Saturday, October 2, 2010

Porcupine Mountains | Intro Pt. 2

The Journey North

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge under stormy skies

We took our time and spent 2 days driving north to the UP, then west to the Porcupine Mountains. The first day was rainy and shockingly cold considering the intense heatwave Michigan had recently endured. Storm clouds hovered over the Straits of Mackinac, and rough waves crashed on the Lake Michigan shore along US 2. Just after crossing the Mackinac Bridge, we stopped at Lehto's for a couple of their delicious pasties. The hearty combination of beef and potatoes contained within a warm flaky crust energized us after the long, boring drive through the Lower Peninsula.

A pasty from Lehto's

The plan was to camp for the night at Mead Creek - a small, off the beaten path campground on the Manistique River near Seney National Wildlife Refuge. All sites were empty, and based on the registration tags that remained on a few posts, it looked as though no one had been there in a month. It was still very cold, and camping in the rain lost its appeal once we discovered the fish weren't biting. We decided to push on and head toward Munising. At the intersection of M77 and M28, a rainbow curved into the sky, and a couple of pairs of sandhill cranes walked in the grass along the edge of the refuge.

Fishing at Mead Creek Campground - Sept. 4 and I'm wearing gloves

It was Labor Day weekend, so all motels around Munising were booked. We pulled into Bay Furnace Campground in Christmas, across the bay from Grand Island. The campground is located at a historical site where a blast furnace converted iron ore for shipping back in the 1800s. Daylight was fading, so we quickly chose a site and set up our tent in the rain. It had been a long time since I'd gone car camping; compared to our backpacking tent, the old REI Campdome 4 was a palace! I spent the near-freezing night completely zipped up in my +15 mummy bag, wearing long underwear and a winter hat, and with the sleeping bag's hood cinched tightly around my face. My nose suffered in the cold air, but the rest of me was well-insulated.

Getting ready to hunker down for a cold night

The next morning we continued west and stopped for breakfast at Peggy Sue's Cafe in Negaunee. A bald eagle swooped across US 41 near Craig Lake State Park, and I may have spotted a golden eagle above Hwy 38 as we approached Ontonagon. Golden eagles aren't common here, but they are seen in the western U.P. now and then. Another fishing attempt was made on the Sturgeon River somewhere between Baraga and Ontonagon, but without any luck.

A couple of regulars at Peggy Sue's Cafe

We checked in to Superior Shores Resort on the outskirts of Ontonagon. Owners Don and Linda are very helpful and are involved in the Peter Wolfe chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Don loaned us a handful of books and a detailed map of the area. We took his advice and visited Bonanza Falls – a section of Big Iron River where a series of small waterfalls cascade over layers of shale. The bright midday sun made it difficult to capture good photos, but it was an interesting spot, and we spent about an hour wandering along the river.

Bonanza Falls

We ate an early dinner at Syl's Cafe in Ontonagon, then headed back to our room on the shore of Lake Superior to make sure we were organized and ready to go the following morning. Amazingly, neither of us had worn a watch. In addition to being in an area remote enough that our cell phones couldn't get a signal, we were also close enough to the border between the Eastern and Central Time Zones that the phones were caught in some kind of time vortex. Their displays kept switching from an hour ahead to an hour behind. One minute it was 8pm, the next it was 9pm. Could we trust the car's dashboard clock, or were we supposed to have switched to Central Time at some point during the day? We had completely forgotten to check the time zone situation, and suddenly our 5 months of planning seemed inadequate. We didn't want to go to the resort office and admit that we couldn't tell time, so we took a guess and set an alarm for the morning.* I made a note of the weather outlook for the next 6 days:

Monday: High 72, sun/clouds
Tuesday: High 55, rain
Wednesday: High 61, sun/clouds
Thursday: High 61, sun/clouds
Friday: High 64, sun/chance of rain
Saturday: High 68, sun/chance of rain

Rock layers at Bonanza Falls

If we'd just consulted our road map, Ontonagon is clearly shown in Eastern Time.

To be continued in Day One: Big Carp River Trail


sage said...

Sounds like a beginning of a fun trip--I would love to take a fall or winter trip into the UP.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great and good to hear about all your stops along the way. Did you have a chance to try the pastries at Syl's? They have very good pasties as well. We also stay at Superior Shores Resort when we are in that area. We don't camp though. But, it sounds wonderful .B.