I grew up in Michigan about an hours drive from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Like most Michiganders, I love being close to the big lake (as it’s called here) and have fond memories of visiting the numerous clean, tan, sand beaches, swimming out to the second sand bar, and playing in the fresh water waves. For my family, our favorites to visit were Holland and Grand Haven. It’s a strange thing though; I don’t think I really understood how truly unique and wonderful a setting I lived in until I spent some time away. It all just seemed normal to me back then. I still consider Michigan as my home and treasure the natural beauty of my state.
Michigan may not have as many backpacking opportunities as other states, particularly those with mountain ranges and vast acreage of protected wilderness areas, but it does have a lot to offer! Some trails, like the North Country National Scenic Trail, are true gems and over the past few years, I’ve made an effort to try and explore what I can.
Apart from Isle Royale National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Pictured Rocks or PRNL) may be Michigan’s most well known area for hiking and outdoor recreation. Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the southern shore of Lakes Superior, the National Park Service website tells that, “Pictured Rocks offers the opportunity to explore miles of pristine beaches, hike nearly 100 miles of trails, view towering sandstone cliffs, and experience the serenity of northern woodlands.” I suppose that sums it up in words, but without seeing pictures or videos or visiting it in person, it’s really hard to imagine what makes this area so special.
My first time visiting Pictured Rocks was as a kid with my family. Then, in 2007, two friends and I went on a voyage to do some canoeing and fishing and also a short backpacking expedition! It was my third time ever backpacking, we had bulky, heavy gear, and it was superbly awesome.
In early July of 2020, I got the opportunity to return! In a few weeks time, I would be joining forces with my friends Calzone and Cheer for a return trip to the Pacific Crest Trail, and having not done much training of any sort, thought a Pictured Rocks shakedown hike would be perfect. Actually, Calzone had the same thought and since being a Midwesterner herself, we were able to go together! We decided we’d tackle the 42 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail that winds through the park.
The day after Independence Day, Calzone drove north from Indiana and met me in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We took off together in the early afternoon to continue the 6-ish hour drive to Munising, MI, on the way crossing the mighty Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.)!
After checking in to our hotel, we made out way downtown to get dinner. Most things were shut down due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the takeout windows were still open and we found ourselves a local favorite for a U.P. classic…pasties! We put in our order, walked down to the pier, and once the food was ready, picked it up and took our dinner back to eat on the hotel deck with a view of the bay. We ended the evening by making sure we had all our stuff ready for our trek and enjoying Spider Man 3 on the tele, which in my opinion is cringe-worthy bad at times, but somehow still enjoyable.