This was to be illustrated, but when I began my hike, I put a new card in my camera and for the life of me I haven’t been able to find the old card which had photos I’d taken while driving across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I have not been a very good blogger lately as I have been busy and the free time I’ve spent on my sailboat, sailing several evenings a week. Sadly, on Wednesday, I took the boat out of the water as it is beginning to get cooler and I’ll be traveling next week and then very busy when I come back. Anyway, here’s my story of driving north. I am nearly done of my 4 day hike in the Porcupines and then I’ll have another story of a hike in Picture Rocks. Be good!
From my home, it is a long ways to the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan. It’s almost 300 miles to “the Bridge,” and once I get to the bridge over the Mackinac Straits, I still have 300 miles to drive. It’s about 2 PM on Monday when I finally hit the road for my trip, heading north on freeways through the nondescript parts of Central Michigan. Things don’t get interesting until I cross the bridge, after which I take US 2 and head west into the setting sun, with Lake Michigan to my left and small hotels and diners advertising pasties for sale to my right. It was getting dark as I see a sign for Hog Island Campground. Checking it out, it appears to be a great place to stop for the night. There are only a handful of campers and lots of open sites that back up to Lake Michigan. But it’s after 8 and I haven’t eaten dinner, so I drive on a bit and stop at a little diner at the next community and picked up a sandwich and beer and then drive back to the campsite, backing my truck into a site and parking. A nice breeze is blowing off the lake and the stars are just beginning to pop out. I roll out the foam pad that I keep in my truck and then open up my inflatable pad that I put on the top of the other pad and spread up my sleeping bag. Eating my sandwich and drinking my beer on the table, I look out into the dark lake and then read some in a hiking guide on the Porcupine Mountains, before crawling into the back of the truck, shutting the hatch and falling asleep.
I wake up early the next morning and walk out onto a point in the lake as the sun rises over the distant horizon, illumining the stones alone the beach in a warm hue as it casts casting long shadows of every object. The winds are calmer than yesterday evening and it appears to be the beginning of a beautiful day. Deciding to forego making breakfast, I am soon on the road and again heading West on US 2. I still have a long ways to go to get to the trailhead. I Naubinway, I stop and pick up a breakfast sandwich and coffee and continue on, through Manistique, where I see what appears to be a local freight train shuffling a few cars around. The highway runs across the top of Big Bay De Noc, paralleling the Soo’s Mainline from Canada and across the Upper Peninsula. As I’ve seen, the line is still used, but doesn’t have the traffic it once did as it once did when timber and mining were big business up here. Today, many of the old railroad lines have been abandoned and their beds serve as snowmobile trails. As I drive, I continually pass groups of Harley’s, whom I assume are taking the long way home from Sturgis and the big rally that had just ended a few days ago. I am amazed at how many Harley riders have gone to tricycles! But looking at the size of some of these bikers, a two wheel bike would just sag. And when mamma is almost as big as the biker, the three wheelers with their oversized tires may be the only option.
At Rapid River, I leave US 2 and head over to Michigan 35. It is probably a little longer and the Aussie girl on my GPS is squawking at me, telling me to turn around and informing me that she’s recalculating. I don’t know why I have that thing on as I often decide to travel on roads that take parallels railroad tracks, shorelines and crosses interesting rivers. Thankfully, the map published by the state shows not only roads and rivers, but also railroad tracks. Michigan 35 parallels the tracks that run up to Marquette.
South of Marquette, I turn west, to avoid the UP’s big city and head through Negaunee and Ispheming where I stop to pick up some cord (I’d used all my food hanging cord on the canvas that covers my boat) and an anniversary card from friends who are celebrating their 50th. Since I was going to be in the woods during their celebration, the least I could do was send them a card. I stop for lunch at a McDonalds, for one last check of the internet and a large refillable glass of unsweetened ice tea. I also take time to write a note in the card before continuing on west. In the little town of Sidnaw, another small railroad town whose tracks now seem to serve as a storage depot for old box and lumber cars, I find an open post office and stop to mail the card, asking if they could hand stamp the envelope. Jim, who is not big on shin-digs, had expressed interest in hiking with me and I decided a post mark from the UP might remind him why I was missing the party his kids were throwing for him and his wife.
At Bergland, a small town on the shores of Lake Gogebic, which looks to be an incredible place to sail, I turn north on Michigan 64. I’m getting close and twenty minutes later I can see Lake Superior. I head to the park headquarters where I pick up a backcountry permit and look around at the small museum on the history of this, the largest and one of the most remote state parks in Michigan. It’s almost 4 PM, when I arrive at the parking lot at the Lake of Clouds trailhead. I could have gotten here faster, but I’ve enjoyed the journey.