With considerable re-shuffling, Tom, Nancy, Javier, Jeff, Ray, Becky and I were able to make the backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore this past weekend. It did NOT start propitiously. What is it with miserable starts to really cool things lately?!
* Javier had all sorts of issues with work, so ended up driving separately so he could come late (he arrived at our car-camping launch site at 4:00 AM), and leave early. He had to drive to/from work-related road trips in Rochester and Madison on both ends of the trip. We cooly and callously went to one of his favorite restaurants without him - and it was GREAT! Good ol' burgers and shakes, and for super-cheap! Mickey-Lu Bar-B-Q in Marinette - you must go there!
* Ray, Jeff and Nancy were good sports and volunteered to drive the 2 cars we'd need to the end point. But a 2-hour shuttle ended up taking 5 or 6 because of crazy road construction backtracking (strikes one and two against PRNL cartographers). Given the lack of cell phone coverage, you can imagine how agitated Tom (because he's Tom) and Becky (what with being married to Ray and all) were by the time the Three Musketeers rolled back into the camp site. Javier and I continued the cool and calloused theme: we tossed around his football pillow and took naps and generally waited to panic till we knew what actually happened.
* We decided that even with the late start we'd still be able to catch Grand Sable Dunes, and then hike from the bottom of them along the shore. This area is seriously one of the most fantastic spots in the world. If you like sand dunes you'll be on the right track, but imagine Lake Superior dumping so much sand there that it piles up to 500 feet above the shoreline! Pictures don't do it justice.... After de-sanding our feet and donning our hikin' boots we wandered along a shrinking shoreline until we found ourselves bushwhacking through forests and losing shoes in mud and water - for real! You guessed it - there was no trail from the bottom of the Dunes (strike 3 against those dang cartographers)! Javier and Tom scouted ahead along a cliff-like face to see if the shore would re-appear, and Jeff went straight up to see if we could climb up to the trail without backtracking. Thankfully the second option was an actual option. It was a LOT of work to climb up all that sand with backpacks on (it was definitely lower than 500 feet by that point - may 2-300??), so when we finally made the top and relatively quickly found the trail we were all pretty stinkin' relieved.
From there on, things definitely got easier! We found our camp site, which was actually a car camping site: cushy with things like the cleanest outhouse I've ever - uh - experienced and a picnic table!
It rained during the night with a good chance things might get worse. After some discussion, Tom and Nancy decided to hike back out and bring the car around to meet us near our 2nd night's destination while the rest of us hiked. It didn't end up raining on us so we had a great hike and had fun playing games like "how many mosquitoes can you hit at once?" (we think the record might have neared 7 - check out Jeff's jacket!) and "is that a blister?" Meanwhile Tom and Nancy toured a lighthouse we had passed on Saturday and rejoined us. We walked nearly to our camp site, and then backtracked to a water-hole we had admired earlier on the trail. Tom, Javier and Jeff all braved the freezing water!
Monday we were off for the most scenic part of the trip. We got a decently early start and so were able to pause for long stretches at the incredible views and waterfalls. It was great fun looking back along the shore to see how far we'd come. Picture Rocks really is one of the most beautiful places in the world - and there are great day hikes and car camping for those of you would like to see it all without quite so much crazyness! The day ended with Jeff and Javier going for the cars, and Tom and I randomly deciding that we needed to dunk ourselves in the lake one more time - clothes and all (there was this spot where a river was entering the lake and it was just breathtaking - in more than one sense)! There really is nothing like it - I'm sure you would have done the same!
Once we were all bundled into the car we stopped for food at the Dogpatch in Munising (remember that one, Katie, Jen, Ben and Aaron??!) before heading back south. Here are the pictures from the trip.
And I can't end this without mentioning all of the flowers we saw. It was so fun to be there in the midst of the late spring blooming. Bunchberries, Blue Bead, Wintergreen and Starflowers galore, but then we also saw Pink Lady Slipper (both pink AND white), Daffodils (how did THOSE get out there?!) Trilliums, Nodding Trilliums, Jack in the Pulpit, and Forget-Me-Nots! *sigh*