Category Archives: Photo

What to do on South Manitou Island

South Manitou Island, located 17 miles off the western shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I’ve had two opportunities to visit this island so far this summer while leading adventure trips and here’s what I think you should know before you go:


Beaches of South Manitou Island


Keep your trip short:

The island is only 10 miles in circumference, easily a day hike for most people. If you stay on the island for more than two nights you’ll be bored of finding new sights quickly. If, however, you want to take a hammock, get a beach-side campsite, and enjoy a very relaxing and pristine week then by all means, stay a while!

Visit these sights:


My Hennessy Hammock A-Sym Ultralight at Group Site #2, Weather Station Campground

The best sights are the village (where the ferry drops you off) and visitor center, the wreck of the Morzan, and the dunes. Catch the lighthouse tour before you go as well, meet at the lighthouse at 2pm for a 20 minute ranger led tour to the top of the light with the best possible views of the entire island.

Bring water shoes:

Recent Zebra Mussel population spikes have left the shores of South Manitou Island littered with the razor sharp shells of these little guys. In some places you can walk for yards without even touching sand on the beach! Thanks to the Zebra Mussel there has been a spike in algal growth along most of the shoreline, so also expect a green muck-like consistency in some of the lake water.

Camp at Weather Station Campground #10:

Site #10 at Weather Station Campground has unobstructed views of Lake Michigan from a site perched atop a sand dune. It has direct access to the beach less than 20 yards down the sand and is very close to the potable water access and the restrooms. Best campsite on the island by far!

What are your favorite sites on South Manitou?


Top Five Best Things About Working Outside

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

-Henry David Thoreau

#5. Watch The World

When I worked as a county Park Ranger, my morning routine would involve driving to each park, unlocking the gate, parking the truck, cleaning the parking lot, emptying garbage bins, etc.

Every morning the same routine, but never boring. I would greet the resident squirrel who, most mornings, was perched on the fence shucking a nut. A year later that squirrel stopped showing up, I assume she (or he) perished.

Without the opportunity to be out there every morning though, I would never have noticed something so small. I would not notice the subtle change in the morning air as fall turned to winter and I feel sorry for those without the opportunity to get to know the world.

#4. Get paid to wake up with a view


Tennet Mountain: Pisgah NF, NC.

When I’m out leading wilderness trips, it always amazes me that someone is willing to pay me to immerse myself in such beauty. No other job on earth allows you to make a living while finding such peace and discovery. Every day on the trail is full of learning and adventure.

#3. Stay in shape

You won’t even need an exercise routine, because your employer pays you to exercise. Landscaping, gardening, construction, trip leading, rock climbing… these are all possible outdoor professions (among others). Every one of them is an exercise routine in its own right, and you’ll love every minute of it!

#2. let your employer do the work for you

Most seasonal outdoor gigs (I.E. trip leading, ski instructing, camp chef, etc.) pay your room and board. Often your room is a tent, and your board is dehydrated rations, but I happen to love both of these things so it’s a win-win.

Employers will often pay a travel stipend, so it will cost you little or nothing to get to your next seasonal outdoor job.

The added bonus? You’ll be spending time outdoors, instead of near the shopping mall. So that paycheck isn’t going anywhere and you have no choice but to save up.

#1. Get the sickest jobs on the planet


Climbing Scab Creek Buttress.

No other industry will pay you to dangle your clients from a rope 3,000ft off the deck (they enjoy it, anyways). No Wall Street brokers go home at night to tell their loved ones that they came face to face with a bull moose while cooking breakfast in the Wind River Mountains (but they do make more money than us).

There is no question, no debate: outdoor industry jobs are sick!


NOLS Outdoor Educator Course

NOLS Outdoor Educator Course

My NOLS family on our last day in the backcountry. Little did we all know the stomach ache awaiting us upon reintroduction to front-country food. You’ll notice that I am still wearing my climbing helmet (far left), there was no more room in my pack when we left camp so it went on my head!

Here’s a little information for those of you who might be thinking about signing up for a NOLS OEC.

What can you expect from your NOLS OEC?

  • A reliable, professional, well managed expedition
  • High quality educator focused curriculum
  • Friendly, professional instructors ready to answer every question
  • A whirlwind in-town experience (less than 24 hours from the first meeting to boarding the bus)
  • Establish new and lasting professional connections
  • Access to a huge database of knowledge (written and verbal)
  • Heavy, large, sometimes antiquated group gear. As a UL backpacker, this bothered me at first but I soon came to understand NOLS’s reasoning.

What’s the biggest drawback?

In my opinion, it’s the hefty price tag that is the Achilles heel of any NOLS course. Expect to shell out $200 per day or better for your NOLS course.

Should I take a NOLS course?

This is going to depend heavily on what you want to get out of it. Here’s a list of reasons why (and why not) to sign yourself up.

  • Pro: NOLS carries some serious weight on an outdoor resume and most courses offer industry standard certifications
  • Pro: NOLS can teach you the safest and most up-to-date backcountry techniques for any skill they offer
  • Pro: The friends and connections you make in a NOLS course just might land you your next job. After all, it’s about who you know.
  • Con: NOLS’s price tags are inhibitive for those seeking a casual guided adventure. Plus, you’ll be expected to carry your own weight (literally).
  • Con:  You may earn yourself the “NOLSie” or “Granola Cruncher” title.
  • Con: It can sometimes be difficult to find a course offering all the skills or certifications you want, and none you don’t. I don’t want to pay for a course offering a WFR cert when I already have one, that’s a waste of my time and money.