Estivant Pines Sanctuary
In 1971 Lauri Leskinen published an article in the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette called The Last Stand. It addressed protecting “one of the last stands of virgin pines in the Midwest” from the lumber industry. This article paired with photographs of loggers cutting down the pines taken by Charles Eshback, started a movement known as “Save the Pines” and by August 17, 1973 the Michigan Nature Association received a copy of the deed to the area where these massive trees resided. So began the sanctuary.
The area is 508 acres and contains trees that range in height from 130 to 150 feet. Some of the fallen leaves were at least double the size of my hand. Even the ferns seemed to be gigantic compared to other forests we have visited. We found some fallen trees and used Brisco as a size model to give a better idea of just how massive these trees are.
There are three possible hiking trail options. The Cathedral Grove Loop, the Memorial Grove Loop or a combined Cathedral and Memorial Grove Loop. We took the longest route, visiting both the Cathedral Grove and Memorial Grove Loops. It was completely worth it. The Cathedral Grove Loop is a one mile loop that contains the biggest and oldest pines in the sanctuary. Some of them measure over four feet in diameter! Many of these trees are over the age of 500.
The Memorial Grove Loop is a 1.2 mile loop and is the main trail that you begin on from the parking area. It takes you through a large grove of younger pines, ranging in 200 years old. These pines were seeded after a hot fire cleared the competing hardwoods. Taking both loops is about a 2.5 mile hike and takes you rugged terrain. Although the trail isn’t easy, it isn’t extremely difficult either. As long as you’re in physical condition for a long walk, you should be able to handle either loop fine.
I was very, very happy that we were able to make it to the Estivant Pines. I twas a great experience and fun to imagine how the entire U.P used to be covered with such massive trees. I highly recommend you make time for this stop if you ever visit the Keweenaw.
If you’re interested in more information about the sanctuary or sanctuaries across Michigan, visit the Michigan Nature Association’s website.
Manganese Falls – A Shining Star
Manganese Falls is a 45 foot tall waterfall on the Manganese Creek that plummets into a very deep and narrow gorge. It is not an easy waterfall to access. When you first arrive at the falls, there is an overlook that provides you with a very limited view. If you head a little north of the overlook, you can see the top of the falls before it descends into the gorge. This is a very slippery area and I’m pretty sure I made Steve nervous trying to get the perfect photograph of it as I balanced on the edge. of the gorge.
Just a little ways down the road from the falls, towards town, there is a two-track that takes you to a bridge over the creek. This is all easily within walking distance. There is a small dam just up the stream that you can see from the bridge. We left the trail behind and climbed up the rocks along the stream to get past the dam and into the base of the gorge. You can’t see the base of the falls from here, however. Once inside the gorge, it felt like we entered a completely different world from long ago. The vegetation is massive, the large rocks just look ancient and the trees roots were huge.
If you’re up for a little adventure, I certainly recommend you try to see this waterfall.
Clark Mine Ruins
Opened on December 19 1853, the Clark mine was one of the smaller mines in the area. It was worked periodically until it’s closing in 1901. The deepest shaft was 300 feet and had several adits. All that remains standing of the mine is the smelting stacks.
This was our second attempt to view the Hungarian Falls, located on Dove Creek. The first attempt was in December and we only found the dam. This attempt we still failed at seeing all of the falls and ended up only seeing the Upper Falls.
Steve has nicknamed the upper falls “Fairy Falls” because it looks like it should be in an enchanted forest, not in a hardwood forest in Michigan. The falls is about ten feet wide and twenty-five feet high. Part of its beauty was from the many streams of water that descended over rough rock. I’m guessing that when the water level is higher, this falls might not be as enchanting.
If you go downstream, you’ll reach the dam (this is close to the parking area). It’s about a five-foot drop and, in my opinion, extremely ugly. Supposedly, if you continue downstream for another 100 yards and you’ll reach the second drop. It’s almost a direct drop over sandstone and is only about seven feet in height. The third drop is supposed to be another two hundred and fifty feet and 25 feet high, dropping into a “moss-covered canyon”. I imagine that this one would be quite beautiful.
The fourth drop is supposed to be the most spectacular. According to the Keweenaw Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the falls is 15 feet in height. However, I’ve read in other locations that this waterfall drop is 50 feet in height. When the snow begins to melt, early spring, the falls is supposed to become a very large and very impressive waterfall. During the rest of the year, it’s no more than a stream of water.