Bob's Blog Travel Up North Blog

All Aboard The Big Red ‘BOAT’

If you’ve ever been to a Glen Arbor 4th of July parade, you no doubt have happy memories of ‘Big Red’ — Cherry Republic’s iconic red bus. It would roll down Western Avenue filled with Cherry Ambassadors handing out cups of fresh cherries to the crowd. A few years ago, Cherry Republic donated Big Red to Micah Leinbach who was starting an organization called BOAT — the Bus for Outdoor Access and Teaching. The BOAT returned to Glen Arbor last weekend with a group of enthusiasic students aboard, who were ready to explore the natural beauty of Leelanau County.

What Is BOAT?

BOAT bills itself as “a nonprofit that helps organizations move their mission outside.” The kids don’t need to have any experience or gear of their own. “Wherever our bus shows up, groups have access to guides with years of experience, equipment for 30+ people, and transport to wild places,” Micah explains.

Who Came on the Trip?

The group that came up north last weekend was from Hamtramck High School in Metro Detroit. Their teacher, Jessica Madden, has been working to start an outdoor club as a sports team. “This is a really innovative way to fund outdoor programs, with the potential to make them as common and popular as other school sports,” Micah explains. “We’ve been supporting several trips, as our focus is on partnering with organizations to help them move their work outside.”

There were all grades represented on this end-of-the-school-year trip, including some graduating seniors. Participants of this diverse group of first-time campers were Yemeni, African American, Bengali, and more.

I learned that I am much stronger than I knew.

BOAT student participant

What Was on the Itinerary?

The students visited Glen Haven Village for a history lesson on the region, checked out the old DH Day Farm (and, of course, learned about the cherry orchards), hiked the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Dune Climb, jumped in Lake Michigan at North Bar Lake, watched the sunset from the Empire beach, and taught them to backpack along the Manistee River and North Country Trail. “And, of course, we had to stop at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, which they loved!” Micah says.

Micah reported that the girls really loved the area, the history, and the camping experience. One of them shared (and many agreed), “I learned that I am much stronger than I knew.” Another said, “this area helped me relax, sleep better, and make more friends.” Micah’s take on the weekend? “It was a ton of fun!”