“Travels with Books” is this year’s festival theme for the 14th Annual Kerrytown BookFest, taking place Sunday, September 11 at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. (Check out the very cool festival poster and how it was created by four collaborators here). One session of the day’s program will be led by two authors presenting “Traveling the Lakes.” I’m happy to be one of these presenters. Today, I’d like to introduce you to my presentation partner: Loreen Niewenhuis.

A Little History

Unbeknownst to me, while I was visiting the 136 Great Lakes Basin islands accessible by ferry or bridge in 2013 and 2014, another writer was visiting some of the very same islands over the same two seasons with a different travel premise and a different sort of book in mind. The author is Loreen Niewenhuis, and her book about Great Lakes islands, A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Island Adventure: One Woman’s Epic Journey Exploring the Diverse Islands of the Five Great Lakes, was published last  year (Milwaukee, WI: Crickhollow Books, 2015).

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A Great Lakes Trilogy

Niewenhuis came to write this, her third book about the Great Lakes, after she’d written two others based on hiking the shorelines of the Great Lakes. From her Introduction to her island book:

“This is my third Great Lakes adventure. The first was a 1,000-mile hike around the perimeter of Lake Michigan [A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan (Crickhollow Books, 2011)]. This journey allowed me to fully explore my favorite place, the lake I got to know first as a child . . . The first undertaking gave rise to my second adventure, this time a 1,000-Mile journey exploring key shoreline stretches of of all five Great Lakes [A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk: One Woman’s Trek along the Shorelines of All Five Great Lakes (Crickhollow Books, 2013 . . . My initial concept [for the third book] was simple: I would visit islands in each of the five Great Lakes—hiking, kayaking, boating and biking on and around them—until I accrued 1,000 miles.”

I came across Loreen’s book of her first Great Lakes hike in 2012 when I was working on my book proposal for my island book, but never imagined she’d be writing an island book, too, someday.

Islands in Common

Of the 30 islands Loreen visited in the Great Lakes Basin, she and I visited (at least, as far as I can figure) 26 of the same islands. Intrepid kayaker that she was, she visited a few others that I didn’t (as they were not accessible by ferry or bridge): Cana Island (you can actually now walk to this Door County island to visit the lighthouse built in 1869 there!) and Power Island (popular kayaking destination in West Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay with a five new campsites there this year) in Lake Michigan and Stockton and Oak islands in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. While I did visit Madeline Island, the largest island of in Apostle Islands and the only one to which a visitor can ferry, it is not a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which is a haven for kayakers! Loreen also slipped north into the St. Lawrence Basin to sample the Island of Montreal.

Our Presentation

If my couple of hours Sunday evening spent figuring out how pieces of both of our past presentations might meld together for our Kerrytown event is any indication, ours is a good pairing. What fun to see the perspective of another island visitor whose quest involved studying some of the same island maps and who shared the goal of writing a book about those islands. We stayed at some of the same island accommodations and met some of the same island folks. For our Kerrytown BookFest adventure, we’ve selected one island that we both visited from each one of the Great Lakes to discuss.

A Good Pairing of Books

While my book has been defined as “part travelogue and part fact-filled guidebook,” Loreen’s travel memoir includes plenty of facts along the way—geological, historical, cultural facts—while detailing her experience on some very specific and interesting island adventures including:

  • Loreen joined a team of hikers on Michigan’s Isle Royale (Lake Superior) to collect moose bones for the study begun in 1958, the Population Biology of Isle Royale Wolves and Moose study, the longest continuously running predator-prey study in the world.
  • She went on a three-day kayaking trek in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands (Lake Superior)
  • She volunteered on Michigan’s North Manitou Island (Lake Michigan), part of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, monitoring the endangered Great Lakes piping plover nesting population there.
  • She participated in the 2013 reenactment of the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie off of Ohio’s South Bass Island (Lake Erie).

Another Island “Trip” with a “Mainland” Island Companion

In August of 2014, as I wrapped up the very last of my 27 island trips—a day-trip to Bob-Lo Island, Ontario in the Detroit River—I  didn’t imagine I’d ever be taking another trip with another island traveling companion for this book project. This week, however, I find myself looking forward to just that—a trip “Traveling the Lakes” with Loreen Niewenhuis in Kerrytown come September!