The Odyssey Visits Majestic Estivant Pines

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Estivant Pines

The trunk and roots of one of the large trees at Estivant Pines. Photo by Dave Wendling

It did not take much to get us excited about our trip to Estivant Pines; while the point can always be debated, for many MNA members this is the crown jewel of MNA’s 172 sanctuaries. Located just outside of Copper Harbor, the 510 acres of old-growth eastern white pine forest is truly awe inspiring. The trail offers the opportunity to stand next to 500-year-old pines standing more than 125 feet tall.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny as we celebrated our good fortune to be heading out on such a perfect day. There is never a guarantee of good weather in the Keweenaw; in fact, one old joke is “we had a perfect summer in Calumet: it was on August 14th”.  September 29th was going to be another exceptional day as the highs were in the 60s with no breeze, no bugs, and the fall color was spectacular throughout the Keweenaw. We were delighted as the 25 people that we expected continued to grow as more cars arrived until we had more than 40 participants.

Working together

Working together to build a new boardwalk at the sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Steward Ted Soldan, who has been involved with the care of the woods since the beginning, spoke passionately of the Pines and then offered participants the unique opportunity of helping to build a boardwalk that needed replacing. Almost everyone volunteered to participate, and Ted, assisted by his wife Alice, handed out boards, nails, and tools to each volunteer to help carry into the woods. For most people it was the first chance they had ever had to participate in this kind of stewardship project, and much laughter and encouragement ensued. Our youngest hiker was the first to span the bridge. When finished, the hike resumed with the knowledge that “many hands did make for fast work”. How proud we all were to know in a small way we had helped to make Estivant Pines a more welcoming sanctuary.

Following our two-hour hike, we met at the Copper Harbor Community Center, which Ted had reserved for us, and with the help of Bill and Nancy Leonard, and Joan Chadde, we enjoyed a delicious assortment of food from the Keweenaw Co-Op.  MNA Board President Steve Kelley spoke about long- and short-range goals for MNA, and Executive Director

First steps

Our youngest hiker, Flora, was the first to cross the new boardwalk. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Garret Johnson also shared information about a legislative proposal that we should be aware of that would make all of our sanctuaries accessible to off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. While it is not expected that this bill will be passed by Michigan’s legislature, it is something we do need to be kept apprised of.

With our thanks to Ted and Nancy, and hugs all around, 14 of us wished to continue the fellowship and went across the street to The Mariner North for dinner…and still wishing to continue the “good vibrations” of the perfect day, nine of us and three beautiful dogs went to watch the moon rise over Hunters Point, a township park.  It was hard to believe we had just one more day of the Odyssey. Could it be true that this marvelous adventure was less than 24 hours from coming to an end?  How could we have imagined how hard it would be to say goodbye to all the wonderful people who had made the Odyssey greater than all our lofty expectations?

[Ed. note: Our friends at the White Sky Woods blog shared additional photos and details from the Odyssey Tours of Estivant Pines and Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Pay them a visit!]

[Ed. update (3:48 p.m.): in an earlier version of this blog post, Alice Soldan was misidentified. We apologize for the error and have corrected the mistake in the text above.] 

Students Make a Difference at MNA’s Estivant Pines

By Nancy Leonard
MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer

On a crisp late fall morning in the Keweenaw, Ted and Alice Soldan, stewards of the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, made their way north with a pick-up load of lumber, newly-sawn at their own mill.  By 10:30 am, most of the young student volunteers had arrived to meet Ted and Alice at the Pines and were chomping at the bit for the project to begin.  Nineteen young people, mostly MTU students from the service fraternity Delta Upsilon, and one from the Rotary group, Rotaract, came to spend their Saturday in service for “Make a Difference Day”.

group of students

MTU students

The Estivant Pine Nature Sanctuary serves as the flagship sanctuary for the Keweenaw.  Even though it is tucked almost at the end of this remote northern peninsula, it is the largest by far, and the most visited.  Ancient giant white pines are scattered throughout and are easily seen from a well-maintained trail system.

Before the work begins, Alice posed the group in front of the MNA sign for a portrait.  Ted, in the meantime, organized the long support board timbers and the bundles of boardwalk steps into work site groups.  The goal for the day:  haul in the lumber for various boardwalk projects.

man smiling

A student smiles while carrying lumber to the site.

Ted and Alice have hauled in lumber for years.  By the looks on their faces, it was obvious that they were totally pleased that younger bodies would bear the load this time.

Ted shared with the group an overview of the project at hand and explains why and how the boardwalks are built.  Then he directed the hauling to work sites, the most distant site being more than a mile from the trailhead.  In no time, the lumber was hoisted by the volunteers and hauled up the trail.

students carrying wood through forest

Students carry the wood to the sites within the sanctuary.

I followed along behind the group that has chosen the longest route, the one to work site four. Along the way, Ted pointed out a special tree, told a story and shared a quote from the likes of Edward Abbey.

Having finally arrived at the work site, the students were instructed as to how to stack the lumber and then how to camouflage it.  And rather than just turning back, Ted led the group on the rest of the trail loop.  At the Bertha D. Memorial Grove, the group was encouraged to sit a bit and relish being in the presence of giant pines. Ted shared more stories and more quotes; he obviously loves this place and the students picked up on it.

students sit among trees

Students take a break and admire the giants that surround them.

By early afternoon, all the lumber has been hauled in, old lumber hauled out and deadfalls cut up and moved off trail.

As Ted says, “We walked out of the Pines …. leaving things much better than they were.” That, I would say, is called making a difference.