posted on Apr, 21 2019 @ 06:20 PM
"Survival" isn't always what most people think it is. When you say the word 'survival' to someone, many people conjure up some doomsday scenario
akin to the "Day After" or some other apocalypse. Often times true survival is much more mundane and down to earth. Improvisation is always key.
To me, the definition of "survival" is some seriously off normal event which comes up on you when you least expect it, and lasts way longer than you
expected or were prepared for. This is one such story.
One day a couple buddies of mine and I were taking an easy camping / hiking trip off the west coast of lower Michigan on an island called South
Manitou Island. The year was 1990 or so. S. Manitou Island lies about 16 miles off the coast in Lake Michigan just west of Leland, MI. It may be a
lot different now, but here was our experience.
Our plan was to spend four days on the island, we left on Thursday afternoon and planned to spend Thursday through Saturday nights on the island
leaving on Sunday mid-day. Passage to S. Manitou is by ferry (or boat, not really a "ferry" as no cars are on board). The island is fairly small,
measuring only about 3 miles x 3 miles. All of us, save one, were experienced outdoorsmen who had grown up in Wyoming and Montana. We had good gear,
and this was just an easy, fun, weekend.
Friday was a beautiful day, and we pretty much hiked the whole island (including the giant dunes...which are a blast). Friday night some weather blew
in and it started to rain...and I mean RAIN! No worries, we were all good; rain is pretty much a non-issue if you're equipped properly. We had a
nice fire (which was kind of verboten) from dead fall and a nice tarp set up. Our tents were all 4 season tents and were nice and dry inside. Our
clothing was all set up to deal with any weather. And it continued to rain. And rain. And rain. Then the wind picked up, and the rain was going
By Saturday morning the wind was howling and the rain hadn't let up. We decided to hike over to the Coast Guard station to see if we could leave.
All the ferry's had been cancelled for the day. Oh well, back to our camp. Before we left we noticed a whole lot of 'refugees' staying at the old
CG rescue boathouse. Fair weather campers we thought. But I remembered this one guy who had his young son with him whom I had met on the boat over.
They didn't have a lot of gear, and he had his son for the weekend (divorced parent)...his boy was so excited. Camping with Dad! I hoped they were
okay. I didn't see him or his son, but I didn't look through everyone there.
Oh well, back to our camp.
By Saturday night we were one of the only ones who had a campfire (again, you weren't supposed to have one, but we made it from dead trees laying
around). At one point one of the park rangers came around and asked if they could have some of our fire to help some other people out. We gladly
accepted, and even went to help. Poor people were cold and wet, and completely unprepared. They were hungry and scared. We shared some of our food
with them (not much, but we didn't have a whole lot).
By Sunday morning the conditions hadn't improved even one bit. We were camped on the top of the dunes on the west side of the island which was the
windward side. Looking down the dunes we could see these 20+ foot waves crashing into the beach below. We didn't even bother walking across the
island that day to look into the ferry; no ferry would make this weather!
By Monday the weather was still awful, and one of the guys walked over to the old CG station...no ferry on Monday either. By now the old CG station
truly was a refugee camp. Even they were out of food. Apparently there was a diabetic who was out of insulin so they were going to send a helo out
to pick him up. We were pretty much out of food, and now collecting rain and lake water for water. The rain was unrelenting. Even we were now
starting to get wet. Climbing in and out of our tents while soaking wet was taking its toll. And we were out of food, and very hungry!
One thing about the island is, they had apples, lots and lots of apples. There were apples everywhere, so we started picking up apples. We had a few
basic supplies, so we made apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I learned something; apples get really old after they're all you have to eat!
On Tuesday we were ready to leave! But...no ferry on Tuesday either. The situation at the old CG boat station was crazy. They even flew in some
crates of some kind of rations later that day. We just tried to keep to our own. Oh, and did I mention; if you eat nothing but apples you get the
Texas Two-Step in pretty short order...which means you need way more water! There was plenty of water falling from the sky, but you still had to boil
it just to be safe. We were working on traps to catch squirrels, but never managed to get anything, and our one fishing rod never caught a fish.
On Wednesday the boat came in the late day, much to our and everyone else's relief.
We were never in any real danger. Hardship, sure, but never life threatening, at least not for us.
I ran into that little boy and his dad on the boat back to Leland. He was wrapped in a blanket and freezing. Poor little guy! I've always felt bad
about that kid, and I sure hope it didn't spoil any future experiences with his dad (rare as they may have been). His dad was probably foolish for
going out there with just a kid's canvas pup-tent and some cotton sleeping bags, but he didn't know what was going to happen.
In the end, I don't think we could have done anything much better than we did. We had fire, we had water, and we managed to get food. And we had
Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). Oh sure, there's probably some things I wish I would have brought, but overall we were very prepared, probably "too
prepared"...but then, look what happened.
This is not an epic tale, but just a slice of life and one of those things you remember.
Sometimes, "Survival" isn't the end of the world, but rather just a short-lived experience which can be unpleasant, even deadly if you let it
I'd love to hear your stories.