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

My vacation in the UP, Porcupine Mountains

I’ll start with a few facts and figures from the Michigan DNR’s website.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (60,000 acres) is one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. Towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams make a visit to the “Porkies” a trip to remember.

Areas of attraction within the Porkies include Lake of the Clouds (ADA accessible viewing area), Summit Peak observation tower, and the scenic Presque Isle River corridor which hosts the states second largest waterfalls.

Back to me. It’s been decades since I last visited the Porkies, things have changed, probably for the better. To make the Porkies more of a wilderness experience, the state has closed most of the roads and two tracks through out the park. Most of the scenery is now accessible only by hiking and/or backpacking. I wasn’t quite prepared for that, and I didn’t know it when I first arrived at the east entrance to the park, but I was about done in by four solid days of being on the go, and hiking around ten miles per day to see the sights that I’ve done posts on already.

So, I had to change my plans, they changed even more the next day, but I’ll get to that soon enough. My first stop was to the visitor center for maps and other useful information. It was there that I learned that other than Lake of the Clouds, and the Presque Isle Falls, all the other scenery required longer hikes. Some can be done during a day hike, others require true backpacking to reach. A quick check of the maps, and the time, I thought that I could hit Lake of the Clouds, then hike to the summit of Summit Peak to catch the sunset. Then, I would drive around the south border of the park to camp at the Presque Isle area, and photograph the falls first thing in the morning, then pick other attractions to see with short walks.

So, I was off to Lake of the Clouds.

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

If only I had planned my vacation for a week or ten days later! The colors would have been fantastic! But, the view is still very good.

Between the Lake of the Clouds and the trail to Summit Peak, I stopped to shoot this photo of a fog bank over Lake Superior.

Fog bank over Lake Superior

Fog bank over Lake Superior

Then, After a short hike to top of Summit Peak, I caught the sunset.

Summit Peak

Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

After stumbling back down the mountain in the twilight, I reached my Forester, and drove around the south boundary of the park to the Presque Isle area, to camp for the night.

I was up at first light, as I had planned. Most of the waterfalls you’ve seen in these posts are on rivers that run south to north, meaning that in the afternoon, one is usually looking toward the sun to see and photograph the falls. That had been giving me problems all week, I wanted to photograph the Presque River Falls early in the morning in order to avoid that. It almost worked.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

The Presque Isle River Falls are actually a series of cascades that end just before the river empties into Lake Superior.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Being an idiot, I followed the signs and arrows to start at the lowest of the falls, and began to work my way up. I figured out later that it would have been much better to go the wrong way, start at the upper falls and work my way down, but live and learn.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

The river was low, this would be more impressive during spring runoff, but I found the rocks to be interesting in their own right.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Not only had I been fighting the sun all week long, but at many of the falls I photographed, the view from the designated viewing areas were often blocked by trees. At Sable Falls earlier in the week, I had jumped the fence, then hung out over the bank while holding onto a cedar tree, hoping that the cliff below me wouldn’t give way. It was the same with these falls, I jumped the fence in several spots to get good views of the falls.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

I shot this photo of the upper most falls using the 70-200 mm lens, even though I planned on continuing to hike the path all the way to the upper falls. But, I had run out of food the day before, so I hadn’t had any breakfast, and I hadn’t even brewed a pot of coffee that morning before setting out to photograph the falls.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

I was feeling light-headed, I couldn’t even remember how to adjust the exposure compensation on my camera, but I pressed on. I saw a sign warning of rugged terrain, and a poor trail ahead of me to get to the upper falls, but I had passed many of those signs while I was up there. I rounded a corner, and was confronted with a near vertical clay bank 30 to 40 feet high, with a tangle of exposed tree roots covering the trail. I didn’t tell my body to stop, but it did so of its own accord. I stood there trying to compel my body to continue on, I did manage to make it three or four more steps, then my brain joined my body in a revolt, with both of them telling me that they wouldn’t proceed any farther.

My body was telling me that it was out of energy, and needed food and rest to recover from how hard I had been pushing myself. My brain was telling me about the same thing, but it added the thought that I would most likely slip on the clay bank, and break one of my cameras or lenses.

I had done it again, just like during my spring trip this year, I had worn myself to a frazzle, to the point where I could go no further.

OK, this was a scouting trip anyway, I had picked up all the information on the park that I could get at the park visitor center the day before, and had a much better idea of what the area was like than I had been able to learn on the web. Looking at the map, there was no place close by for me to get something to eat, other than the park store, and everything there probably would have been very expensive. Here’s a map to show you just how undeveloped the area is.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

It was Thursday morning, but I was a long way from home, after all, it had taken me five days to travel that far, although much of the time I was hiking, not driving.

So, I decided to start back toward home a day early, and stop off at the Garden Peninsula and Fayette Historic State Park as planned, with a stop for real food on the way. Even though I had just dipped my toes in the Porcupine Mountains, I was in no shape to take the plunge. That’s OK, I’ll be back, and it won’t be as long between this visit and the next one as it had been since the last time I was there.

Here are links to the previous posts I’ve done on my vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

My vacation in the UP, the highlights

My vacation in the UP, Sunrise, sunset

My vacation in the UP, the bridges

My vacation in the UP, Tahquamenon Falls State Park

My vacation in the UP, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by land

My vacation in the UP, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by boat

My vacation in the UP, the Keewanaw Peninsula

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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18 responses

  1. Such lovely scenes and images. Good that you listened to your body and mind instead of pushing recklessly onward.

    October 8, 2013 at 3:07 am

    • Thanks, I’m still kicking myself for not trying to drive to the upper end of the trail and going down to the last falls, but there will be other ties for that.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:56 am

  2. It’s no fun when your mind feels 18 and your body is in the 50s. I run into that a lot too-it took me about a week to recover from the last mountain I climbed. Your efforts were worth it though. I like the way the water has carved those rocks. I think I’d plan on 2 or 3 days out there to see how they changed under different lighting conditions. That would also allow more time for longer hikes.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:30 am

    • Thanks, the next time I go to the Porkies, it will be for a full week. I have more shots of the rocks, but I didn’t want to overload the post with rock photos, I easily could have done that. I found the rocks to be as interesting as the falls themselves.

      What I do to myself on these trips is to not eat enough. Breakfast was one or two fruit turnovers, lunch, if I remembered to eat at all was a handful of trail mix and a Snickers bar, supper was a 6 inch sub from subway. That isn’t enough to fuel my body for the amount of hiking that I do. I keep telling myself to take a break, but I always tell myself, after the next stop, and pretty soon, it’s sundown, and I still haven’t eaten anything. I’ve found that I can go at that pace for four days, then my body begins to shut down.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

  3. I wasn’t terribly far from there last weekend- just over the state line in the Nicolet National Forest.

    October 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

    • You should hop on over one of these days and check it out if you haven’t.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:57 am

  4. Wonderful post and photos. I very much enjoyed reading the about this place and looking at your lovely pictures. 🙂

    October 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

    • Thank you!

      October 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

  5. You certainly got about on your holiday. It was worth from our point of view because the pictures are most interesting.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    • Thanks Tom, I put almost 2,000 miles on my vehicle, but only around 50 on my legs, so why did my legs give out and not my butt?

      October 9, 2013 at 1:22 am

      • You’ll have to get busy on a bicycle.

        October 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      • I looked into purchasing one last year, too expensive for my paycheck. I may have to check used ones.

        October 10, 2013 at 1:08 am

      • Used ones are fine. Lycra clad cyclists are like golfers and are always upgrading to the latest kit so there should be good bargains about.

        October 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      • Well, most of the lycra clad cyclists I see are on bikes with tires so skinny as to almost non-existent. If I spring for a bike, it will be one with fat tires that I can ride on unpaved trails as well as the road. I won’t be going for speed, but for versatility.

        October 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      • Mountain bikers are even keener of new kit.

        October 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  6. Love the rocks at the falls – just beautiful formations!

    October 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    • Thank you!

      October 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

  7. Pingback: My vacation in the UP, Fayette Historic State Park | Quiet Solo Pursuits