Adventure Day Trips

2022 Aldo Leopold Festival
Wednesday, June 1

To register: Click the “Register” button at the top of the page. The cost for a Festival Pass is $45 per person.  

Adventure Day Trips and paddling trips have separate fees. View the detailed schedule.

Full-Day Adventures:

Whitefish Point is known the world over as one of the great migration hot spots for many songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors — and you’ll spend a near-peak-migration day exploring the hawk watch, water bird shack, and songbird-filled woods. Whitefish Point Bird Observatory staff will discuss some of the amazing research and discoveries made here, and after lunch we will visit spruce grouse and crossbills habitats.

  • What to bring: Waterproof hiking shoes, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray
  • Meet:  Whitefish Point parking area (90 miles from Hessel; carpooling or caravanning info will be sent)
  • Time: 5:15 AM – 5:00 PM – includes 1:45 hour driving time to/from Hessel  
  • Guide: Elliot Nelson
  • Limit: 12 participants
  • Cost: $75 (includes lunch)

This remote Lake Superior shoreline is home to both a historic lifesaving station and endangered piping plovers nesting sites. In the morning, Dr. Jason Garvon from LSSU will guide you through the critical work done here and elsewhere in the Great Lakes for the plovers. Keep your fingers crossed for nesting plovers to be present! After lunch you will independently visit the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum (ticket included in cost).

The road to Vermillion Point is unimproved dirt and sand; vehicles with low clearance are not recommended. We will carpool and/or caravan from the Whitefish Twp. Community Center.

  • What to bring: Waterproof hiking shoes, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray
  • Meet: Whitefish Twp. Community Center, 7052 M-123, Paradise (82 miles from Hessel; carpooling or caravanning info will be sent)
  • Time: 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM; Includes 1.5 hour driving time to/from Hessel (meet Dr. Garvon at 9:00 AM sharp)
  • Guide: Dr. Jason Garvon
  • Limit: 15 participants
  • Cost: $75 (includes lunch and Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum ticket)

Spend the day exploring a remote 600-acre hunting camp with the three best guides our limited funds could afford. This property hosts eagles, loons, and beavers across its varied topography and forest. A slide presentation, paddling, hiking, and a traditional pasty lunch are all part of this unique experience.

  • What to bring: Waterproof hiking boots, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray. Hiking will be on uneven ground
  • Meet: Hessel School House to carpool/caravan to location 
  • Time: 8:00 AM – 3:30 PM
  • Guides: Rob Routledge, Steve Baker, and Ken Drenth
  • Limit: 12 participants
  • Cost: $75 (includes lunch) 

TRIP CANCELED – Start the day with a guided tour of Lake Superior State University’s new Richard & Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE), followed by self-paced exploration of the native-plant rain gardens, salmon fish hatchery, freighter watching (depends on timing), and the Discovery Center. After lunch, hike the mostly flat Algonquin Ski Trails and learn about sustainable forest management, invasive species, and private landowner conservation programs. 

The landscape of the Les Cheneaux area is shaped by a long, geologic history — 400 million years in the making when this area was a warm, shallow sea, then later scraped by mile-high glaciers. Gain a deeper understanding of what is literally underfoot by visiting both a working quarry and the Carl A. Gerstacker Nature Preserve.

What to bring: Waterproof hiking shoes, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray

  • Meet: Cedarville High School bus parking lot  
  • Time: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Guides: Libby Ives – sedimentary geologist and geomorphologist; Melissa Simon – Senior Manager and Mine Engineering, Carmeuse Limestone; Shaun Howard, Protected Lands Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy
  • Limit: 20 participants
  • Cost: $75 (includes lunch)

TRIP CANCELED – Get ready to soar by visiting the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) to learn about the spectacular spring and fall migrations, banding, and the geolocation data the MSRW has been gathering. While keeping an eye to the sky for raptors, we will visit key areas where migrating warblers and waterfowl recharge, and enjoy northwoods wildflowers at the Headlands, French Farm, Dingman’s Marsh, and other areas along the way. 

After taking a boat ride across Hessel Bay to Marquette Island, you’ll spend the day trail-clearing alongside Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) staff in the same woods that young Aldo wandered! Using supplied tools, we will work our way inland along a rustic and little-used trail that LTC is looking to improve.

Most of this trip’s costs are underwritten by the LTC in appreciation for your efforts — thank you! 

  • What to bring: Waterproof hiking shoes, clothing suitable for trail work, work gloves if you have them, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray
  • Meet: Hessel Marina
  • Time: 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM
  • Guide: LTC Staff
  • Limit: 12 participants
  • Cost: $25 (includes lunch)

Smartphone cameras allow us to easily capture what we see — but people are often disappointed with their images. This hands-on workshop will put any skill level on a direct path to becoming a photography “genius” of lectures, field trips, and the wonders of the digital darkroom. Dinner is provided and timed so you can attend the monarch butterfly talk before we head out for a final photo session to capture the golden hour of sunset.

A slideshow of participants’ photos will be displayed at HSH through the remainder of the festival.

  • What to bring: iPhone or Android smartphone, charger, and rain gear 
  • Meet: Hessel School House
  • Time: 1:00–9:45 PM  (sunset is 9:20 PM)
  • Guide: Sue Bakkila
  • Limit: 16 participants
  • Cost: $75 (includes dinner)

TRIP CANCELED – For late sleepers, start your day with great locally-roasted-beans coffee at the Les Cheneaux Coffee Roasters, followed by a boat ride to Government Island. Once there, hike along the trails while learning how the island was used for constructing Lake Huron’s remote Martin Reef Light Station. After lunch and a return voyage, you may choose to gather at Les Cheneaux Distillers to swap stories and enjoy a drink of choice. Participants will also receive a copy of the book “Martin Reef, Lightship to Lighthouse” by John Sellman.

Half-Day Adventures:

The Nature Conservancy’s Maxton Plains Preserve is a globally rare area of exposed limestone bedrock and shallow soils. These harsh environments are dominated by grasses, sedges, and wildflowers like early buttercup, early saxifrage, and prairie smoke, but also present the opportunity to discover detailed fossils exposed in the calcareous bedrock like nautiloid cephalopods. The Haacks, long-time summer residents, will be your guides on this tour.

  • What to bring: Waterproof hiking boots, drinking water, rain gear, and bug spray
  • Meet: Drummond Island Ferry parking area
  • Time: 8:40 AM ferry – 1:10 PM ferry*
  • Guides: Robert and Sheridan Haack 
  • Limit: 25 participants
  • Cost: $40 (includes lunch)


*Allow at least 35 minutes to drive the 28 miles from Hessel to DeTour Village. The ferry is first-come, first-served, so we recommend getting in line by 8:25 AM (depart) / 12:50 PM (return) or earlier. If you miss the morning ferry, you are on your own to rendezvous with the group. Ferries leave the mainland on the 0:40 and return on the 0:10 of every hour.