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.