One weekend in October of 2018 three friends, Robert, Megan, and Allie, and me headed up to the Munising and Marquette areas of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a weekend expedition to camp, explore, and check out the Fall colors.
We headed up on a Thursday and on Friday, our first full day up there we decided to hike a section of the North Country Scenic trail that goes along the shoreline and through the forests of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore known as the Lakeshore Trail. Due to a bit of a late start, we got to the Chapel Loop parking area at around 2:00pm, where out starting point was at the Chapel Loop Trail-head. It was the perfect day for a hike, almost no wind, cool temperatures, and dry. The only downfall was that Sun was covered by clouds.
Instead of taking the Chapel loop we went left at the trail head and kept left eventually transferring to the Mosquito River Trail, which would lead us to the Lakeshore Trail, about a two mile hike from trail head to Lakeshore Trail.
This section of the trail took us through a section of U.P. wilderness where we came across Mosquito Falls, sections of mystical trees and vegetation, hidden caves, back country campsites, and much more as we walked along Mosquito River. In fact at one point, Bobby fed a chipmunk from his bare hand, the chipmunk literally climbed onto his hand to grab a nut from a bag of trail mix, it was awesome. Eventually though as we trekked we began to notice a break in the trees and could hear the waves of Lake Superior crashing in the cliffs and then suddenly we had reached what we had be searching for, the Lakeshore Trail.
The walk to the shoreline seemed to take forever, which was probably due to our excitement of actually walking along the cliffs and viewing them up close in person, views we have dreamed of and areas we strongly desired to be in for quite some time. The feeling of viewing this part of the world as we were was truly surreal.
We would take this path from where Mosquito Rivers crashed into Lake Superior to Chapel Beach, roughly five miles. This stretch of the hike was straight out of a fantasy story and the views of the world were truly something, like we were space voyagers on a distant planet. We hiked on trails through this mystical wilderness were the forests would open up to the cliffs, allowing us to be so close to the massive cliffs painted in the colors of nature. We had always viewed these cliffs from the water, but now we were finally viewing them from above and in some location, under extreme caution and due to lack of wind, we walked up to the edged of some of the cliffs to get a feel for their immense size.
We continued on this five mile stretch coming across rivers, views of a seemingly endless sea and vibrantly colored trees, and famous features of the lake shore such as arches, caves, and my personal favorite Indian Head Rock, which I got to stand on top of and it gave me a feeling of invincibility for a second or two. It was a trek that I never wanted to end.
Eventually though we came to the end of this part of the trail for us as we reached Chapel Beach, with the Sun beginning to set in the sky. We decided not to make the hike across Chapel Beach to Chapel Rock, due to Allie’s ankle, which she injured a couple days prior to the trip, giving her trouble, a understandable and good reason to shorten the length of the hike. It was a good thing too, because the clouds we causing the Earth to get dark quick and the canopy of the forest didn’t help.
The trail became increasingly dark to the point where we could not see where we were going without flashlights. The hike became a little scary for a couple of reasons, one being fear of nocturnal predators and the other, which was my concern, was walking of the trail and accidentally getting lost. Some sections of the trail were blocked by fallen thick fallen trees that we could not go through, under, or over, so we had to go around them, not knowing 100% if we ended up back on the trail or not.
Because I had the most experience we hiking this trail, my friends trusted me to lead them, which made me every bit nervous for I did want to lead them in the wrong direction and get them lost in the wilderness. At one point we had to walk around a tree that had fallen and on the other side there were two trail choices, both looked they could be the trail, for it narrows at one point through vegetation, but I had to decided which was a game trail and which was the actual trail. I took the path that looked more like a walking trail and followed it. I knew that if I was on the right trail it would soon turn to a sandstone path instead of dirt and this is what I hoped for.
The whole time I wasn’t sure if I was on the right trail, something I kept to myself. I just kept walking looking for sandstone, with each passing step unknowingly taking us closer to our vehicle or further into the wilderness. Step after step and no sandstone. I began to worry for I knew we were at the point that we should start to see it, but a dirt path continued. I was about to call the group together and make them aware of the situation, when I shined my flashlight forward and caught a glimpse of the sandstone path. A wave of relief gently swept over me and I realized that we were on the right path and had been the whole time. I could now hike the rest of the trail in serenity and appreciate the forest at night.
It wasn’t much longer that a break in the tree came and we noticed our flashlights reflecting off of out car and the cars of overnight campers, we had made it back to the parking lot and back to our vehicle. We packed up our gear and made our way back to our campsite, picking up some pizza along the way. I fell asleep looking forward to the next time that I would take that hike. It is quite a world we live, a true gift.
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