WestSouthwest: Walking the Great Lakes

Sep 3, 2013

Loreen Niewenhuis has a close encounter with a wave
Credit Loreen Niewenhuis

What’s an author to do after writing about a thousand-mile walk around Lake Michigan? If you’re Loreen Niewenhuis of Battle Creek the answer is simple: hike another thousand miles around parts of the other lakes. Niewenhuis recently published a new book about that experience called A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Walk and it has received some national media attention.

Niewenhuis began the first segment of her walk in April 2012 along Lakes Erie, Saint Clair, and Huron. That included a hike through parts of Detroit most people avoid. But Niewenhuis says she thought it was important to see and experience all aspects of the lakes, even pollution and decay.

Her journey continued in June along parts of Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan. Niewenhuis and one of her two sons then visited Mackinac Island in July before heading north to the Upper Peninsula, Lake Superior, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as well as the Keweenaw Peninsula. Niewenhuis says Superior is the oldest, largest, and deepest of the Great Lakes with unique geological features.

Later that month, Niewenhuis crossed over into Canada to walk along Lake Ontario between Toronto and Belleville. Along the way she met several Canadians who are descendants of American “Loyalists” who sided with the British during the War of Independence. Niewenhuis found that the next clash between the U.S. and Britain – the War of 1812 – is a much bigger deal in Canada that it is south of the border. She says that isn’t very surprising, given that the war saw several unsuccessful invasions of Canada by U.S. forces. This September, she’ll be aboard a replica of the schooner USS Scorpion during a reenactment of the Battle of Lake Erie on its 200th anniversary in 2014.

Despite all of the miles, shoe leather, and sights, Niewenhuis says Lake Michigan remains her favorite. During September 2012 she spent time exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Manitou islands. Niewenhuis calls Michigan “my lake”. She says it possesses a “magnetic force” that aligns something within her when she’s there.

Her journey ended in October when she joined friends and family for a hike near Niagara Falls. Niewenhuis says seeing the water rushing over the falls drove home the fact that water in all of the Great Lakes eventually finds its way to the North Atlantic.

Niewenhuis has posted a number of short videos on Youtube showing highpoints of her journey. She also has a Facebook page.

In 2014, Niewenhuis plans to begin a new series of adventures on islands in the Great Lakes. That will include participating in scientific research projects studying threatened shore birds and the declining wolf population on Isle Royale. She expects to have a book about that ready in 2015.