Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

They Almost Lost the Pines

Thursday June 26, 2014
Fort Wilkins State Park Campground
Copper Harbor, Michigan



We have a slow morning after our long day yesterday. So it’s nearly 1:00 before we head out to walk the trails in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.

Estivant Pines is a very interesting place and a great example of community effort to save a beloved area.

The Sanctuary holds one of the last stands of virgin white pine in the state. All others fell to the logging boom and we owe our ability to walk among them today to a number of people.

First was Edward A. J. Estivant of France for whom the sanctuary is named. He bought 2400 acres of heavy Upper Peninsula timber in 1861 during the state’s copper mining boom days. The land remained in the family until 1942 when his decedents sold it to the Calumet & Hecia Mining Company. Only 750 acres of timber remained.


In 1970, many of those acres were cut and more logging planned. A local Copper Harbor resident initiated the first call to save the trees. I’m not sure why this person is not given credit in all the information presented on the sanctuary. Surely they deserve it.

Logging was successfully halted due to the efforts of an extensive fundraising campaign to raise the money to buy the land.  This seems about the only way to save anything is to own it. 

In 1973 the Michigan Nature Association purchased 200 acres to create the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Unfortunately in 1987 a logger trespassed into the sanctuary and cut 24 trees. Lost his way he claimed. Right. He didn’t think it odd that all of a sudden the trees he was cutting were over twice the size of anything else around. I asked at the Visitor Center what happened to this man and was told that the punishment was no where near the crime. Are we surprised?

Today Estivant Pines spans 508 acres including large buffer zones. White pine is dominant in the sanctuary, red oak, sugar maple, yellow birch, white birch, balsam fir, hemlock, white cedar and white spruce are also found.

The road to the Pines is “an improved” backwoods road”. The information says it is “safe when negotiated carefully”. We find this to be a true fact. :-)  I guess this is why people drive those enormous SUVs. But Ruby can do it and does.



On the information board at the trail head they have a cross section of one of the trees that was cut in the 70’s.  It was a perfectly healthy tree, measurers 2.5’ across and shows 483 rings.  It was displayed throughout Michigan during the fund raising effort to save the Pines.  The paper strip in the middle indicates the events this tree has witnessed.  It starts in the middle at 1500 – Columbus in America. The 5th one down is 1692 Salem Witch Trials.  #7 is The Louisiana Purchase and shortly after Napoleon defeated at Waterloo.  What stories this tree could tell.





There are two intersecting trails here with a lead in trail.  We walk in from the parking area and take the first trail to our left the 1.2 mile Memorial Grove Loop Trail.


The central trail leading in is a climb with board walks and some tricky footing but we get to the beginning of Memorial Grove and find this hand carved sign.  I just love its home made simplicity.  Made with love by someone who cared about this place and who put these signs at multiple locations along the trails.  Do you see where we are?  David is walking down that first green line to the left.



It’s a tricky trail in spots and in some places it looks like it has been a while since anyone hiked here.



It isn’t long before the big trees begin appearing.  They are beside the trail, just off the trail, in the woods.  We look up and we can see them towering high.   This place is magical.





They are big and tall and we love them all.


We brought our lunch with us so we wouldn’t be delayed in getting on the trail any longer.  David is hungry so he finds this rock for our picnic lunch.  I don’t have much trouble with the mosquitoes as long as I’m moving but if I do more than pause to take a picture, they find me.  So I’m wearing my bug hat for lunch.  David thinks this is funny especially since I love to have salad for lunch and eat if with my fingers.   I know, I’m weird but I do love finger food and try to turn as many things into it as I can.  The mosquitoes are confounded.








This is an interesting old growth forest in that it has a thick understory in some places.



We’re now half way around the Memorial Trail.  Bertha Daubendiek founded the Michigan Nature Association in 1951. She’s a real environmental pioneer working before even Rachel Carson to protect the environment in her state of Michigan.  I’m happy to have found out who she was and about the debt Michigan owes her.  We are able to see these trees because of the work of the Michigan Nature Association.





The roots stabilizing this  tree are larger than many other individual trees in the forest.  





The root ball of this fallen giant reaches out of the picture.




At this point we are half way around and move on to the 1 mile Cathedral Grove Loop Trail.


These are only a few of the pictures of these beautiful giant pines that I took.  They are simply amazing.  To think of being 300 to 500 years old just boggles my mind.








We try to do a double hug but the trees are just too big.




I feel small in most company but here I feel absolutely tiny.



We are back to the foot of the loops and on our way down the straight shot back to the parking area.  It’s DOWNhill this time.







When we get to the parking area, I discover that my sunglasses are missing.  You really don’t need them in a forest this dense so I had put them up on my hat.  Works fine unless you take your hat off to get a picture of two people trying to get their arms around two giant trees.  At least I know where they are so I do an about face.  I know exactly where I forgot them.  David, the good sport, comes along and that’s saying a lot since the leg up to the loops is up hill and rough.

I hurry along, pick them up and am coming back when I catch him.  I don’t save him much of the trail but some.

It’s been a great hike in the midst of the oldest trees in this state and perhaps East of the Mississippi.  They look strong and healthy and that has made us both very happy.  Hats off to all of those who worked so hard to save this special place from the logging machine.


We have dinner and spend a few hours noodling around and then it’s time for our appointment with the sunset over Lake Michigan.  It’s a wonderful ritual to walk over there through the trees and see that giant orange orb flaming in the sky.  And again tonight, it does not disappoint.







Another wonderful day and beautiful night in Copper Harbor Michigan.


  1. Luv the ole giants! I can only imagine the wrinkles I would have if I was 300 to 500 years old. Narly bark indeed!!

  2. You always write such in depth interesting entries. I get tired and post mostly pictures! One o'clock is a really late start for you but you had beautiful lighting for your pictures. Thanks!

  3. My kind of place. Have been curious as to whether or not ticks have been an issue for you. They are terrible here this year. I even saw one crawling up the windshield of my car in the middle of town last week. That has never, ever happened before and I rarely even see them in the park. I've read a lot about Copper Harbor since you've been there and have decided I'd love to drive Hwy 41 from it intersecting point in TN up to Copper Harbor. Bill just rolls his eyes and says make me a plane reservation, but being the Road Warrior I am, it sounds like a fun road trip with a great ending point and lots of interesting stuff in between! You posted early in the day - must either be raining or a rest day! (Whoops, now I remember you said it was a "slow" day after yesterday!) It doesn't matter when you post - I always enjoy it!

  4. Beautiful...except for the mosquitoes. Not for me. Great hike. Picnic Lunch. Gorgeous sunset. Not bad for a "late start". You and David are incredible. Glad you found your sunglasses.

  5. Haven't been to Michigan... sounds like a good summertime place to check out. I am in love with Maryland in the summer... and except for the ocean.. hate to venture away much. Amazing that you found your sunglasses, Sherry! David looks so healthy in these photos... we both smile when we see this! Keep hiking... and tree hugging.... and stay away from those mosquitoes. We had a great time last night... free concert.. in our local park... with Beatles music..and gorgeous weather... and friends.

  6. I love those uneven, rooted trails. Beautiful trees! I don't think I can do the mosquitoes. I wouldn't find any beauty of I had to have those pest around. They seem to over populated this year for sure.

    Gorgeous sunset over calm waters:)

  7. I know you two are smiling after spending the afternoon with those BIG trees:o))) Your photos are wonderful, but I'm sure it must be amazing to see it in person!!! Those sunsets are pretty special also;o)

  8. Trees make me happy too! Beautiful sunsets, thank you for sharing!

  9. Your dialogue and photos have us chomping at the bit to head to the U.P. in September. We're hoping for fall colors and hikes to many waterfalls. Thanks for all the info!

  10. Great sunset! Glad you got your glasses back.

  11. What beautiful big trees. Another lovely sunset picture, especially with the island. So glad you went back and found your glasses!

  12. Those are some really terrific tree shots, just love the view up to the treetops.

  13. How fortunate we are that some wise and brave souls have worked hard to preserve the wilderness for us. You look so happy amongst the giant trees! Your last photo of the island in the sunset is especially beautiful.

  14. You're lovin' on those big trees so much, the little trees will be getting jealous... ;c)

  15. Gosh, those trees are incredible! Looks like a wonderful place - and, beautiful sunset...

  16. I did not know these trees existed! Amazing! So old and so big. Thanks for the pics.

  17. Great trees-what beauties and quite a history indeed. They for sure saw the building of the trail. Lovely sunset after that pretty hike!

  18. I love looking up through the canopy of those tall beauties! We so often take for granted the natural areas we are so fortunate to enjoy, and I love that you make a point to name and give credit to those who fought against big money interests to keep them for us all. Kudos to them, and to you and David.


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