In the fall of 2014 we went backpacking in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains. Here’s how our adventure unfolded:
The detailed map of our route in the Porkies. Outlined here, you’ll find our put-in point, direction of travel, photo spots depicted in this blog (stars), and route details. As you follow this blog, keep in mind the trail names, locations, and picture sites if it helps to link everything together in your mind to gain a full perspective of this weekend backpacking experience.
Heading out on trail for the first day! This is a shot of Overlooked Falls, which is the first sight to see if you put in on the south end of the wilderness area off of Little Carp Road. This was the first of many water features that we would be able to witness over the course of our hike. Out of southern convenience, we put-in from a new parking lot on Little Carp River Road that is usable by both day-hikers and overnight adventurers.
Our backpacking group, crossing the bridge at Lilly Pond on our way to the first campsite. This crossing has an incredible bridge and platformed area that is designed to stay dry and allow for easy passage to the other side of the pond area. Most of our crew had never been to the area before, and many were experiencing backpacking for the very first time!
Setting up camp the first night. We chose to make a hammock-camping trip out of this adventure, allowing for us to get an even more unique experience in the Porkies with our group! The Porcupine Mountains allows six people per campsite, making it so that groups need to either limit to six people or find two neighboring sites if more than six people large.
ENO rain tarps turned out to be an absolute LIFESAVER this night! Little to our pleasure, it began to rain quickly after putting on trail. This continued to create an elongated soaking of our group’s gear and morale, which lent to a very cold and wet night at our first campsite. Even though the rain tarps were bomber, much of our equipment received a dampening effect this night…
The first snowball of the season! Turns out, “mother nature” decided to provide some freezing rain and snow throughout these two days that while at times would prove daunting, was also exhilarating to be out on trail amidst this weather! Some of us stayed up late enough to enjoy the freezing temperatures and snow on this night — But mostly to enjoy the sweet company of our fellow adventurers.
Luckily, the next day offered us some incredible displays of fall colors! This was one of the amazing areas that we had the chance to hike through to start our day on Saturday, lending us to a sea of color and adventure, and some trails that appeared to be just as “sea-like” after about sixteen hours of straight rain….
Some of our earlier sections of trail on Little Carp River Trail were well-maintained and had plank-walks to keep us dry, until hitting Correction Line Trail taking us toward the shore of Lake Superior. Even though our circumstances were rare, you can typically experience puddles and significant amounts of water in different sections of Correction Line. The trail itself is also of lower quality and scenic appeal than many others in the Porkies. However, the great thing is that Correction Line provides a great connection point for several of the major trail areas in the Porkies!
Several cool waterfalls can be spotted while hiking Big Carp River Trail toward Lake Superior. This is just one of the many smaller falls that was fun to view on our way toward the Lake!
Shining Cloud Falls was spectacular to view from a distance! Several overlooks along this trail offered some great views of the gorge with the river and waterfalls running through… Campsites also run the shoreline near the top of this falls, providing some incredible backcountry experiences for those that seek them out!
Enjoying Shining Cloud Falls overlook and getting warmed up for the next leg of our trip!
After several hours trekking through swampy trails and mire, we finally made it to the Lake! “Gitche Gumee” as the locals say… The LARGEST of the Great Lakes in North America. We were enthralled by the power of the water against the shore!
Unlike most days on the lakeshore, Gitche Gumee was absolutely RAGING when we arrived! When breasting the ridge, still about a mile from the lake, an intense roar could be heard in the distance… At first, questioning what the noise was, we attributed it to wind blowing through the trees. Much to our surprise, the noise intensified and it soon became clear that Gitche Gumee was roaring with fierce winds and whitecaps. When standing on the shore, one could not help but be (literally) blown away by the power of the wind coming off the lake here. Although I had been here several times, I had never experienced anything quite to this degree of intensity!
Most of our group huddled in excitement on the shore of Lake Superior, celebrating our mid-day arrival at the Lake! Sadly, we had originally planned to stay the night on the shoreline of Lake Superior… But with the wind, impending rain, and freezing temperatures, we decided to continue to hike and finish our journey a day early…
Originally, we had planned on being out for a total of three days and finishing our hike on the Little Carp River Trail, but we instead hiked back on Cross Trail to our put-in point. This was, however, the best decision for our group and route due to extreme weather conditions and the overall quality of our experience. Although I wouldn’t recommend hiking the Cross Trail unless out of necessity, it did provide us the opportunity to come out a day early and keep warm by hiking throughout the day.