The first thing I saw when I woke up was a horrifying number of mosquitoes clinging to the outside of my tent door. I closed my eyes, hoping that I would go back to sleep and wake up later to discover that it had just been a dream. (Nope – horrible.) I made the mistake of twisting my head around for a 360º view of the tent and came to the conclusion that we were in big trouble and needed a really efficient exit strategy. Once Andrea was awake, we packed everything up as best we could inside the tent, threw everything out of the doors, crawled out, collapsed the tent, gathered everything together in a couple of heaps, and once again fled to the beach.
|Waiting inside the rainfly, where they benefited from the heat inside our tent instead of dying out in the cold like nature intended.|
We dropped everything in the spot where we made lunch the day before and took in our surroundings. The fog that had rolled in the night before had not left, and visibility was very limited. The cliff immediately to the west was a vague shadow. We had put our rain jackets on because it was actually very chilly, and it had seemed like it was raining in the woods. Because they had been absorbing the mist in the air all night from the fog, the trees dripped water overhead from their needles and leaves, giving the illusion of a steady light rain.
We made oatmeal and talked about the day ahead. This is the most picturesque section of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The cliff views between Chapel and Mosquito beaches are spectacular, and hikers are able to walk out onto the tops of a couple of the more impressive formations. The fog was a factor we had not anticipated, however. The sky was murky, and there was no sign of the sun working its way through. If the fog did not burn away, there were not going to be many views of any kind. Still, Andrea and I have spent time in this area in the past when fog has been a factor. Fog creates an atmosphere that is just as enjoyable as a clear sunny day. In fact, it enhances the moody aura of Lake Superior. Since we have both hiked this trail before on a clear sunny day, hiking it in the fog would be an interesting twist. Plus, unpredictable weather goes with the territory, so you have to just go with it. I did feel bad for the hikers we would end up seeing that day who had probably traveled there to have their first Pictured Rocks experience and were not able to see any of the cliffs. That is a shame.
After breakfast, we finished packing and hit the trail just before 11:00 am. Despite the fog - which never lifted - it was great hiking weather. It remained chilly all day, and we never removed our rain jackets. From the trail, nearly all of the cliff views were completely obscured, but it was still a fun hike. Fog enveloped everything and floated among the trees in the woods, giving the forest a mystical look in some areas near the cliff edges.
|Andrea on the trail somewhere between Grand Portal Point and Indian Head|
|Me on Grand Portal Point. Sea gulls on a cliff. (Photos by Andrea)|
|The stretch of the NCT through Pictured Rocks is called Lakeshore Trail|
After lunch, we explored Mosquito Beach for a couple of hours. This is one of my favorite spots within the lakeshore. It is a rocky beach made up of layer upon layer of sandstone. The layers are various colors at different spots along the beach – grey, brown, orange, yellow, green, and pink. Erosive elements – water, wind, and ice – have shaped and carved the stone over millennia.
|Inside a cove. I want to live here.|
I was trying to come up with something to say other than “rocks,” to answer this insane question, but then I looked up and saw that they were both looking at me like I was crazy, and the beach was no place for nerds. Clearly, we were not going to understand each other, so I mumbled, “Oh, you know...the rock formations are pretty cool, so...rocks.” They replied, “Oh,” exchanged a glance, and resumed playing cards. Maybe they had a bad experience with rocks earlier in life and prefer not to acknowledge them.
|Fragments of fragile sandstone layers in multiple colors (aka rocks)|
|Red and brown, then suddenly green and grey. How is that not fascinating?|
|Further east on the beach, the sandstone is suddenly pink.|
We reluctantly left Mosquito Beach around 9:15, found a spot away from camp to clean our dishes, and secured our food (bear pole and locker provided here also). We went to bed at 10:15 at the end of a great day. Undoubtedly, the fog was unfortunate for those hiking here for the first time, but we enjoyed it.
To be continued in: Day 3 - Mosquito Beach back to the Trailhead.