Heading into the wilderness.What follows is an informational and hopefully not too dry account of a wonderful little three day excursion my wife and I had in the Porcupine Mountains over Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy!
After getting a later start than anticipated (oops...) we finally were able to make it down to the Porkies and get to the visitor center around noon on Friday. Upon securing our permits, we made for the Lake Superior Trailhead, about a mile before the Lake of the Clouds entrance station. When we stepped out of the car to get our gear ready we were instantly swarmed with some very eager black flies. Those damn little buggers go straight for the eyes, and are completely relentless. Unfortunately, they are the bane of Lake Superior in spring, and were to remain a constant throughout the weekend.
Hitting the trial at 12:30, we made for the Lake. The Lake Superior Trail first heads into thick hemlock woodlands before cresting the final ridge in the Porkies before the lake. The views from this ridge, covered in scrub oak trees, are fair but nothing spectacular. The trail winds along the crest for a few miles before heading out to the Lake around mile 3. From here it is in and out (unfortunately more in than out) along the lake, offering occasional glimpses of the lake and once in a while wandering right out onto the shoreline.
After breaking for lunch roughly 4.5 miles in, we continued along the shoreline trail for the afternoon, reaching our campsite (one of my all-time favorites) about 8.5 miles later at roughly 4:30.
Getting camp set up was an easy affair, and the stiff breeze off the lake provided a respite from the flies that so eagerly attacked whenever we stood still. At this point, we decided to take a little hike, and walked along the shoreline to the mouth of the Big Carp River, about a mile away. After checking this area out, including the three wilderness cabins situated near it, we headed inland to see Shining Cloud Falls. (not very sweet at all, hence no picture) Finally, we headed back to camp to make some supper and watch the sun go down.
After the sun left us, it was quickly decided that bedtime had arrived and we tucked away for the night. The evening would have passed like any other except for one little occurrence around 2:00am. The night had been dead calm when we went to bed, and the only noise was the lapping of the waves on the lake. However, at 2:00 a large cold front came whistling across the water, rattling our tent with a 0-50mph gust out of nowhere! Needless to say we were slightly shaken, but after realizing that this meant we would have a cloudless day the next day we settled back in and fell asleep lulled by the 30mph wind straight off the lake.
Leaving the Lake and turning towards the interior.The next day, as hoped, dawned bright and cool. Breakfast was a quick meal of oatmeal and we broke camp as quick as we could to get a start on the black flies. We continued along the Lake Superior Trail southwesterly until we reached the mouth of the Little Carp River (about 1.3 miles further on than the Big Carp River).
From there we turned inland to follow the river for pretty much the next 10 miles. After stopping to try my hand at trout fishing a few times, we decided that the trout did not live in the river, and just kept truckin'. The trail followed the river, but unexpectedly was often far above the river on a ridge that paralleled it. Thus, we didn't even get to see much of it!
In the late afternoon we arrived at Lily Pond, and were suprised to find that the entire lake (this was no pond!) was held back by a sturdy little beaver dam.
Continuing beyond Lily Pond, we hiked the final 4 miles to Mirror Lake. Unfortunately, this being Saturday evening of Memorial Day weekend, every single site (count 'em: 7) was occupied. Thus, we were forced to use the "camp anywhere" rule and as such had to accept the no campfire rule.
Being situated in a pleasant little pine forest along the shores of Mirror Lake was wonderful indeed, but unfortunately it allowed the darn little black flies to catch up with us, and this time their buddies the mosquitoes were with them. Their onslaught was so ferocious that we were forced to retreat to the tent for 2 hours until it cooled off to the point that they left us. Then I was able to get out and do some fishing in the lake!
After about a half hour of getting skunked, it was officially bedtime again. Thus ended day two of our excursion.
The short hike and long drive home.
Sunday dawned bright and crisp, and soon after sunup I was out at the lake trying my luck again. Lo and behold, only a few casts in I was locked into a life-and-death battle with a lunker brook trout! After a long and tiring fight, I was able to make him succumb to my will and hauled him ashore.
Unfortunately this little fishy was not big enough to feed us, so we were forced to eat oatmeal again. Rats! Oh well, peaches and cream grows on you after eating it a few times... :)
After breaking camp one final time we headed out of the Mirror Lake area and down to Lake of the Clouds.
We crossed the bridge over the Big Carp River and headed up the hill to the Escarpment. After heading east down the Escarpment for a ways to get some privacy, we stopped for some much needed snacking with the best view around.
After the mandatory hero shots, etc. We headed back to the Lake of the Clouds parking area, only to be stared at like wild creatures by all of the fat tourists getting out of their SUVs and walking up the paved trail to get the standard view. (quote from one guy: "Did ya see any bears???") From there it was a short mile along the road to our waiting car, thankfully still there and in working condition. :)
Thus ended our wonderful little weekend. If you would like to see more pictures of this trip, please visit the album that goes along with it.
Thanks and happy climbing!