Today my mother and I were convinced by our island guides Betty and Ken, that we visit a little-known spot, deep in the woods on the west side of the island, where you can pick fresh wild cranberries in the fall. A wild cranberry bog! We loaded up in our Beaver Island limo, and set off.
The hike was lovely, the weather perfectly sunny and warm. Monty and Niko had their trail vests on as we hiked over a few hills.
Now, let me explain something about the island, and probably upper Michigan in general. There ARE public lands for hunting and hiking, etc. There are also private lands for these things. But the further north you get, and the further into areas where only maybe a few hundred people live throughout the year, the more blurred the line becomes between land that may or may not actually be “owned” by anybody.
So this cranberry bog MIGHT have been owned by somebody. But according to our guides, although it used to be a little known secret, someone told Tina (Oh, Tina.) and that was all it took. Now everybody knows that in the fall you can pick the tart little red suckers by the bushel full. All you do is take a trail all the way to the end through a clearing, through another clearing, and then the huge marshy field opens up in front of you. According to Betty, there are blueberries in the summer here also.
Beaver Island is full of these little known, or perhaps well-known (depending on who told Tina) places where you can pick wild and semi-wild fruits and veggies. There is a peach tree just behind the ball park. There are many apple trees, just growing along side the road. The Island used to be home to many fisherman and their families, and before that loggers, and before that small religious communities (the Mormans being a major one) avoiding persecution on the mainland. So their farms, now overgrown and hard to find, still produce a few surprises so many years later.
Ken was sure that there was a farm near the bog, and kept insisting that it was “just over the hill.” I wasn’t sure it existed, given that he must have pointed to two or three different hills where it lay “just over.” But finally, as we came to the end of the Hidden Valley trail just to the north of the bog trail, we made our way through a field and there it was!
The old house had since fallen down, but it still had the wooden shingles on the roof and the ladder to the attic. It was small, not more than 12X12. There was a foundation for what Ken hypothesized must have been a fruit cellar. The farm was a mile from the road, over many hills, so I can only imagine what it must have taken to haul that cement and stone out here to make such a structure. There was an old washtub, and a rusty old plow. I’m not sure when the chair arrived, because it was much newer (okay, relatively newer). Many people had been out here because of the geo-cache located near the rusty plow.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, geo-caching is an orienteering hobby in which people plot GPS points where they hide treasures and log books in metal boxes for people to find and add their own items. This one had a few toys, a business card, and our own addition, a dollar bill.
Lots of mushrooms and lichens dressed the forest up for our hike. Some of them were definitely poisonous.
I also found that someone had successfully found a marked the Font Lake trail, a trail that appears on the Beaver Island map, WHICH I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR SINCE I WAS TWELVE. Every year I thought I’d found it, but every year it dwindled into the bushes and foliage. Congrats, trail-finder, and thank you.
Mom picked many cranberries, so maybe there will be pie this week! Here’s to hoping.