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Chapel/Mosquito Loop Hike – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI July 2016

pictured rocks national lakeshore, michigan

Pictured Rocks, MI – Chapel/Mosquito Loop Hike

View All Chapel/Mosquito Loop Photos | Video

  • Location – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
  • Park Administration – National Park
  • Trailhead – Chapel Trailhead
  • Length Of Time Hiked – Day Hike
  • Miles Hiked – 15
  • Trail Type – Loop
  • Trail Difficulty – 2.5/10
  • Fires Allowed – Yes, in designated campsites, in metal rings only
  • Scenic Beauty – 8 (10 for Michigan, this is one of the crown jewels of the state!)
  • Solitude – 2 during peak season
Total distance: 14.59 mi
Max elevation: 856 ft
Min elevation: 594 ft
Total climbing: 2326 ft
Total descent: -2398 ft
Download

Pictured Rocks Maps

chapel beach mosquito beach map

Map of the Chapel and Mosquito areas

 

Pre Hike Details

If you are trying to plan a last minute overnight backpacking trip here during peak season, good luck! I wasn’t able to. Instead, due to ease of planning, I chose to do this as a day hike and camp in a campground nearby. I considered Little Beaver Lake campground due to it’s close proximity to the Chapel trailhead,  but it’s not possible to make reservations. It’s first come, first served and there are only 8 campsites. Twelve Mile Beach campground is the same, first come, first served. I believe it’s the same for all of the other Pictured Rocks campgrounds, but I didn’t check them all out. Instead, I started looking at nearby state forest campgrounds, and there were several in the area to choose from. No reservations here either, but I figured this would be my best bet at snagging a campsite.

I drove up Thursday evening and the Little Beaver Lake campground was full, as I expected. I proceeded to North Gemeni Lake campground which was about 10 minutes away, and found it less than half full. I was lucky to get a campsite on the lake, which had a pretty good view.

Chapel trailhead is only about 15 minutes away from the North Gemeni Lake campground, so it will be a short drive in the morning This is just as good as leaving from Little Beaver Lake campground, so camping here really worked out for me.

 

Chapel/Mosquito Loop Hike Route Description & Trip Report

Friday July 15th, 2016

early morning at chapel trailhead

Chapel Trailhead

We arrived at the Chapel trailhead around 8:30am. There were 4 other cars in the parking lot. The weather had been extremely hot lately (in the 90s downstate), but today was only forecast to be 60! A pleasant change, and very welcomed considering the number of miles we’d be covering today.

chapel falls from viewing area at pictured rocks

Chapel Falls

section 34 creek just upstream of chapel falls

Section 34 Creek

view from above chapel falls

Above Chapel Falls

The trail starts off as a very wide pathway, an obvious indicator of the heavy traffic this area receives. The trail runs through a fairly open forest alongside a gorge, which is out of sight from here. After about 1.2 miles, the trail swings closer to the edge of the gorge and we get our first glimpse of Chapel Falls. There’s a wooden platform built alongside the trail that gives a pretty good view of the falls, which are about 80 feet high. The falls are formed by Section 34 Creek flowing over the edge of the gorge. I guess “Section 34 Falls” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Chapel Falls.

hiker above chapel falls

Don’t try this at home

The trail then crosses Section 34 Creek and continues along the gorge. The trail goes by the top of the waterfall too which is a cool vantage point, but be careful here. At this point we started to see a few more people on the trail.  There wasn’t much of interest through the next 1.8 miles or so.

chapel rock at pictured rocks national lakeshore, mi

Chapel Rock

lake superior behind chapel rock

Chapel Rock

When the trail reaches the shore of Lake Superior, it basically dumps you out right at Chapel Rock. This is one of the major landmarks of Pictured Rocks. The rock here has been eroded away leaving this unique geological feature. What makes it really unique is that there’s a large tree growing out of the top, and it’s roots, which are quite large, are spanning a gap that’s maybe 12 feet. While you can get pretty close to Chapel Rock, it’s fenced off. The best pictures I’ve seen of Chapel Rock are from the water though. The lighting is better and the angle is more optimal. Chapel Beach has some good views of it as well.

chapel river flowing into lake superior

Chapel River meets Lake Superior

After leaving Chapel Rock we headed west a very short ways until we crossed a footbridge over Chapel Creek. Alongside the creek is a little footpath that leads down to the beach, or you could just walk further west along the trail to access the beach in numerous other areas. We chose this one though, and followed it a couple yards until it dumped out into Lake Superior. This was a pretty cool sight, seeing the water of the creek flow right into such a huge lake.

Kayaks at Chapel Beach

chapel beach at pictured rocks national lakeshore, mi

Chapel Beach

West end of Chapel Beach

We took a short break here on Chapel Beach to eat some food and just enjoy the scenery. There were a few more hikers passing through the area but still fairly light in terms of traffic. Back on the trail and heading west towards Mosquito Beach, we saw a bunch of Kayaks on the shores of Chapel Beach. The waves looked a little rough today as it was fairly windy, but then again, I imagine Lake Superior is often much rougher. It was last time I was here in June 2011.

Looking east along the shore of Lake Superior just north/west of Chapel Beach

After leaving Chapel Beach behind, the trail heads uphill a short ways and stays close to the edges of the cliffs. To the east, I could see Spray Falls dumping out into Lake Superior. Beyond that, Twelve Mile Beach. The trail along Lake Superior through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is part of the North Country Trail, which, when completed, will be the longest hiking trail in the US at 4600 miles. The section that runs through Pictured Rocks is called the Lakeshore trail and runs about 42 miles from Munising to the Grand Sable Visitor Center. I completed the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Trail in June 2011, although the weather was terrible. I’m glad to have long distance views like this and finally be able to see the real Pictured Rocks!

pictured rocks trail

Between Chapel Beach and Grand Portal point

trail along lake superior at pictured rocks, between chapel beach and grand portal point

As we continued on the trail, we encountered many interesting rock formations and coves. The color of the water is an awesome blue color, almost tropical looking. Don’t be fooled, that water is cold! The contrast of the blue color and the rocks makes for some pretty appealing photos. It took quite a while to work our way along the trail now as the views were just amazing, and we found ourselves stopping at every new vantage point we came across. There was an increasing number of hikers along the trail now.

pictured rocks distant view of grand portal point

Grand Portal Point in the distance

close up of grand portal point's east side

East side of Grand Portal Point

close up of seagul

When we reached the point that’s roughly halfway between Grand Portal Point and Chapel Beach, we took another break. At this point there are several ledges that provide an excellent view of an arch in the rock below Grand Portal Point in the distance. We found this area particularly appealing and decided it was worth an extended stay. These were the best views yet for me.

After leaving our break spot, we encountered more stunning views of the same area from different angles. The cliffs on the western side of this cove were pretty cool looking, consisting of different color bands in the rock including a vibrant pink. It’s easy to see where this area got the name Pictured Rocks.

grand portal point at pictured rocks

Grand Portal Point

When we arrived at Grand Portal Point, there wasn’t anyone else around, for the moment anyways. Even though this whole area was obscured in fog during my only other visit here previously, this was one of my favorite spots along the entire Lakeshore Trail. With the clear blue skies today, the same proved to be true.

Tons of people here at Grand Portal Point

Grand Portal Point

Before I had a chance to take any pictures, the area was swarmed by hoards of hikers passing by in both directions, and you can bet they stopped here. We waited for about 20 minutes as about 30 people made their way through the are before I had a clear shot. It was definitely worth the wait, this area is pretty stunning!

After leaving Grand Portal Point, views back to the east continue to please the eye. The trail continues to skirt the edges of the cliffs, but views are mostly obstructed by greenery. However, breaks in the often dense vegetation are numerous.

About a half mile hike west of Grand Portal Point we rounded another point. We stopped for a break here as well to soak in the incredible scenery. There were less people passing through this area and it was nice to have this little area to ourselves for a bit.

 

Now past the last major point along today’s hike, the trail drops in elevation a little bit and brings us a little closer to the water. For a brief time, we enjoyed a few more breaks in the trees allowing for more extended views of the shoreline. Eventually though, the vegetation breaks subsided and we found ourselves just covering ground in lieu of the grand views we had been so spoiled by earlier. This persisted much of the way to Mosquito Beach.

rocky shoreline of mosquito beach at pictured rocks national lakeshore, mi

Mosquito Beach

We made it to Mosquito Beach mid afternoon. We crossed the bridge over Mosquito River and headed down to the beach. The mouth of the river was wider than that of Chapel River, but still shallow enough to walk across if one was so inclined. Here at Mosquito Beach, there were large, round rocks scattered along the shoreline, unlike Chapel Beach.

Mosquito Beach Shoreline

We walked down the shoreline of Mosquito Beach for a while, but eventually route became impassible the ground behind us became steeper and started running into the water. We turned around and headed back to the mouth of Mosquito River.

mosquito river meets lake superior

Mouth of the Mosquito River

Back at the Mouth, we decided to head back to the car as we had basically seen everything we set out to see for the day. However, we did have one last place to visit, and that’s Mosquito Falls.

The hike to Mosquito Falls wasn’t particularly amazing after hiking the Lakeshore Trail, but hey, it can’t be incredible all the time right? We realized that if we had taken another trail from Mosquito Beach, we could have avoided a point-a-d back scenario to the falls, but that’s exactly what we did. The falls were another .9 miles each way from the junction of the trail we were on, so we went for it. Had we come in on the other trail, slightly west of the one we took, we could have walked right past the falls on the way back to the car. Oh well!

mosquito falls at pictured rocks national lakeshore, mi

Mosquito Falls

Mosquito Falls were only about 6-8 feet tall, but fairly wide in comparison to Chapel Falls. We didn’t stick around long as the thought of our post-hike meal was starting to rule our actions. Back at the junction of the Mosquito Falls trail and the trail we had taken from Mosquito Beach, it was only another half mile or so back to the trailhead.

When we arrived at the trailhead, it was much more full than this morning. By the way the cars were parked alongside the road leading into the trailhead, it’s obvious it was much more full earlier today and that it had actually cleared out. We headed over to the Bear Trap restaurant (H-58 & H-15) for some food afterwards. It’s the only restaurant in the vicinity that I saw. Decent food, but it sure hit the spot after today hike of nearly 16 miles.

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North Country Trail Section Hike – Hwy 131 to Mesick, MI – Dec 2015

pink sky sunrise in winter over manistee river in michigan

View All Photos |  HD Video on Youtube

  • Location – Pere Marquette State Forest, MI
  • Trail – North Country Trail Section – Hwy 131 in Fife Lake to Mesick
  • Fees and Permits: none
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 2 days, 1 night
  • Miles Hiked – 25+
  • Trail Type – Point-to-point
  • Starting Point – Roadside park along Hwy 131 in Fife Lake (closed in winter for parking!)
  • Ending Point – 12/15 Rd Trailhead in Mesick
  • Route Difficulty – 3
  • Fires Allowed – Yes
  • Solitude – 7 (For Michigan)

Maps

Below is my caltopo map I created before the hike.

Notes

I’ve hiked the High Country Pathway, Manistee River Loop, Nordhouse Dunes and the Jordan River Valley, which I consider to be the top hiking destinations in the lower peninsula. However, I have not hiked any segments of the North Country Trail yet, other than the west bank of the Manistee River where the NCT, along with the Manistee River trail, helps form the extremely popular Manistee River Loop. I found a segment of the NCT that sparked my interest, running from Hwy 131 south of Fife Lake to Mesick, and and chose that for a weekend getaway. There really isn’t much info in NCT section hiking in the lower peninsula. I only managed to dig up a couple trip reports with very limited pictures.

This hike ended up being 25-27 miles. I forgot my GPS so I don’t know the exact mileage. The North Country Trail is extremely well marked throughout and follows the Manistee River the whole way through this section, making it hard to get lost.

The challenge with this hike is logistics. It’s a point-to-point and requires a shuttle from one end to the other. Fortunately I was able to secure a ride from my car to my starting point at Hwy 131 to make this hike happen.

Saturday December 19th, 2015

I woke up around 5am today and made the 1 hour drive over to the town of Mesick with my shuttle ride following behind. After dropping my car off near the 12/15 Rd Trailhead on the north side of the Manistee River just east of M-37, we headed towards my starting point, where the Manistee River meets Hwy 131. First, we passed through the small town of Manton to stop for breakfast. Gotta get that last hot meal in before setting out into the cold!

After breakfast we continued north on Hwy 131 until we crossed the Manistee River. On the east side of the road just north of the river is a roadside park where you can pick up the NCT. However, the roadside park is closed for the winter. My ride dropped me off in front of the gate and I was on my own from here.

I walked through the parking lot towards the river and quickly picked up the trail. Heading south/west, the trail immediately runs underneath Hwy 131. It was in the teens today and windy, with some flurries in the air. After a short while of walking I was warmed up and ready to cover some miles.

manistee river michigan near hwy 131 fife lake in winter

Manistee River at Hwy 131 in Fife Lake where I started

manistee river mi near hwy 131 along nct

The purpose of this hike was not only to get away and see this previously unexplored section of the Manistee River, but also to get a bunch of miles on my legs before my upcoming hike in Big Bend National Park in January 2016. I sprained my ankle in October and have been trying to slowly rehab it. After a few weeks of shorter walks, now is the time to do a more serious test and make sure I can handle a week in the desert.

river bends of mansitee river in michigan during winter

The river has many, many bends like this along the trail

north country trail view in pere marquette state forest michigan

Not far after leaving Hwy 131 behind, I came across a campground, aptly named Old Us-131 State Forest Campground. Here, there was one car parked and some foot prints in the snow.

Redneck Crapper

After passing the campground, I came across a railroad bridge crossing the river. Just past this bridge, there was a nice campsite with a nice overlook above the river. A little further down the trail was the first sign along the trail.

at the banks of the manistee river in winter

railroad bridge over manistee river

railroad tracks in forest in michigan during winter

sign along the north country trail

Sign near railroad bridge

Flurries continued to fall much of the morning and early afternoon. Not enough to really accumulate, but enough to set that winter mood. The trail has been very well marked and groomed making navigation easy, even with some snow to contend with.

manistee river viewed from north country trail

manistee river bend photo in winter

hiking along the manistee river with snow on ground

The trail passes right alongside the edge of some private property for a while before dumping you out at a road. From here, it’s time to walk to road for a while.

trees in michigan winter planted in rows

After leaving the road and back on a trail, it passes behind a house higher up the hill. after getting out of sight of this home, I don’t believe there’s any more buildings homes to pass along the rest of the hike. Good views of the river from here. The next section is a little hilly with some ups and downs.

a sign along the north country trail near baxter, mi

Sign marking the end of the road walk and the beginning of the NCT trail again

bend in the manistee river near baxter michigan

Near Baxter, back along the river again

hairpin bend in manistee river with snow on ground

Next I arrived at the Highbanks Rollway overlook. Here, there’s a wooden platform extending over the edges of the bluffs for a great view of the Manistee River and the the surrounding area. There was a sign up here that said it’s 200ft above the river, a massive view for the lower peninsula of Michigan. You could actually see a ways in the distance from here.

view from highbanks rollway

View from Highbanks Rollway

After leaving the Highbanks Rollway, the trail continued to follow the edges of the bluffs and good views ensued. I was ready to find a campsite, but was looking to be a little farther away from this area. I went around another bend in the river and felt like that was far enough, and started actively searching for a place to hang my hammock.

a sign along the north country trail near highbanks rollway

Sign near Highbanks Rollway

near highbanks rollway view of manistee river

West of Highbanks Rollway

When I found a place to camp, first thing I did was get a fire going. It was cold just sitting around and and I wanted the warm of the fire to warm my hands as I set up camp.

winter camping in michigan hammock hanging with campfire burning

After getting the fire going, I got the hammock up and decided to leave the tarp off and chance it. There was no mention of snow tonight so I figured it was a chance worth taking. Not messing with that tarp saved a lot of time.

warbonnet ridgerunner hammock setup with no tarp in winter

 

For dinner, I had sausage (cooked it at home and ground it up pretty good) and shredded cheddar cheese in some flatbread. It was wrapped in some aluminium foil, so all I had to do is throw it n the fire for a bit to warm it up. When it was soft to the touch, it’s done. And DAMN, was this thing good. I’m going to make more of these in the future when the temperature allows.

Before jumping in bed I put my boots in a garbage bag so that I could sleep with them under my top quilt. Frozen boots are NOT fun, lesson learned from my previous winter hike in January 2015.

Sunday December 20th, 2015

It was a cold night, in the teens. However, I was fairly warm all night with what I had. And the best part is, my boots were really warm when I put them on this morning.

After getting out of the hammock I headed down to the river overlook a few hundred yards away to watch a beautiful sunrise. Lots of reds and oranges, very colorful compared to the bright white that dominates most of the landscape.

pink sky sunrise in winter over manistee river in michigan

Sunrise over the Manistee River

After watching the sunrise, eating breakfast and packing up I got a move on. It was overcast now and waiting for the warm up. In fact, it was supposed to warm up to around 40 today. I wanted to cover some ground before things softened up and became slippery and muddy. For now everything was good underfoot.

winter december 2015 picture of manistee river

The trial continues to look and feel like it did yesterday. Some high banks with good views above the river and some lowlands here, passing through old logging fields that have been replanted or maybe alongside the river itself.

manistee river north country trail section

winter hiking along manistee river nct section

Occasionally near the river, there would be an access road leading to it. In some spots it looks like people just car camp there. I only saw one spot with some trash and it was minimal. I wondered if the fishing was any good from any of these spots by the river. Between Hodenpyl Dam and Red Bridge, roughly 15 miles southwest of here where I’ve hiked several time before, I never had any luck from the shore.

Manistee River December 2015

It was definitely warming up now. The clouds appeared to be thinning and although still overcast, more sun was bleeding through. Yesterday when I was hiking, it was much colder, and so having my base layer pants on underneath my hiking pants kept me at a pretty good temperature. Today though, I was sweating. A lot. I should have just stopped and removed them, but I kept pushing on. My decision ultimately ended up resulting in a good bit of chaffing, which always sucks.

view of bluff along manistee river

curve in manistee river

I knew I had to be getting close to my car at this point. The ground was getting getting soft now and the snow was melting. Eventually, I walked through a small dirt parking lot area alongside a road, with a sign at the trailhead. Cool, there’s my car. It was early afternoon now, and I was ready to get these boots off! 25+ miles in less than 36 hours, not bad. Hopefully I’m ready for Big Bend National Park next month.

trailhead at 12 15 rd for north country trail

Sign at the 12/15 Rd trailhead

Like what you see?

Pigeon River Country State Forest, MI – January 2015 (Trip Report)

Overview

View All Photos | HD Video

  • Location – Pigeon River Country State Forest, MI
  • Park Type – State Forest
  • Miles Driven To Destination – 500 miles Round trip
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 4 days, 3 nights
  • Miles Hiked – 11
  • Trail Type – Basecamp, off trail
  • Trail Difficulty – 5/10
  • Fires Allowed – Yes
  • Solitude – 7.5
Total distance: 11.62 mi
Max elevation: 1211 ft
Min elevation: 489 ft
Total climbing: 3888 ft
Total descent: -3927 ft
Download

Notes

If you plan on camping in the backcountry (on State Forest land, but outside of a state forest campground), the Michigan DNR (Department of Natural Resources) requires you to fill out a camp registration card. You need to fill it out in PENCIL and leave this card where you camped, tied to a tree or secured in some other way. This system is pretty dumb if you ask me. You need to carry a card for each camp you stay at, and a pencil… who brings a pencil backpacking? And why on Earth do they want you to leave it in the woods where it will likely be destroyed by the weather long before any DNR officer ever finds it? Regardless, you can print out your camp registration card (they are free) by opening the link below:

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-30301_30505_30731-31303–,00.html

 

Getting There

Many of the “roads” on the map in the Pigeon River Country State Forest aren’t really roads that you can drive on. These roads may have been old logging roads, but now are only passable by 4×4 vehicles with a high clearance. Many of these roads have downed trees blocking the path, or even new trees growing in the road. Some of the roads on the map simply weren’t there as well. Google earth showed roads on the map that were not there when reached that area.

From I-75, Sturgeon Valley Rd. coming from Vanderbilt is the main access road for the southern portion of the state forest, and Webb Rd through Wolverine is the main access road for the northern section.

Day 1 – January 2nd, 2015

Miles Hiked – 1.5
Route – Parking spot at Chaffe Rd & Osmun Rd to camp near Little McMasters Creek

pigeon river country state forest osmun rd & chaffe rd parking

Parking at Osmun Rd & Chaffe Rd

We arrived at our parking spot at the intersection of Osmun Rd and Chaffe Rd later than anticipated due to my car GPS taking us down some ridiculous route down non-existent roads. There was no parking area, but the intersection was very large and provided enough room to park two vehicles without being in the way of anyone driving down the road. Since we saw no tire tracks in the snow on any roads for the last 30+ minutes, we figured this spot would be acceptable. Actually, we tried driving east on Chaffe a ways first to see if we could park farther down, but quickly found that this would not be possible with one of the vehicles in our convoy due to huge ruts, downed trees and steep hills.

We loaded up our gear and started walking around 2:30, much later than I hoped. Fortunately, this trip is not about hiking a ton of miles and moving from camp to camp, but instead we planned on setting up a basecamp and just exploring the area. Before leaving home, I used Garmin Basecamp and Google Earth to pick an area that would be suitable for camp. From our parking spot, camp was mostly a straight shot down Chaffe Rd, and then off trail a short ways.

We saw elk tracks almost immediately after leaving the car behind. In addition, we also saw coyote and rabbit prints in the snow along Chaffe Rd. This section was hilly, and would be very hard to drive up in all but the beefiest 4x4s. Right now there was about 2 inches of snow on the ground, but we were expecting a few more inches this weekend. The walk was pretty quick and eventually the road ended. From here, we cut a path through the forest towards the area I had picked for camp. After a short distance, we reached a large clearing. The area had clearly been logged, but also seemed to have a lot of downed trees. Little McMasters Creek flowed through here, originating from this marshy area according to the map. We saw cattails and other signs that told us the ground we were walking on wasn’t completely solid. We headed towards the treeline once we had the chance.

As soon as we exited the logging area, we found ourselves in a thin stretch of cedar swamp lining the edges of the marsh. In the summer this probably wouldn’t have been a great place to camp, but right now it looked pretty decent as soggy areas were mostly frozen and there were obviously no bugs that typically plague these areas. There was a flat spot with good cover from the trees for Bryan’s tent, good space between the trees to hang my hammock (first time using one!), and an uprooted tree that would provide a good wind block for our fire. Most importantly, the close proximity to water. The creek was about 100 yards from camp which was very convenient. Yup, this is it, home for the next 3 nights.

little mcmasters creek marsh in pigeon river country state forest

Marshy area with Little McMasters Creek flowing through it

Now about 3:30, it was time to start setting up camp. Daylight is scare this time of year, and we had about 2 hours of light left to work with. Marc didn’t have to worry about setting up a tent, since he planned to hike back to the parking spot each night and sleep in the back of his minivan. Instead, he went to town on gathering firewood. He brought a hand saw and loppers which proved invaluable throughout the trip.

I mentioned that I would be sleeping in a hammock. I have been dying to try one for the last 2 years and finally have the chance to after receiving one for Christmas. The Grand Trunk brand hammock has no mesh bug liner or anything fancy about it, but for this trip it should suffice. I had ordered the Grand Trunk Funky Forest tarp to use with this hammock a few days earlier, but apparently UPS doesn’t deliver on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, only air mail. Needless to say, I didn’t receive it in time. I had to use some lightweight blue tarps I bought at REI. The largest tarp I had was a little too short for the hammock but I had multiple tarps with me. For the first night, I just used one tarp overhead and one below me to set my gear on.

Bryan and I decided to go out for a short walk after setting up camp. We headed through the cedar swamp towards the east end of the marsh. Not far from camp, we picked up some coyote tracks that led right where we were already going, so we followed them. At the end of the marshy area the tracks ran along the top of a small burm or levee, separating this area from another large open marshy area to the east, which had a very thin line of trees blocking the view. The creek flowed from one open area to the other through a gap in the burm.

Once the sun went down it was time to get a fire going. I tried lighting the fire with some cattails and a spark from my firesteel, but that was a no go. Most of the wood was a little wet and snow covered, so the fire took some effort to get going. Finally, I was successful using a lighter and the stalks of the cattails, constantly feeding the fire with stalks since they go out fairly quickly. Now it was time to cook some italian sausages for dinner. How could they possibly be any better? Try eating them on cheesebread with shredded cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. No noodles in a bag for me!

After eating dinner and hanging out for a while, Marc headed back to his van. He was hesitant about sleeping in a tent this weekend since the temps were forecast to be in the low single digits on night 3. To each his own I guess.

The moon was nearly full and illuminated the marsh by our camp. The crisp air, dead silence and stillness of the night was very peaceful. I actually had the feeling of being in a remote location despite this being the lower peninsula of Michigan. There was a good chance we were the only ones sleeping out here tonight, as this place isn’t all that crowded with hikers and backpackers in the summer either. In May of 2013, I hiked the High Country Pathway, an 80 mile loop trail that runs through this area, and I didn’t see a single hiker. I highly doubt there will be anyone out here now.

When I went to brush my teeth tonight, my toothpaste was almost frozen. I had been trying to keep my water and any food that I planned on eating soon warm by putting it in my pockets, but I guess I’ll have to do the same for toothpaste and contact lens solution.

Tonight was going to be interesting. First night in a hammock, and I have never slept in temps this low (around 13 tonight). I gave my 0 degree bag to Bryan, and I took the 20 degree bag. I planned on sleeping in my clothes for extra warmth. I don’t have an underquilt to use under the hammock, so I used two inflatable sleeping pads (Thermarest ProLite and Klymit Inertia X-Frame) instead to block heat loss from below. We’ll see how the night turns out.

Day 2 – January 3rd, 2015

Miles Hiked – 4.1
Route – Logging roads, off trail

My first night in the hammock wasn’t the greatest. I had to get up once to put some more slack in the straps for the hammock so it wasn’t so tipsy. The extra slack helped a lot. My feet were cold but I was only wearing 1 pair of sock liners and one pair of smartwool socks. Tonight I will add another pair of smartwool socks, that ought to help. Also, as I had anticipated, not being able to turn over and lay on my stomach or sides was annoying.

freshly fallen snow near camp

Freshly fallen sow

There was a dusting of snow overnight, which was on my gear below me. Not too much so no big deal, but I’ll have to address that later. Right now I had to concentrate on warming up my feet, they were very cold! I ran up the hill behind camp and did a bunch of jumping jacks at the top and ran back down. That wasn’t enough so I used my hands to massage the feeling back to my toes. Definitely going to need to have wood ready for a fire tomorrow morning.

bushcraft - firewood storage

Built this to keep the firewood from getting buried in snow

After Bryan got up and we both ate, we started gathering more firewood. Then we realized that the snow coming later today and tomorrow is just going to bury our wood, so we decided to make a bit of a shelter for the firewood to keep it dry. There was a ton of great wood around as there were many downed trees near camp, so finding all the materials needed was easy.

hammock camping with blue taprs for rainfly

Not the prettiest solution but for such short notice, it will suffice

hammock with blue tarps overhead for rainfly

After building a storage area for our firewood, I decided to beef up my tarp system to keep me and my gear protected from the snow. I repositioned the tarp over the hammock to be closer to one tree than the other, then added a second tarp on the exposed end. Also, I placed another small tarp over my gear below. This was a pretty ghetto solution but functional, and the best I could come up with on short notice. After all, I started planned this trip only 5 days earlier.

Marc finally made his way back to camp by late morning. My MSR Miniworks water filter wasn’t pumping water, so when Marc returned with his Katadyn filter we were finally able to fill our water bottles. I’m not sure what the problem was with mine, other than the fact that it was cold out, and I have never used it in temps this low yet. I have been using my SteriPen Opti for the last 2 years due to it’s smaller size and weight.

bushcraft - lean-to

view of our campsite

We were anticipating several inches of snow over the next few days and thought it would be nice to have a bit of shelter overhead while we sat in front of the fire, so we made a quick lean-to. There weren’t many downed pine or cedar trees around though so we were short on roofing materials. Still, it will act as a wind block and provide at least some protection from the snow.

Once we were done with improvements to basecamp, we headed out for a day hike. We didn’t have any set location to head to, we were just out wandering around for the most part, following anything we thought may be interesting. We headed south from camp, which took us up hill and into a large clearing with a single huge pine in the open. There were a few sets of coyote prints here, which we followed through the field. At the other end of the field was a huge pine tree, alone out in the open. We then entered the woods again, following a faint pathway between the trees.

Eventually we ran into an old logging road, which we followed until it dead ended into another logging road. This road actually showed up on my GPS and was Little McMasters Creek Trail. The road had tons of animal prints on it, including coyote, deer, and elk. We took a right and followed the road a ways until we came across a field to the west. On the other side of the field, the land looked more hilly, and we decide to head that way.

There was no trail or road to follow now, so we cut a path trough into the woods through unbroken snow. There was maybe 3 inches on the ground, so it wasn’t too difficult to walk through. It was slippery in spots, especially going up and down hills. It was nice walking through here but with three guys, I am pretty sure we scared off any animals that were around. Several times we came upon some extremely fresh tracks, deer mostly.

The temperature was warming up today and was forecast to be around 32 for the high, which would be the high for the entire trip as well. We were pretty warm from climbing up the hills with all our layers on, so we took a break to cool off before breaking too much of a sweat.

After our break, we started heading in the direction of camp. The GPS showed a nice loop forming as we cut a direct path back. There were occasionally some logging roads the we crossed but eventually stopped following them as they would often curve and lead us away from camp. The woods weren’t extremely thick but there were a lot of smaller trees that were perfect for eye poking. It was nice to finally make it out of the woods and back into the large field with the lone pine tree near camp. From here we followed our tracks back. Today’s hike was 2.5 hours and about 4.5 miles.

For dinner tonight I had some bacon, sausage and flatbread with olive oil drizzled on it, among other snacks. I cooked the bacon and sausage in aluminum foil over the fire. After losing 15+ pounds in 8 days on my hike in the Wind River Range this summer, I was determined not to lose any weight this trip. It took me 3 months to gain that weight back in the gym. This time, I brought 9 pounds of food for 2 full days and 2 half days, and was not having any problem chowing down like a madman. One of my favorite things about hiking is eating a bunch of good food (fatty animal meats for instance) I normally wouldn’t get to eat at home because I try to eat healthy. Out here, I need all the calories I can get!

We were getting some flurries this evening but nothing serious. I weren’t sure exactly when the bulk of the snow was coming but knew it was sometime tonight or tomorrow. Our firewood storage structure was full of wood and ready to fuel the fire tonight and tomorrow morning. After waking up with freezing feet this morning, I wanted to make sure I could get a fire going in the morning asap.

While sitting by the fire we heard several coyotes howling in the distance. Between breaks in the clouds we could see that moon was now almost full too. Now, it was time for Marc to hike back to the van for the evening. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to do that every night, especially after dinner. Speaking of after dinner, it was time for more food… chocolate to warm me up before bed!

Day 3 – January 4th, 2015

Miles Hiked – 3.7
Route – Logging roads, off trail

I slept much better last night. I was more used to the hammock and was more comfortable in it. I added an extra pair of smartwool socks to keep my feet warm, and put my feet and legs into the arms of my rain jacket. Sounds silly but this has worked for me in the past on cold nights. Actually though, last night wasn’t that cold, it was the warmest while we were out here, with lows in the mid 20s or so. This morning was much more bearable.

About 2 inches of snow fell over night. Good thing I added the extra tarps to my setup, that helped keep the snow out. I was getting some condensation buildup on the inside of the tarp though. This freezes and falls on my sleeping bag throughout the night, especially when I would shake the tarp to knock off snow that has accumulated on the outside. Even so, I was dry all night so I can’t complain.

Our 3 sided firewood storage area allowed some snow in but not nearly as much as without it. I got a fire going and started cooking some bacon bacon for breakfast. Afterwards,  Bryan and I filtered some water from the creek.

Marc showed up a little earlier this morning, and we then proceeded to gather firewood for tonight and tomorrow morning, which we anticipate to be the coldest of the trip.

marshy area by little mcmasters creek

Little McMasters Creek flowing through a large open area. Much of this was soggy and partially frozen.

We headed out for another day hike around noon. This time we thought we would follow the marsh east. We hiked through the woods along the marsh for a while before trying to venture out into the open area, which looked more like a normal field now than a marsh. However, it wasn’t long before my foot went through a soft spot on the ground and some water got into my boot. We headed back into the woods where the ground should be more solid. This was true for a short while, but eventually we reached an area where there was pools of water pretty much everywhere as we were basically still in a cedar swamp. We decided that it wasn’t worth walking through this area and headed back towards the way we came.

winter hiking in the pigeon river country state forest, michigan

pigeon river country state forest logging area in the winter

Overlooking a logging area just west of Canada Creek Ranch

 

On our way back towards camp we hit Little McMasters Creek Trail again, north of where we hiked it yesterday. We walked south on this road for a short while before heading east through a field. We saw some human footprints in this field that were probably a day or two old, as the prints were visible but had new snowfall on them. I figured they led into the Canada Creek Ranch which was not far from here. We decided to follow them and see where they went. The footprints led us down a series of logging roads, fields, and pathways in the woods before we reached an area that had been logged. Since the Canada Creek Ranch is private property, we figured this would be a good place to turn around since we were pretty close to it now.

snow covered pine treees in northern michigan

Walking among these snow covered pines was beautiful

beautiful winter scenery

The hike up to this point was very pretty with lots of huge, snow-covered pines. This was what I was envisioning for a winter hike. The snow was coming down a little bit here and there all day long, never very heavy at any time though.

We returned back to camp in mid afternoon. The temperature was really starting to drop. A few minutes of sitting and I was cold. It was hard to stay warm now since we weren’t moving. After eating some food and relaxing for a while, we headed out for another short hike. This time, we wanted to head north, which meant crossing the marsh. We didn’t want to cut through it near camp, so we headed west a ways before turning north, hoping to go around any wet areas. However, this area was looking pretty thick and we decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. Instead we just headed back to camp again, this time for the night.

We got the fire going early tonight since it was so cold now. There was intermittent wind in addition to on and off flurries. We hovered by the fire for warmth all night while we cooked dinner and waited for bedtime. This was definitely one of those times when you didn’t want to leave the fire. It’s easy to  forget how cold it is just a few feet away. My watch can read the temperature, but apparently not when it’s this cold. Everything else on the watch was functioning properly, but when I left the watch out in the cold for a few minutes the temperature wouldn’t register. After warming it up with my hands for a few seconds it read 14 degrees, so I know it was colder than that. It was only going to get colder as the night goes on.

 

Day 4- January 5th, 2015

Miles Hiked – 1.6
Route – Camp near Little McMasters Creek to parking spot at Osmun Rd. & Chaffe Rd.

I did everything I did the night before to stay warm, but my feet were cold again tonight. My body was mostly warm despite a few shivers throughout the night. All in all, the night was pretty tolerable though considering it was likely several degrees below 0 with the wind chill. We got a few more inches of snow overnight bringing the total up to 6-8 inches.

The worst thing about today was that my boots were frozen. I had shoved my gloves into the boots and put them under a tarp, but they were quite solid when I attempted to put my feet in them. I had to piss so bad after being in the hammock for 10 hours, so I just forced my feet in there so I could get out of bed. I immediately lit a fire and began thawing out my boots, and my feet. It’s amazing how quickly those boots sucked out any remaining heat that was left in my feet. I spent a good 15 minutes regaining feeling in my toes before moving on to other chores.

Bryan had to be back downstate by 6pm for work tonight, so we tried to pack up camp as quickly as possible this morning. He wasn’t feeling good from something he ate yesterday so he didn’t cook any breakfast. I was going to cook some sausage links but decided to save time and just eat a Metrx bar.

Packing up camp was a pain because every time the wind blew, huge clumps of snow would fall on me and my gear. Once I packed the tarps I had no protection from the falling snow, which got inside my backpack and over other things. The good news is that it was so cold that the snow wasn’t wet at all, and it was easy to shake out. The fire was essential for warming my hands every so often.

We left camp around 10:30 this morning. Marc was sleeping in his van, so there was no need for him to come to camp this morning. Instead, we would hike back to him and our vehicles. This was a lot easier a few days ago when there was less snow. Now, there was a good 8 inches in spots, and the hike back was rather hilly. Bryan was worn out from not eating any food over the past day due to his stomach, so he was having trouble with the walk back. Good thing it’s only 1.5 miles. Felt like 5 miles though.

Once we reached our vehicles, Marc was there to greet us. He had to jump start his van this morning with Bryan’s truck. It sure was nice having two vehicle here this time. Bryan’s truck read 3 degrees outside, and this was at 11:30. I wonder how cold it was at 6am?

We took a different route back to Sturgeon Valley Rd, the main road leading back to Vanderbilt and  I-75. I was concerned about Marc’s minivan making through the unplowed roads but we made it out without issues. Woohoo, first winter camping trip under my belt!

 

Final Thoughts

This trip was more of a learning experience for me than anything else. I wanted to see what it was like and what it takes to camp in cold weather. Specifically, what gear I found useful and which I could do without. The first thing I would leave behind next time is the shovel. I was envisioning more snow and the need to dig out an area for the tent, near the campfire, etc. Unless there was at least a foot of snow on the ground or the snow was hard and icy, I don’t see a need for it in this area. Maybe in the mountains but not Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. I definitely need to get a longer rain jacket too as mine is shorter than my insulation jacket below it. It’s a tight fit with all those layers on.

Sleeping in the hammock was comfortable overall, much more than sleeping on the ground. When sleeping on the ground I felt like I was waking up every 20-30 minutes when my arm or leg would go numb from laying on it. Coming up with a rainfly setup for the hammock is my next challenge.

The Pigeon River Country State Forest is, in my opinion, the most wild area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. We didn’t see anyone else out here, not even tire tracks in the snow on any state forest road. Lots of animal tracks as expected but with three guys traveling together I didn’t expect to see much. It was kind of discouraging seeing all the “roads” that criss cross through this area on the map, but in reality, many of these roads aren’t used at all, since they are impassible by car or simply non existent. I have been through this area twice before in the summer, and never saw any hikers either time. This time was no different, didn’t see a soul. Not surprising given the weather.

As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you found my trip report useful, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Alternatively, if you feel you have any information you’d like to share with others regarding this hike, please feel free to leave that below in a comment as well.

 

 

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Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, MI – July 2014 (Backpacking Trip Report)

blue skies over nordhouse dunes

blue skies over nordhouse dunes

Hiking & Camping In Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, MI

View all of my Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness pictures | Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness HD video on Youtube

  • Location – Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, Michigan
  • Trail – Varied, and mostly off trail
  • Trailhead – Nurnberg Trailhead
  • Park Type – National Forest, Wilderness Area
  • Fees & Permits – There is no fee to camp, but at the Nurnberg trailhead there is a $5/night fee per car, or $15 for a week
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 4 days, 3 nights
  • Trail Type – Off trail
  • Miles Hiked – ~30
  • Trail Difficulty – 4/10
  • Solitude – 1 on beach and popular trails, 5 in the interior of the park
  • Fires Allowed – Yes

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Notes

Nordhouse Dunes is the only federally designated Wilderness Area in Michigan’s lower peninsula. This isn’t really too surprising as Michigan’s lower peninsula is about as far from wilderness as you can get. I don’t believe I have ever been more than 1.5 miles from a road anywhere in the lower peninsula. Another interesting fact is that Ludington State Park, which borders Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness to the south, has the largest area of fresh water interdunal ponds in the world.

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Maps

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5151641.pdf

nordhouse dunes wilderness michigan hiking trail map

map of norhouse dunes wilderness including trail heads

nordhouse dunes route hiked shown on map

Total distance: 27.2 mi
Max elevation: 761 ft
Min elevation: 505 ft
Total climbing: 5928 ft
Total descent: -5846 ft
Download

Day 1 – Friday July 11th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 2.1

We arrived at the Nurnberg trailhead around 6:30pm, and it was packed. The car after us took the last spot, and people now had to park down the road, past a sign saying “no parking beyond this point”. This is where Ryan had to park when he arrived about an hour later.

There where a lot of people coming and going, and it really looked the like the party crowd. One guy was carrying a cooler full of beer. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but this was not what I was wanting to see. Regardless, we left the trailhead around 8:30pm or so.

parking lot of nurnberg trialhead

Packed parking lot at Nurnberg Trailhead in Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, MI

The Nurnburg trailhead parking lot actually has a trail passing through both sides of it. On the north side, near the outhouse, the trail heads towards Nordhouse Lake. On the south side, the trail heads straight for Lake Michigan, which is the route we chose. We hiked past one or two small ponds and a marshy area before reaching our first dune outcrop about 20-30 minutes later. Once over one or two small dunes we had our first view of the lake.

laek michigan dune hiking in nordhouse wilderness

nordhouse dunes sunset over lake michigan

The sun was going down quick, and we started scouting for campsites at this point. We started heading north along the dunes paralleling the shoreline. We saw a lot of people scattered around here and there, and as expected, it took a while to find a decent site. We settled on a spot tucked in a bit of a bowl just a few yards into the first patch of trees butting up to the dunes. Bryan and I were in tents, while Ryan brought his hammock. I’ve never slept in one, let alone laid in one (the kind for overnight camping anyway).  asked if I could test out the hammock, and it was pretty comfortable. Maybe someday I’ll buy one for myself.

Hiking In Nordhosue Dunes Wilderness

twilight lake michigan nordhouse dunes beach

We didn’t have much time for anything tonight after setting up camp as the sun had pretty much set. We hung out down by the water for a while before calling it a night.

Day 2 – Saturday July 12th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 10.1

nordhouse dunes sunrise over lake michigan beach

nordhouse dunes wilderness campsite

After waking up I headed down to the beach for a while. Ryan joined me a while later, and finally Bryan emerged from his tent and made his way to the water. We didn’t have a set plan for today, just to explore.

Day 2, Hiking Back to Nurnberg Trailhead

Dune Jumping

dune jumping nordhouse dunes

I’m flying!

SONY DSC

After getting back to camp and eating breakfast, we set off on a hike to Nordhouse Lake. It wasn’t long before we came across some dunes that looked inviting. One in particular caught my eye, with its large bowl shaped pit. We had some fun jumping into the pit from the top and taking some pictures before moving on.

nordhouse lake michigan wilderness

Nordhouse Lake

another picture of nordhouse alke

The trail to Nordhouse Lake from where we were camped required heading back to the trailhead, since the trail we were looking for passes through the other side of the parking lot. It was just as packed, if not moreso today. We passed through the lot and continued on the trail to the lake. There were less people around now, but we weren’t alone by any means. Once we arrived at the lake, it started sprinkling. Fortunately it was light and short lived. We were rather unimpressed with the lake itself and since there didn’t appear to be anywhere that would be easy to fish (and worthwhile to do so) from on the shore, we moved on. At this point, we decided to head back to camp and explore the dunes some more.

Once we arrived back at camp, we were shocked to find another group of people setting up camp extremely close to us. Probably about 40ft separating out campsites. It was a group of about 12 or so people, some boyscouts and their scout leader(s).  I consider this to be rude and bad hiking etiquette. There are plenty of campsites scattered throughout the park, and therefore unnecessary to be that close to us. Especially with such a large group of young kids. We immediately began to pack up our stuff to move somewhere else. Ugh, the nerve of some people.

lake michigan shoreline hiking nordhouse dunes wilderness

Hiking south along Lake Michigan

We headed south down the beach, scoping the area for someplace more secluded to camp. Walking along the shore was easy and nice. After covering a little ground, we had to start heading inland to look for campsites. Every time we thought we found somewhere good, there were already people there. So all we could do was keep heading south.

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Hike

nordhouse dunes wilderness backpacking

panorama shot of nordhouse dunes

nordhouse dunes ridgeline hiking to camp

This is the ridgeline we used to travel from our campsite up and over to the “interior” of the park.

After a while we left the beach altogether for a more accurate lay of the land. From the high ground we could see a few spots worth checking out, however, they were farther to the north. No big deal, we just back tracked a little. It turns out that we passed right by a great campsite earlier because we couldn’t see it from the beach.

nordhouse dunes wilderness campsite

Campsite for nights 2 and 3

After setting up camp, we took a quick swim in Lake Michigan. It was pretty cool at first, but not bad after a few minutes. However, a few minutes was good enough for me, I’m nice and cool now. The weather was starting to look pretty crappy now as the skies grew increasingly foggy. Back at camp, Ryan was taking a nap in his hammock. Bryan and I decided to head out further into the interior of the dune field and away from the lake. We figured there would be nobody out there, especially with the weather looking the way it was.

Leaving camp for the "interior"

Leaving camp for the “interior”

nordhouse dunes wilderness fog

The other side…

Foggy Nordhouse Dunes

We headed up a ridgeline in the dune up to a high point, which we could not see past all day. Now, we could see on the other side of this ridge, sort of. The fog was getting thick and hindered our views greatly. Still, being in a place like this with heavy fog cover was pretty cool.

nordhouse dunes interdunal pond

“Hey, is that an interdunal pond? Let’s check that out!”

nordhouse interdunal pond

interdunal pond at nordhouse dunes

We saw some water in the distance, so we headed for that. We still had not yet seen any of those interdunal ponds. From a distance, I was thinking this could be a potential campsite. Once we were up close, I could see that it was a dirty, muddy looking pond of stagnant water. Nothing like what I was expecting.

Nordhouse Day 2

Nordhosue Dunes Wilderness

Knife Point Dune Ridgeline

Next, we headed farther inland and up an even higher ridgeline. The top of the ridge was a knife point edge in spots and again, not what I was expecting for sand dunes. This was much more interesting to me than the beach.

Foggy Dunes

We wandered around through the dunes for about an hour and a half before heading back to camp. Hopefully the weather will cooperate tomorrow.

 

Day 3 – Sunday July 13th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 12.5

sunshine over nordhouse dunes this morning

nordhouse dunes backpacking trip morning day 3

Sun, Dunes, Lake MIchigan

I awoke before the others again today, and headed off into the interior of the dune field shortly after sunrise. I saw some deer as I made it to the top of the ridge. Actually, we had seen a lot of deer this whole trip. It was kind of nice to be up here alone this morning.

Once I was back at camp, everyone was up and ready to go for the day. We decided to use this camp as a basecamp and just day hike from here. Bryan and I both suggested further exploration of the dune’s interior. Ryan agreed, having not yet seen it.

hiking through grassy dunes in michigan

SONY DSC  blue skies over nordhouse dunes

We took a different route into the dune field this time as Ryan mostly led the way. It was really sunny now and shaping up to be a hot day. Still, I can’t complain about clear blue skies! The views were excellent now with proper visibility. It looked like we were hiking on an abandoned golf course with enormous over-sized sand traps. I’m sure a more skilled photographer would have a field day out here, but we still had fun taking pictures along the way nonetheless.

Shadow play

Shadow play

Me at Nordhouse Dunes

Nordhouse Dunes Panorama

Open Area

Much of the morning was spent off trail, on grassy dunes and sometimes just sand, although there were sections of trail here and there. There were a lot of ups and downs but nothing very strenuous. We saw shotgun shells here and there, reminding us that this area is open to hunting when in season.southern border of nordhouse dunes wilderness

Large Sandy Area

Day 3

nordhouse dunes wilderness ludington state park michigan hognosed snake

Hognosed snake

By late morning, we were approaching a large open sand area north of Hamlin Lake. The southern boundary line of the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness lies in this area. Continuing on our southerly path, we entered Ludington State Park land. Along the edges of this long sandy area, Bryan spotted a Hognosed snake. It looks a lot like a rattlesnake, and has a king cobra-like hood, but it’s non venomous. Bryan got some “up close” footage with his GoPro and then we left it alone.

North of Hamlin Lake

North of Hamlin Lake

Compacted Dune Field

Day 3 Nordhouse

Near Hamlin Lake

We took our time wandering towards Hamlin Lake. It was actually farther than it looked.

hamlin lake ludington state park nordhouse dunes wilderness panorama

ludington state park hiking

Hamlin Lake

Once we got to the shore of the lake, we could see all sorts of people and activity on the lake. Several boats were out and many were docking on the northern shore of the lake and hanging out on the state park land, swimming and drinking beer. The scenery along the lake was very nice. Lots of soft sand dunes to hike up and down around the lake though.

Interdunal pond along the lighthouse trail

Interdunal pond along the lighthouse trail

I like the tiny little arrow mounted on that stub of a post. Nice.

I like the tiny little arrow mounted on that stub of a post. Nice.

Our plan now was to take the lighthouse trail back to the beach, and hike that north back to camp. We had to leave the shore of Hamlin lake and heard west inland in order to hook up with the lighthouse trail. We saw lots of people along the way and there were plenty of easy trails to follow. The lighthouse trail was pretty boring though, not much worth noting at all.

Looking north

Looking north from Big Sable Point Lighthouse

view from big sable point lighthouse

Looking south from Big Sable Point Lighthouse

big sable point lighthouse panorama

interdunal ponds seen from big sable point lighthouse ludington state park michigan

“Check out them interdunals! “

At the end of the lighthouse trail lies Big Sable Point Lighthouse. I’ll bet you never saw that coming. This was more of a tourist attraction than anything, with a gift shop and a fee to go up to the top. We went up to the top, which offered a great view of the surrounding area. Finally, we could see some of those interdunal ponds! However, it was not quite as extensive as I thought it would be. There were some small ponds in the dune areas, but certainly not what I was expecting for “world’s largest”.

We hung out outside the lighthouse for a while after we got back down, sitting in the shade beside the building.  It was a pretty warm day, and quite sunny, so it was nice to take off the boots and relax for a few minutes. One of the ladies inside gave us some leftover pizza they had, so we had a tasty lunch as well. Then, she tossed down a few apples from the window above as we headed off. Thanks for the hospitality, lighthouse ladies!

endangered and protected bird piping plover nesting area fenced off ludington state park nordhouse dunes michigan

Piping Plover nesting area

Hiking North Along Lake Michigan

Walking Lake Michigan's Shoreline

Interdunal Pond Along Lake Michigan

The hike back to camp was a couple mile stretch of shoreline. The hiking here was very easy and straight forward. At some point we came across some fenced off areas on the beach, closed for Piping Plover nesting. The Piping Plover is an an endangered and protected bird. The feet on these little guys move fast, and they almost looked cartoonish. Or maybe cartoony? You get the point.

Once back at camp, we were eager to jump in the lake and cool off. After that, we hung out at camp for a while and relaxed before having dinner.

open dune field nordhouse wilderness michigan

nordhouse dunes panorama shot

dead tree stump sticking out of sand

Once the sun had dropped a little, we hiked back to the same area Bryan and I had explored last night. We figured this would be a more interesting place to watch the sunset, with all the shadows on the dunes and whatnot. Ryan didn’t venture too far out, while Bryan and I were both in search of interesting photo opportunities that took us a bit farther out.

panorama shot of sunset over sand dunes nordhouse dunes wilderness

lake michigan sunset interdunal ponds nordhouse dunes

nordhouse dunes wilderness panorama shot of sunset over lake michigan and interdunal pond

I found a spot to set up on a dune perched above the interdunal pond we found the night before, with Lake Michigan beyond that in the background.  I hung out here as the sunset and took some pictures. What a great way to end a great day.

 

Day 4- Monday July 14th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 2.1

It was another nice morning when we woke up today. After a leisurely start to the morning we packed up camp and hit the trail, headed back to the trailhead. It was only a few miles at most back to the car, and there isn’t much to say about today really. I didn’t bother to take any pictures. We had already walked the trail we hiked back, so that wasn’t new. I will say that there were almost no people out here now, being Monday. It cleared out yesterday afternoon, actually. We made great time back to the parking lot which had cleared out considerably since we arrived.

Want to see ALL of my pictures from Nordhouse Dunes? Check them out here: Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Pictures

 

Final Thoughts About Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness

Nordhouse Dunes is one of the better hikes in Michigan’s lower peninsula in my opinion. I’m very glad I did this hike and would love to go back, but only during the week. There are just too many people here on the weekend. The fact that this wilderness butts up to Ludington State Park is nice because it extends the area in which you can  hike. Even if you want to camp out in the wilderness, hiking through Ludington State Park during the day and returning to the wilderness at night is very feasible.

DO NOT plan on hiking with flip flops here! I made this mistake of wearing them on day two much of the day as we hiked along the beach and later, through the grassy dune interior. By the end of the day, the top of my feet were swollen and tender. By day 3 (now wearing boots again), you could actually feel the tendonitis in the tendons on the top of my feet. My feet hurt for 7-10 days afterwards, preventing me from running or doing stair climbs. I recommend either a sandal with a strap of the back of the heel if you must wear a sandal, but really I liked wearing my full grain leather boots (Zamberlan Vioz GT).  They provide the necessary foot support for sand and also kept all of the sand out of my feet, when used with long pants. That was part of the reason why I chose to hike in sandals on day 2, so that I could wear shorts. Without long pants, sand can easily get into the boot.

I didn’t explore the northern or western parts of the park at all, we ended up staying on the east on south side. So, next time I could check that out if returning. Those sections seem to be heavily wooded though, and even swampy in the western section.

 

As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you found my trip report useful, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Alternatively, if you feel you have any information you’d like to share with others regarding this hike, please feel free to leave that below in a comment as well.

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Backpacking The Porcupine Mountains, MI – Oct 2011

Porcupine Mountains Backpacking Overview

Porcupine Mountains Photo Gallery

  • Location – Porcupine Mountains, Michigan
  • Park – Porcupine Mountains State Park (Wilderness Area)
  • Trail Hiked – Custom Route
  • Miles Driven To Destination – 1170 miles round trip
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 3 days, 2 nights
  • Trail Type – Loop
  • Miles Hiked – 25
  • Trail Difficulty – 4/10
  • Fires Allowed – Yes (in metal rings only)

michigan porcupine moutains hiking trail map

Besides Isle Royale, the Porcupine Mountains is the only place left in Michigan that I’ve really wanted to hike, not including a few “less than spectacular” destinations in the lower peninsula. After seeing pictures of Lake of the Clouds, I was sold! I’ve heard it’s one of the best hikes in Michigan, and although it wasn’t exactly close to home at over 10 hours away, I knew it would be worth the drive.

This was a solo trip, as my hiking partner Jesse would not be joining me for this one. Although we drove up to the U.P. together, he was going to visit his family while I hiked.

This trip was actually part of a 14 day “vacation” for me. Only 48 hours prior, I had just finished a 20 mile hike at Manistee River. After the Porkies, I did some fishing on Lake Superior with Jesse’s family, and then a bit of partridge hunting before heading back home. The day after I got back from the U.P., it was time to go Salmon fishing on the Pere-Marquette River! And to make this whole experience even better, we had unseasonably warm weather during this time. It  was the first week of October and the Porcupine Mountains saw 80° temps! No rain either, that was a nice change as well.

Notes

A permit is required to camp anywhere in the Porcupine Mountains, including the backcountry. For a party of 1-4 people, it’s $14 per night. You can get your permit at the visitor’s center, located here:

33303 Headquarters Road
Ontonagon, MI 49953
Phone: 906-885-5275

In case your GPS can’t find it like mine did,  the Visitor Center is located on the West side of South Boundary Road, just South of the M-107 junction.

The Wilderness Visitor Center is open daily from 8am-6pm EST, from late May through mid-October.

Getting There

The plan was to drive up to Jesse’s family’s cottage on Rabbit Bay, just East of Houghton, MI. While he would be staying with his family all week, I spent the night at the cottage and left early the next morning to drive the remaining 2.5 hours to the Porkies.

I parked at the Summit Peak Trailhead, located about 12 miles south of the M-107 junction of South Boundary Rd. The trailhead coordinates are as follows:

n46°44.586′ w089°46.296′


View Larger Map

The trailhead is marked by the green arrow on the map above. You’ll see it if you zoom in far enough.

Day 1 – October 4th, 2011

Miles hiked – 10.6
Route – Summit Peak Trail to South Mirror Lake Trail to Little Carp River Trail to Connection Line Trail to Big Carp River Trail to the Escarpment Trail

I had a “short” 2.5 hour drive to get here from Rabbit Bay, where I had slept the night before. Before hitting the trail I stopped at the visitor center to get my permit. $28 bucks for 2 nights… pretty steep for backcountry camping if you ask me. Nevertheless, I was on my way to the trailhead with permit in hand. I’ll be parking at the Summit Peak Trailhead off South Boundary Road, several miles down the road.

porcupine mountains observation tower at summit peak

backpacking the porcupine mountains

Me with the Porcupine Mountains below

View of the fall colors from the Summit Peak observation tower

After leaving the parking lot, I headed North on the Summit Peak Trail. Here, the trail is a wooden boardwalk that provides easy access for anyone. The boardwalk leads up to the Summit Peak area which has a 40 foot tall observation tower that provides a great overlook of the entire area. I climbed up to get a good view of the area I’ll be hiking. The fall colors were amazing, and you could even see Lake Superior from here. After 5 or 10 minutes I climbed down and continued along the Summit Peak Trail for another .5 miles until reaching the South Mirror Lake Trail. I passed a man and woman who had just left Mirror Lake, and had done some fishing there. He said they caught a few small fish but that’s it. I brought my pole and was hoping to get a few casts in on this trip as well, so I continued on my course towards Mirror Lake.

mirror lake - porcupine mountains - ontonagon,  mi

Mirror Lake

After hiking another 1.5 miles from the Summit Peak Trail I arrived at Mirror Lake. The name of this lake is very fitting as it was very calm and reflected the image of the fall foliage in it’s waters. There was a few nice campsites along the lake, but I needed to hike up to the Escarpment Trail by the end of the day so I only hung out here for a few minutes. You need to follow the Little Carp River Trail North from here for a few tenths of a mile before it meets the Connection Line Trail.

porcupine mountains connection line trail

The Connection Line Trail was a nice hike. This area was heavily forested, lots of very old looking trees and large rock formations protruding from the Earth. There were several small streams that crisscrossed the area, but none were large enough to fish or pose a problem crossing. I passed an older couple out for a day hike, on their way back to the parking lot. After this, I didn’t see anyone else until I reached the Escarpment Trail later that day.

porcupine mountains big carp river trail

After 2.8 miles, the Connection Trail meets the Big Carp River Trail, which I then followed East from here. This section of the trail seemed the longest for me. It was 5.3 miles to the Escarpment Trail from here, and this was mostly uphill. What made things a little difficult for me here was the fact that I had just purchased some new hiking boots a few weeks prior, and had only worn them once on my hike at Manistee River 48 hours earlier. This probably would have been enough time to break them in enough to be comfortable, but I mistakenly bought my Asolo Flame GTX boots one size size too big. I was already developing blisters from the Manistee hike, and did not have enough time in between trips to get new boots. Needless to say, my feet were killing me by this point. I spent most of the afternoon sweating and cussing my way up to the top, wishing I had chosen my footwear more wisely.

lake of the clouds view from big carp river trail

After a few miles on the Big Carp River Trail, you are presented with your first view. This made it all worth it, and the pain in my feet quickly be came less of an issue. While exploring the cliff’s edges, I figured out that I could jam my trekking pole into the ground and balance my camera on it to take pictures of myself. My pace slowed a little as I became more interested in taking pictures and checking out the views than covering a lot of ground. It was absolutely gorgeous up here and I was really hoping to get a campsite that overlooked Lake of the Clouds. Still on the Big Carp Trail, about halfway in between the Connection Line Trail and the Escarpment Trail there were three campsites along the edge of the cliff. The best one was already taken, and I was really bummed. I was hoping to stop here for the day as my feet were killing me, plus the view was incredible. And, to top it all off, the campsite did have a metal ring for a fire, which not all campsites had. So, I had to keep going and hope one of the sites closer to the lake were still available.

porcupine mountains, mi - lake of the clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Once you near Lake of the Clouds, there’s a parking area just off the trail and a large observation area overlooking the Lake. There were around 20 people here, which really takes away from any feeling of solitude that you may have had. I took a few pictures here where the views of the lake are probably at their best, and continued along the trail, now the Escarpment Trail. Only a few tenths of a mile farther and I encounter another campsite along the trail, above Lake of the Clouds. This one didn’t have a fire pit, but I didn’t care at this point.

porkies lake of the clouds shoreline

View of Lake of the Clouds from the shore

After setting up camp I headed down the North Mirror Lake Trail to the Lake so that I could filter some water and cook dinner away from my camp. This was a short hike but pretty steep. A big burger was dinner tonight, which always tastes delicious when camping. I kept it frozen in a cooler on my way to the trailhead and let it thaw in my pack while hiking during the day. By the time I was done eating and filling up my water supply, it was getting dark and I headed back up to my campsite. Finally, I was able to take my boots off and survey the damage to my feet. I put some moleskin on over my blisters, but there was nothing I could do for the rash I had above my ankles. Damn these boots.

Damn these boots

Although I had no fire tonight, the stars were very bright and I had a great viewing spot on the rocks near the cliff’s edge. I laid my sleeping pad on the flattest, smoothest spot I could find and stared up at the stars for a while before going to bed.

View from my campsite at sundown

Day 2 – October 5th, 2011

Miles hiked – 8.6
Route – Escarpment Trail to Lost Lake Trail to Government Peak Trail

Early morning on the Escarpment Trail

sunrise in the porkies over lake of the clouds

Sunrise over Lake of the Clouds

Escarpment Trail

I woke up early this morning to watch the sunrise, but was already packed and ready to go before it rose. Still, the scenery was stunning and I slowly made my way down the Escarpment trail, taking pictures and just enjoying myself. This was the best part of the entire trip for me. Lake of the Clouds was as smooth as glass, and made for some great pictures as the sun finally peaked over the mountains. I passed on other person up here who was taking a day hike, mainly out here to take some pictures. We chatted for a few minutes before parting ways. I took my time hiking this morning as I was not in a hurry to leave the beauty of the Escarpment Trail behind.

Lake of the Clouds to the West

Eventually I came across the Lost Lake Trail which I needed to take South. I dropped my pack at this junction and had a quick snack while airing out my feet. M-107 was very close to the trail at this point and you could hear cars driving by. I didn’t hang around here long, and was back on the trail after 15 minutes.

Lower Trap Falls

There wasn’t a whole lot to note here on this section until you get to the point where the trail follows the banks of the Upper Carp River. The river wasn’t huge, but it was scenic. There were a few small waterfalls as well as a couple of stream crossings that basically involved stepping on some rocks to make it across. I stopped to fish a pool at the base of Lower Trap Falls and caught one small brook trout before calling it quits and moving along.

Awesome view, huh?

Now on the Government Peak Trail, it was early afternoon. After passing an open meadow the trail became wooded again and began to climb in elevation. There were a lot of leaves on the ground now, more-so than yesterday it seemed, and it was difficult at times to follow the trail where there were no blue blazes. There were a few times where I lost the trail for a second and backtracked to find where I had strayed off course. This was no more than a 5 minute setback at most. The section of trail just before Government Peak was pretty steep, and I was very disappointed when I reached the top. There was no view at all, the summit was completely covered in trees. There’s a sign marking the elevation and some sort of old concrete structure up there, but that’s about it. Although my feet were hurting, I decided that I should push on to the next campsite West of Government Peak and hope this one was better. Besides, if I were to camp here, there’s no water and I’d have to hike to to the next campsite anyways in order to filter some.

porkies campsitee near government peak

A short hike Westwards on the Government Peak Trail and I was at the next campsite, which was decent. It had a fire pit, bear pole to hang food, nice clearing for my tent, and was next to a meadow with a small stream running through it. This was it, my feet have had it. It was only 2:30pm , so I had plenty of time to gather firewood, set up camp, and relax.

Best backpacking dinner in my book

Hiking solo, I was more cautious than normal when it comes to bears, so I made sure to cook my food a ways away from camp. Dinner tonight was 2 italian sausages on the camp stove near the stream. I’ll take a hearty meal like this over some noodle based meal any day! These things are great any day, but they taste unbelievable out in the woods. That’s a fact!

Tonight I started a fire using my flint. I had some birch bark and dried grass for tinder. It took a few minutes, but as dry as this tinder was it started quickly once it got a good spark. I ate some sour patch kids by the fire as the sun went down shortly after 8pm. This was a very relaxing night that I really enjoyed, even though I was really hoping to spend it somewhere with a proper view. But that’s the thing about backpacking, you need to be flexible. For me, I was perfectly happy in this moment and went to bed that night reflecting upon my time on the Escarpment Trail  earlier and the unforgettable views of Lake of the Clouds.

Day 3 – October 6th, 2011

Miles hiked – 5.7
Route – Government Peak Trail to North Mirror Lake Trail to Little Carp River Trail to Beaver Creek Trail

There was no point in getting up super early today as I only had a little more than 5 miles to go before reaching my car, and a 2.5 hour drive back to Rabbit Bay. It was another beautiful sunny day, temps in the upper 70’s.  I was really glad to have had such amazing weather this trip as I am usually not so lucky. I was on the trail again by 8:30 or so and was making good time towards Mirror Lake. The trail follows the North side of Mirror Lake which was a nice hike. Here, you pass a few rustic cabins that can be rented for $60 per night. As I hiked past one, there was a really scruffy looking guy taking a piss along the side of his cabin. He didn’t seem to happy to see anyone around, and I didn’t care to talk to him so I just kept moving.

Eventually, the North Mirror Lake Trail meets the Little Carp River Trail on the West side of Mirror Lake. After this, the trail becomes pretty boggy. Most of the time there was wooden planks to keep you out of the muck, which was really nice. There wasn’t much to note on this final stretch of trail, it was rather boring to be honest. There wasn’t much to see at all, so I kept going with few stops all the way back to my car. It was around 11:30am or so by the time I saw the parking lot, which was a huge relief for my aching feet.

Final Thoughts

I would have enjoyed this hike so much more if I had boots that fir properly. Now don’t get me wrong, my feet did not keep me from enjoying myself, but they sure were on my mind throughout the day. Fortunately REI has an excellent return policy, and I was able to exchange them for another pair of boots. I Didn’t get another pair of Asolo’s, instead I went with a pair Zamberlain Vioz GT boots which I LOVE!

The way this hike panned out went really well. The weather was awesome and the fall colors were out in force. A week earlier or later would not have been as nice, it was absolutely perfect in terms of timing. Don’t count on having 80° temps in late September or early October as I had, since these were record breaking temps, or damn near it.

The Escarpment Trail was by far the best part of this trip. If I were to hike here again, I would not repeat any of the trails I hike except the Escarpment. Instead, I would probably opt to hike the Lake Superior Trail and possibly some of the other trails on the West side of the park, closer to Presque Isle. The hike up to the summit of Government Peak is not worth it in my opinion.

Even if you didn’t want to hike here, seeing Lake of the Clouds from the overlook area off M-107 is worth it. The sunset is not really visible from the Escarpment but the sunrise is definitely an experience you won’t want to pass up if you’re here.

Complete Porcupine Mountains Photo Gallery

 

As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you found my trip report useful, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Alternatively, if you feel you have any information you’d like to share with others regarding this hike, please feel free to leave that below in a comment as well.

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Backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI – June 2011

Pictured Rocks Backpacking Overview

Complete Pictured Rocks Photo Gallery

  • Location – Pictured Rocks, Michigan
  • Park – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (National Park)
  • Trail Hiked – North Country Trail
  • Miles Driven To Destination – 820 miles Round trip
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 5 days, 4 nights
  • Trail Type – Point to point
  • Miles Hiked – 42.5
  • Trail Difficulty – 2.5/10
  • Fires Allowed – Yes (in designated campsites only)

Pictured Rocks is one of the premier backpacking spots in Michigan. I had never been here and decided it was about time I go, but I didn’t have anyone to go with. I was planning this trip solo, but at the last moment my buddy Jesse decided to go with me. Literally, 12 hours before I left! I had extras of everything except a tent. This we would pick up on our way there.

 

Notes

Pictured Rocks is a point to point trail, and requires the use of a shuttle bus, second vehicle, or someone else picking you up and/or dropping you off. For most, the shuttle bus is the most convenient, and this runs you $20 per person, one way from Musnising Falls to the Grand Sable visitor center, or vice versa. Prices are as of June 2011.

To camp at Pictured Rocks, you need to reserve your campsites in advance. You can do that here: http://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/upload/BackcountryReservationForm2011.pdf

There is a fee of $5 per night, per person due when you pick up your permit. You can pick up your permit at either end of the trail, Grand Sable or Munising Falls. Their locations are below:

Interagency Visitor Center – Munising Falls
400 East Munising Ave
Munising, MI 49862
906-387-3700

Grand Sable Visitor Center
E21090 County Rd H-58
Grand Marais, MI 49839
906-494-2660

trail map for hikers and backpackers

pictured rocks antional lakeshore mileage for hiking trails

Shows distance between campsites and landmarks

pictured rocks national lakeshore overview map of park

 

Day 1 – Monday June 20th, 2011

Miles Hiked – 7.1
Route – Grand Sable visitor center to Au Sable Point East

We stayed the night at Jesse’s sister’s place in Marquette the night before, and Munising was just a short 1 hour drive away from here. Once arriving in Munising, we stopped at the visitor center at the intersection of M-28 and H-58 to pick up our permits. Then it’s a short drive over to the parking lot, a few hundred yards away. Here we unpacked our gear from the car and made some last minute changes, and took our frozen foods out of the cooler and packed them with the rest of the food. We had burgers and italian sausages frozen, which would thaw slowly enough to make these possible for nights one and two’s dinner. I was trying out my new OP Saks as well, which are supposed to block the scent of your food so that animals cannot detect them. I guess we’ll put them to the test here.

Today was pretty cloudy and cool. The weather all week was not looking good… rain and cool temps throughout the week. The temperature right on Lake Superior can be drastically cooler than being inland only a few hundred feet due to tree cover. Being right along the lake, I knew it was going to be cold at times.

pictured rocks grand sable visitor center

By the time the shuttle arrived, there was a large group of hikers ready to board. I’d say 20 or so… not what we wanted to see. The ride to the Grand Sable visitor center takes about an hour, maybe a little less. Once off the bus, people scattered and went their separate ways. We went into the visitor center to fill up our water supply before heading out. By the time we hit the trail, about half the people had left in front of us. The leg of the trail goes straight into the woods from the visitors center, only to pop back out less than a mile away. Now, you follow the road we drove in on for a ways before heading back into the woods. We must have missed the sign for the trail on the road because we kept hiking the road for what seemed like a long time. Finally, there was a section of the trail that curved close enough to the road that we saw other hikers on it and realized our mistake, and jumped back on track.

pictured rocks sand dunes

The trail then wanders through the trees for another mile or two before you see a small trail intersecting the main trail, heading North towards Lake Superior. Upon further investigation, we realized this trail takes you into the Grand Sable Dunes. We dropped our packs went exploring through the dunes for a while. We found many wild strawberries here, although they were very small. This was a very cool place to check out along the trail if you have time. I wish we would have hiked around a little more through here but we wanted to make sure we got to where we needed to in time today, so before long we were back on the Lakeshore Trail.

pictured rocks log slide form the top

log slide from the top

See the guy at the bottom? This is 500ft up!

pictured rocks dunes view form log slide

Not much farther, we encountered another cool area called the Log Slide. Back when this area was being logged, they would slide trees down the side of this 500ft dune straight into Lake Superior. This was MUCH higher than it looks in the pictures, and offers on of the best views on the East side of the Lakeshore Trail. There was a guy at the bottom of the dune who was trying to climb up the entire time we were there, and it didn’t look like he made any progress at all. We stopped here for another 20 minutes or so before continuing along.

pictured rocks - au sable point east campsite

Au Sable Point East campsite. The tiny blue “junior scout tent” is Jesse’s

We weren’t far now from of campsite at Au Sable Point East. Throughout the day, we saw several hikers in multiple groups, many if which were not on the shuttle with us. There were so many people we didn’t bother counting. Once we got to our destination, we found that the campsite is really more of an area with multiple campsites that are on a first come basis. There were already a few other groups of people her who had taken the best spots, but ours was decent. Just no real privacy here, it seemed like people were all around you. Shortly after setting up camp, a forest ranger came through here on foot checking permits. He told us he had seen a bear earlier today, I believe by Kingston Lake.

Lake Superior near Au Sable Point East campsite

Lake Superior near Au Sable Point East campsite

Mouth of Hurrican River

Jesse fishing Hurricane River

We had a few hours left before sundown, so we decided to hike over to Hurricane River and try fishing. This was about a 1.5 mile hike each way from Au Sable Point East. About halfway in between Hurricane River and camp is Au Sable Point, a lighthouse and what seemed to be a museum of sorts. There didn’t appear to be anyone here, nor was anything open. Another 15 minutes past the lighthouse is the river, which we fished for about an hour tops. After getting chewed up by mosquitoes and having no luck, we headed back, ready for dinner. We headed down to the beach to find a place to cook, and found a large rock in the sand that would block all the wind if we cooked behind it. The burgers came out crispy on the outside and raw inside, but still pretty good.

Grillin’ on the beach

 

Day 2 – Tuesday June 21st, 2011

Miles Hiked – 11.8
Route – Au Sable Point East to Pine Bluff

Dark clouds lingered offshore as we awoke Tuesday morning. We were pretty sure it was going to rain, so before leaving camp we put on our rain gear. It was pretty cold out too, so the extra clothing wasn’t a problem. Having already hiked the next 1.5 mile section of the trail last night on our way to and from Hurricane River, we decided to hike along the shore of Lake Superior. Although it was a little slower going, there was more to see here than back on the trail itself. Lots of cool rock formations along the beach and submerged in the water. We stopped to filter some water in a calm pool on the beach which was much easier than standing on rocks that protrude out into the Lake as we attempted last night. With a full supply of water and full stomachs, we were ready to cover some ground. Today we’ll hike 12 Mile Beach in it

Hurricane River

Once we reached Hurricane River, we jumped back on the Lakeshore Trail and continued West. It started to rain around this time, and continued to do so on and off until the day we left. My rain gear was all new, and this was the first time I had a chance to wear it. I bought Outdoor Research Revel rain jacket and pants after reading some good reviews. Jesse made the mistake of wearing cotton clothing, because that’s all he had before we left home. For rain gear he used a set of Frogg Toggs, XL size. However, after it started raining he failed to put his hood on, and as a result all of his clothing ended up getting wet underneath the rain gear.

Mouth of Seven Mile Creek

Since it was raining, we were moving fairly fast as there was no point in stopping. Before we knew it, we were crossing Seven Mile Creek. The way these rivers dump right out into the Lake is pretty cool. These river mouths seemed to twist and wind before actually running out into the Lake for some reason. We had a brief break in the drizzle now, and we took a minute to hang out near the creek and take a quick rest here. We found a snapping turtle under a log, handle was a pretty good size. We joked around about wanting to eat him, then it was back to the trail. Not long after this, we saw a bald eagle fly over head as well.

The section of trail we were hiking on today was known as 12 mile beach. I’d have to say this most boring day of the entire trip. The beach is literally 12 miles long, and there’s not much to see here. Due to the rain, we didn’t leave the trail at all really, just tried to keep moving. The beach didn’t look particularly interesting here, but we also didn’t take the time to check it our either. Towards the western end of 12 mile beach, you enter the Beaver Basin Wilderness. This section was much more wooded and a nice change after what seemed like a long stretch of shoreline.

Old car in the Beaver Basin Wilderness

At one point, we came across an old car in the middle of the woods. It looked like there used to be an old single track road running through here, but that must have been a long time ago. About halfway through the Beaver Basin Wilderness we reached our campsite, Pine Bluff. There was one other campsite taken by 2 guys, but the rest were empty. We set up camp as it sprinkled, and were basically confined in our tents for the rest of the evening due to the constant precipitation. What made this worse was that today is the longest day of the year, so the sun is up until around 10pm. I find it hard to sleep unless it’s dark out, so I laid awake for hours before being able to fall asleep.

 

Day 3 – Wednesday June 22nd, 2011

Miles Hiked -7.1
Route – Pine Bluff to Chapel Beach

It was raining when we woke up today. It was also pretty cold out, definitely in the 40s, so getting out of bed was a real challenge. My shoes and socks still completely soaked, so putting those on sucked to say the least. Finally out of the tent, it was still raining so I worked fast to pack up my tent and get ready.

Jesse actually had it worse than me though. When we bought his tent on the way here, we accidentally bought him the “Junior Scout Tent” for kids. Not only did he have to sleep in the fetal position, but he woke up with a LOT of water inside his tent. Now, everything he had was soaked, including his sleeping bag and all clothing. His cotton clothing was doomed after this, and he stayed wet for the remained of the trip. I was mostly dry, except my feet. The Merrell Moab Ventilators I wore were a bad choice in footwear for this trip, but there was nothing we could do now except keep moving.

It rained throughout the morning as we hiked our way through the Beaver Basin Wilderness. We passed what we thought at first to be a small cave, but was more of an overhang in the rock, really. We decided to take shelter in here so we could get out of the rain and cook lunch. Since it was raining last night, we didn’t cook our italian sausages as planned, and they were completely thawed out by now. Being frozen until hitting the trail, and then insulated in my backpack with these cool temps, I wasn’t worried about it being safe. Plus, I have an iron gut!

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I started cooking, the rain let up. This was nice because we got a chance to explore around this area for a little while after eating. I climbed up to the top of the rock formation for the hell of it. Finally, it wasn’t raining!

Back on the trail, the landscape started changing. Now, there were picturesque beaches and cliffs around every turn. We saw a few waterfalls pouring right into Lake Superior. With all the rain, they were gushing in spots that probably were barely a trickle normally. I really wish the weather would have been nice and sunny, as it would have been fund to explore off the trail here. I could still see rain clouds offshore and it always looked like rain wasn’t far away. We passed Chapel Rock and took some pictures, but were eager to get to to camp and we knew we were close.

By late afternoon, we had reached Chapel Beach, our campsite for the night. There were no other people here to share camp with today. The weather was teasing us with brief moments of sunshine, so we hung our clothes and sleeping bags from the trees to dry them out after getting the tents up. These campsites at Chapel Beach were nice, compared to the others we stayed at. Our site was perched right above a river, Chapel River I believe. We tried fishing it for a while before giving up. We then decided to go down to Chapel Beach and check that out before it decides to rain again. While getting ready to g to the beach, the temperature felt like it dropped 20 degrees at once.

Mouth Of Chapel River With Chapel Rock Behind

Chapel Beach

Once down to the beach, it looked like the fog was starting to roll in. It was very cold, there was a frigid wind coming off the lake. This was going to stop us from enjoying the beach, just from swimming. We walked over to the point where Chapel River pours into the Lake. The water temperature of the river felt 20 degrees warmer than the air, and looked like it had steam or mist coming off it. We crossed the river and got some pictures from the other side, as well as some photos of the 6 foot swells crashing on the rocks near the shore. We then walked over to the West side of the beach and sat down for a while to take it all in. By the time we left to go back to our campsite, the cliffs on the West end were completely engulfed in fog. This fog never lifted until our last day.

 

Day 4- Thursday June 23rd, 2011

Miles Hiked – 11.3
Route – Chapel Beach to Cliffs

When I woke up, it was not raining at the moment but had been on and off throughout the night. Everything was still wet, and it was another fun morning putting on cold, wet shoes and socks. Once I got moving though, my feet were fine for the rest of the day. The cold goes away and you just get used to having your feet completely soaked after a while. We didn’t bother stepping around puddles anymore, there was no point. My gaiters seemed to help a great deal keeping the debris out of my shoes though, so they weren’t too muddy, just wet.

West of Chapel Beach

Today’s hike, along with yesterday’s, were the coolest part of the hike for both of us. This is the area where all the tour boats come to see the cliffs and colorful rock formations. I can only image how beautiful it would have been on a sunny day. The fog was extremely thick today, sometimes only a few hundred feet at most for visibility. This made it impossible to get any long distance pictures.

Grand Portal Point

grand portal point, pictured rocks, mi

Just West of Chapel Beach is Grand Portal Point. On the trail, we were looking north through a clearing in the trees and saw a wide open area filled with fog. It was a flat, rocky area that suddenly drops a few hundred feet straight down into Lake Superior. At times the fog was so thick that I couldn’t even see the water below! After a few pictures, we hit the trail again. There were several other scenic vistas along the way, and we stopped for most, even if only for a minute or two.

Mosquito Beach

Cave on Mosquito Beach

The next noteworthy area we encountered was Mosquito Beach. I’m glad the foul weather was keeping all of the bugs away, because I didn’t care to find out if this beach lived up to it’s name. Hey, there’s ONE good thing about this weather! We hiked the beach, which really just a series of rocky plates and ledges, until we found a cave at a point. Inside were two people having lunch. They said we could join them, in the cave, so we stopped to eat lunch as well. It was a mother and her son, the mother was actually a geologist and was telling us about the formation and history of this “beach”. They left shortly thereafter. We walked down the beach Westward and encountered Mosquito River pouring into the lake. This wasn’t as spectacular as some of the other rivers though.

It was mid afternoon now and the fog still had not lifted. Hiking through the mist filled forest was eerie but very cool at the same time. We passed many more overlooks that were blocked by the fog, and we were left to imagine what could have been. Between Mosquito River and Miners River, we began to hear the roar of a waterfall in the distance.Eventually the trail led us to a 30 foot waterfall which we were able to walk behind.

pictured rocks national lakeshore near mouth of miners river

Miners River Near Mouth

As you near Miners River, the trail runs close to an open beach. We stopped to check out a small stream that was gushing water out onto the beach. It was flowing over a rock ledge, creating a 6 foot waterfall. Just a little farther down the trail and we reached Miners River. This was a larger, deeper looking river than the others we’d seen so far. It looked very promising to fish, so we stopped to try our luck. I threw in a few casts before giving up. While Jesse fished, I followed the river to it’s mouth. The river was 50ft wide in spots, and ended up pouring into Lake Superior through a 4 foot wide channel, carved between the beach and a cliff.

It was raining on and off throughout the afternoon, and as Jesse was fishing it started again. Shortly after leaving the river, the trail goes through the Miners Castle Overlook area. There were a handful of people here, but with the fog you still couldn’t see very far. There is a paved parking lot here, along with nice restrooms. It was raining fairly hard here, and we tried waiting it out under the awning for a few minutes before it died down and we were on our way again.

The cliff’s campsite was not much farther from here, we made it in a half hour or so. It was just us here again tonight, which was fine with us. Nobody was out here in this weather but us. It rained as we set up our tents, and didn’t stop all night. We wanted to cook hot dogs tonight, but the relentless rain trying to thwart our plans. We had one extra poncho, and I had an idea. We found a spot under a tree that we could rig the poncho up as a makeshift tarp to cook under. This poncho was small, and we could barely fit underneath it. We also had to tip water off of it every so often so that it would not either drip on us, or collapse the entire thing. But, this got the job done and it was nice to have a hot meal. It was also nice not being confined to the tent, at least for a little while. Then, it was back to the tent again. It rained the hardest and most frequently tonight of any time we had been here.

Day 5 – Friday June 24th, 2011

Miles Hiked – 6.4
Route – Cliffs to Munising Falls

We were both ready to go home when we woke up this morning. One last day of cold, wet shoes. For Jesse, everything he had was soaked completely.It wasn’t raining so we made the best of our time and got on the trail quickly. Like I said, we were ready to go home. We had been talking about getting a meat lover’s pizza when we get back home, which was now just a 6.4 mile hike and a 7 hour drive away.

Most of the exciting scenery had ended yesterday around Miners Castle, and the trail was relatively boring now at this point. We did pass a few small waterfalls, but nothing spectacular. The fog had mostly gone today and now visible for the first time was Grand Island.Past Sand Point, we saw a crew of volunteers repairing a bridge over a small stream crossing. We knew we were close now. I was feeling fine physically, but Jesse was getting pretty tired. Only a mile or two from the parking lot now, we saw a deer. She was about 50 feet away, and we became very still and quit as I pulled out my camera. The deer actually started walking straight towards us. She then began to circle us, but we remained still and got a pictures.

We were back at the car around noon, and first thing we did was change out of our wet clothes. The bathrooms were under construction, so we changed in the parking lot.

Across the street was “Dog Patch Restaurant”, which we ate at for lunch. This place had a weird theme of old country folk cartoon characters all over the walls. A burger and fries hit the spot, and we were on our way back home, looking forward to the traditional post hike pizza!

 

Final Thoughts

I feel like I really got screwed with the weather. While the fog of day 4 offered some unique photo opportunities, I was hoping for a sun filled week with amazing sunrise and sunsets. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

My rain gear did an excellent job of keeping me dry, and If it weren’t for my poor choice in footwear, I might have stayed completely dry the whole trip.

This is a pretty easy hike. There is very little ups and downs, and none of them are steep. This would be a great place to take inexperienced hikers or those who want to do a long hike but might not be prepared for more challenging locations. There is almost no need for a map and compass here, the trail follows the Lake for 42 miles. Simple.

I highly recommend this hike! There is a lot to see here, so plan extra time for side trips.

 

As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you found my trip report useful, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Alternatively, if you feel you have any information you’d like to share with others regarding this hike, please feel free to leave that below in a comment as well.

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