Below you will find links to all the blog posts and associated videos (if any) for our backpacking trip along the North Country Trail through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PIRO).
Saturday, June 26, 2021
The Return Home
Our final morning dawned sunny and a bit crisp though hardly cold. In the shade you would want a windbreaker or maybe light jacket but in sunshine everything felt just fine. We were not rushing to depart because the place we wanted to have breakfast did not open until 09:00. Tim had done some early morning town wandering but didn’t come back even with a coffee or donut. Oh well. I never did get the name of the bookstore/cafe we ate at. It is a used bookstore that has a nice little cafe. Breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos made for a rather nice way to start the day. We took our time eating and saying goodbye to each other. Tim and Nancy would continue on with travels to family deeper in the UP while Andy, El, and I would return home.
Wagner Falls. It is a short walk along boardwalk to the waterfall.
--June 1, 2021 at 10:43 AM. Munising, MI, United States
We made a couple stops along the way most notably at Wagner Falls which if I have visited before was far enough back in the past that I do not recall it. Lovely little, barely more than 5 minutes, easy walk to the waterfall. There are other paths in the park I believe. WOrth the visit. Then it was time to drive back downstate with a good memorable trip coming to its final conclusion.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Day 6: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, May 2021
Mosquito River to Sand Point
I know Tim and Nancy were up well before sunrise. They left around 06:30. No one heard Nancy trying to find her way back to camp after using the privy. The trails there seem to encourage one to go out one way and back another. I certainly wasn’t the only one to do that and I wasn’t the only one to head compley away from camp towards Mosquito Falls for a few dozen steps before realizing the error. But despite Nancy’s pre-dawn minor misplacement they were on their way in their usual fashion. The rest of us were packed up, fed, and ready to depart just after 08:00 which is what we had been shooting for.
The birds serenaded us out. Again all sorts of birds including ravens for a decidedly rougher abrupt sort of note. The birds seem to be nicely distributed throughout the forest here. I’m sure Rick managed to spy a few with his new 10x50 monocular. I enjoyed listening to them as we walked. It was a pleasant morning. The trail is pretty much flat between Mosquito River and Potato Patch. It veers by the bluffs that drop down to the lake now and then but for the most part is more inland. At times it felt quite like we were walking through a temperate jungle: the plants were growing so thick blocking views of the trail as we pushed through. Mostly ferns. It is an easy walk if not exactly an exciting one. The waterfall off the side trail of the NCT was barely flowing.
The hill from Potato Patch to the eastern end of Miners Beach is steep and sometimes slick with mud. It seems to take longer than it probably actually does to descend (or ascend). I am always happy to be done with it. Later we learned that Tim and Nancy watched a fleet of kayakers get underway from the beach on their journey for the day. I can see that being a worthwhile trip as long as you have a group to do it with that are reasonably competent and a calm Lake Superior (with no real chance of it changing) to paddle. We found a few dayhikers out and about at this end of the beach as we settled down not far from Little Miners Falls for a mid-morning snack break and to say goodbye to Rick and Gail.
Little Miners Falls. From either direction taking a break at this small waterfall is always worthwhile. If you are coming from the west you just finished walking along Miners Beach (assuming you chose the beach) and so need a rest. If you came from the east you just scampered down the steep though short hill from Potato Patch and a moment to relax will be enjoyable before you stride west on the beach or official trail.
--May 31, 2021 at 10:19 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Miners beach stretchs about 0.75 miles and is always a popular spot. Kayakers launch from here and most day hikers have likley come down from Miners Visitor Center which is a bit of a walk in its own right if you aren’t expecting one. If the beach could be kept free of trash it would be perfect.
--May 31, 2021 at 10:22 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Miners Beach stretches about 0.75 miles from east to west. Not very long unless you are choosing to walk through the deep, soft, energy absorbing sand or by the ever-lapping waves on firmer but slightly angle sand with the chance of a water invasion at most any time. Andy went high; I went low; El was moving between us. The beach should be lovley at all times but the charm is marred by humans who just have to leave trash including biological waste behind. Some people are truly rude and uncaring about others. Once you reach the western end and find the steps (slightly out of view as you stand by the outflow of the Red River) that take you up and inland you still have a bit more than a mile to go to reach the visitor center. The trail works its way through the forest along and across the Red River before steeply ascending to the bluff upon which Miners Castle Visitor Center sits. We found a few dayhikers out and about and somewhat confused about where Lake Superior should be. Go figure. Andy pulled ahead and El and I trailed behind. The morning had really warmed up into the 60s by this time so pausing to shed layers made sense.
I tend to forget how much trail there is after the steep climb before you reach the visitor center. It always seems like more than it should be. But just after noon I found Andy and El settled down at a picnic table for lunch. We weren’t exactly hurrying but we were not going to linger too long either. We were expecting stormy weather to arrive sometime after 15:00 though admittedly you could be excused for not knowing that if you just had your senses to go on during the morning. I left just before 13:00 to tackle the last 4.5 or so (could be 4.9) miles of trail. This section can be notoriously muddy and wet. The park service has installed quite a bit more boardwalk (puncheon) over the worst places but you never know with these shifting grounds and weather-ravaged trees what you might find. I found it was actually quite enjoyable easy going for the first couple of miles. Andy and El caught up to me and we continued on more or less together for a short time before Andy zoomed ahead. I totally missed the sign for Cliffs Group Site and Andy said he would have missed Cliffs individual site if he had not been checking his map. The etched tree that marks where the totally hidden due to tree blow-downs.
On we went. Andy again zooming ahead and El catching up to me. The temperature was starting to drop so we knew the weather was changing. But I still wanted to take a short break. I did so not long before the trail crosses a stream via some floating logs (spent time looking for a better way and was about ready to just cross and get wet feet when El haled me and showed me the best way across). On we went. We hoped we would beat the storm. We hoped the backpacking couple we had met would find a place to shelter from the impending high winds though that seemed unlikley as Cliffs is certainly in the forest. We encouraged the older fellow with a feather in his hat to turn around at the cliffside waterfall (no pictures this year) that a few years ago Gail, El, and Andy took shelter under its overhanging rock as ANdy and Joni tried to get to us before a different storm hit (didn’t make it). Down the steps , so many steps, El and I went down to the forest floor now pretty much on a level with Lake Superior though we couldn’t see the lake at this point. It was certainly cooler and windier. That storm was closing in upon us and we had about a mile to go. Hustle. Hustle. No real time to snap a picture or capture of video as a bouy bell tolled. Soon we reached the trail junction that would take us to Sand Point. Hurry along and watch out for ankle twisting roots. Don’t want to trip now. Did, but not badly just loudly. At 15:50 it started to spit and 5 minutes later El and I reached the parking lot and the rest of the crew. The wind and rain started to pelt the area just after we all piled into Tim and Nancy’s car to drive into Munising and settle down in the Air B&B.
Well all of us except Andy and Tim who had to drive Tim’s car back to our starting point to fetch Andy’s car. That shuttle took about 2 hours but when they came back carrying the pizzas that had been ordered our trip could officially be said to have reached its proper end.
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Coves Group to Mosquito River
Our pattern of alternating short and longer days continues. Nancy and Tim were up and headed out of camp well over an hour before the rest of us. That is there way. Slower hiking with times for lots of short breaks to observe their surroundings and talk with everyone they pass at least for a moment. The rest of us hauled our backpacks onto our around 09:20. The sky was clear blue and the temperature was steadily warming and promising a wonderful day.
This section of trail provides perhaps the greatest number of views of the picturesque rocks that lend themselves to the name of this park and the glorious color-changing Lake Superior. Sometimes, as was the case on the first day, the lake appear sullen and gray with even the admittedly small waves with whitecaps appearing angry as they crash against the shore. Over times you walk along the beach or stare from above and can see how clear the water is as the color shades from the tan sandy visible bottom near the hsore into shades of turquoise, green, and blue as you raise your gaze out to sea. Today vibrant blue-green to deep blue from high above plus lighter shades when at the shoreline itself would be our visual treat. Add in the auditory treat of many species of birds from black capped Chickedees, Ravens, woodpeckers, robins, and much more and you find yourself walking through a lovely world. Just watch your step. The trail has been re-routed from old eroded to almost nothing and beyond sections in many places. But there are places where a slight step to the side would result in your foot dangling over emtpy space and a fall would certainly result in injury if not death. To be sure those segments are almost always just a handful of strides long but they are still present.
Spray Fall. The sandy bluff we stand atop to view Spray Fall is, I think, shrinking. It’s a reminder that these cliffs are sand and sandstone and sometimes more the former than is probably truly safe. But it is always aa pretty sight.
--May 30, 2021 at 10:16 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Birch trees always stand out.
--May 30, 2021 at 10:52 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Grand Portal. While the portal is something to see I think what really catches the eye are the cliffs and the water especially when it shows off as richly emerald green as it does in this photo. Of course, there is also no denying the power being shown off as you gaze at the cliffs and the Grand Portal: wind, waves, weather combining to scuplt the land.
--May 30, 2021 at 2:13 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
I must have been engrossed in some thought or other because I walked by the turn-off to the sandy cliff that provides you with a look at Spray Falls. El called me back. That would have been a shame to miss. To be sure the area you can stand is getting smaller and smaller as the years go by but the falls are still worth peering out across an emerald green cove. I am always a bit surprised that there is so much water because the stream you soon cross a stout wooden bridge seems small. We were fortunate that while we stood and watched the water spray down to be alone with just ourselves. That would change as we neared Chapel Beach but we knew it would.
Chapel Beach can be lovely and awful. It is a pretty place and has active, sometimes amusing, wildlife. It can be awful crowded with too loud people too. Some people may boat in and feel compelled to do obnoxious things like play volleyball and leave trash on the beach. Hikers can be just as loud and also leave trash behind. Today we just had to deal with people who felt it was perfectly fine and safe to jump safety fences and climb where they should not. Between the two visits Gail and Rick had here over two days Gail encountered people with 4 dogs. Not good. But I was able to ignore the people and the amusing wildlife didn’t steal any food or make a nuisance of itself so that did not veer into the realm of awfulness either. A lazy hour and some time was spent just relaxing at a campsite though I wish I had spent some of that time (more than I did) at the beach if for no other reason than I could have used a bit more water.
From Chapel to Mosquito River you have many chances to zip off the trail to what Andy calls sky beaches. Sandy overlooks that are sometiems quite large. Too bad some were swarming with loud people who so often seemed to want to get as close to the edge as possible. Well if they fall off I guess they fall off. Stupid, but human. Eventually Andy zoomed ahead. Gail, Rick, El, and I were much slower. We all figured Tim and Nancy would reach camp well before us. We enjoyed a break now and then at an overlook but still arrived a bit before 17:00. Surprisingly Tim and Nancy were not there. We missed them overlook hopping. They had settled at one, likely the one swarming with people (the big one), that we did not go visit. Add in the fact that they, maybe really it is mostly Tim, can’t resist at least asking everyone they meet where they are going and where they are from and you can see how time zips by for them. Never in a hurry I guess but they get where they need to be.
The clear skies had been banished by clouds and I did not expect to get much of a sunset. The momentary arrival of a few raindrops caused Andy and I to pitch my Hammock Gear Hex (DCF) Tarp. I have the 11’ long version and that provided big enough for us to both cook under comfortably and later for everyone to pretty much sit under during a very slight and short drizzle. While the cloud cover didn’t really lift we had hints of sun as the time for sunset approached and so most of us went down to the beach. For those with good vision that proved a great decision as they got to watch a bald eagle circle and soar and perch in the pine trees across the Mosquito River mouth from us. Maybe the bird was hoping to do some fishing. But eventually the light and color, what there was of it, faded away and we trooped back to camp. Fires are not allowed at Mosquito River Campground so everyone went to sleep early.
This bald eeagle was flying over the mouth of Mosquito River at sunset for some time. Was the eagle hoping to catch a rising fish?
--May 30, 2021 at 9:33 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
This boat is taking people on the sunset cruise. They are heading back to their dock in Munising.
--May 30, 2021 at 9:35 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Sevenmile Beach to Coves Group Site
It was supposed to be warmer during our second night than our first. The thermometer sitting inside my single-wall original ZPacks Solplex read 37°F for a low; Andy’s read, I think, 33°F from within his tent vestibule. My legs got chilly and I had to toss my Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex vest over them. Definite proof it was chilly. I am not sure if my improvised space-blanket outer tent wall (a partial one anyway) made a difference but I am inclined to think it helped a tiny bit. I suspect Tim and Nancy had the warmest sleeping quarters of us all snug inside their Stephenson 3-person tent with its heat reflecting walls. Too bad we didn’t have a campfire to stand around as we did morning chores but then morning chores can’t be done by the fire for the most part anyway.
Tim and Nancy were on the trail well over an hour before the rest of us. There was no rush. We only had to trek 8.8 miles to Coves Group site and we knew we’d spend a fair bit of time at places like Beaver Creek so as not to get to Coves Group too early. Andy, El, and I had our packs on around 09:15.
You could just walk along the beach west of Sevenmile Creek to the mouth of Beaver Creek. I’ve done that before. But instead, like yesterday, I took the official trail. Winding through the forest along a generally pretty flat trail enjoying the trees and birds as I went. In time I caught up with Andy and El at the anceint hulk of a 40s-era Plymouth sadan that has been mouldering away here for decades though we’ve no way of knowing exactly how many. Any graffiti that had been written on the paint vanished as the paint fell away. Now you see writitng scratched into the bare metal with dates going back to the early 80s. It’s a shame that people mar objects like this. I suppose after enough time passes those marks will be considered art instead of defacement but that time is certainly not now or any time in the coming years. Like the large rusted wheel hub El found you wonder why the car is here. In the case of the solitary wheel hub why just the one wheel. We will never know. Make up a story it’s probably as good as any other.
Andy thinks this is a 1940s-era Plymouth. It is a shame people feel compelled to graffiti the car. To be sure I’d rather the car not be here at all even though it does make you wonder why it is here. But having people scrawl junk over it for no better reason than that they can is sad. Photo by Andy
--May 29, 2021 at 11:48 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Leaving the car behind we continued on down the trail and took the route that leads to the bluffs high above Lake Superior and eventually Pine Bluff campsite. I can’t tell you how long it has been since I took this path but it is easily more than 10 years. We were not going to Trappers Lake and though the high bluffs can be an energy sapping stretch of deep sand we didn’t have far to go and we would be treated to views of Superior as we skirted the edge of the bluffs heading towards Beaver Creek.
In Pine Bluff Campsites El found a staggering amount of trash left behind. We had already retrieved a long cooking fork suitable for marsh-mellows or hots dogs cooked over a fire at Masse Campground (tossed in a trash bin at Log Slide). A mylar balloon or two had been fetched down from hanging branches. But at Pine Bluff El found 3 mason jars and a daypack. The jars were in a fire-ring. The daypack jsut left. What are people thinking when they leave this stuff behind for others to find. At least the ketchup bottle El found by Beaver Creek looked like it had been around for quite some time (though maybe not). People are such slobs and seem to not think at times about the fact that other people might want to enjoy the place as much as an earlier group did. The trash-leavers are in the same category as people who bring their dogs into wilderness areas even though that is absolutely not allowed. And both groups are related to the people who figure it’s fine to climb across aerial roots of the tree on Chapel Rock because they can even though a safety fence is there to prevent that sort of thing. Those are a different class of person from the ones who figure they need to do careful yoga poses right at the edge of a 100-foot and more sheer drop to Lake Superior to prove something or other but certainly not how smart they are.
At least those annoying people who don’t seem to care that others exist are counterbalanced by people like the family, or families I was never sure, at Beaver Creek who had thir youngers (about 5) with them and were clearly enjoying the area and being respectful of the other people around. Hurray for them. Our leisurely hour and more sitting on the warm sandy bluff overlooking the mouth of Beaver Creek and Lake Superior was quite fine indeed. Should have taken a nap.
Coves Group site is almost 1.5 miles beyond Coves individual sites. There was a time when you could scamper down into the coves, well the westernmost, and stand right at the edge of the lake. Now there is a 6-foot drop and you still aren’t quite there and would have no easy way (if any) to get back up as the climb would be up sheer-faced sand. This is the problem with Coves in general: getting to the water. The trail climbs up and down across headlands that abutt the lake and at times does so rather steeply. The new section that quickly climbs up and over and down a rock face (having been eroded away to that point) is just one case in point. There is no real room for groups to pass here. One final climb up steps that are often at times uncomfortably tall (no made for short legs) and you are nearing Coves Group site. But you’ll be going down those steps again to find a cleft that gives you access to Superior to fetch water. Oh joy. Fortunately I was spared that task.
Rick and Gail have joined us now. They hiked in from the western end of Miners Beach (about 10 miles) to join us here at Coves Group Site. Sitting by this fire, again built by Tim and Nancy, we are all enjoying a much warmer evening than the first two nights.
--May 29, 2021 at 8:07 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Andy and Elwira.
--May 29, 2021 at 8:45 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Gail and Rick joined our group at Coves Group having come in from the western access point along Miners Beach. Once again Nancy and Tim scrounged up material (especially birch bark) to get a campfire going. It’s definitely such a treat to sit around a crackling fire chatting with friends and enjoying (hopefully) a good meal. While Andy awed everyone with the things he was crafting for himself and El I think I did pretty well myself. More work than a mere Mountain House or similar meal requires but I want to believe better for me and tastier too.
Take care when you come to this spot to view a sunset by Coves Group Campsite. This was once the North Country Trail but erosion has brought the at least 80 foot tall cliff not much more than a foot (30cm) from the trail thus forcing the re-route. Youll have to push through brush to get to this spot for a reasonably open view of the sun diving into Lake Superior.
--May 29, 2021 at 9:27 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
If you push through the trees to where the NCT used to be you can get a decent view of the sun as it sinks below the horizon. It’s not a sweeping view as you get at say Sevenmile let alone Mosquito River but it has its charm as the view you do have is easily 80 feet above Lake Superior. We watched the sun go down and birds of early evening sang to each other and us as we did so. It was a fine way to end the day before at the end, under a properly dark sky, Andy poured the un-needed water from my bucket over the bed of hot coals to douse their heat and everyone left sauntered off to bed.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Au Sable East to Sevenmile Beach
We, or at least I, were slow to get up today. While I responded coherently to Andy asking if I was up and about around 08:30 I was only just up and about. Sun shone down perhaps lending credence to the old saying “red sky at night sailors delight; red sky at morning sailors take warning.” It was a delightful morning. In the distance the pounding sound of Lake Superior crashing against the shore could easily be heard. If anything it sounds heavier than the previous evening.
The first of quite a large number of PInk Lady Slippers. There are a few patches at the group campsite at Au Sable East. We would, over the next couple of days, pass by some fairly substantial patches of orchids.
--May 28, 2021 at 9:42 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Au Sable Lighthouse.
--May 28, 2021 at 10:43 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Tim and Nancy were the first to depart on our just over 7 mile trek to Sevenmile Campground. But 2 hours after I was officially up and moving Andy, El, and I hoisted our packs and left the campsite. We walked along the bluffs that drop several feet quickly down to the rock-strewn beach and Lake Superior. In short order Au Sable Lighthouse comes into view. In past years we would stop and have breakfast there and perhaps take the steep, iffy, steps down to the beach to look at the shipwreck there. Not this year. The beach has been vanishing and making that visit a bit tricky (though Tim and Nancy went down. I suppose the water was low because otherwise they had to negotiate sometimes drowned rocks). We hiked down the access road and soon were at Hurricane River. I actually walked by where Nancy and Tim were sitting off to the left neither party seeing the other. Andy and El caught up and found Tim and Nancy as I conitnued on to take pictures at the beach. We all gathered as I stood on the bridge over the river. At this point, well just after crossing the bridge, you could work your way down to the beach and walk all the way to Sevenmile via Twelvemile Beach. The past couple of times I’ve been here that is what I have done (in both directions). This year I stayed with the official NCT which moves inland a bit and climbs up and down several not-too-tall though surprisingly a bit steep hills as it meanders through the forest of birch, oak, maple (I think), and evergreens.
Twelvemile Beach is a fine place to take a break. Settle down at a picnic table and have a lazy lunch. We didn’t lounge on the beach though I suppose we could have.We only had 2.9 miles to go to reach our camp at Sevemile Group Site so lingering over lunch was fine. But eventually you have to hoist your backpack and stride forth once again. The afternoon wore on as we worked our way through the forest marveling at the seemingly endless supply of Pink Ladyslippers dotting the forest floor. I never saw them unless shown but I gather they were everywhere. Is this because spring seems further along than is normal or has their been a population explosion in general of these small orchids. Nancy loved it. I walked into Sevemile Group Site at 16:00 to find Andy and Elwira already there. Nancy and Tim, talking their time enjoying the flora and people they met along the way, showed up somewhat later.
I just spent a bit of time trying to fill my bucket with fresh, very cold, water from Lake Superior (I had forgotten a stream was just a couple hundred feet to west). The problem with using Lake Superior is you can’t really avoid walking out into the water and thus soaking your feet and legs as the waves batter you. The beach is actually noticeably warmer than our campsite a few hundred feet back in the forest. Photo by Andy.
--May 28, 2021 at 5:14 PM. Burt, MI, United States
Sevemile is deceptively nice. It’s a forested campsite (group and individual sites). Sevemile Creek flows through the campground and is a fine source for water if you don’t want to get soaked trying to fill a bucket from Lake Superior (which I did try to do). The campsites are among the closest to the beach so if you want to settle down on the shore by the lake to soak in the warmth of the sun as you watch the water of the lake surge against the shore you won’t be far from your campsite. Since it was warmer in the sun on the beach some did just that for a while.
When you start out with a brownie mix that has too much water it is hard to ever get to what you want: a brownie. But after a lot of time fiddling with the mix and trying to get the water to boil off it firmed up a little into something kin to a lava cake. The little bit of ash that fell in later when the fire collapsed didn’t really hurt it.
--May 28, 2021 at 8:51 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
We were not in any hurry to do much of anything. Good thing because after Tim and Nancy built a fine fire we all took our time doing camp chores especially making dinner. My attempt to bake a brownie got off to a rough start when I got the brownie mix put together with too much water. It all worked out in time, mostly, but was probably more a source of amusement than anything else. As the brownie baked by the fire with coals all around and atop of baking pot (thanks Nancy; your heavy gloves were a definite aid here) we would troop down to the shore to enjoy a lovely sunset. The lake was a rich clear deep blue as swells rolled in. The sky a pale blue except at the horizon where pink, orange, and red hues spread out from the Sun’s yellow sinking ball. The sand and sandstone of the shore glowed wonderfully orange-brown. It was a lovely time.
Tim and Nancy packed it in before finding out my my brownie experiment fared. It never really did firm up completely but lava-cake like brownie is still good. Lesson: get the water to dry ingredients ratio right at the start. ANdy, El, and I lingered around the campfire (now great for things like potatoes if we only had some to bake) before also turning in for bed rather closer to 23:00 (or later) than we normally would do. It’s all the fire’s fault. So warm and inviting.
Andy and Elwira and I are being treated to a love sunset. The sandstone is turning orange under teh fading light and that is also showing on us. Sunsets like this are what help give Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore its reputation.
--May 28, 2021 at 9:16 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
I love watching a sunset like this one. A giant yellow ball of fusion fire dropping below the horizon but leaving the world in a blaze of colors. Add in the rolling waves of Lake Superior and the sand-and-pebble beach to complete the scene to create a wonderful end of the day.
--May 28, 2021 at 9:21 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Sinking out of sight but still coloring the sky, water, and even the beach with a wealth of colors.
--May 28, 2021 at 9:30 PM. Burt, MI, United States
Sable Falls to Au Sable East
Two bedrooms and one couch that serves as a bed. One bathroom for the five of us. It worked well enough. Breakfast of many eggs, onions, mushrooms, and strips of bacon to charge our batteries and we were ready to depart for the backpacking portion of the trip.
A quiet morning at Munising Falls. We did see a handful of people while strolling our few minutes around the waterfall area. It is always nice to visit this waterfall (any any waterfall).
--May 27, 2021 at 9:06 AM. Munising, MI, United States
For Tim and Nancy this is a new region of Michigan to visit. For Andy, Elwira, and myself it is not but that hardly matters. It is always worth stopping at places like Munising waterfalls. It’s a place easily reached and anyone can visit. We saw a few people but it was pretty quiet which I expect we all appreciated.
Then it was on to Sand Point to drop off Tim and Nancy’s car and pile into Andy and El’s car to drive to Sable Falls parking area. We were setting out around 10:45. Sunshine poured down upon us though it was probably only 40￼°F. After a requisite visit to Sable Falls and the well over 100 steps down to the best lookout point we began the bulk of the hike on the North Country Trail (NCT). At the junction of the NCT and Grand Sable Dunes Trail (my name for it anyway) I took Tim and Nancy to the eastern Grand Sable Dunes lookout. This takes less than 10 minutes and after you cross a stream on a bridge with an unusual squeeze point in the middle you quickly leave the forest for the sand dunes. Prepare to expend energy climbing up a modest distance along the back of the dune to the top. These days things have move enough that you can’t get as close to the edge of the sandy bluff that plummets down to Lake Superior but it is still an impressive view if you have never been before.
In 2019 a bridge that spanned a deep gully have broken. If you were agile enough you could cross the sloping and slanting bridge and scramble up the far side. Joni and I weren’t up to that challenge so bushwhacked the modest distance off to trail left to the Grand Sable Visitor Center. Now they have a setp of steep, very steep, rungs that act a bit like steps or ladder that drops down intot he gully and then up the over side. Take care.
As we continued the remaining distance to the visitor center we were struck by how lush it was. Ferns abounded and it seemed as though the forest was richer than normal. Spring had settled in earlier this year. Even though it has been dry lately that doesn’t seem to have stopped the forest from growing.
This impression was strengthened as we left the meadows around the visitor center. We were realizing that the trilliums were definitely on the downside of their blooming season but other flowers were popping up. For me little white ones, blue ones, yellow ones. For others: star flowers, forget-me-nots, violets, and much more. And ferns and more ferns. No longer curling into fiddlehead shapes though I epxect they were fiddlehead ferns.
The side trail out across the Sable Dunes is certainly less than a half-mile which a couple small sandy, energy sapping, hills to climb. You can’t get as close to the edge as you once could (well closer than in this photo but you’ll have to work for it) but if you want an early view of Lake Superior this is where you can find it.
--May 27, 2021 at 11:25 AM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Lunch at Sable Lake found us sitting by a few other people out for the day. We were also lucky to spy a loon off in the distance. too bad the loon didn’t sing. That’s a sound you never grow tired of hearing.
The usual field of trillium we pass after crossing a road after leaving Sable lake behind was nowhere to be found. Ground cover was lush and virbrant and the trilliums, if there at all, were near the end of their bloom. Sure spring came early but I still miss not being able to walk through that field of white and slightly pink flowers. Now and then a large lone pinking flower would appear but the predominant feature of the forest now is lush green forest from the ground high into the trees.
Spring seems to have arrived earlier this year. The ferns are fuzzier and certainly larger than we have usually seen.
--May 27, 2021 at 3:33 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
Wildflowers come and go as the seasons change. The Trillums were about done but Forget-Me-Nots were showing off. Other wildflowers, that I generally did not see, were popping up too.
--May 27, 2021 at 3:40 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States
We continued on and it grew a bit cloudy as the afternoon progressed. Not much wind though so the temperature that remained in the low 40s wasn’t really an issue. At the Log Slide you could walk out upon the sandy bluffs. The wind didn’t encourage anyone to linger but as it would turn out though I was the last to leave I wasn’t the last to arrive at Au Sable East Group Site. Tim and Nancy, maybe especially Tim, are superb chatters. They’ll talk with everyone. They lingered to talk with people at the trailhead to the overlook. Andy and El had surged ahead and I plodded on behind them. Down the sometimes modestly steep hill towards the shoreline of a now angry gray Lake Superior. No great views; no great color. But Lake Superior was definitely experiencing a good bit of activity though well short of being storm-tossed.
Just after 6:00PM I walked into the group site and we all began to wonder where Tim and Nancy were. Maybe they went to a wrong site. That’s easy to do with the twisting trails around Au Sable East but we soon learned what held them up as they came into the site not too many minutes after I did. It’s a fine gorup site. Tim and Nancy set about gathering wood and getting a fire going which is something the rest of us never bother doing. What a treat. El managed to fetch water for the group which at Au Sable East is usuallys something of a pain. After fine, or at least good-enough, dinners and amiable chatting around a roaring fire we were treated to a glowing red sky as the sun vanished below the horizon. Maybe if we had walked over to the Au Sable Lighthouse we would have seen an actual sunset but the red glow came as a complete surprise to us all as the sky had been, or so it seemed, totally overcast.
While Tim and Nancy went to sleep around sunset Andy, El, and I stayed up for quite a bit longer. A campfire you get to sit around and chat by will cause that to happen. But we eventually packed it in as well as the temperature continued to drop. We all needed a good night’s sleep.
It had been overcast pretty much all afternoon. But at sunset the western sky was diffused with a startling orange glow. That certainly added a nice touch to the crackling fire that Tim anjd Nancy had created for our enjoyment.
--May 27, 2021 at 9:36 PM. Grand Marais, MI, United States