Pellston Trip Features Lots of Water—Some Unwanted
Editor’s note: The following story about a trip sponsored by Student Activities to the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston is by Mike Wilkinson, a WCC staff member.
Thursday, June 3
On a cool, overcast morning I pulled up in the WCC parking lot, staring down a large brown tour bus with a few students milling around outside with their luggage in tow. I dropped off my things, and then took my car back to my apartment to ride my bike back to campus. They had room underneath the bus if students wanted to take their bikes, and I took full advantage of this.
Around 8:15am the bus pulled away from WCC. I grabbed a seat next to someone I didn’t know, and started chatting about classes and other trips we had been on, making the occasional dirty joke. I was surprised at the number of people going on this trip; the large bus was nearly full. We seemed to have a decent mix of men and women; mostly younger students, but a few older ones and a couple of WCC staff. Lunch, a few games, and then a nap later we were still on the road. Funny enough, just when I was starting to get a little stir crazy, we hit our exit off of I-75. At about 1:30pm we pulled into the unloading area of the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston.
Some of us were staying in dorm-style rooms, and other in cabins right next to the lake. My room was a shared dorm room, with a shared bathroom. It wasn’t big, but it was really all that we needed for a stay of a couple days. Each room had a door to a connected deck, which was really nice. After unpacking, the group received a brief lecture about the history of the station while we toured the grounds. Our guide showed us historic cabins, spoke of famous alumni, and took us underground to a soil-viewing tunnel.
Post-tour, I and a few other students hopped on our bikes. We went a couple of miles out and around, and even hung out at the beach for a break. The atmosphere of the woods and lake reminded me very much of other places I’ve been to in northern Michigan, which made me pretty happy. I enjoy going up north and to the U.P, and typically go at least once a year to go camping and hiking. A cool breeze came in through the trees from Douglas Lake, a large lake to the north of the station, which cooled the hot sun.
Dinner started at 6:00pm, so we hoofed it back and got in line at the cafeteria they had there. Every student who had gone before just raved about the food, so I certainly went in with expectations. Much to my delight, I was not let down. There was a wonderful family-style spread with lots of organically grown foods, including fruits and vegetables. Every meal ended up matching the quality of this one. If you were to make a meal like this back in Ann Arbor, you’d easily spend $20-$40 for all of the fresh produce for a single meal—and it was included in the $100 cost of the trip, so it was an exceptional value.
I left dinner a little early to go out to take photos; the evening sun was starting to cast some really nice light. Before I got my camera gear together, I was flagged down to play “cornhole” by a couple of students and someone who was there doing a month-long study from another college. (Cornhole is the game where you toss beanbags into a hole in a piece of wood)
Once I collected my camera kit, I headed east along the coast of Douglas Lake, trying to find a good spot to get a shot of the sunset. I stopped where there was some driftwood in a convenient place to sit and waded into the water. It was only knee high for several hundred feet out, so I just rolled my jeans up and walked way out in the lake, which was very cool. The sun set over the trees, followed by swarms of mayflies coming out of the woods. I jetted back to my dorm before getting covered in them.
Friday, June 4
I woke up early to catch breakfast, which was another decent spread with pancakes, oatmeal, and all the fresh fruit you could eat. I stopped by the lake, which had an eerie mist across it, and took some photos before getting my things ready for the afternoon’s activities.
By about 10am the day had become overcast, and most of the group got together and left for the Indian River to go rafting. I hadn’t been rafting before, so I was really interested to get my first taste of it. After a brief demo from the rafting guides, we grabbed life jackets and oars and got into groups for rafting teams. My raft had seven people. I have to say that even though it wasn’t a very a difficult river (there was no white water), just trying to paddle as a team and avoid fallen trees was a challenge. We had several near misses and someone in the back even fell out! As we ended our trip near Burt Lake, the rain started to pick up. We portaged and went back to the bus for lunch.
During the drive home, the rain became ridiculous. We got back to the station around 3:00pm and most of the students puttered around for a while. I made some photos in the rain and then turned in for a much needed nap. I got up for dinner, played some euchre with friends, and went for a walk down the beach before finally going to bed.
Saturday, June 5
Another early morning. I went around taking some photos after breakfast. We loaded into the bus around 9:00am and left for Mackinaw City to catch a ferry to Mackinac Island. The weather was a little overcast, right around the mid-60s, and threatening to rain a bit more.
We got our ferry tickets and waited on the pier for the Marquette II to pick us up. I, of course, rode on the top floor to take some photos. The Mackinac Bridge looked spectacular from this point of view! The wind whipped everyone’s hair around for a minute, but then we got yelled at for standing up and moving around when we weren’t supposed to be.
Once on the island, I felt a little crowded by the mass of people in the immediate vicinity. Lots of bikes, horse carriages, and shops lined Main Street, so I set off on my bike with a few people along the east coast of the island. The scene quickly turned from a town to a serene road along the coast. We biked for about five or six miles, checked out a few sights, and eventually cut through the center of the island. The ride became a little difficult as it went uphill, and I ended up meeting with a few other students at a cemetery. After making a few other stops on the way back to town, we got some lunch at a restaurant near Main Street. I was surprised that the prices were actually reasonable; they were very comparable to typical prices for food on the mainland. I had assumed that prices would be higher than normal since there wasn’t much choice. I was thinking it would be like movie theater/sporting venue prices, especially with this being a large tourist destination.
After lunch, I went with a few friends to hunt down some geocaches that were hidden on the island. We found two out of three—not bad! I wanted to find more (there are over 100 there!) but I only had so much time. My friends and I took a nice walk on the southwest coast that we wouldn’t have taken had we not been looking for the caches.
I caught up with a few other people for a quick dinner before getting onto the ferry ride home around 7:00pm. I was exhausted from all the riding and walking I had done on the island, and was happy to freshen up with a much needed shower once we got back to the UMBS. Some card games ensued, and there was even a square dance session that was put on by the people who were working/studying there for the whole season. Unfortunately, the rain came back, and most people stayed indoors for the rest of the evening.
Sunday, June 6
I slept in that morning and it was glorious. When I finally rolled out of bed, I realized it was after 10:00am and I needed to pack up my things and get to brunch. I met up with people in the cafeteria for a quick meal (once again delicious), and then returned to my room to finish packing. The rain was still steadily pouring down from the previous night.
The ride home went without incident. I traded photos with some of the people I met on the trip, and was pretty happy about the time I had. I have to think that if the weather had been sunny and warmer, I would have spent more time at the beach and out on the water. In all this was a pretty good trip. I got to meet a bunch of interesting people, take lots of photos, visit new places, and relax in the woods. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trip sells out next year if Student Activities does it again, so I plan to get my ticket as soon as it’s available.
Mike Wilkinson does video and photography work in Web Services at WCC.