My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Pigeon River Country weekend, day two

I have no idea what time I woke up on Sunday, except it was already light out when I woke up. Between the heat, the distant thunder, and the fact that I’m getting too old to sleep on just a foam pad, I hadn’t slept that well. The rain from the night before had ended, and there was some mixed clouds and sun. Here’s the view from my tent that I was treated with when I got up that morning.

The view from my tent

I fired up the stove to brew coffee, and started to plan my day. I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine for photography purposes, and there was already a good breeze blowing, which meant that fly fishing could be tough. Besides trying to get a good photo of a bull elk, my other goal for the weekend was to check some of the places along the Lake Huron shore for some future trips I am planning. What tipped the scale was the sunshine. I won’t say that I am tired of the flower and insect pictures I have been taking around home, but I really wanted to take some scenery pictures for a change.

Since I have never seen the Ocqueoc Falls, and they are only a few miles north of the Pigeon River country, I decided that the falls would be where I headed to first. If I headed north on Osmun Road, I could also stop at Inspiration Point and get some pictures there in some good light for a change. After that I would go to the closest point that I had marked on my GPS unit, and continue on from there.

So after finishing my coffee, I headed for Inspiration Point, one of the highest points in the Pigeon River country. It is also one of the few places that isn’t completely forested, so you have a great view of the area.

The view from Inspiration Point

That’s looking west, and the water that you can just barely make out is the Cornwall Flooding. Here’s the view to the south.

The view to the south from Inspiration Point

This is looking to the west again, zoomed in on the Cornwall Flooding and several bright white birch trees near it.

The view from Inspiration Point.

It is only a quarter of a mile walk from the road to the top of Inspiration Point, through what I believe is an old orchard. There are dozens of old stunted apple trees, a few cherry trees, and many crab apple trees along the path. Mid-May is a great time to go there when the fruit trees are in bloom. Since this was Labor Day weekend, the trees weren’t blooming, but the wildflowers along the path made up for that.

Wildflower

That’s just one of thousands, I don’t have room to post all the wildflower pictures I took along the path, as I have so many great photos from the day to try to fit in this post, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I started north again, and decided that since I was going right past Osmun Lake, I would stop to see if the loons that live on the lake were within range of my camera. I didn’t see the loons, but I did see a butterfly that I tried to get good photos of, but it would not turn the right way for me, and eventually it flew off. I turned around, looked down, and saw that I was nearly standing on a northern water snake! As soon as I began to lift the camera, it took off swimming, under water.

Northern water snake

Now that’s some clear water! That’s what I love about the Pigeon River Country, it seems so pure and unspoiled by humans, it is hard to believe that just over 100 years ago it was a burned over desert of sorts. Some people find it boring, since it isn’t developed at all except for a few campgrounds, and it is mostly heavily forested. There are few grand vistas like the one from the top of Inspiration Point, 99% of the time, you are in the woods. It is a subtle area, you have to love forests, in all their many types. You will catch glimpses through the trees of deep, wide valleys and distant high hills, but you have to use your imagination to pull those glimpses together to form a mental picture of the terrain.

I was going to go on at length about the Pigeon River Country, but I am going to save that for the post about the third day of this three-day weekend.

From Osmun Lake, which is on the northern edge of the PRC, it is only a 20 mile drive to Ocqueoc Falls, the Bicentennial Pathway, and a state forest campground. The route to the falls is well signed, maybe too well. The place was jammed with vehicles and people, and there was no room left for me to park. The Bicentennial Pathway to the falls was closed for repairs, but that wasn’t stopping people, some were using the trail, some were wading the river to get to the falls, even though the DNR had tried roping off the river trying to prevent people from doing so. The campground is nice, somewhat developed, not like Round Lake, and it was about full.

I didn’t want to fight the crowd, there was no place left to park anyway, so I edited the info about the falls and campground in my GPS unit, then looked for the next closest spot I had marked. Surprisingly, it turned out to be 40 Mile Point Lighthouse and the park there. I took N. Ocqueoc Road north from the falls, and as soon as I came to the junction of that road and US 23, I saw a sign for an access site at the mouth of the Ocqueoc River where it enters Lake Huron.

The Ocqueoc River flowing into Lake Huron

That wasn’t marked on my maps, it is now! It will make a great spot for kayaking, either the river or Lake Huron. My next stop was a scenic overlook on US 23.

Lake Huron

There were several scenic turnouts on US 23 on my way to 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, but I don’t have room for all the photos I took. I also found an unimproved access site on Lake Huron that would be OK for kayaking at Hammond Bay, right next to the federal Hammond Bay Biological Research Station there on Hammond Bay. The research station is dedicated to lamprey control, they give tours there, maybe someday I’ll stop by again and check it out.

I arrived at the 40 Mile Lighthouse Park.

40 Mile Point Lighthouse

This is a cool park! I just did a quick walk around since I was going to try to hit as many places as I could, and this park was somewhat crowded as well. They have a lot of stuff there at the park, including the wheelhouse from the Calcite, one of the old “Lakers” that used to ply the Great Lakes.

Inside the wheelhouse of the Calcite

That’s the only structure I went into, I’ll save the rest for a future trip, and I’m sure there will be many. If you are into lighthouses, Great Lakes shipping history, or shipwrecks, you have to check this place out! That reminds me, there is the wreck of the Joseph S. Fay there at the park as well, a very short walk from the lighthouse.

The wreck of the Joseph S. Fay

OK, so there’s not a lot left of the wreck. There is enough to give you an idea how ships were constructed back in the day, and also a sense of how small those ships were back then. They weren’t like the 1,000 footers on the lakes today. Those were brave men who worked in all types of weather on small ships in big storms.

I edited the info in my GPS unit, and headed off to the next spot I had marked, which turned out to be the old Presque Isle Lighthouse.

The old Presque Isle Lighthouse

That is another very nice park, and once again, I just did a quick walk around, then it was off to the New Presque Isle Lighthouse.

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

It is the tallest lighthouse on Lake Huron, and sits in another great little park. I did a quick walk around the outside of the buildings, then checked out several other of the park’s features, which you can find if you click the link above.

I found most of the information for this trip at one web site the US 23 Heritage Route. It is a fantastic source of information about almost everything there is to see or do in the counties along Lake Huron in northern Michigan. Most of the time these websites are all ads for local businesses, and there is some of that on that website, but it has surprised me how much information they have that appeals to some one like me as well. If you are at all interested in visiting the northeastern Michigan area, you should check it out.

I am leaving many of the things I found this day out of this post, simply because I could go on forever with what I saw. I went past several state parks that I am sure that I will visit in the future, like P. H. Hoeft and Thompson’s Harbor State Parks. Thompson’s Harbor really looks interesting, from what I saw, it is mostly coastal marshland. That may not sound appealing, but they are beautiful areas filled with wildflowers, many of which grow nowhere else in the world, like the dwarf lake iris. I didn’t find any of them, too late in the season, but when I was wandering around another coastal marsh later in the day, I did find these.

White wildflower in a coastal marsh

and these.

Blue wildflower in a coastal marsh

And if you have never seen a Great Lakes coastal marsh, here’s what one looks like.

Lake Huron coastal marsh

Those pictures were taken at Isaacson Bay, just outside of Alpena Michigan, which was my last stop on my trip, so I have sort of jumped ahead of myself here. Oh, I do have to go back to this photo though!

Red tailed hawk

I shot that photo through the sunroof of my explorer. The hawk heard the bird chirping sounds my camera makes when I turn it on, and the hawk thought that maybe I was bringing him supper, or wondering why I was chirping like a bird.

I am not going to write any more about the other things from this day trip right now, because I will be going back when I can spend more time at each of the places I checked quickly on this day.  I did find a better access site to Misery Bay than I knew of before this trip, but I missed a couple of spots to check out somehow or another. Misery Bay is part of  the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where there are over 200 shipwrecks, some of which can be seen from a kayak or while swimming. In addition, Misery Bay is a cool place to kayak in its own right, with many islands and marshes to explore. To top it off, there is also a giant karst sinkhole in the bay. So I will write more about all those places when I am able to spend more time there exploring them fully.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time I got to Alpena, so it was time to head back to the PRC for the evening. I took the back way in, going through Atlanta, Michigan, and then north to Clear Lake State Park, and into the PRC from the southeast side, which I had never done before. Of course I found even more places I wanted to stop and wander around, but there wasn’t time, and the weather had turned somewhat nasty. It had been warm with a lot of sun all day, but then the wind picked up and was driving intermittent rain showers into the area. I shot this picture of a marsh as it was still raining, but the sun was also coming out from the clouds at the same time.

A marsh in the rain

I stopped at a couple of the fields the DNR plants that I had learned about from the couple on the ATV’s the night before. I walked back into one, found a nice tree to sit down against, and the rain started coming down hard again. I didn’t have a good way to protect my Nikon from the rain, other than tucking it under my rain jacket, so I walked back out, then drove to a spot where I could remain in my vehicle and see most of that field. No elk appeared at all. Note to myself, from now on, do two things, carry the case for the Nikon, and check the state’s hunting seasons! When I got home, I saw a news story that the early season elk hunt had ended on the Friday before Labor Day, and that the hunters had been very successful!

No wonder I wasn’t seeing very many elk or deer for that matter. The DNR doesn’t issue many elk permits, but any hunters at all are going to make the elk a lot more wary than they are to begin with. Oh well.

I went back to the campground, ate supper, and turned in for the night.

I have left out a lot of pictures I wish I could add, I may do a post of “leftovers” after I finish a post on the third day of the weekend, I haven’t decided yet. I know I spent too much time on the road this day, or did I? In some ways it seems like a wasted day, but on the other hand, now I have some solid information to go on when I do future trips along Lake Huron.

That’s one of the many things I was thinking about on the third day up there, so I will leave this where it is, and continue on in my next post.

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3 responses

  1. I think I’d be sick if i saw a water snake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! otherwise, I enjoyed 🙂

    September 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    • Thank you. I’d rather deal with a water snake than swarms of mosquitoes!

      September 9, 2011 at 3:03 am

  2. Pingback: Pigeon River Country weekend, day three « Quietsolopursuits's Blog