The amazing ladies of Girls Trailblazers A 2012 ready to rock and roll!
Girls Trailblazers was amazing. I was a little nervous about the change from the Upper Peninsula to North Manitou Island and the Big Manistee but once I heard about how awesome both would be I was in. First off, the driving was cut by 2/3 from 900 to 300 miles. We had more time on the trip as opposed to two full days of driving taking two days from being in the wilderness. We also got to take a ferry from Leland Michigan to the island. The Island itself was safer than the backpacking portion of the old trip because the ranger knew where we were staying and the ranger station was never more than 3 miles from us.
We had amazing Bahamas-like beaches to stay on and the weather couldn't have been better. The girls were freaked out by ticks from a ranger on the mainland who obviously didn't know how to deal with 11 and 12 year old girls. Fortunately, none of them got any ticks. Graham got a pretty bad one though and I had to get its head out with a needle. We did that while they were all at the beach because that would've freaked them out more. It also helped that we had a super helpful ranger named Paul who calmed the ladies down a bit. He also helped us plan our route.
We thoroughly enjoyed the beach and we also played some hydration games to make sure nobody got cranky. The girls were so content playing mafia most of the time. Graham and I had it so easy. They were a blast and we couldn't have been luckier to have a group of girls that all got along and wanted to hang out with each other.
Our canoeing portion started out magnificently with a huge campsite at Chippewa Landing with a shelter. The bugs weren't too bad either. The other group said they were awful when they were there.
We made out way our to Sharon bridge to start our trip the following morning. We canoed all day and found a place along the river that was up a sand dune but turned out to be pretty nice other than a nasty pile of barbed wire that one of our girls got a bit cut up in. We let the girls swim a bit but the water was cold and one of them suffered from mild hypothermia. We quickly got her some warm clothes and hot water to drink.
On the second day we were paddling along and all of a sudden a dragonfly landed on my shoulder with a fly in its mouth. He shook it really good and made sure that it was dead and that sucked its insides out. It then continued to munch away for ten minutes!! You can't see it too well in this picture but it was one of the coolest nature moments I have ever experienced. Honestly, I have never seen more wildlife on a river. We saw a deer with its two babies, lots of ducks, AND I saw a bald eagle!
We really couldn't have asked for better weather. We went through so much sunscreen but I would much rather have than then cold and wet campers in the rain. Our second night was supposed to be at a campsite but we missed it so we stayed on the side of the river again in a not too terribly bumpy place. The girls walked up the river and floated down a few times before we got them out to warm them up because that water was quite chilly. Unfortunately, we couldn't have a fire but we did have hot water and hot chocolate! The girls were content.
When we got to the pull out at Chippewa Landing, the owner graciously allowed us to take tubes and play in the water. The girls made their way up the river and floated down twice. 45 minutes of trudging against the current for a few minutes floating down. They loved it. Later, they got Rick, the owner, and some of the guys who worked there to play mafia. I literally have never seen so many games of mafia played by a group of people in my life. Usually people get sick of it after a few rounds but they played it every day without fail at least 3 times. The girls are pictured above with their heads down waiting to wake up to see who has been killed and who they think the mafia is.
Overall, it was a FANTASTIC trip. I had such a blast with everyone and Graham and I had such a great time listening to the ridiculousness of adolescent girls. I am so glad that I was able to do this trip and be one of the pioneers for a new trailblazers trip that I am sure will be continued into the future. Other than tradition, there is really no reason not to keep the new itinerary as the official trailblazers trip for Camp Echo.