The Sylvania Wilderness is an 18,327 acre protected area located a few miles west of Watersmeet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – just across the Wisconsin border. Sylvania is located entirely within the bounds of the Ottawa National Forest and is managed by the US Forest Service. With it’s mature trees and crystal clear water, it is a beautiful place!
Thursday June 23, 2022
Oldest daughter Kara and granddaughter Grace (19 in August) arrived to help me load the two canoes and finish packing the truck. Grace wants to take her friend on a canoe trip, so I made sure that she learned how to tie down the canoes on the truck.
Grace slept while we drove to Eagle River WI for lunch and then crossed the border into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – aka the UP. We turned left/west on US 2 in Watersmeet, MI and arrived in the Sylvania Wilderness Area. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and light wind when we unloaded the truck into the canoes and we were off!
A loon greeted us as we started to paddle and we saw 5 eagles. After paddling through Crooked Lake, we arrived at the Chipmunk campsite. It is a large, beautiful campsite with water on 3 sides and had plenty of space for our two tents.
Kara’s new tent has a screened in porch, or what we call in Florida, a Lanai, proved very useful during the frequent rainstorms. Nice breeze on the hill kept the bugs away. The loon calls echoed through the hills and lakes until after dark. Kara made a great campfire.
Grace worked the hand saw to make firewood.
Kara had mixed results when trying to dry her socks over the fire.
Friday June 24, 2022
Sunrise came early, just 13 days from summer solstice. Woke to the sounds of loons calling and birds signing. Very still, the bugs were thick until Kara built a fire. Enjoyed a pot of coffee while Grace slept. Enjoyed a hardy breakfast of biscuits and gravy.
As a Father’s day gift, Kara gave me the last thing I was missing in my camping gear – a kitchen sink!
There was more wind in the bigger part of Crooked Lake. Decided to explore the portage to Clark Lake. Ran into a Boy Scout Troop from Lake Orin, MI. The scout leader had canoed the Sylvania Wilderness with his father in the 1990’s and is now taking his son along with several other scouts. I was impressed with how organized the scouts were! They handled the portage without a problem.
We enjoyed the beautiful sandy beach at Clark Lake and the nice breeze. Headed back to our camp, seeing several eagles and a great blue heron. Enjoyed the many patches of flowers around our camp.
Grace setup her hammock and took a nap.
Started reading the book, Covered Waters by UP writer Joseph Heywood. Interesting stories about fishing, hunting and his time in Vietnam.
Hearing thunder in the distance, hastened our dinner plans. We moved the kitchen to the lanai to make 5 tasty mini pizzas as the rain started. Strawberry Granola for dessert. No campfire, but nice conversation.
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Kara was up early and made a fire. Grace slept in. Cooler and cloudy with light wind in our little protected bay. Another breakfast of biscuits and gravy and we were ready for the day.
Kara and I paddled together with Grace in the solo canoe. Navigated our way through the narrow channel to find the portage to Mountain Lake. A short portage was a welcomed sight. With Kara and Grace in the tandem, I took the solo canoe and with the wind at our back, we drifted the length of Mountain Lake to find the portage to East Bear Lake.
We explored the portage, to find a few trees down across the path and very muddy near East Bear Lake. The bugs were everywhere, so we wasted little time getting back to the canoes. We enjoyed the nice breeze and no bugs at the landing.
I helped launch Grace and Kara away from the landing, but the strong wind pushed them into the downed trees in the water. They were stuck, so I paddled over, stepped out of the solo canoe into waist deep water so Grace could get in. Next, I put Kara in the front of the tandem canoe while I took the rear. Grace was able to paddle the solo canoe back to the landing, but struggled with the strong wind. We tied the solo canoe to the back of the tandem and towed Grace into the teeth of the wind across Mountain Lake as a light rain began to fall. After the short portage, we were back on Crooked Lake and heading for our camp. We had a Bald Eagle pose for us on a dead tree branch.
We changed into dry clothes and tried to dry our wet clothes.
We were tired from a tough paddle, but Grace wanted to go fishing, so I setup a couple portable rods and we went out to fish our little bay in front of our camp.
Grace first caught a majestic Northern Pike. Her first fish!
I then caught a perch, barely bigger than the Mepps Syclops (the hot lure in Canada in May).
Grace landed a nice bass!
I followed with a pretty little pumpkinseed sunfish.
Rain ended our fishing and pushed us into the lanai to make lasagna for dinner with cheesecake for dessert.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
A hoot owl woke me up overnight and I got up early to start packing up my gear. It was noticeably cooler with a strong breeze – good drying weather after the rain overnight. Sun breaking through the clouds shimmered across the lake. Started coffee and continued to read Covered Waters before Kara joined me and started a fire. Grace slept in. Breakfast of egg muffins with Canadian bacon.
We broke camp and carried our packs down to the water. Grace wanted to fish again, so with Kara in the solo, Grace and I wrestled with the wind so she could cast. With the significant weight difference, the front of the canoe with Grace was well out of the water and acting like a sail. We had no control and was pushed to the other side of our little bay. Grace got out on shore, while I waded in the water pulling the canoe over and around trees until Kara could see us. Kara came over and we performed the same change that worked the day before. Grace got in the solo canoe while Kara and I got into the tandem. We made it back to camp, packed up the fishing gear, loaded the canoes and headed out with Grace in tow.
It was a tough paddle against a strong and often swirling wind and light rain, but we made it back to the Crooked Lake landing. Grace fished briefly while I walked up to the parking lot to get the truck, but she quickly paddled to shore when it started to rain much harder.
We loaded the canoes on the truck and we were off for home. A stop at the Kickback Grille on Duck Lake in Eagle River for dinner and a cold beer was very nice!
Despite the weather and the wind, it was a wonderful trip!