Alligator Hill Trail
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These concrete structures, located at the trailhead on Stocking Drive, are kilns built in the 1950's by lumberman Pierce Stocking. The sawmill he set up near this spot produced considerable waste that was converted into charcoal in these kilns. The loose, dusty, random-sized material was packed in bags for shipment to stores in much of Michigan for sale to campers and picnickers.
The kilns are concrete ovens in which limbs, slabs, and other sawmill waste were stacked as tightly as possible. The open front was closed with concrete blocks and the wood set on fire just before the last blocks went in. Controlling the air intake was tricky: too much air and the wood was consumed, too little air and the fire went out. If successful, the fire burned slowly for several days. Once it was out, the charcoal was removed and spread to cool. Then it was moved to the bagging shack.
Day Forest Hill was one of the first managed forests in this part of Michigan. The owner, D. H. Day, protected the smaller trees to promote a future lumber harvest. When Pierce Stocking purchased the land in 1948, there was enough new growth to warrant a selective harvest. The sawdust pile from his mill can still be seen on the other side of Stocking Road. After the mature trees had been harvested, the mill was closed and the kilns abandoned.
The 1.5 mile hike from the Stocking Road trailhead to the Islands Lookout on top of Alligator Hill is a relatively gentle uphill walk through Maple-Beech forest on an old road bed. The view from the Lookout is outstanding. On a clear day, you can see North and South Manitou Island and Sleeping Bear Point. Quite often South Fox Island will also be visible. There is a bench at the lookout, so you can take some time to relax and enjoy the view before continuing your hike. From this vantage point you will often see a freighter making its way through the Manitou Passage.