The sun was shining warmly on September 30, 2021. “What do you want to do for your birthday?” DaViking (Chuck) asked. “Yeah.” Noah, our nineteen year old, added. “I have taken the day off from work. What do you want to do?” I smiled. “Let’s go see the Sequoia trees in Manistee!” We headed northwest to see Sequoia trees in Manistee as I was turning 53!
The two and half hour drive sped right along. Under my direction, Chuck (DaViking) pulled up to a home. There’d been a sign by their driveway, “Arboretum.” I figured we’d arrived. I wondered about this home and why there was an arboretum here on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Another couple pulled up and got out of their car. “We’re looking for a Giant Sequoia tree.” The man said with a southern drawl. “We are here to see the Sequoia tree, too.” I replied as I searched for a clue as to the mysterious tree’s location.
Steve and Denise have been avid appreciators of trees. They’d even taken a tree climbing class in Dawson, Georgia where one learns to move among the treetops using ascension ropes with carabiners. They were up north for a family wedding and heard about the Giant Sequoia. Their enthusiasm was charming!
Diane called out. “I think it’s over here!” I followed her voice. Chuck and Noah, along with Steve, charged ahead. Up the hill and through a closed gate. (I surmised that the park was closed, but I knew we’d all be respectful.) So I worked my way around the gate and found the group.
There it was. The Giant Sequoia. We all stood in awe. I looked up and clicked the view.
I stepped back to try to get the whole tree in the picture. I stepped back further. Then, even further. It just wasn’t far enough. There was a hundred foot cliff dropping to the shore of Lake Michigan, so I decided to snap the photo from where I was.
Diane graciously offered to take our picture.
The sign informed us that six Sequoia seedlings had been planted here in 1949 by Gertrude and Edward Gray. Three Sequoias have survived. Several other unique trees have been planted on the property: Ginko, Horse Chestnut, Cypress, Redwood and a famously large Sycamore Maple. The lake provides some insulation. It’s warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The lakeshore climate has allowed for the arboretum to thrive.
Edward and Gertrude Gray donated this property in 1980. It’s known as the Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary and Arboretum. The home serves as a Bed and Breakfast. This would be a beautiful venue for a small wedding.
The bark of the Sequoia can be up to three feet thick, which helps make Sequoias fire resistant. Every two decades Sequoias reproduce. Their remarkably small-sized pine cones require fire to open and release the quarter inch seeds.
Sequoias can grow heartily in zones 6-9, but most grow along the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.
The largest tree in the world is a Sequoia named General Sherman. It stands at 275 feet tall. The tree is 2,100 years old. That means it was growing when Jesus was on the Earth. Only two other trees have longer life spans. They are the bristlecone pines and the Alerce trees.
The Arboretum History
J. Sterling Morton’s grandson, Joy, had purchased part of the salt business, Elkins Wheeler and Company, based in Chicago in 1879. A few years later in 1886 he and his brother, Mark, purchased more of the company and renamed it Joy Morton and Company.
The brothers made the acquaintance of Charles Reitz. a lumberman from Manistee, Michigan. Charles had developed a way to retrieve salt from underground in the northern Lake Michigan area. This was an ingenious resource for Joy and Mark Morton!
A decade later in 1909 the Chicago based company was registered as “Morton Salt.” By 1910 the logo of the little girl carrying an umbrella was finalized as part of the advertising campaign for Housekeeping Magazine.
The arboretum facts all fit together when I realized that J. Sterling Morton had been the United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1893-1897 under Grover Cleveland. His family had founded the Morton Salt Company. Morton’s family carried on his legacy of cherishing trees by developing this arboretum in Manistee, Michigan.
This day-trip was fulfilling! Noah and Chuck had taken time from their schedule and treated me to a picnic lunch on Lake Michigan. Finding the Giant Sequoia was satisfying. I didn’t know I could be interested in the salt industry, but it was amazing to see the salt well still in operation today. Keep looking for unique places and individuals as you travel! Enjoy making memories with the people you love!
Chuck and Martha Hayden, aka The Viking and Poppins, enjoy going on adventures off the beaten path. They also like to share their explorations with others. The Viking is a retired expedition leader while Poppins is a retired teacher. The two offer independent views of their journeys showcasing places, people, and cultures as they explore the world. Visit and follow them on their website and social media accounts. Website | Facebook | Instagram |YouTube