began to feel slightly dehydrated), we stumbled across Lake No. 4, which had no campers and was quite tranquil.

After crashing the night in a makeshift campsite, complete with fire, beef stew made from summer sausage and (unfortunately) a little rain, we left the next morning and hiked a mile back to the car.

It was nice to see a new area of Michigan, even though it wasn't as exciting as some of the other places along bigger lakes. It was a good hike for the beginning backpackers in our group, not too long with a good mix of inclines, and no set campsites. If Sleeping Bear Dunes is unavailable, this was a nice, but smaller, alternative.

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