Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pictured Rocks 2012 - Lakeshore Trail Thru-hike

Thursday, August 30, 2012.

I picked up Brian in Neenah and we rode up to Munising, Michigan to get the backcountry permits for the hike and our rendezvous campsites at the Munising Tourist Park Campground settled before others arrived. We got everything important taken care of right upon arriving in Munising, so we set up our tents and head out for a quick visit to Miner’s Castle, Miner’s Falls and the beach. We also took care of a few chores… you know, important things like getting firewood, graham crackers and chocolate to go with our marshmallows, beer and ice to cool it with… then back to our campsite for the evening. As the sun went down we watched a couple of jet skis buzz around the lake and make all kinds of noise while a few stand-up-paddlers paddled around quietly while rocking over the jet ski’s waves. It made me never want to own a jet ski, and made me really want to try stand-up-paddling.

Miner's Castle. You may have seen this in a scenic calendar. Pretty popular spot.

Miner's Falls. My first time seeing this falls!

Eventually our hiking partners began to arrive. Rachel, Sheila, Jen, Jon, Tisa, Gary, Susan and Kevin. We were only missing Graham who let us know he was meeting us at the Munising Falls Interpretive Center where we were scheduled to have the shuttle pick us up at 9am the next morning.

Sunset at the Munising Tourist Park Campground.

We all sat around a campfire, watched a giant coal boat slowly hum past us while we all enjoyed a few drinks and snacks. We all got “sapped” at some point at this campsite. We’ve stayed here before and have never had a problem with pine sap, but it was everywhere on the picnic tables and the ground, so we were all a sticky mess and dirty before we even hit the trail. Just before we all retired to our tents for the night, we were lucky enough to get one of those unplanned tent light shows from Jen as she spastically wiped the sand off of her feet inside her tent. She had no idea the rest of us sitting around the fire were hysterical from the shadows she was creating on her tent walls! This became a running joke for the rest of the weekend, and Jen went along with it, giggling right along. We had a very laid back, fun group of people!

Friday, August 31, 2012
Day one on the trail.
Grand Sable Visitor’s Center to Au Sable Group Campsite.
7.1 miles.

(L-R) Jon, Brian, Gary, Tisa, Jen, Sheila, Robin, Susan, Ms. Sock, Kevin, Mr. Sock, Rachel, Graham
At some point Thursday night my TMJ flared up. I was not happy about this since I was just coming off a really bad episode the week before this trip. I tell you, it can't be stress! When I'm on hiking trips I am the least stressed ever! I think I just sleep funny. Anyway, I tried really hard to not let it put a damper on my plans, but I was worried that I was going to have trouble eating the food I packed along, but thankfully, I was able to get through it okay. I did have to refill my ibuprofen bottle when I got home, though. That was pretty much the only down-side to the trip, so I certainly can't complain. Everything else went great.

On Friday morning we woke up and packed up camp as we all unsuccessfully tried to avoid being "sapped" again. I think we all had sticky, dirty spots on us and/or our gear somewhere. At this point I didn't really care because we were going to be heading into the woods and getting dirty, anyway.

When we arrived at the Munising Falls Interpretive Center parking lot where the shuttle was scheduled to meet us and pick us up, Graham met us there with donuts! What a treat! We took a quick group photo with Sock and his sock girlfriend and got on the shuttle, which arrived right on schedule as always.

On Friday we had a short day to the Au Sable Group Campsite - only 7.1 miles. So we took our time getting our hiking legs going. We saw our first wildlife in the first 3 or so miles. A beaver! He didn't care one bit that we were all lined up in the trail taking photos and video of him either! He just kept on eating his leaves and chewing on his bark like we would eat corn on the cob. It was fun to just watch and observe him so close up.

Our beaver friend!

A little while later we reached the Log Slide. This is a sand dune that drops down to Lake Superior about 500 feet, 300 of those feet being straight down vertically. It's a very steep drop, so when you run down the dune, the sand falls with you as you take long, flying, leaping steps. It's really cool because you kind of feel like you're floating down. Towards the end there's a few drop-offs that can be kind of scary if you've got some momentum going - somewhere in here Graham lost his glasses - and with all the cascading sand, there was pretty much zero chance of finding them - and we never did. Graham, Kevin, Brian and I all went down. Once at the bottom we jumped in the lake - it was too inviting to pass up. Then we started our way back up. Let me tell you what - that is WORK! I've done the Log Slide a couple of times before, and I forget each time just how exhausting it is! But it's so much fun, and such a great challenge! I sometimes wish I lived closer so that I could go every morning and make it part of a workout routine.

Graham standing at the top of the Log Slide drop-off with a look on his face as if to say, "Yeah, I'm totally going to dominate this thing."

Our next stop after the Log Slide was camp. 

Au Sable East Group Campsite.

We stayed at the Au Sable Group Campsite, which is about a 1/2-mile hike from the lighthouse where you can take tours of the buildings around the lighthouse and climb up to the top for some great views. Since we arrived so early, a few of our group who haven't done the tour head down to check that out. The rest of us took to the shoreline for swimming and lounging around in the sand and sun until the tour-bound group got back and joined us on the beach. It was a spectacular way to spend the first afternoon on the trail.

Our very own beach at Au Sable.

Swimming fun! This is Graham, me and Rachel trying to get a group self-shot underwater. It took a while to get in synch!

We head back to camp and made dinner, then as a group, we all head back towards the lighthouse where we were able to get a better view of the sunset. The spot we picked was where a few remnants of a shipwreck laid along the sandy beach, so we were able to snap a few cool photos of the waves crashing up over it with the sun lowering in the background. It was beautiful as it always is along Lake Superior. This was our first night on trail, and our sunset show did not disappoint. There were no clouds so we just got a gradiated pastel sky after the sun actually sunk down below the horizon, but it was so clear that you could actually make out the waves of the lake in front of the sun as it slowly disappeared.

Just before sunset. Waves crashing over the shipwreck.
On our walk back to our campsite, we were able to witness one of the brightest moons I've ever seen. It was actually a blue moon (2nd full moon in August) and it was amazing. My camera doesn't always capture the best nighttime photos, but this one was so bright it actually came out okay. We spent a little more time on the beach ooohing and aaaahing over the moon while playing and throwing giant stones into the lake and listening to them crash and echo.

Incredible blue moon!

Saturday, September 1, 2012
Day two on the trail.
Au Sable Group Campsite to Trapper's Lake Group Campsite
11.3 miles (10.9 to the trail junction + .4 to the campsite)

Me in my happy place!

We all woke up and kind of got going on our own. We took turns leaving the campsite, and I was among one of the last. After Rachel and I super-hiked this same trail in two days in July, we were both pretty excited to take it easy and enjoy the sites and stops along the way. Not long after we got going in the morning, we stopped at Hurricane River - it's a pretty stop along the beach. I treated some water to make a Gatorade drink, we snapped a few photos and hiked on.

Hurricane River outlet.
We made a group stop at the Sevenmile Group Campsite where we knew there was a pretty sweet beach to hang out at. We swam, ate lunch, and Rachel even flew a kite! It was a perfect sunny, breezy day for it!

After a nice long break we head on out back on the trail to our campsite, which was only about 4 more miles. We passed by the "junky ol' car" and snapped photos of it as we do every time we pass by it. It's been there a long time, and rumor has it that, well, there's not really an exciting story to it. But there are bullet holes in the side of it, so we came up with own story that linked it to the mob. We were much more satisfied with that story.

Tisa, Robin and Rachel in front of the ol' car.
Trapper's Lake Group Campiste. 1/2-mile hike from Lake Superior.

Once at camp, we set up tents and got organized to head to Lake Superior for dinner, which was about a 1/2-mile hike. We were camped right on Trapper's Lake, which is a beautiful lake surrounded by thick forest, but it's also very silty, hard to filter from, and snapping turtles have been spotted in past years. We all wanted to swim (again!!), so we abandoned camp for a few hours for dinner, swimming, playing and the sunset on the big lake.

As I was getting ready to go, and organizing my things, I happened to see something peeking through my miscellaneous gear that I didn't recognize. It was a darned giant PICKLE! I was totally pickled! I knew this was Rachel's doing, and I could hardly be upset about carrying if for the whole day because first of all, it's a great prank... second of all, we got to eat it! I passed my pickle around and a few of us that were still hanging around got a big bite, and then I drank the juice, which tasted even better than the pickle itself! It was a nice treat. But... now I have to get Rachel back! Hah! Love this stuff...

The best dinner table on earth.

Once at the beach, I swam, treated some water and made one of my new favorite dinners -- spinach and ricotta-stuffed tortellini with pesto sauce - it took a while to make since I had to simmer it, so it's a fuel-sucker, but it was sure a treat!

While we waited for the sun to go down, we all had a chance to nap, swim, lay around and play. I drew giant designs in an untouched section of sand.

Sand angel!

Sand art.
And then the sun set. We had a few whispy clouds for this one, so it lit up the sky a little more and provided a little more color than the night before. It was like it was trying to outdo itself each night, and that was okay with us! The moon that night was really bright again, too. At night while lying in the tent, it was almost like someone was standing outside your tent with a headlamp on! It created some cool shadows, too. The nights were pleasant, and so far, the only condensation we dealt with was the first night when we camped at the Munising Tourist Park Campground... so the trail was being very kind to us and showing us a perfect weekend so far.

Saturday's sunset.

Sunday, September 2, 2012
Day three on the trail.
Trapper's Lake Group Campsite to Mosquito Group Campsite
12.9 miles

Cliffs begin. Chances to horse around before they get too steep!

Sunday was my favorite day. We rounded a corner and the view opened up. This is where Pictured Rocks gets so spectacular. The first few days were great - we had a lot of beaches, lakeshore, smooth trails and just great hiking. But it just gets better and better on this trip. You start to climb and before you know it, you're looking over a sheer cliff hundreds of feet above the lake. Looking down you see teal and bright blue waters that are crystal-clear -- so clear that you can see almost every rock below the surface and the orange and brown colors of them all ripply through the water's surface. Tour and recreational boats zoom past every once in a while, giving real perspective just as to how far down the lake actually is.

Isn't this amazing!?
Our first stop was at the beach near the Coves campsites. I had to do some laundry and it was time for second breakfast. The problem was that a very short time later we reached a spot on the trail that I've passed by every time I've been to Pictured Rocks, and have always wanted to stop at. It's a tiny little cove with a small beach and rocks along the edge that are maybe 10 feet above the water. There are a couple of holes you can jump off into, and I've always seen people swimming and playing here whenever I'm hiking through. But it always works out that we've just stopped for a break, or just started out hiking, or some other dumb reason to not stop anyway. This year I promised myself I'd stop here, but I couldn't remember exactly where it was. We did just stop for a break, and I actually, for one second, thought about passing it by. But then I turned back and said, "Nope. I'm stopping. I don't care. We've got all day to hike." Rachel, Brian and Kevin joined me. We were the last in the pack, so we didn't really have a chance to let the others know we were stopping, but we had plans to meet up at Chapel beach later on.

I'm pretty sure that we were all glad we stopped. We explored around the edge where we've never really gone before, and there was some pretty freakin' spectacular rock formations under the clear water. There were giant potholes that were created when smaller stones got inside and the waves caused them to swirl around inside, and some were big enough that we could sit in them, or swim underneath and pop out through them. It was like an underwater playground! I kind of wished I'd brought along a snorkel!

Underwater pothole created from those rocks that are in there and waves.
Then Brian and I cliff-jumped. We jumped a few times and it was SO MUCH FUN!! Cannonball after cannonball we jumped. I didn't really want to leave this spot - it was so amazing. 

Jumping, swimming and exploring the crazy-cool rocks.

On one of our jumps, Brian and I jumped at the same time for a photo op. Kevin was standing on the shore taking the photo of us, and he snapped one of the funniest pictures from the entire trip. For those that might not know me like those from my backpacking group do, I am kind of known for (and I guess I'll admit this) talking about poop a lot. It's something that backpackers find themselves talking about - since we have to take care of waste in a certain way, so the discussion of Leave No Trace comes up, and we all need to learn it... well, whatever. I talk about poop more than the average person. So anyway, when Kevin snapped this photo, it seemed appropriate that it looks like Brian is pooping me out. What makes it even funnier is that I'm plugging my nose! So the saying went, "Robin was reborn."

Photographic evidence of my being "reborn!" Thanks for the photo, Kevin!!
We laughed and laughed. These are the crazy moments that will last forever and make trips like this so much fun. And I'm glad everyone in our group has such a good sense of humor about this kind of stuff! Hard not to, since it's so silly. :)

Also on this amazing, super-awesome day of hiking, we hit a section of trail that goes along the edge of a sheer, kind of scary cliff that resembles almost a desert terrain. It's just layered sandstone that juts out and drops straight off into Lake Superior. Kevin set us up for another really fun photo. He, Brian and I went out to the edge and posed for a mid-air jump shot. Thanks to Rachel for taking such a great photo!

Happy, happy hiking jumps!

The most spectacular hiking day was just starting to wind down a little when we reached Chapel beach and finally met up with some of our group. With our stop at the cliff-jumping section, we were way behind everyone else, and some had already swam and moved on. We stopped for a swim anyway, and I got brave. A pontoon pulled up and a huge family was milling around by us with can koozies containing frosty, ice-cold beers. I thought to myself, "I'll probably never see these people again. If I ask them for a beer, the worse thing that can happed is they say 'no.'" So I walked over and asked them if I could buy a beer off of them for a couple of bucks. I told them about how we're two days into our hike and a cold beer would really hit the spot. He didn't take my money, but he did give me a beer! It was a frosty cold Labatt Blue. And between the few of us that shared it, it didn't last more than five minutes. It was tasty!!

Then we hiked on to our next campsite - Mosquito River Group Camp.
Mosquito River Group Campsite

Oh, and a lesson was learned on Day #3. Bacon is only good the first two days. After that it gives you a bubbly stomach and a trip into the woods. My analogy was this: Bacon on days #1 and #2 is like a superhero with super powers, but on day #3 turns into a villian and makes you miserable. It's a fine line, I tell you. I got really tired toward the end of the day. I hadn't drank enough water through the day with all the fun stops and awesomeness that went on, and with the bacon episode I was pretty dehydrated by the time we reached camp. But I perked up. A third swim in Lake Superior will cure any ailment!

Laundry drying on the beach by Mosquito River.

Once again, we followed our normal routine. We hit the beach, swam, hung clothes to dry, snacked, and head back to camp for dinner. A short while later we were all back on the beach for sunset. A few of us head around the rocky point to a really neat spot for the last sunset show on the trip. And again, it was an improvement over the last two nights' sunsets... if you can believe that! A few more clouds lit up in florescents than the previous nights and the colors stuck around for quite a while even after the glowing sun had disappeared. 

Watching the sun set our last night on the trail.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Day four on the trail.
Mosquito Group Campsite to Munising Falls Interpretive Center
12 miles

We had 12 miles to hike and a few of our group had to get home earlier, so Graham, Sheila, Jen and Tisa hit the trail before the rest of us even woke up. They did a great job being super quiet, because I don't even think I woke up when they were getting packed up. When the rest of us woke up, we ate our breakfast and hit the trail for our last day.

We stopped at Miner's beach for a break, and Gary, Jon and I took one more swim. I just couldn't get enough of swimming on this trip! It was overcast and you could see some weather was moving in. After Miner's beach we stopped at Miner's castle and learned that a short series of storms might be passing through, but it sounded like it could be hit or miss, and would only last about 30 minutes. The seven of us that were left hiked on and took a couple more breaks together as we worked our way to our cars and the finish of our trip. We must have all had burgers on our mind (milkshakes for me!) because we were cruising right along!

A very comfy break spot!

About a half an hour before we reached the end of the hike, thunder started to roll above us and over Lake Superior. We smiled and enjoyed the sound as it cracked through the air. We started to feel a few raindrops, but we must have all been in the same exact mindset, because not one of us stopped to put on our raingear. It had gotten super humid out, so we were all sweating profusely. Dripping wet sweaty. So when the rain started, it actually felt pretty good. Then it rained harder. And harder. And harder. And then we were soaked all the way through. The trail turned to river and we splashed through like little kids. It was fun! We were smiling and just kept on hiking right through it. 

Huge smiles, enjoying the downpour!

When we reached the end, we threw our packs down next to the bathrooms to protect them from more rain, which probably didn't even matter at that point - they were soaked through, anyway. Thankfully this rain storm hit during the last mile of the hike and not the first, although we'd have sucked it up and dealt with it just fine if it had.

It was raining so hard that Gary actually was able to soap up in the parking lot and shower! I stripped down to my "swimsuit" that I used on the trip, which consisted of a sports bra and shorty underwear -- and I didn't care. I was so soaked that it was just easier that way. We all changed in the bathroom, had a celebretory beer in the parking lot, then head to the Dogpatch for dinner. Burgers, beer and milkshakes were consumed, and as a group, we decided to forgo the camping for the evening and we split a couple of hotel rooms. Good call, too. We were able to dry out, sit in a hot tub and watch some TV. What a way to relax after a happily exhausting weekend of backpacking! And the next morning was foggy and damp, too... so we appreciated the warm, dry rooms even more when we woke up. The waffles weren't bad, either.

The seven of us SOAKING wet and happy... and SUPER excited for restaurant FOOD!
We had a smaller group this year than we expected, but it was a great group of people. We all laughed, carried inside jokes along the trail for all four days, and just bonded and had a great time. We shared food, talked about pack weight, dealt with blisters and pains together, carried or pushed each other along when we needed it, simultaneously complained about sand-hiking (there's a lot of it on this trail!), swam and relaxed. We enjoyed fires, campfood, Clyde the chipmunk, Apple Pie (thanks Brian!!), feet-washing (well, jokes about it, anyway) and great trails. The best part of this trip is always the people that are on it and how awesome they all make it as a whole. The second best part of this trip would have to be the views. They can be mind-blowing. We were in Upper Michigan and it felt like were in a completely different world.

I'm sure next year will be just as spectacular. Or better, because it does seem to get better every year!

Bye, Pictured Rocks. Until next time!

1 comment:

Karalyn said...

Pictured Rocks is such a great spot! My family went up there every summer growing up and the Log Slide climb is ritual for us. You did an amazing job describing the adventure and specialness of this place!