Chapel Beach to
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.|
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.
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.
|Looking back along the trail where the forest meets the cliff edge|
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|
Sadly, we could not see Grand
Portal Point or Indian Head from the trail,
but we spent quite a bit of time at each place, as it is possible to
walk out onto the tops of them. Because of these vantage points, we
were able to see some of the cliffs immediately around these
formations. The air was busy with sea gulls, and their calls were a
constant barrage of noise that echoed against the tall rock faces.
From the top of Indian Head, we watched three kayakers far below
paddle close to the cliffs. There were no other boats on the water
that we noticed all day; the Pictured Rocks Cruises must have had to cancel
their tours due to lack of visibility. Not once did we hear any horns
out on the water.
|Me on Grand Portal Point. Sea gulls on a cliff. (Photos by Andrea)|
|The view from the top of Indian Head of a kayaker paddling far below|
arrived at Mosquito Campground after an enjoyable four miles and
chose site #6, which has a large evergreen in the center that
provides a canopy over almost the whole site. The sites in this area
are all set near Mosquito River, whose mouth is at the west end of
Mosquito Beach. Ironically, mosquitoes were not much of an issue
here, possibly because the weather had cooled off so much. We set up
camp in a normal, relaxed,
non-DEFCON 1 manner, and
made a quick trip to the beach for water. We collected water from the
river mouth, which was easy thanks
to rock shelves that create small cascades. We
returned to our campsite to filter water and eat a relaxing lunch of
whole grain crackers with peanut butter and cheese.
|The stretch of the NCT through Pictured Rocks is called Lakeshore Trail|
|Mosquito Campsite #6 (photo by Andrea)|
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.
and I were enthralled and spent close to two hours carefully crawling
all over the rock and taking pictures of everything. I could have
into a particular spot where a cove has been eroded into the
sandstone, exposing hundreds of multi-colored layers. As we worked
our way west toward the mouth of Mosquito River, I met a couple from
a suburb north of
Detroit who were playing cards on the beach to avoid mosquitoes. They
asked me what we were taking pictures of and I didn't know what to
say. Looking around,
wouldn't the answer be obvious?
We are photographing every inch of rock everywhere – doesn't
everyone do that?
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
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
|Inside a cove. I want to live here.|
|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.|
though the mosquitoes weren't bothersome
back at our campsite, we
decided to eat dinner on the beach because we wanted to spend as much
time there as possible. We returned to our campsite, grabbed the food
and cooking supplies, and returned to find the beach deserted at 8:15
pm. We descended to a wide, flat expanse of rock just out of reach of
the lapping waves and fired up the Jetboil. Once again, the Emberlit
went unused. We could have collected sticks, but neither of us really
felt like it at this point. Black Bean Tamale Pie from Backpacker's Pantry made an
excellent dinner, and we sat there for about an hour watching the
surf and just being
there. Moments like that
are some of the best while backpacking. I like to take notes and
photograph the things that I see while hiking, but sometimes just
sitting in one spot and being part of it without doing anything is
the best way to spend time. The fog still hung in the air, and it was
breezy and chilly as we sat on the rock and watched Lake Superior
continuously reach out to us along the rocky shore. If it takes mosquito
bites and sore muscles to get there, it is often worth it.
|Andrea preparing dinner at Mosquito Beach|
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
|Mosquito Beach (Photo by Andrea)|
To be continued in: Day 3 - Mosquito Beach back to the Trailhead.
I would feel bad for people who were on their only visit ever with that fog, but as someone who has been to Pictured Rocks a lot, they're really magical shots!
"Maybe they had a bad experience with rocks earlier in life and prefer not to acknowledge them." This made me laugh! I think one of the things I enjoy about the outdoors is that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
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