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Pictured Rocks

Went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the upper Peninsula of Michigan 4/1-4/4. Participants: Joe Monks (Author), Anna Marsh.

We were originally planning on going to Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin until friday afternoon we found out they were all full at the back country shelters. So by the time we actually hit the road (8pm) we still hadn't decided on where to go yet, just that we wanted to go north. So we started driving and finally decided that since neither of us had been to Pictured Rocks that would be a great place to go. Being a 10 hour drive from Indiana we also decided it would be worth while to play hookie from school on monday so we could actually do some hiking and not just drive all weekend. Anyway, we hit the road at 8, drove til 3am when we got to the Mackinack Bridge that connects the LP and UP of Michigan, pulled into the rest area and slept in the car for 3.5 hours.

We got up saturday morning realizing it was going to be a LOT colder than we had originally planned, anticipated and packed for in southern Wisconsin! We decided finding a department store and buying warm hats and goves would be a good idea. At the gas station in town there I asked if there was a Walmart around only to get hysterical laughing from the 2 attendants! So upon arriving in Munising after almost 3 hours of driving and a missed turn we headed into the park head quarters, got our backcountry permits, found an arts and crafts store in town and bought our warmer clothes. On the way to the park we stopped at Munising Falls, took a couple of pictures and headed to the trail.

We got to the trailhead at Miner's Castle around noon (since this was the only one that was open due to snow covered and closed roads), headed to the observation deck and were shocked with the view we were blessed with: clear blue sky, sapphire water, floating ice and giant sandstone cliffs plunging into the lake! So we geared up and got on the trail. It was a beautiful sunny clear blue sky kind of day, around 55 degrees, however the amount of snow on the ground and ice left on the lake was a bit of a shock. The ground was about half covered with snow ranging from an inch up to near knee deep and there was plenty of free floating pack ice on the lake as well as grounded icebergs and shelf ice on the shore and wonderful ice waterfalls coming off of the cliffs. Only about a quarter mile in we already lost the trail! We found it again after a few minutes of searching around and continued on our way.

The views all that day were breathtaking; hiking along the cliffline from near lake level up to over 200' above the water, through both deciduous and conifer forests, past wetlands, ponds, beaches and over creeks. We had no idea when we left Indiana it would be this amazing. Just before 2pm we passed 2 people going in the opposite direction. These were the last people we would see until we came out into town on monday morning! We ate lunch and took a lovely nap on a point overlooking one of the spectacular arches that protrudes into Lake Superior.

We only were hiking 9 miles, and starting at noon we figured we would have plenty of time before it got dark... well it seems we over estimated our trek, we definitely were not planning on stopping so often to take in the views. Over the course of the day we saw a pair of Osprey and some deer. By the time the sun was almost down we had only made it to Grand Portal Point, 1.5 miles from out campsite. So I ran on up ahead to find the camp while it was light out. Anna arrive at our campsite (Chapel Rock) just after dark. We searched for the bear poles that were supposed to be there but found none! So we cooked up dinner, set up the tent, I hung my pack from a tree and we climbed into bed with numb toes and fingers. It was only about 2 hours after dark and it was already well below freezing because our boots were solid chunks of ice!

Since both of us had forgotten our watches we had no idea about time but when we finally woke up in the morning the sun was already quite high in the sky and our boots were still frozen. We cooked up a nice hot breakfast and headed back towards the car. We made much better time on the return trip. On the way back we saw bobcat tracks in the sand near Grand Portal Point that I am sure were not there the day before! We got in at Potato Patch campsite about 2 miles from the trailhead. The campsite is in a field on one of the cliffs overlooking the lake! We were rewarded by getting in earlier with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen over Lake Superior and the UP. We collected some firewood (since we were allowed to have a fire at this site and not the previous night) and set up the tent. Just as darkness rolled in we got the fire started, began cooking dinner and attempting to dry our soaking socks and boots. We were a bit over zealous with the sock and boot drying business as I badly singed my socks and Anna melted parts of her boots! But at least the next morning we had dry warm saocks and our boots were not nearly as filled with ice. The stars that night were amazing since there are no large cities nearby to contribute light pollution. They were in fact so brilliant it was difficult to pick out some constellations! We also saw the planets Saturn and Jupiter.

We got up VERY early the next morning (Monday) since we had a 10 hour drive back and I had to get back for class at 6:30 that evening. The sun was just rising as we packed up camp and headed out on the trail. Almost back to the trailhead we corssed a good size creek where we saw a large beaver sitting on the bank right next to the trail! He jumped into the water, swam out a way and disappeared. At just before 8am we got back to the car, loaded our gear and headed back. Just after leaving the park we watched as a Bald Eagle flew over us as if to see us off and put the icing on the cake of such an amazing weekend. Ten hours, a stop for Pasties just before leaving the UP and 2 wrong turns later we got back onto Purdue campus just in time to get to my class which I definitely did not want to miss... Wine Appreciation.

Here is a link to my photo gallery (feel fre to check out the other pictures as well: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~monksj/Pictured%20Rocks.htm  

Old Comments:

Anna commented:
Hey now, you left out the part about having to cut new socks and the frostbite!! that was the best part!!  
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