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.
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.
Then, After a short hike to top of Summit Peak, I caught the sunset.
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.
The Presque Isle River Falls are actually a series of cascades that end just before the river empties into Lake Superior.
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.
The river was low, this would be more impressive during spring runoff, but I found the rocks to be interesting in their own right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!