Finally! Porcupine Mountains State Park is our destination for the next few days. It’s Michigan’s largest (landwise) State Park, and actually has campground in two time zones. Hard to believe that I’ve been a Michigander for over 60 years, and have never been here. Neither has John. We’re excited.
The 45 mile trip from McLain SP to Porcupine Mtn is beautiful. Low traffic. High beauty. Perfect color. We’re afraid that we’re really getting used to very short travel distances between campgrounds. How are we ever going to make the long trip to Arizona? This is waaay more our style of travel. The fun part of being on the road is definitely NOT the road part, for us.
Since this State Park covers such a big area, we have decided to stay in both campgrounds. Our first stop is Union Bay, on the east end of the park. The campsites there have electric hookups, and there are flush toilets/showers. Some of the most enviable of the campsites are right along the rocky shoreline. But…..ugh. It’s jammed. Small campsites. We are right on top of our neighbors. But, the tradeoff is that it’s just a short hop to a hike we really want to do – The Escarpment Trail to Lake of the Clouds.This hike travels along a narrow ridge. We love the fact that we can take Jezzy along on the hike. She’s a great hiker, and will cross any bridge or jump any gap at John’s urging. There are many times when I envy her sure-fourfootedness. We’ve packed a lunch, and find a great vantage point to admire the great views. Scenes of the Lake, and the streams which flow out of it into Lake Superior, were amazing from our heightened vantage point. It was an easy 4-1/2 mile hike, but so beautiful. We had staged my bike at the hike’s end, so I hopped on and rode back to the Firetruck, parked at the Trailhead. I left my bike there, and drove back to pick up John and Jezzy. We all drove back to the Trailhead, and I jumped back on my bike to ride back to camp. Whew!
Commotion builds to a crescendo in the campground for the weekend, and we formulate plans for the next day. I want to cycle up to Summit Peak and explore that end of the park – John is unenthusiastic. He ultimately opts for a short ride to the Winter Sports complex, where he takes a chair lift ride to the top of the ski hill. Nice views (although no photos). I stick with my plan and head off, uphill and into the wind, to my destination on the opposite end of the park from our campground. It’s beautiful, and a nice ride, but color seems to be a bit past peak, and the views are good, but not jaw-dropping. My photos were all uninspiring. To call the Porcupines “Mountains” is probably stretching the term a bit, but hey – you gotta work with what you got. We both enjoyed our separate days.
Sunday is our target day to move to the far west end of the Park. It’s 25 miles away, and actually in another Time Zone. There’s a mass exodus of campers, so we lollygag it to our new campground, hoping that more sites will be vacated in the meantime. We pull off the road to explore the Greenstone and Overlooked Falls. It’s a perfect morning. The Trail and the Falls are beautiful, and we get to see one of the many remote cabins available for rental in this big park. Perched right on the edge of the river near the Greenstone Falls, it’s a rustic but desirable spot for a quiet camping experience. Remote, pack-in camping is not for everyone, but this sure would be a great place to try it out. We kill a couple of hours on this four-mile hike.Our new campsite in Presque Isle Campground is more to our liking. No facilities, other than a single balky handpump and two sets of pit toilets. Campsites are large, and there are few campers. Peaceful. Quiet. Oh yeah. We set up our campsite in rain preparation mode, which means setting up our large awning, which provides a bit of additional shelter from storms. We are perched 100′ above Lake Superior. Curiously, the huge maple trees here are mostly still green. Everywhere else has been full, or slightly-past full color.
Rainy weather moves in, and bring with it a chill. Chill turns to serious C-O-L-D! We delay our morning hike to three nearby waterfalls until it’s slowed to a steady drizzle. Jezzy’s unhappy about being left behind. But I stand my ground on this one – what are we going to do with a stinky, wet, muddy dog in a camper? Better she snooze on the bed and wait for us to return. She’s proved to us many times that her memory is very short. No grudges.
We cross the swinging Bainbridge Bridge, and stroll down to the point where the Presque River meets Lake Superior. Big waves crash on the shore, which is strewn with logs and driftwood from years past. It’s beautiful and wild. We hike the East Trail, the more primitive side, cross back to the West Superior Trail back to our starting point. Three waterfalls are enroute – each spectacular, yet different. My favorite was probably the Manabezho Falls, where water boiling along the edges has carved perfectly round potholes into the rocky sides. The current water levels enable us to walk directly out into the river path. I’m pretty sure this is not the case when the snowmelt is raising the river levels. My photos, once again, don’t do justice to the magnificent scenery. We’re amazed at how close to the edge of the falls we can actually get on the Trail. There’s significant erosion in many spots. We wonder how much longer it will be before this is blocked off to everyday foot traffic.This entire area is the largest unlogged hardwood forest left in the entire Midwest. My photo really doesn’t show how huge this tree is. It was massive! The giant trees, left untouched for centuries provide a clean forest floor. It’s wonderful, and, best of all, we don’t have to share this area with anyone!
Reluctantly, we pack up on Tuesday morning to leave. This is our last night (for a few weeks) in the UP. It’s been a wonderful trip so far, but we are looking forward to moving into Wisconsin and Minnesota (hopefully not MinneSNOWta) to whatever lies ahead.