South Manitou Island Retreat for 100 Boys Strong
Thank you for all of your support in making our trip happen! We returned home last week after five days of travel and camping. The experience was unforgettable. We headed up-north Saturday, June 1, with a stop at The Dune Climb on our way to the Platte River Campground. We totally relished in the laughter and genuine smiles of the boys clambering up and down the dunes. That night we learned about LNT (Leave No Trace) Principles, how to set up tents, make a campfire worthy of cooking dinner, and shared our first Campfire Circle. The boys expressed how much they had learned in that one day. It was truly inspiring!
Sunday, we woke early and packed our gear to make the Manitou Island Ferry for 9:15 am. Thank goodness we had our warm rain gear (thanks to Northern Illinois University Outdoor Adventure Center). We looked like a team heading off on the ferry! South Manitou Island Rangers gave us a brief orientation. Then, we lugged our gear 1/2 a mile each way to our campsite. We spent the rest of the day exploring the area around our group campsite (Bay is best!!). It has a beautiful view of the Manitou passage! To keep the pesky micro-bears from our food, we learned to hang a Bear Bag high up in a tree. It took three of us to raise it up and back down. We also gathered fallen wood for our campfire...glad we had an axe and plenty of birch bark! Thank you to Patty Kelly and her grandson, Jonathan, and Ranger Leah Messer who came out to our campfire and told us stories of the island's inhabitants and legends of the Anishinaabe people who view the island as Sacred. Their stories settled us in for the long cool night. Thank you NIU for 0 degree sleeping bags!!
On Monday, we met Patty and Jonathan to work on Service Learning Projects. DaShawn and KeMari did an excellent job weed-whacking the old farmsteads. The rest of us tracked down Patty to work on clearing a trail. The boys earned some pretty cool National Parks Volunteer pins. Afterwards, we explored more of the old farmsteads and cemetery.
The weather on Tuesday was beautiful. We explored the lighthouse and other trails. Some went to fish in Florence Lake, while the rest of us took the long hike up to the Old Growth Cedar Forest, the Perched Dunes, and the overlook to see the shipwreck of the Francisco Marizon. We made a huge dinner that night with a lot of food we didn't want to have to take home. Chef Dae'Juan's mac-n-cheese was the best! (Second, only to Loretta's breakfast pancakes.) Our last night around the fire was just as beautiful and touching as all the previous nights. We shared our life stories, hopes, fears, and dreams. Most of all we shared our love and support for one another. The stars shown brightly on the beach before we turned in for our last sleep on the island.
Thunder and lightening awoke us early Wednesday morning. Many of our tents flooded due to the very wet spring and high waters around the island. It was a very sloppy, but thankfully not cold, pack up of camp. We had to make several sloshing trips to heft all our gear back to the dock. Around noon, when the Mishawaka appeared out of the fog, we certainly cheered! We were ready for home. We made it back safely to school late Wednesday night. I am certain everyone had the best shower of their lives upon returning home.
The trip was truly a dream. Our young men were impressive and warm to everyone we met on the boat and the island. We made lasting memories and friendships that will hopefully serve to inspire us toward our goals. The island was a place where the boys could feel free to play and be boys, and to begin their transformation into men. It was an incredible honor to witness such an unfolding. The many sightings of monarch butterflies on the island trails were definite omens of this change.
Our future plans are to create a camp for the fall of the 2019-2020 school year. Each boy will invite a friend to mentor how to set up camp, be at home in the outdoors, and enjoy the brotherhood of Campfire Circles. We hope to partner with the Sierra Club Detroit Outdoors at Scout Hollow in Rouge Park. With a little leftover money, we have started a small Outdoor Adventure Fund at Hamtramck High School. We hope to write grants and begin to gather our own gear to make these future trips possible. In case you're wondering, Hamtramck Teachers already have plans for a Girls' Camp this Spring ;). We may have been bit by more than mosquitos...perhaps the outdoor bug has nipped us all!!!
Finally, this trip would not have happened without your support!!! We have so much gratitude to all of you who believed in this effort!!
Thank you to our sponsors:
Outer Limits Lounge
Caitlyn Drinkard and the Craig Brown Band
Hamtramck Fire Fighters
Alpha Beta Kappa Nu Teacher's Sorority
Trader Joe's Royal Oak
Northern Illinois University, Outdoor Adventure Center
Wayne Metropolitan Aciton Agency
Hamtramck Public School Teachers and Staff (there are so many of you to thank!!!)
Our Friends and Families
Reverend Sharon Buttry
Hamtramck City Council Members
National Parks System
Selfridge Air Force Base
and All of the Rest of You!!!!
And, a special thank you to Michael Valle, whom we borrowed from Northern Illinois University. You were the best trip leader, an inspiration to the boys and all of us! Without you, camp wouldn't have been so smooth, fun, or full of FLAVAS!! We wish you the best as you venture to Sacramento State's Outdoor Adventure Program!
100 Boys Strong and HHS Retreat Crew Staff
(Dave Farver, Jessica Madden, Loretta Oliver, John Rostek, Ann Schumacher, Dee Walker, and Michael Valle)
Here are some of our favorite pics!