May 28, 2019
My journey continues with my second hike of the year. I am hiking on the North Country Trail in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
My original itinerary for Day 4 changed, and I would now spend Day 4 of a planned 6-day trek section-hiking from the Little Beaver Lake Trail Head to the Pine Bluff Back Country Camp site.
I checked out of the ROAM Inn, piled all of my gear into the vehicle, opened the Google Maps App on my iPhone, typed “Little Beaver Lake Trail Head” into the search box, pressed the Directions button, pressed the Go button and as the voice behind the map instructed me to turn right onto Munising Avenue, I backed out of the hotel parking lot and turned right. The drive to the trail head would take me roughly 43 minutes, down Michigan Highway 28, to Highway 58 to Adams Trail and then the trail head parking area.
I arrived at the trail head, parked and secured the vehicle, cameled-up (hiker slang for drinking as much water as you can, filling up like a camel), strapped on my back, grabbed my poles, and I was on my way for the next installment of whatever the trail had in store for me.
The weather was the complete opposite of yesterday, it was spectacular today with blue skies and puffy clouds floating by, temperatures in the low 60’s – perfect weather for hiking. I hiked in 1.5 miles to the junction with the North Country Trail and discovered that parts of the forest floor still had frozen snow pack on them – difficult to believe with it being late in May, but then again this is Michigan’s UP.
I trek a short distance to the shoreline, up and over a small sand dune, and am able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Lake Superior – all to myself.
I return to the NCT, turn left and continue East – my destination for the day being the Pine Bluff Back Country Camp site. I’m anxious and without reason feel hurried to arrive, set-up camp and scout the area in order to best prepare for my first attempt at photographing the Milky Way.
In doing my research, I know the settings to use on my camera, I know the Moon will only be 3% from a New Moon tonight, and I know the Galactic Center will become visible above the horizon at 1:30 AM tomorrow morning. I only have two real unknowns – the weather and the area. The weather, could always change, but indicators and forecasts are predicting clear to partly cloudy skies. The area, the shoreline along Beaver Lake looking southeast over the tree tops, should meet the requirements nicely, but then again, I won’t know until I scout the area. I tell myself “I’ll have more than enough time”.
The trail continues to be maintained and well groomed, but has changed from dirt and the occasional mud bog to more of packed sand and is soft under foot. As I make my way, my pack feels very comfortable, almost as if it’s an extension of my body, and I am able to easily maneuver up, down, and through the turns, bends, and out-coves along the trail. This is how it’s supposed to feel!
Time just seems to fade and I find my way to the Pine Bluff Back Country Camp site. Site 1 is to the right of the entry trail, just past the painted brown steel enclosure which allows hikers to securely store their rations from the animals, in particular the bears. I hang and secure my pack from a near-by tree branch using a strap and my Hero-Clip, making it easy to access the pack contents as needed. I unpack items from my backpack and begin to set-up camp, in order – tent and ground cover, followed by air mattress, sleeping bag, clothing bag, toiletries bag, electronics bag, and last but not least, my F-Stop camera ICU. I place my food bag in the painted brown steel enclosure and twist the eye of the clasp to ensure it’s securely closed.
With camp completely set-up, I set of on my next task of gathering wood for a fire and I am quickly able to find enough downed branches and twigs to allow for a nice fire after sunset. I haul all of my finds back to the fire-ring, and proceed to methodically construct a Tee-Pee of kindling, twigs, small branches, followed by bigger branches, until I think I have erected the perfect structure to make a fire. It will be dark soon and only then will I know for sure.
I grab my Garmin inReach and head off to explore the area around Beaver Lake. The lake is located just short of a mile’s distance from the campsite, and will be easy to night-hike to later. Upon returning to camp, I find that I have camp mates and they’ve set-up camp on site 5 just across from the fire ring from me.
As the sun begans to drop lower toward the horizon, the colors of the evening sky change from blues, to oranges, to pinks and I find myself walking toward the shoreline – to watch the sunset, listen the sounds of the waves making their way on land, and soak in all the wonder Lake Superior, the North Country Trail, and Mother Nature have to offer.
I return to camp well after sunset, gather my journal, pen, mini BIC lighter, and work my way to the camp fire ring. Moments later I find myself sharing the warmth and glow of the camp fire with my camp mates – Andrew and Katie.
We casually share our adventures and dreams, connecting instinctively, as our ancestors before us have done for millions of years – unknowingly giving this moment even more meaning and purpose.
I learn Andrew and Katie have hiked in Glacier, Denali and that Andrew has actually summited Mount Katahdin in Maine.
I am a mere mortal in the presence of a God.
Hike Data – Day 4
- North Country Trail 5 miles
- Start: Marker 345.5 End: Marker 350.5
- Additional 1.5 miles to and from North Country Trail Headquarters
- Garmin InReach:
- Start 11:21 AM
- Trip Time 4:18:30
- Distance Traveled 5.15 miles
- Average Speed 1.20 mph
- Max. Speed 4.19 mph
- Max. Elevation 833 ft
- Camp Site: Pine Bluff (food storage, water, fire ring and outdoor toilet)
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Appalachian Trail Conservancy Member #22027626
Pacific Crest Trail Association Member #98397
North Country Trail Association Member since 11-28-2018