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Sierra Club Wilderness trips and expeditions
   Club: Sierra Club
   Chapter: Michigan (Mackinac)
   Group: Central Upper Peninsula (CUPG)
   Leader: Michael Neiger, Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio)


5-Day, off-trail,
snowshoe and sledge
winter-camping recon
of the Delirium Wilderness Tract
in the
Hiawatha National Forest


January 12-16, 2007

Type: Winter Camping via snowshoes pulling cargo sledges

Destination: Delirium Wilderness Tract
   Hiawatha National Forest
   Chippewa County
   Raco, Michigan

When: 8 a.m. Friday, January 12, to midafternoon, Tuesday, January 16

Level: Intermediate-level, off-trail, map-and-compass recon

Difficulty: Strenuous; deep cold (minus 30 standing temps); deep snow; heavy sledges; thick, tangled, swamp travel and waterway travel.

Prerequisites: Participants do not have to be members of the Sierra Club. Participants must be very physically fit; have prior extreme, cold-weather, winter-camping experience; and extreme cold-weather/foul-weather gear.

Costs: A $10 (U.S. funds) voluntary donation to the Central Upper Peninsula Group of the Sierra Club to offset organizing costs (maps, phone calls, group equipment, etc.) is recommended but not required. Club sledge rental fee: $5 (U.S. Funds).

Sign-up deadline: Required by January 3

Sign-up process: After thoroughly reviewing the material presented below, contact trip leader to sign up. If this is your first trip with the leader, you should submit a completed Participant Questionnaire, which is available by e-mail from the leader.

Trailhead lodging and assembly location: To be announced by e-mail about a week prior to trip

Leader: Michael Neiger, Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio)

Club: Sierra Club; Chapter: Michigan; Group: Central Upper Peninsula


Page contents index


Trip itinerary

This 5-day, intermediate-level, winter-camping trip will involve a recon of Chippewa County's 11,870-acre Delirium Wilderness Tract and adjoining bush. We'll travel as the Ojibwa did for 100s of years before us: pulling cargo sledges on snowshoes.

Located along the south side of M-28, near the near nonexistent settlement of Raco, this rugged and inhospitable wilderness area is seldom visited or penetrated.


Destination information

The Delirium Wilderness is located in Chippewa County, Michigan. It lies 22 air miles southwest of Sault Ste. Marie. The village of Rudyard lies 3 miles to the southeast. Delirium is bounded on the north by FR-3130 and 3352 and on the south by FR-3131. The Lake Superior State Forest borders the area on the east. Three miles to the north is State Highway M-28 at Raco.

Human influence is apparent in the area. Past strip cutting of cedar trees is evident in some areas of swamps. Old stumps and former roadways from early 1900's logging are also apparent. The Sylvester Dam and its access are situated within the heart of the wilderness, geographically, yet are excluded from it by the designated boundary. The earthen dam was installed about 18 years ago and is natural appearing, as is the 80-acre pond.

The landscape, which was formed from old glacial lakes, is flat to rolling, with elevations ranging from 590 to 890 feet. Two water bodies are found in the area; 80-acre Sylvester Pond and the six-acre Delirium Pond. Overall character of the land can be described as swamp.

As the headwaters for the Pine and Waiska Rivers, these wetlands serve to help recharge the aquifer, filter and retain nutrients and sediment (purify the headwaters), and provide habitat for waterfowl and furbearing wildlife species. Tree species within the area include swamp conifers, aspen, and white cedar in the wetlands, and red pine and jack pine in drier areas.

Wildlife predominant in the area includes; beaver, bobcat, otter, ducks, loons, great blue heron and some sandhill cranes. Whitetail deer, black bear and rabbits are also common species found in the area. To protect nesting areas of waterfowl species, visitors are discouraged from using Delirium in the spring and early summer.

Current recreation use is primarily hunting and trapping. The thickly forested swamps, surface water and biting insects limit other forms of recreation. For those willing to face these challenges, the area's vast acreage enhances the potential for experiencing a feeling of solitude. In wintertime, visitors may discover a greater ease of travel, freedom from insects, and quiet.

The Delirium area may also appeal to the person who appreciates and wishes to study plants and animals associated with wetland types.

There are no marked pathways in the Delirium Wilderness. Expert orientation skills are needed to find one's way into and out of the area. To fully experience the wilderness value of the area, a visitor should have a genuine interest in the study of wetlands and ability to endure some physical discomfort.

The Delirium area is administered as a part of the Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District of the Hiawatha National Forest.

Source: USFS


Additional destination resources


Emergency contacts

  • County Sheriff: Chippewa Co, 906-635-6355
  • County Sheriff: Mackinac Co, 1-800-892-6156
  • State Police: Sault Ste. Marie, 906-632-2216
  • State Police: St. Ignace, 906-643-8383
  • Hospital: Sault Ste. Marie, 906-635-4460
  • Hospital: Newberry Hospital, 906-293-5181
  • Hospital: St. Ignace, 906-643-8585
  • Sierra Club Outings Department 24-hour help line: 1-888-outings

Participant requirements

  • Trekker must be 18 years old or older
  • Trekker must be drug-free and a non-smoker and non-drinker
  • Trekker must practice low impact travel and bivouac skills, leaving alcohol, pets, and speaker radios at home
  • Trekker must have prior wilderness tripping experience
  • Trekker must be fully equipped with lightweight gear including rucksack, bivouac gear, survival gear, foul-weather gear, rations, stove, etc.
  • Trekker must by very physically fit (good aerobic endurance)
  • Trekker must have a strong mind and an adventurous spirit
  • Trekker must be comfortable around water and a proficient swimmer
  • Trekker must be able, willing, and equipped to travel off-trail and bushwhack through challenging, thickly-forested, mountainous terrain with a fully-loaded rucksack
  • Trekker must be able, willing, and equipped to slog through muddy, wet, tangled swamps with a fully-loaded rucksack
  • Trekker must be able, willing, and equipped to ford or swim unbridged rivers and lake narrows with fully-loaded rucksack, wrapped in a tarp, floating alongside (non-winter trips).
  • Trekker must be able, willing, and equipped to travel and bivouac in foul weather.
  • Trekker must be able, willing, and equipped to travel and bivouac in very remote areas, far from roads, dry & level campsites, potable water, toilets, and fire rings.
  • Notice: please review the homepage on this Web site for general wilderness tripping requirements


Warnings and advisories

  • Hypothermia warning: I have had to intervene on several cases of hypothermia in the past, 5 times in one year alone. These incidents were largely the result of trippers who were trying to go ultra-light and were not carrying the multiple, redundant layers of clothing that I recommend. Reversing hypothermia takes hours of work on the part of others on the trip--a lot more work than is required to pack a couple extra pounds of warm clothing.
  • State Land bivouac advisory: Anyone camping on land owned by the State of Michigan is required by law (Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Sec. 74201 et seq., P.A. 451 of 1994) by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to post a Camp Registration Card (Form no. PR 4134) at their campsite. This permit--which is free--must be filled out in pencil (to make it legible when wet). Since the permit (view permit as PDF file) is perforated and made of heavy cardstock to withstand weathering, it can not be reproduced. These 8.5- by 11-inch permits can be picked up from any Michigan DNR office, or they can be ordered by e-mailing the DNR at DNR-FMD-TREES@michigan.gov. While these permits are usually provided by the trip leader, you should consider obtaining one when you are camping on your own, especially the night before the start of a Sierra Club trip. There is a substantial fine for not posting a Camp Registration Card.
  • Crown Land bivouac advisory: Anyone non-resident camping on land owned by the Crown-- the Canadian government--outside of a provincial or national park, must purchase a Crown Land Camping Permit, which costs $10 Canadian per day, per person. These permits are widely available through local outfitters and stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses. They can also be purchased from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Waivers for these camping permits are available for non-profit groups such as the Sierra Club, and are often applied for by the trip leader a month or two in advance of a trip.
  • Long-term parking advisory: Reduce problems by keeping your car locked, relatively empty, and uninviting. ALWAYS USE A LOCKING GAS CAP (they are very inexpensive [$10-15], especially when compared to the alternative of a vandal ruining your engine or emptying your gas tank miles from the nearest gas station).
  • Sierra Club Liability Waiver Form: National Sierra Club Policy requires that all trip participants read, understand, and sign the club's liability waiver form before they can participate in a club trip. Review and familiarize yourself with this form--Acknowledgment of Outing Member Responsibility, Express Assumption of Risk, and Release of Liability--before the trip.
  • Allergies to bee stings: If you are allergic to bee stings, you must notify the leader in advance of the trip. You must also agree to carry an injectable epinephrine unit, such as an EpiPen or Ana-Kit, as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Prohibition on cotton clothing: No high-cotton-content clothing--save a bandana or two--is allowed to be worn or carried in your rucksack for safety reasons. When wet, cotton is hard to dry and can be deadly as wearing cotton clothing often leads to hypothermia. Wool or synthetic clothing fashioned from nylon, supplex, polypro, fleece, or microfibers are much safer and easier to manage in foul weather.


Trip risks, hazards, and perils

Sierra Club wilderness tripping and expeditioning--especially remote, foul-weather travel, bushwhacking cross-country, cliff and steep slope travel, climbing, cave exploration, river fording, swimming, canoeing, portaging, skiing, snoeshoeing, winter camping, ice crossing, etc.--involves unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils.

  • A participants failure to physically train and mentally prepare oneself for a harsh Sierra Club wilderness trip; acquire the necessary skills and equipment for the trip; and recognize, take responsibility for, and avoid the unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils that often present themselves on such a trip will likely result in the serious injury, paralysis, or slow, painful death of the participant. There is no emergency medical equipment, doctor, nurse, or other trained emergency medical provider on Sierra Club wilderness trips.
  • There is no means of contacting emergency medical personnel or rescue personnel on Sierra Club wilderness trips. Emergency communications equipment, cell phones, satellite phones, GPS units, and satellite beacons (ELTs, PLDs, & EPIRBs) are not provided, and can't always be relied upon when they are carried.
  • Search and rescue services, emergency medical care, and evacuation of the non-ambulatory may be very difficult and costly to arrange; in some cases, the wait could be very long, painful, and fatal. On wilderness trips through remote areas in Michigan and Canada, it may take several days of rigorous travel by uninjured volunteers before emergency personnel can even be contacted for help.

Recommended physicals

Prior to undertaking a wilderness trip or expedition, it is highly recommended that a participant have a comprehensive health checkup, which should include a:

  • thorough physical exam
  • stress test
  • dental examination

Recommend insurance coverage

Prior to undertaking a wilderness trip or expedition, it is highly recommended that a participant obtain the proper insurance coverage, including:

  • medical insurance
  • prescription insurance
  • dental insurance
  • evacuation insurance
  • trip cancellation insurance
  • disability insurance
  • life insurance

Insurance vendors

Vendors for trip, medical, and evacuation insurance include:

Emergency communications gear vendors


Special notices and equipment

  • Survival kit: An in-pocket (on-your-person) survival kit (knife, waterproof matches, firestarters, compass, and whistle) is highly recommended. Sierra Club loaner survival kits are available from the club stores for free by prior arrangement.
  • Fire-proof stove base: Carry a heat-resistant, fire-proof stove base to prevent ground fires, which have been a problem in the past.
  • Water supply: Bring an adequate amount of water to the trailhead as there is generally no water available.
  • Safety glasses: It is highly recommended that some form of eye protection--safety glasses--be worn while bushwhacking.
  • Equipment waterproofing: To keep your gear dry during foul weather, the main stuffsacks on your sledge should be lined with huge heavy-duty "contractor" grade plastic bags. Critical items within the "contractor" bags, such as clothing, sleeping bag, and rations, should be further protected from moisture by lining the stuff sacks containing these items with heavy-duty "garbage compactor" bags. Avoid using regular garbage bags as they tear to easily.
  • Hydration and snack consumption on trail: It is recommended that you carry a water bottle and snacks on your waistbelt in separate pouches so you can snack and sip water while underway. Snacking and drinking water are essential for avoiding dehydration, hypothermia, and exhaustion when things get challenging, especially late in the date or during foul weather. Sierra Club loaner snack pouches and water bottle carriers are available from the club stores for free by prior arrangement.
  • Canadian trips:
    • Canadian money: You may want to consider getting Canadian money from your local bank before the trip, or using one of the money exchange services located in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, if they are open when you cross the boarder. Currency exchange calculators on the Net include XE.com: Universal Currency Converter http://www.xe.com/ucc/ or X-Rates: Canadian dollars exchange rate http://www.x-rates.com/cgi-bin/show
    • Gasoline: You may want to consider topping off your gas tank, before you cross the border, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
    • Identification: Bring appropriate identification with you to reduce problems getting into Canada as well as back into the United States. If you don't have a visa, a copy of your birth certificate can help establish your identity.


Rations required

  • Breakfasts--4
  • Snacks--5
  • Lunches--5
  • Dinners--4
  • Backup rations--1 full day (breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner)

How to pack your rations:

Measure, weigh, and triple check your rations. You should be carrying about 1.75-2.75 pounds of dry weight food, or about 2700-4500 calories of food per day, depending on your body weight and exertion level. It is recommended that you avoid "bulk" packaging and instead pack each meal serving individually in its own, separate plastic bag. This system has the following advantages over putting all of your snacks, say nuts for the whole trip, in one bag:

    1. You'll know for sure at home (visually) that you've packed enough food;
    2. In the bush, you'll now exactly how much to eat without eating into another days rations; and
    3. You will further reduce the chances of your food getting ruined if moisture penetrates the food bag itself as the moisture will still have to work its way into each and every single, individual meal unit.

Meticulous ration planning, measuring, and packaging is tedious but essential for safe & successful long-range recon of remote wilderness. Additional menu planning information is available on the rations and stoves page.


Equipment required

Survival gear

[ ] Waterproof matches
[ ] Waterproof firestarters
[ ] Magnesium firestarter (recommended)
[ ] Sturdy pocket knife
[ ] Compass
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Signal mirror (recommended)
[ ] Map of area

Ice-rescue gear

[ ] Ice-rescue picks
[ ] 50-foot, floating, rescue line
[ ] One carabiner

Fire gear

[ ] Steel cookie sheet for fire base & stove base
[ ] Small saw

First-aid kit

[ ] Elastic ankle wrap
[ ] Moleskin
[ ] Vaseline
[ ] Band-Aids
[ ] Waterproof first-aid tape
[ ] Pain relief medication
[ ] Anti-inflammatory medication
[ ] Cold & flu medications
[ ] Small tweezers
[ ] Small scissors

Repair kit

[ ] 50 feet of 1/8-inch braided nylon cordage
[ ] Duct tape
[ ] Sewing kit
[ ] Snowshoe repair kit
[ ] Sledge repair kit
[ ] Stove repair kit
[ ] Inflatable pad repair kit

Head gear

[ ] 2 very thin balaclava
[ ] 2 thick hats that can be worn together
[ ] Neoprene facemask
[ ] Hood on windshell
[ ] Hood on insulated overparka
[ ] 1 pair of sun glasses
[ ] 1 pair of safety glasses (for bushwhacking)
[ ] 1 pair of goggles (optional)
[ ] Prescription glasses (spare if important)
[ ] Bandana
[ ] Sun hat (optional)
[ ] Rain hat (optional)

Upper-body gear

[ ] 3 or 4 thin polypro tops
[ ] 2 1/4-inch thick fleece or micro-fiber-insulated jackets.
[ ] 1 1/4-inch thick fleece or micro-fiber-insulated vest (optional)
[ ] 1 uninsulated windshell with hood
[ ] 1 nylon rain parka (no vinyl; no ponchos)
[ ] One heavily-insulated overparka with hood

Hand gear

[ ] 1 pair of mittens shells
[ ] 3 pair of mitten liners
[ ] 2 pair of glove liners (optional)

Lower-body gear

[ ] 1 pair of 1/4-inch thick fleece or micro-fiber-insulated pants (sidezips are very handy)
[ ] 2 pair of polypro long underwear
[ ] 1 pair of uninsulated windpants
[ ] 1 pair of nylon rain pants (no vinyl)
[ ] 1 pair of heavily-insulated overpants


[ ] 1 pair of mukluks with removable liners and insoles
[ ] 1 pair of replacement liners and insoles for mukluks
[ ] 4 pair of thick synthetic socks
[ ] 2 pair of liner socks (optional)
[ ] 1 pair of vapor-barrier liners

Bushwhacking gear

[ ] 1 large, heavy-duty, roll-proof, cargo sledge (pulk) with solid traces and waistbelt
      Participants must use 5-foot-long Sierra Club sledges ($5 rental)
      unless trekker gets prior approval from leader
[ ] Sledge deicing kit: synthetic scrub pad and plastic ski scraper
[ ] Large stuffsacks lined with compactor- or contractor-grade plastic bags
[ ] Small PVC tarp for cargo cover
[ ] Insulated waist-belt, water-bottle parka
[ ] Waist belt snack pouch
[ ] Large, high-quality snowshoes for deep snow
[ ] One or two ski poles (optional)

Bivouac gear

[ ] Tarp
[ ] Bivouac sack
[ ] Ropes to rig tent
[ ] Minus-40-degree, synthetic-insulated sleeping bag
[ ] Sleeping pads; one thick, one thin
[ ] Heavily-insulated sleeping booties
[ ] Flashlight (LED is recommended)
[ ] Hands-free headstrap (if needed)
[ ] Spare batteries(lithium for deep cold)
[ ] Spare bulbs if non-LED
[ ] Candles
[ ] Large-blade shovel

Hydration gear

[ ] 2 one-quart durable water bottles
[ ] Thermos

Ration-heating gear

[ ] Lightweight, winter-camping stove
[ ] Aluminum fuel cells (allow about 13 ounces of white gas per day)
[ ] Lighter with lanyard to suspend from neck
[ ] Windscreen for stove
[ ] Fireproof base for stove (use fire pan listed above)
[ ] Pot holder
[ ] Pot
[ ] Lid for pot
[ ] Spoon
[ ] Insulated mug

Personal items

[ ] Personal medications
[ ] Driver's license
[ ] Birth certificate and/or passport (recommended for Canadian trips)
[ ] Emergency phone numbers
[ ] Credit cards
[ ] Cash and travelers checks
[ ] Medical and dental insurance cards
[ ] Sunscreen
[ ] Lipbalm with sunblock
[ ] Wrist chronograph
[ ] Paperback book (optional)
[ ] Spare prescription glasses (if needed)

Personal hygiene gear

[ ] Toilet paper
[ ] Synthetic pack towel
[ ] Toothbrush
[ ] Toothpaste or toothpowder
[ ] Toothpicks & dental floss
[ ] Handcleaner (optional)
[ ] Plastic spade (optional)

Vehicle gear

[ ] Lightweight engine oil for easier starting in deep cold
[ ] Extra car key on lanyard
[ ] Vehicle registration papers
[ ] Vehicle insurance papers
[ ] Locking gas cap
[ ] Heavy-duty battery in good condition
[ ] Road map (Michigan 1-800-292-2520; Canada 1-800-268-3736)
[ ] County map book for Michigan trips
[ ] Spare tire (check pressure!!)
[ ] Tire jack and lug nut wrench
[ ] Snow shovel (spade in summer)
[ ] Windshield scraper and snow brush (winter)
[ ] Vehicle Safety Checks: tire pressure, wiper blades, front and rear wiper fluid, oil, radiator fluid (subzero rating), transmission fluid
[ ] Jumper cables
[ ] Nylon tow strap
[ ] Single-bit axe (optional)
[ ] Bow saw (optional)
[ ] Hi-lift bumper jack (optional)
[ ] Hand-operated winch (optional)
[ ] Pick axe (optional)
[ ] Tire inflation system (optional)
[ ] Engine-block heater for pre-warming frozen engines (optional)
[ ] Long extension cord for engine-block heater (optional)

More equipment information


Land Nav Team info

Topographic maps

  • 1:24,000 Dollar Settlement, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Raco, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Sullivan Creek, Michigan

    Note: quads may need to be prepped with UTM grid
    Topo map ordering info, waterproofing info, & GPS prep info

Other cartographic resources

  • Delirium Wilderness Tract Handout/Map (U.S. Forest Service, Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District, 4000 I-75 Business Spur, Sault Ste., Marie, Michigan 49873, 1-906-635-5311)
  • Hiawatha National Forest Service Map, Michigan 2001 (U.S. Forest Service, Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District, 4000 I-75 Business Spur, Sault Ste., Marie, Michigan 49873, 1-906-635-5311)

County maps

  • Chippewa County

       County map ordering information

Magnetic declination specs

  • Jan 2006 magnetic declination for meridian of longitude line at 46° 18' 00"N, Lon 84° 42' 00"W:
             06° 58' west
  • Deviation of UTM easting grid lines from meridian of longitude lines:
             01° 40' east
  • Magnetic declination of UTM easting grid lines:
             08° 38' west (we correct for this figure, rounded to the nearest degree, in the bush)

    Magnetic declination information

GPS configuration specs

  • Grid coordinate system
             1000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM)
  • UTM grid horizontal map datum:
             1927 North American Datum (NAD 27 CONUS) for Michigan trips
             1927 & 1983 North American Datum (NAD 27 CA & NAD 83) for Canadian trips
  • UTM grid zone:
             Zone 16
  • UTM grid hemisphere:
             Northern hemisphere
  • Unit of measure:
  • Battery type:
             Lithium, for deep cold, or long-range use
             Alkaline, for 3-season use
  • Battery type setting:
             Select type of battery (lithium, alkaline, or Ni-Cad);
             battery discharge-rate differences affect meter accuracy

GPS configuration information

Misc land nav equip setup

  • Roamer UTM plotter scale(s):
             1:24,000 & 1:25,000 for Michigan trips
             1:20,000 & 1:50,000 for Canadian trips
  • Ranger pacing beads:
             Metric--9 100-meter beads; 4 1-kilometer beads
  • Magnetic declination setting on compass:
             0° of offset

Land nav team information


Past trip journals and photo albums


Travel info


Wilderness skills & resources


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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

Content Copyright © 1984 -- 2006-11-01
by Michael A. Neiger

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No part of this Web page or this Web site protected by copyright law may be reproduced, transmitted, or used in any form--including graphic, electronic, Web, mechanical or other form--or by any means--including photocopying, recording, taping, Internet distribution, information storage retrieval system, or by other means--for any purpose, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages, without the prior, express, written permission of the author.

* Disclaimer *
The information contained on this Web page and this Web site are provided solely for information, illustrative, and discussion purposes. Although the author has made a sincere effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented on this Web page and this Web site, no warranty is expressed or implied. The author assumes no responsibility or liability for any injuries, damages, losses, or other consequences that may result from the use of the information contained on this Web page and this Web site. As with any human endeavor, omissions, inaccuracies, and errors will occur on this Web page and this Web site and the author makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information presented or that the information presented will produce any particular result or be suitable for any particular situation, person, organization, or other entity. While corrections and revisions may or may not be made from time to time, any changes made to this Web page and this Web site are made without obligation to notify any person, organization, or other entity of any such changes. The activities associated with the information contained on this Web page and this Web site are by their very nature inherently dangerous and the information presented can not take the place of good personal judgment, sound decision-making, professional training, proper equipage, adequate physical fitness, and expert guidance by trained and experienced professionals.

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