Lake of the Clouds
Originally uploaded by Up Nort.
This Memorial Day weekend was exactly what I needed. It was a weekend away from civilization getting some good physical exercise and getting in touch with the real world.
The Porcupine Mountains are simply amazing. Its Michigan’s largest state park and on a scale of 1-10, I give this park an 11. Parts of the park are covered in old-growth timber including some impressive hemlock stands. Other parts were once mined for iron and are covered in a very healthy secondary growth. Several spots are muddy and wet with marsh marigold while others are high up on the escarpment and dry with some low shrubs and some boreal plant species. Simply put, the North Woods is an incredible place.
My first night I hiked in from the east side of the park along the Union Spring trail and up the Government Peak trail to one of the ponds atop Government Peak. I got there rather early but set up anyway in anticipation of an afternoon thunderstorm. Turns out the rain didn’t come until after dark, and no thunder either, but it was a decent place to camp with a stream nearby to get water from. After 7 miles of hiking, I needed to stop anyway.
I woke up Sunday morning to some light rain and overcast skies. The air was cold, damp, and very windy. So I slept in a bit, till noon or so, before getting up and taking down camp. It had stopped raining by then, but the wind made the tent clean-up quite interesting. The cold and windy day turned out to be a blessing. The forest was brilliant green and carpeted with white-turning-pink Large-flowered Trillium and Dwarf Ginseng. The cool temperatures also kept the mosquitoes at bay. They had been somewhat of a problem the day before.
So Sunday I hiked about 7 more miles. My route took me down Government mountain on the Mirror Lake Trail. This followed a creek which had cut a deep gorge and nearly fell like a waterfall. It was so gorgeous that I stopped to get a photo. This is when I discovered my battery, which was working fine before I left, was indeed dead. So I was unable to photograph the rest of the trip. I think the worst part about it was that the camera was 3 lbs of dead weight.
The trail took me down to Lake of the Clouds where I stopped to fill up my water bottles in preparation to camp on the escarpment. After a short rest, I made the trek straight up to the escarpment ridge, only about 3-400 feet high at that point. I took my pack off and hopped back to the parking lot where the main overlook is, just so I could check out the view. I had a snack for lunch, grabbed my pack and continued down the escarpment which kept emerging onto greater and greater views on bare rock turning into cliffs 500 feet above Lake of the Clouds.
A bit farther down I reached my campsite an set up the tent. This time I staked everything down in case the wind was as bad as the night before. It was a much calmer night. In fact, the clouds were clearing as the sun was setting. The view from the campsite was amazing. It was situated over the Big Carp River within view of Lake of the Clouds and even Lake Superior beyond that.
Monday Morning was absolute bliss. The sun rose on the east and Lake of the Clouds was to the west. When I emerged from my tent, there was a cloud of mist above the lake as the warm water gave off steam into the cold air. Within an hour, the mist was gone. I got up and checked out the birds on the escarpment. I ran into a beautiful Indigo Bunting, a flock of Yellow-rump Warblers, and a few Raven. I did not catch any eagles.
After breakfast, I successfully took down my dry tent, packed up everything and took one last look at the view from the escarpment. This was honestly what I had come for: Great views, a great workout, and pure serenity. But it was time for a 7 mile hike back to the car as the loop met back up with the Union Spring trail. I made it back in 3 hours and could have hiked farther with a short rest. But alas I had to make the 8-9 hour drive back to Illinois for work the next day.
The Michigan Upper Peninsula is a wonderful and magnificent place. The forest, old growth or secondary, mountain or flat, is gorgeous and the land is riddled with some spectacular waterfalls. I ended up stopping at Bond falls on the way home and I haven’t seen anything like it. The remote landscape with few people and minimal impact is one to be visited, cherished, and preserved for all. I highly recommend the adventure.
I’ve also decided that every person should go backpacking at least once in their life. It really is the greatest experience one can have to reconnect with the world.