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Ward Hills Range - Top of The World EarthCache

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HITECHTEAM: Time to let this one had a nice ride.

Hitechman & Hitechgal

Hidden : 07/24/2008
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Size: Size:   not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

The Ward Hills Range is located in west-central Lake County in the heart of the Manistee National Forest. Forest Service roads will bring you within 20 yards. No bushwhacking or 4-WD required. Winter accessibility is by snowmobile or walk in only.

This Earth Cache takes you to the summit of the highest hill in the Ward Hills range-Fire Tower Hill. A range is a group of mountains or hills forming a connected row or group. The Ward Hills range extends from about 2.5 miles NE of Branch, Michigan (Lake-Mason County line on US-10), and extends NE for about 7.5 miles (as wide as 4 miles) to 1 mile south of Peacock, Michigan. It is located entirely within Lake County and the Manistee National Forest.

The range was named by (or in honor of) Captain Eber B. Ward. Ward was a Vermont native who settled in Detroit. He operated a fleet of merchant ships on the Eastern Great Lakes, and owned 50,000 acres of virgin pine forested land along the Pere Marquette River, and within a 30 miles radius of Ludington. In the early 1870's he built 2 lumber mills on Pere Marquette Lake (just south of Ludington). He built and operated a fleet of wooden ships that carried freight (and over 50 million board feet of lumber annually) from Ludington, across Lake Michigan, to Wisconsin--most of this lumber was cut from the Ward Hills Range. The lumbering era peaked in this area in 1891. You can still see the remains of the burned out pine stumps here. Please do not disturb them-they are 120 years old or older.

The Manistee National forest was established in the mid 1930's. In 1936 the men of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Walhalla camp constructed a 100-foot tall primary fire tower at the location of this Earth Cache. This fire tower was manned 24 hours a day during the fire season. By June 30, 1972 the tower was dismantled and sold for scrap. Aircraft flyovers began in the early 1960's, and there was no longer a need for fire towers. All that remains today are the tower pylons and house foundation. Of the 219 fire towers constructed in Michigan since the early 1900's, less than 25 remain standing (but not used) to date.

This range is popular for its many snowmobile trails, and it is hunted extensively for upland game and deer. About 2 miles to the northwest are the remains of the Ward Hills Ski Area (now called the "Lodge"). The ski slopes opened in the mid to late 1950's, and ceased operation sometime around 1970 because they could not financially compete with the larger ski operations in Michigan.

Western lower Michigan is layered in hills and hill ranges from just north of Grand Rapids to just south of Petoskey. Many of these ranges remain un-named. The Udel Hills range is located about 15 miles NW of the Ward Hills range.

The Ward Hills Range is of glacial origin, and the mechanism for their formation is not completely understood. Over a period of thousands of years there were 4 massive glacier advances and retreats (melting). Most of Michigan was covered by continental glaciers during this time. The last glacier's (known as the Wisconsin Glacier) advance and retreat occurred about 14,000 years ago, and left the land features we see in Michigan today.

This glacier was 1 mile thick, and it covered an area of 4 million square miles. Its fingers plowed as far south as the Ohio River. As it moved, it acted like a giant bulldozer, and plowed millions of tons of rock and earth. Its force ground many of the rocks into glacial dust--this process is called glacial weathering. The massive weight of the ice pushed the surface of Michigan downward. As the climate warmed, and the glacier melted, much of this material flowed in the "rivers" (erosion) that formed on (or under) the glaciers surface. This material is called glacial drift, and it collected in the lower portions of the melting glacier. When the glacier was completely melted, these piles of glacial drift were deposited (referred to as glacial till) upon the surface of the land resulting in piles or, hills (and other structures as well). The Ward Hills Range is one of the thicker piles of drift that was deposited in lower Michigan--in excess of 600 feet thick in some places. Most of lower Michigan is covered by 100-200 feet of drift, although, in a few places, there may be more than 1000 feet, or as little as none (most of the bare rock in the upper peninsula).

The fine sand seen in the Ward Hills Range today is one of the results. When the glacier was completely melted, and the weight of its ice was removed from the land, the land rebounded and rose (lifted upwards), adding even more height (above sea level) to these hills.

There are no boulders or large rocks in this area, as one would expect, with glacial origin, and all of the soils are very fine (sand, small amount of clay at deeper depths, with an occasional small gravel deposit). The valleys within this range will sport an occasional small lake or bog. The overstory consists of hardwoods (mainly oaks) with scattered white pines, and the understory is upland brush.

A special thank you goes to 2 employees of the USFS-Manistee-Huron National Forest: Les Russell, the district ranger at the Baldwin Office, who gave permission for this cache, and John Davis, archaeologist and historian at the main office in Cadillac who provided me with the confirmation of some historical facts about the area.

Platinum EarthCache Master

Remember-Leave no trace of your visit and please CITO.

To log your visit you must (no exceptions to these requirements will be made.):

1) ) Take an elevation reading (and record it) at the highest point on this summit with your GPSr.

2) Take an elevation reading (and record it) at the road intersection at the bottom of the hill (@ N43 degrees 58.459', W085 degrees 58.654') with your GPSr.

3) Remove a small patch of leaf litter and examine the soil between the foundations. Describe this soil to the best of your ability.

4) Describe the circular geological structure located about 3 feet west of the approximate center of the pylon foundation (it's at ground level, and may be covered with leaves in the fall). Do not post a photo of this in your log.

5a) E-mail me the exact coordinates of the highest point (hill) in "The Ward Hills Range", and give the bearing and distance to it from ground zero for this EarthCache.

5b) As an alternative to #5a, you can take (and post with your log) a picture near the coordinates clearly showing some aspect of the geology of the area near this site. You do not have to include you/your team or the tower foundation in the photo, but feel free to do so.

Each cacher/log must E-mail me the answers to questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5a (unless you post a photo), or your log will be deleted--do not post the answers in your log entry.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Vg jvyy or zber sha rkcybevat gb svaq lbhe jnl urer. Lbh pna qevir evtug gb vg.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)