Fred Struhsaker: A Quiet Friend in Lansing

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park had several friends in Lansing in the early 1940s including the governor and the director of the Michigan Department of Conservation. One man who worked quietly behind the scenes to obtain funding for the creation of the Park was Fred Struhsaker, chief of the Conservation Department Lands Division from 1934 until 1951 when he was promoted to become secretary of the Conservation Commission. Those who worked with him described him as a man who never lost his temper, never rushed, and who got things done. As chief of the Lands Division, he was responsible for the administration and conservation of over 4 million acres of public lands. He has been described as the field commander, in 1945, in the $3 million dollar purchase of recreation lands in southeastern lower Michigan and the $1 million dollar purchase of the 60,000 acres that became the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Contemporaries described Struhsaker as a “true conservationist who performed a real service for the people of Michigan in his chosen field.”

Struhsaker’s work for the Conservation Department Lands Division was consistent with Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, a belief in the rightness of preserving the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. He wanted to secure spaces in which the people of Michigan could explore the out of doors and develop personal connections to nature. When he died prematurely in 1953 at age 49, the people of Michigan lost a dedicated advocate for the preservation of the unspoiled wild spaces in the state.

In December, 1953 Richard McArdle, Chief of the U. S. Forest Service, wrote to Struhsaker’s widow, “I think of his many fine qualities and each one seems pretty special but one particular one seems to keep popping to the top: he was a man of great integrity.” In a column for the Detroit Free Press, November 29, 1953, then Governor Williams said of him, “For generations to come, Michigan’s children will enjoy the beauties of hills, forests and lakes because Fred Struhsaker was a good business man in their behalf.” The Governor went on to say “While we are being thankful for all the blessings God has given our people, let us take a bit of time out to be thankful for the Fred Struhsakers who make our free governments work. Without this type of public servant – the kind who seldom gets into the news because he does his job smoothly and quietly – representative self-government would be impossible.”

Old Copper in the Porkies: the Mead Mine

Five miles west of the junction of Highway 107 and the South Boundary Road, you will come to the site of the Mead mine. The opening for the Mead Mine adit is on the south (left) side of the road.

Take time to read the historical marker on the north (right) side of the road and the interpretative sign on the left.

Over a period of roughly 60 years, various companies worked this mine, hoping discover a copper-rich ore vein. The Mead barely produced profits, and the last company mining here abandoned it before the depression.

Visitors can no longer enter the adit because the park has installed a grate over the entrance to limit exposure of the resident bat colony to white nose disease.

Limited parking is available.

Impressions of the Porcupine Mountains, 1846

Porcupine Mountains in 1846: from Porcupine Mountains Incidents December 30, 2017 by Amorin Mello
The following is our transcription of Andrew Rundel’s original handwritten manuscript describing his time spent exploring for copper along the south shore of Lake Superior during the summer of 1846, particularly in the Porcupine Mountains.  Andrew Rundel’s original handwritten manuscript is available online through the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Turning Points series.
The Porcupine Mountains ar ranges of mountains or hills runn paralell to the lake or nearly so at this place they approach verry near the lake.  And are several ridges laying paralell to each other.
The first ridg is Conglomerate, the second is Trap and also the third.  They rais by steps the first not being so high as the next and the third being higher still so that a person on the top of the third range can overlook the others and see the lake.  These hills or mountains have a gradual incline to the north and are not very steep, but their south side is verry abrupt and form perpendicular walls of rock from one to three hundred feet high.  In the vally between the second and third range Carp River winds its way to the lake running parallel to it for many miles.  This river is a small stream of pure water of sufficient size for mill purposes.  It abounds with Trout in great abundance.  Here is also plenty of Beaver on it.  The scenery is bold and grand for him who can enjoy mountain scenery.
The view from some of the higher points of the mountains where Lake Superior is spread out before you on one side and the mountains with their eternal rocks and deep vallies with their small rivers and mountain lakes, on the other presents certainly one of the most grand, and sublime pictures I ever witness’d.  I have recently visited the Bellmont mine about five miles from the Lone Rock mine.  Here I find the upheave to be greater than I have seen at any other part of the range being as near as I can judg seven or eight hundred feet nearly perpendicular.  It is also the highest point of the second range of mountains or second ridg from the lake. Being 1000 feet above Lake Superior. Myself in company with Geo Rice in the evening assended the highest point where we had a beautifull view of the surrounding country and of Lake Superior which was now calm and smooth as a mirror. How shall I paint that sunset scene on Lake Superior as view’d from the top of the Porcupine Mountains.  I have been toss’d on Enis billows, I have heard the thunder of Lake Michigan as she in her magesty lash’d her impenetrable barier but never have I seen nature in all her georgeous beauty until I viewed her at evening from these mountains.  As the sun approach’d the christal floor of Lake Superior the blue waters were painted and ting’d with every possible hue and sparkled like diamonds shortly the brilliants appeared to concentrate until there was but one bright path from us to the sun and formed a beautiful bridg from earth to heaven.  I had always been accustomed to seeing the sun abov me but now it was below near the water, on the water, and under the water, and now the sun sleeps in Lake Superior.  The whole western skies are painted with rose and yellow and green and reflected back on the blue waters of the lake as though nature was determin’d to try her hand at fancy work once more before returning to rest.
We lingered here until one star made its appearance soon follow’d by all the bright lights of Heaven (if I may be allowed to quote from Scripture) until the whole deep blue was set with Jewells.
This reminds me of that pretty vers my litl girls us’d to repeat
Twinkle twinkle pretty star
Cant you tell us where you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the skie
We lingered here until the hour reminded us we must try to find our way down to the cabbin.
This was the last time I expect to visit this part of the mountains I therefor determin’d to assend thos lofty cliffs and have a morning view. Soon a darling radiance sot up from behind the mountains and the King of day made his appearance as if to greet his favorurite lake.
Deep in the vally lay that beautifull mountain lake with the wild ducks sporting on its bosom or whirling in gracefull circles over its shining waters. After spending an hour or two I bid adieu to this grand and magnificent Observatory of nature probably forever.

Aldo Leopold and “The Last Stand,” 1942

Regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the 20th century and the father of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. His “land ethic” calls for an ethical, caring relationship between people and nature and inspires us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”
Born in 1887 and raised in Burlington, IA, graduating from the Yale Forest School in 1909, pursuing a career with the newly established U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico, he was instrumental in establishing the Gila National Forest as the country’s first official wilderness area.
Following a transfer to Madison, WI, in 1924, Leopold continued to investigate ecology and the philosophy of conservation, and in 1933 published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. In 1938, he privately published Report on Huron Mountain Club, a plan for applying conservation science for the management of that privately held protected area.
In 1942, Aldo Leopold wrote “The Last Stand” for Outdoor America. The essay is a passionate plea to save the old growth northern hardwoods in the Porcupine Mountains. In the past year alone, wartime demand for wood had reduced surrounding forests by 30,000 acres, and loggers had already developed plans to begin cutting the remaining stands of maple-hemlock forest, including those in the Porkies. Leopold predicted that once those stands were gone, we would lose “the best schoolroom for foresters to learn what remains to be learned about hardwood forestry; the mature hardwood forest. We know little, and we understand only part of what we know.”
Leopold went on to say that the Porcupine forest “is a symbol. It portrays a chapter in national history which we should not be allowed to forget. When we abolish the last sample of The Great Uncut, we are, in a sense, burning books.”
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has, in its 75 years, preserved Leopold’s vision for what it could become. He advocated for a tract that was to be kept “roadless, axeless, hotel-less, open only to ski or foot travel.” The Porkies would become “a token of things hoped for.” Leopold’s powerful voice provided invaluable support for local, state and national leaders in their drive to establish the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Leopold, “The Last Stand [1942],” in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays, ed. Flader and Callicott.
Aldo Leopold Foundation [2020]

1822 Visit from Schoolcraft

In 1822, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, geographer, geologist and ethnologist, received an appointment as Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Territory. Schoolcraft traveled extensively throughout the region that was to become Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Assisted by his wife who was the granddaughter of an Ojibwa chief, Schoolcraft gathered notes on the songs, customs, history and legends of the indigenous peoples of the territory.
During his travels, as Schoolcraft was passing through the Ontonagon area on an expedition to explore the Lake Superior shoreline, he learned from Chief Konteka that the indigenous people who lived here named a nearby group of hills “Porcupine” because its silhouette, seen from the mouth of the Ontonagon River, resembled a crouching porcupine. “I asked Konteka their Indian name. He replied Kaug Wudju. I asked him why they were so called. He said from their resemblance to a crouching porcupine.”
 Schoolcraft also heard stories of two sets of pictographs, one near the Carp River and Lake of the Clouds, the other on Agawa Rock, in Canada, telling the story of Michigan Ojibwa raid on an Agawa settlement around the year 1600. The Ojibwa chief, with a party of 50 warriors in 5 canoes, crossed Lake Superior and attacked an Agawa summer camp that had occupied the site for 2000 years. The Ojibwa war party painted the story of the journey across the big water and their victory in battle on Agawa Rock, and they replicated the paintings when they returned home “a half days march from the mouth of the Carp (river).” During Schoolcraft’s stay, an Ojibwa chief drew what he remembered of the pictographs on a birch bark scroll and told Schoolcraft where to find them. 
Archeologists discovered the Agawa Bay pictographs in 1958 with the aid of pictures and directions Schoolcraft left in his writings. The war party’s journey took four days, and the raid is all shown in the painting: the five canoes, four suns above a water line, a great lynx with his imperious tail. The paintings were done on a rock held sacred by the Agawa Indian band. Another 32 faded paintings on the rock, dating from hundreds of years before, tell other stories.
 Numerous groups have searched for the duplicate paintings in the Park. They have never been found.

Porcupine Mountains Incidents, December 30, 2017 By Amorin Mello

Trillium: Michigan Protected Wildflower

When hiking in or driving near the Upper Peninsula woods, you will sometimes run across Trillium, a three-petal flower usually white, sitting above pointed leaves. Trillium bloom before deciduous trees are in full leaf, and they often form large colonies that carpet the floor near the edges of forests. Trillium emerge in May. The blooms open slowly and may last into early June when they turn purple and fade. Then the above-ground plants vanish, leaving only the underground plant structures to sleep until next year.
These beautiful plants are extremely fragile, and picking the flowers seriously injures the plant by preventing it from producing food for the next year, often effectively killing the plant and ensuring none will grow in its place. For this reason, in some locations, trillium are listed as threatened or endangered; picking these species may be illegal.
If you see trillium and MUST have them, responsibly grown plants are available from nurseries.

Building an Alliance

Building an Alliance
Text by Ben East, a member of the Michigan Conservation Hall of Fame and legendary outdoor writer for Outdoor Life.
How to preserve the old growth forest in the Porkies? I chewed on the problem for a minute or two. As outdoor writer for a group of Michigan newspapers, I had seen a couple of somewhat similar campaigns carried to a successful conclusion, including one that culminated in the establishment of the Isle Royale National Park in upper Lake Superior.
“What you need is outside help,” I suggested. “We realize that,” Dick agreed, “but how do we go about it?”
There was another long, thoughtful pause. Then somebody came up with a suggestion. “Why not organize a Save-the-Porcupines Association, nationwide?”
I could see the idea catching on in Ray Dick, starting to burn like the lightning of a slow fuse on a powder keg. None of us guessed it at the time, but what we were witnessing that night was the turning point in the long and uphill battle to keep the wilderness of the Porcupines untouched.
Ray Dick’s first step was to carry out the suggestion of organizing a national Save-the-Porcupines Association. He started with local people. Ed Johnson, the Ironwood newspaperman who had sat beside the fire that spring night at the mouth of the Carp, was chosen president. Ray kept for himself the work-horse job of secretary. The letters he wrote before the campaign was finished ran well into the thousands.
Then, as we had foreseen when the plan was born, the pleas to preserve the biggest tract of virgin hardwood left in the country began to fire the imagination and win the support of conservationists everywhere.
Members joined from a dozen states, as far away as Georgia and Kansas, California and New York. The membership list read like a “Who’s Who of American Conservationists.” It included such prominent names as those of Vice President Henry Wallace; Chase S. Osborn, former Governor of Michigan; Aldo Leopold of the University of Wisconsin; Newton B. Drury, director of the National Park Service; William Allen White, renowned Kansas editor; Willard Van Name of the American Museum of Natural History; Jay Price, regional forester of the United States Forest Service, and Mrs. Edward LaBudde of the Women’s Conservation League of America.
Conservation groups from coast to coast offered their help. The Wisconsin Conservation League, with 200,000 members, threw its weight into the fight, as did the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, the American Forestry Association, the Federated Garden Clubs of America, the Emergency Conservation Committee, the National Parks Association, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Upper Peninsula Development Bureau, the Northern Michigan Sportsman’s Association and other influential outfits.
Money started to come in in sums adequate to finance the battle. Ray Dick himself, all but knocked off his feet by the country-wide response, gathered his forces and drove ahead harder than ever.
Writers and photographers loosed a flood of publicity. Stories and pictures of the Porcupine wilderness appeared in newspapers in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Boston, Cleveland and other cities and in national magazines. An exciting description of the wild beauty of the region even made its way into the Congressional Record. Sportsmen in cities a thousand miles distant came to know almost as much about the Porcupines as they knew about their favorite rabbit swales, 10 miles from home.
World War II came on, and the attention of the nation, even of its conservationists, was diverted to other problems. Less and less thought went to saving our natural wealth, more and more to using it to buy the victory we had to have. But Ray Dick wouldn’t give up. He still refused to stand by and see the wilderness he loved converted into a denuded, fire-blackened wasteland. Peace would come back some day, he argued, and when that happened, the country was going to need places like the Porcupines again for their wilderness and beauty, their forests and fish and game. And across the country members of the association that he had fathered and spark-plugged never stopped preaching the same doctrine.
They kept hammering away, harping at their pet idea, not letting the crusade lag. And at last they won a powerful ally in P.J. Hoffmaster, director of the Michigan Department of Conservation.

Springtime, Summertime, Bug Time

Most of the snow has melted. Hikers can still find some in the deep woods in the backcountry. Every waterfall in the park is pouring over its bedrock; you can hear the roar for hundreds of yards from falls that will have subsided to a trickle when July rolls around. Trout lilies and marsh marigolds are blooming, trillium buds are about to pop.

Then they strike. The winged hoard. Face it; the Porkies is wilderness. Wilderness means bugs. And the Porkies bugs are, mostly, biters who thrive on the tender offerings of hikers and campers. Whether you’re coming to camp or to hike, here are a few tips about what to pack.

1. Pack loose fitting clothes. If the clothing fabric isn’t snugged tight to your body, the bugs will have a harder time getting to you. Some of our biting critters seem to be attracted to white and blue, so you may want to avoid those colors. Plan on tucking pants legs into the tops of your socks for extra protection from ticks.

2. Don’t forget your head. At the very least, pack a hat or bandana. When I’ve hiked hatless, I’ve often been distracted by groups of flies circling right above the crown of my head. A head net is even better for keeping flies and other biters away from your face and eyes.

3. Bring a generous supply of insect repellent, and use it. Spray it on your clothes. Spray some on a scarf or bandana to wrap around your neck. Put some extra into a day pack.

4. Don’t forget the calamine lotion or other itch-calming product. I was once caught in the midst of no-see-um season in Canada without anything that would take away the itching from the bites of those tiny creatures.

The worst of the bug season is late spring and early summer, May into June. August and September can be relatively bug-free. The worst of the bugs are, by far, the stable flies. They look like house flies, and they bite like piranha. Their bites hurt, and they bleed. No repellent known to man keeps stable flies away. If you’re here during a hatch, the best tactic is to go where they aren’t. If they are at the shore, find recreation elsewhere. There are several attractions in the area that will provide refuge. If there’s a strong on shore breeze, chances are the lakeshore is a good place to be.

Locals tell me that prior to the 1970s, the area was sprayed extensively with products like DDT. The pay-off was few bugs. The price? No eagles, no peregrine falcons, no smaller raptors. The Porkies is a richer wilderness with its bugs and birds.

Preserving the Porkies

Preserving the Porkies: a New Strategy Is Born
From Porcupine Mountains Crusade, 1978 by Ben East, Michigan Conservation Hall of Fame
Ray Dick led the campfire conversation, telling of the fight he had been making, almost single-handed, in the hope of keeping the loggers out of these valleys along the Carp and the Little Carp and the Presque Isle.
“We know what we need to do,” Dick said. “Our job is to persuade the United States or the State of Michigan to come in and buy the whole 50,000 acres before it’s too late, and keep it the way it is! A few of us have been preaching that for years, but we’re not making much headway.”
A produce dealer in the town of Ironwood, 30 miles west of the mountains, Dick had crusaded for the preservation of this beloved wilderness, where he had hunted and fished for years. He had talked to everybody who would listen. He had gone to other businessmen in the community, he had written countless letters, he had pestered state and local officials and political leaders. For the most part, they agreed with him, but there their interest seemed to fade out.
A local congressman, Frank Hook, had gone so far as to introduce a bill in Congress proposing to set aside $10 million to purchase the Porcupine wilderness and add it to the Ottawa National Forest which already took in a big share of three cutover counties in the Upper Peninsula. But the bill had bogged down, and nobody believed it had much chance of passing.
“Too much money,” Ray explained, “and anyway, Congress is against appropriating funds to buy forest land in individual states. Logging crews are nibbling at the edges right now. Five years from tonight will be too late as far as a lot of this is concerned.”
I chewed on the problem for a minute or two. “What you need is outside help,” I suggested. “There are a lot of folks around the country who love this kind of place as much as you and I do. Some of them have influence. If you could get them into your fight, you might win.”
“We realize that,” Dick agreed, “but how do we go about it?”
There was another long, thoughtful pause. Then somebody came up with a suggestion. “Why not organize a Save-the-Porcupines Association, nationwide?”
“Sure,” another chimed in. “Invite anybody, anywhere, to join who wants to see this country kept the way it is.”
I could see the idea catching on in Ray Dick, starting to burn like the lightning of a slow fuse on a powder keg. None of us guessed it at the time, but what we were witnessing that night was the turning point in the long and uphill battle to keep the wilderness of the Porcupines untouched.

Trout Lilies: Signaling Spring

The Trout Lily is a spring ephemeral – perennial woodland plants that sprout from the ground early each spring. You’ll see it in the time between snowmelt and leafing out of deciduous trees. These flowers spring up quickly, seed before the canopy leaves are out, and then vanish leaving their roots and bulbs to hibernate and wait for another spring.
The plants are low to the ground. Leaves are mottled with brown and are lance-shaped with smooth edges, and each plant boasts a single bloom.
Look for the Trout Lily in mid-April to early May along the edges of trails.