2001-2018: The Beginning
Jessie Hadley started Woods & Water Ecotours after years in professional conservation work as a biologist with organizations like the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. She led the business through 18 seasons of service in the Les Cheneaux area until she sold the business to Brian and Sue Bakkila in November, 2018. She continues to be connected to the area through the relationships she has built and an island cottage and you might spot her paddling these familiar waters.
A long time ago, girl and boy meet, develop friendship over LEGO and ‘90s movies, eventually kiss, and then girl promptly runs off to the woods for 72 days. When girl comes home, girl persuades boy to go backpacking the next summer. And since 1994, the adventures have continued.
The longer story about Brian & Sue Bakkila is that we met while students at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After Sue’s Colorado Outward Bound semester, we began adventuring together with various college friends. We have enjoyed doing many different things outside: backpacking, car camping, sailing, canoeing, rock climbing, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, motor boating, dirt biking, white water rafting, and canyoneering. In 2006, we started hauling our son Garrett along. He too has done everything we have done — most recently backpacking in Yosemite and rafting Utah's San Juan river.
Boating, specifically with our former Boston Whaler 190 Outrage, brought us to the LCI in 2011. After years of trailering that boat (and a previous ‘70s-era Newport Whaler) around Michigan to investigate various lakes and camp (always in the rain), we planned a week-long stay in Hessel. Like many before us, we were hooked. Since 2012, we have spent as much time as possible here — only returning to Grand Rapids after our cottage was winterized late each fall. Even though the Whaler has been changed to a 170 Montauk, we have never grown tired of exploring the local waters by both motor — and paddle.
We live with the goal of adventuring often, and as the new owners of Woods & Waters, we are eager to experience exactly that with you.