Monday, August 10, 2015

1992 Backpacking Michigan's Sylvania Wilderness

The Sylvania Wilderness is a small wilderness of 18,327 acres within Michigan's Ottawa National Forest. comprised of rolling hills and clear, deep glacier-formed lakes. The 34 named landlocked lakes are fed by springs, precipitation, and bogs, and many of the lakes have sand beaches. Six of the lakes are over 250 acres in size, and the water is so clear you can see to a depth of 30 feet. The hardwood forest contains many trees which are over 400 years old including many record-size red and white pines. It is located on the Wisconsin-Michigan border seven miles from Watersmeet, Michigan.

In 1895, the area was bought for lumber operations. The owner was so impressed with the scenery, however, that he instead created an exclusive hunting and fishing club. In 1967, the Forest Service bought the land and has since removed all the old structures and amenities and is allowing it to revert to wilderness, which it was designated as in 1987.

Backpacking the 27 miles of trails is easy and the scenery is beautiful. Campsites border the lakes and canoeists outnumber backpackers by far, portaging the short distances between the lakes. Below are two of the 35 pristine lakes in the wilderness. Canoeing between the lakes is the most popular use of the area, but the wilderness area also provides easy beginning backpacking, and for fishermen, a chance to backpack short distances and enjoy many fishing spots in numerous lakes.

Here are two of the 35 pristine lakes in the wilderness. Canoeing between the lakes is the most popular use of the area, but the wilderness area also provides easy beginning backpacking, and for fishermen, a chance to backpack short distances and enjoy many fishing spots in numerous lakes.




It immediately becomes obvious why the owner decided to make a club rather than log the area. Why destroy such magnificent beauty!



When Scott and I arrived at our designated campground according to our permit, all the sites were taken by canoe parties. Obviously some were there without permits, but no one would admit it, so we bushwhacked a bit through the majestic forest...



...and located a site (illegal though it was since it wasn't in the campground) which was far better than the ones in the campground.  I had my paperwork, so if I had been challenged by a ranger, he could have sorted the situation out. This backpack was a brief stop on our way to backpack the Porcupine Wilderness State Park. I would suggest doing it as paddler rather than as a backpacker since you would cover far more territory and enjoy more scenery.




INFO:

Backpacking in Michigan by Pat Allen and Gerald DeRuiter: University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI; 188 pages.

Featured in Backpacker Magazine, June, 1992, page 80. 

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