Report from the Park: Michigan (Part One)

I am really glad I came on this trip. If I was at home, I would probably be on the couch watching television and eating chips.  – Selienna, age 11

Despite being our fifth year of Parks in Focus programming in the Great Lakes State, our 2011 Michigan trip boasted a number of new additions and highlights for the Foundation, our staff, and the participants. One of the most notable changes to this year’s trip was the itinerary: this was the first year that we have been based at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This change allowed us to spend more time at the Lakeshore as well as provided the opportunity to explore new sites and participate in new activities. The trip was also probably one of our most physically intensive yet – as we traversed nearly 12 miles of trail and paddled another 7 miles of stream.

Here’s a run-down of the first half of the week’s exciting activities:

The participants arrived in Munising late in afternoon on Wednesday. After setting up camp and preparing our first dinner, we only had a couple hours of daylight remaining. So, we went on a short photography hike behind our campground and then returned to our campsite to have an extended campfire and community circle to get the participants excited about the week’s upcoming adventures.

After a good night’s rest, we kicked off day two with a visit to the Interagency Visitors Center in Munising. There, we meet with Gregg Bruff (Chief of Heritage Education) who welcomed us to the Lakeshore and told stories about the area’s history. Andrea Chynoweth (Climate Change Interpreter) then led our group out to Beaver Basin Wilderness Area to take us on five-mile challenge hike around Little Beaver Lake and out to get our first views of Lake Superior. The hike was fast-paced, but that didn’t stop everyone from taking a few moments to snap some incredible photos of the ancient sea caves, diverse forests and sandy beaches encountered along the way.

Click for more details about the first half of the trip and the photo slideshow of highlights!

After exploring Beaver Basin Wilderness Area, we made a quick dinner and headed into Munising to embark on a sunset cruise with Pictured Rocks Cruises. The cruise covers more than 15 miles of the scenic lakeshore—which would otherwise be unobservable from land. The water was as smooth as glass and the sunset gave the scenic rock formations and sandstone cliffs a golden tinge that was perfect for our budding photographers. The participants spent the entire three hours of the cruise exercising their shutter fingers and the results were quite impressive!

On Day 3, we ventured out to Seney National Wildlife Refuge. After a video introduction and welcome by Jen McDonough, we split into groups to tour the refuge’s Marshland Drive and hike the 1.5-mile Pine Ridge Nature Trail. Loons, trumpeter swans, merlins, Canada geese, and osprey were among the day’s interesting wildlife sightings. That afternoon, we spent some time looking for some of the refuge’s aquatic inhabitants: a macro-invertebrate activity led by Seney staff (thanks Ranger Katie!) and fishing in one of the refuge pools. Only two lucky Parks in Focus participants were successful anglers. Congrats to Alyssa and Shadd on their catches: a pumpkinseed and bullhead!

Shortly before we left Seney, we put our rain ponchos to work and watched a thunderstorm roll in. The rain followed us back to Munising that evening. Fortunately, we had access to a pavilion where we were able to cook dinner, play games, sing songs and learn more about each other (through a lively rendition of two truths and a lie).

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