Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Hills, But No Alligators!

I was in Michigan last week for a family visit, and although I never have quite enough time in the great outdoors while I am there, I did get in some lake kayaking, tried some sailing on a little sunfish type of boat (which I capsized), and got in one hike in beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore.

Early in the week, a bunch of us were swimming in lovely North Bar Lake, just a stones throw from much colder Lake Michigan, and I was asking a ranger about places to hike.  He suggested trying the Alligator Hill Trail.  So last Friday, I got up before dawn and did the 35 minute drive to the trail head, and was hiking by 7:00!

So where is it?  Well, it is in Northern Michigan, as you can see from this location map.  The purple circle shows the area I hiked in, the Mackinaw Straights (which connect Lakes Michigan and Huron) are to the top right of the map, and the purple arrow points to North Manitou Island in Lake Michigan.  I hope to do a three day backpacking trip on that island someday.

By the way, Sleeping Bear Dunes NLS was one of the 50 wilderness areas suggested recently by the Wilderness Society as worthy of a visit.  I have been many times now, and have enjoyed each and every visit.

What trails did I hike?  Here is the track that I followed.  It was about a six and a half mile hike, making my trail miles for the year higher than all of last year.  The purple star marks the trailhead, the blue star marks the overlook of Lake Michigan, the Manitou Islands (which are the bear cubs in the story of the sleeping bear), and the Fox Islands, and the red star in the overlook of Big Glen Lake.  That part of the trail was a nice, level 0.8 mile out and back.

What was the trail like?  The trail system there has three connected loops - easy, intermediate and advanced.  For hiking with a light day pack, all of them were easy.  The rating pertains to cross country skiing.  I hiked on the easy and advanced loops.  The trails where wide and smooth and made for a pleasant walk in the woods.  There are some minor hills, as you can see from the elevation profile.  I climbed and lost about 900 feet over 6.6 miles.

Other than two robins and a black squirrel (a color phase, common in that part of Michigan, of the gray squirrel), I didn't see any wildlife.  I did see a deer and three turkeys during the drive.  And I heard some birds, notably wood peewees, although most of the time, my walk was strangely silent.  I saw only two other people during my hike, although a large group apparently started a trail run some time after I began hiking.

Here are a few photos from the hike.  These are the remains of charcoal kilns built some 60 years ago by a local entrepreneur to provide charcoal to campers and picnickers.

This typical of the trail along the Alligator Hill Trail - nice and wide, nice grades, very well maintained, and soft and sandy.

This is Sleeping Bear Point on Lake Michigan.  Most of the hike had views only of woodlands, but two spots, including this one, had very nice vistas.

South Manitou Island, the smaller and closer of the two Manitou Islands, is seen nearby.  This island allows for day hikes and backpacking in season.

Lake Michigan with the Manitou Islands.

Here is the other viewpoint on the hike - Big Glen Lake.

Does this look like a pleasant spot to take a walk?  Well, it was!


  1. You got some really good photos during your hike. Beautiful scenery.
    You capsized. That couldn't have been fun. Glad you made it back to shore safely.

    I've gotten a bit behind on reading blogs. Trying to get caught up.
    Thanks Art for all your comments. : )

  2. It was a lovely walk!

    Yeah, I capsized the little sail boat. It is more like a big board, no cockpit. It is not too stable but I think if I had had more time to experiment, I might have learned to handle it better. After swimming and towing the boat for 15 minutes or so, I had had enough of it! Made wearing a flotation device a good decision! Art