In August of 2016, I headed up to the town of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with my family for a few days of exploring the U.P. and engaging in a few different excursions. One of those excursions was kayaking a six mile stretch of the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline.
We went through a guide service up in Munising for this adventure, primarily because we did not have kayaks of our own. After taking a bus from a parking lot to the beach, we kicked off from the shore of Miner’s Beach, heading east, at about 9:00am in tandem Kayaks and my brother Erik and me would be piloting one together. It would turn out to be an experience that exceeded my expectations.
Right off the bat, the pedal to our rudder broke so for the first section of our trip, till we stopped for lunch, we had to pilot the kayak with no rudder, which was more difficult and decreased our speed, but we didn’t let it stop us. We took the opportunity to drive our kayak into oncoming waves and pilot it close to the cliff side and we would eventually get it repaired.
The first leg of the trip took us past miles of coastline as we were put right next to the beauty of the colorful cliffs, going under arches, into caves, and so close to the cliffs in some areas that you could touch them. The sandstone cliffs were painted with colors of orange, black, white, and green, the signature of the minerals in the cliffs as they colored the water that seeped out allowing them to naturally paint the cliffs. It was like I was in a movie or cast to another planet. To be so close to something so unique and full of wonder, it was as if giants came long ago and painted their story on the walls of these giant cliffs. In this case though it was nature putting its artistry on for those who ventured out into the wilderness to find it.
After stopping on a remote beach for lunch we continued on out journey to Rainbow Cave, our turning around point. This section of the journey revealed more of the same sights, but each one just as unique and different as the next. We paddled past more waterfalls, under arches, into oncoming waves from boats, over a sunken ship, and much more as the cliffs that acted as God’s canvas continued to display color, shapes, and patterns that were absolutely stellar. Then we finally made it to Rainbow Cave.
Rainbow Cave is a giant half dome shaped cave, filled with water, along the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline that is decorated in color and occasionally drips water from its ceiling. We were able to take out kayaks inside of the cave and to the back of it, exploring in in its totality…it was awesome, and the looking out from the back of the cave provided an unmatched view of the world. We got to feel the walls of the cave, get some of the natural paint of the cliff on our fingers, and catch the clean water as it dripped from the cave ceiling. I could have floated in their for an hour or two, it was surreal.
Eventually we had to leave this cave though and make the six to seven mile journey back to Miner’s Beach. During our way back as we got to catch a glimpse of the views and experience everything we experienced on the way out, the wind began to pick up making the trip back increasingly difficult. We also managed to have some fun though, secretly flipping each others rudders out of the water. The rudders would fold onto a kayak so we would take our paddles and gently fold the rudders out of the water and onto the kayaks occasionally with out each other initially knowing.
The last half of the way back was the toughest for the wind and waves really began to pick up as the day moved past noon and into the evening, but it didn’t slow Erik and me down as paddled fast back to shore taking quick breaks, and ended up being the first ones back from our group. Eventually, the rest of my family made it back along with the others in our group. The entire journey took six hours to complete the 12 plus mile trip, from 9:00am to 3:00pm and it was a journey full wonder and experiences that took you far away from reality for a bit, and is something that I wouldn’t mind doing again one day.
The interesting thing about the cliffs is that their beauty is somewhat hidden, for they face the open water of Lake Superior only able to be seen from the water, a sight that requires a journey by boat, swimming, or in this case kayaking. I find this aspect about the cliffs to be quite poetic in nature for their beauty is hidden and revealed only to those who spend the money or make the effort to gaze upon them. Also during this trip at our stop on the beach a came across a heart-shaped stone that I left on the beach. The Stone, for me, was a note in the poetry of the cliffs, nature, and this adventure.