Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Participants: 5 including the trip leader

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, for those unfamiliar with the area, is a 42 mile section on the North Country Trail starting in Grand Maris, Michigan and ending in Munising, Michigan (Upper Peninsula). The trail follows the southern shore of Lake Superior and is governed by the National Parks Service.

This was the club’s second trip to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. What a difference a year (and change of seasons) makes. The 2011 version was in July and in the middle of a hot spell with fly/ mosquito season in full flourish. It was a great group who toughed out the conditions. This year’s timing was much better. Park Staff recommend the last week of August when it is still warm (by Upper Peninsula standards) and the summer crowds are dwindling. Great advice! Seventy degree days and mid-fifty nights, and we hit a clear dry few days that were perfect for the many magnificent vistas along the trail.

Munising is a ten hour drive from Indianapolis and we arrived at our motel about 6:00 PM Saturday evening. The Sunset Motel is a very nice mom and pop old style motel sitting right on South Bay and named the “Sunset” for a very good reason. Sunday morning we had breakfast at local restaurant, picked up our permits and caught our shuttle to the Grand Maris trailhead. The trail is generally divided in roughly three areas; the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes, Twelve Mile Beach and Pictured Rocks Cliffs. Our plan was three nights and four days to cover the trail.

Sunday was a short day, seven miles, skirting behind the dunes to an area referred to a Log Slide. This site was used during the logging days where logs were carted to the top of the dunes and then slid down to the lake side for transporting by boat to the mills. Looking back toward Grand Maris, the dunes stretched for about seven miles. From this point, the next twenty five miles were predominantly right on the cliffs or beach areas along Lake Superior. Our first campsite was about a half mile from the historic Grand Sable Light Station built in 1874. The station is well maintained but is approximately one and half miles from the nearest parking area. It gets few visitors relative to other Michigan lighthouses. Our next three days (thirty-five miles) were highlighted by magnificent sunny skies, a cool breeze off the lake and numerous vistas from cliffs and beach areas. High points included Twelve Mile Beach, Trappers Lake, Grand Portal Point, the confluence of the Mosquito River and Lake Superior, Miners Beach and Miners Castle Point and the Munising Falls. The trails were in excellent condition with relatively few elevation changes. We had a really good group with everyone contributing to make an enjoyable trip. John led the way most of the trip finding great resting spots while the rest of us caught up. Ken was our official fire man building great camp fires and tending them to the end. Wayne entertained us with his many stories of family adventures to remote parks and waters. Dave was always helpful as an experienced trip leader and advisor helping wherever necessary, especially at meal times and breaking camp “leaving no trace.”

At trails end we returned to the Sunset for showers and a few adult beverages, dinner at a very good Munising restaurant and a final return to the motel for sunset watching. There was much rehashing of the magnificent sites and variety of terrain that make up Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore.

Picture Rocks Group

Quetico: A Scouting Trip

Participants: 3

John and I had been talking about a return to Canada for some years. I had to cancel out on a 2006 club trip to the Missinaibi Headwaters due to an 11th hour back injury. But, after several successful Boundary Waters trips and some backpacking trips over the past 6 years, I was finally ready again to tackle some really wild and remote location. We did not want to make this a club trip, but foresaw the possibility that we could pick a route that might qualify for a club trip at a later date – thus the idea of a scouting trip.

After investigating several provincial parks, routes and outfitters, we settled on the Pines Loop in Quetico. This very large park is similar in size to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, but only receives one-tenth the annual visitors. Because of the proximity to Ely, MN we were able to rent from an American outfitter and started our journey at Moose Lake. After a 2 hour paddle and check-in at the border we were underway.

It did not take long for the reality of the remoteness to set in. Shortly after we left the border area we saw fewer and fewer canoes and were in the wilds of Canada. There was a little bit of rain off and on that day, but not enough to matter, at least not until evening when we were blessed with a double rainbow – full arches and soooooo awesome.

Each night we would have a fire; Ken assumed the role of getting that going. Dan was our water pumper, and John and I coordinated the cooking and kitchen duties. Because of the remoteness and the uncertainty of easily finding portages and campsites we were up early each morning. A quick breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee and we were on our way. For the next three days we only saw one other occupied camp.

Our McKenzie maps were mostly accurate, but certainly not 100 percent. Some of the portages were easy to find and some were not. One took us over 90 minutes to locate because it was marked incorrectly on the map – just adding to the adventure. Once we got on the portage trail, well, that was another adventure. There were rocks, downed trees, swamps and, in some cases, the trails were hardly recognizable. You never knew what might be up ahead or how long it would take to finish a portage. Then, there was a portage trail that ended at a beaver dam. Since Kevin Callan had paddled, written and described the route four years earlier, beavers had come in and done their thing. The trail was gone, but in its place has a huge beaver pond that had been created by the likes of a dam we had never seen. So, up and over the dam we went and paddled for perhaps a half mile. Then, another dam for which was a simple lift over. We paddled some more – another dam and another lift over. Finally at the end of the third pond we found the trail out to the next lake.

One of our objectives was to find and photograph as many ancient First Nation paintings as we could. These are called pictographs and are generally found on flat cliff walls facing the east and just up a few feet from the water’s edge. There were either shone on the map or reference was made in our guidebook. We were very successful in locating these.

Although the trip was very remote and extremely rugged it was worth every stumble, fall and scrape as we carried through those portages. At times were we challenged paddling into the wind, which seemed to be the case each time we hit a larger lake. We took it all in stride and stroke. The camaraderie amongst the crew members was great, the meals were good and the weather was the most perfect I’ve ever had for a paddle trip. I’d go back to Quetico in a heartbeat but, then again, maybe the next opportunity will be in Woodland Caribou, Algonquin or up to the French River.