Snowshoes through the Woods
It was my first time ever hiking up Hogback Mountain and what better way to experience this then snowshoeing through a foot of fresh powder on a beautiful Saturday morning in a blizzard by myself. With a high temperature of 16 degrees and strong snow laden winds biting my face, I headed down the trail to find a mountain and I wasn't disappointed.
Wetmore Pond Access Sign
Hogback Mountain in Marquette Michigan is a member of the Huron Mountain Range and rises to a simple height of 1220 ft. But this particular hill is anything but simple, especially when you're trying to find it in the winter. The trailhead is located off of C.R. 550 out of Marquette and the Wetmore Pond parking lot where the trail starts isn't plowed at this time of year. Just travel a half-mile past the popular Sugarloaf Mountain and you'll come across a small sign marking the Wetmore Pond access. Park on the side of the road, grab your snowshoes and head into the woods.
The Morning Starts
Waking up and hitting the road from Houghton, MI at 6:30, I arrived in Marquette at a little past 9 a.m. Hoping to be on the trail by quarter after I quickly discovered that finding Hogback wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done. Having never been to Hogback before and the normal parking lot snowed over, I spent close to a half an hour driving back and forth on C.R. 550 looking for the trailhead. After stopping at Phil's 550 general store and getting hooked up with some directions and a free map of my intended trail, I headed back down the road to try again. I parked on the side of the road, geared up, threw on the snowshoes, and eventually headed into the woods around 9:30.
Coming into our third consecutive day of this U.P. blizzard, I found the woods to be completely covered in a fresh foot of light powder. Despite what you might think the old snowshoe trail was still visible and the path was well marked with bright green signs and paint stains on the trees probably every 30 to 40 yards. Equipped with my free (yet vague) map from Phil's and the easy to follow path I fell into an smooth rhythm and casually trekked along while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Having forgot to wear a watch I can only guess as to my times from one point to another but I figure that after traveling about an hour I came to the base of Hogback.
Up I Go
Well the hike in was a breeze compared to what I faced next. Starting from the base of the mountain I hiked over 600 vertical feet to the summit within a 1/2 mile stretch. This was an awesome experience and probably the closest I've yet come to a true alpine ascent. Making numerous switchbacks up the side of the hill I actually had to traverse quite a ways to my right before I could find a reasonable route to ascend. With a windswept face exposing bare rocks covered in an inch of smooth ice, I felt that I even needed to break out my ice axe to help me make it the final 500 feet. After meandering around the side for a distance I saw my chance to push for the top. To give it a little more of a challenge I chose a 60 degree slick slope with a thin layer of snow and ice to make the last 30 feet. Digging in with the crampons of the snowshoes and trying to find a purchase with the ice axe, I crested the summit ridge only to get blased in the face with a refreshing 30 mile an hour wind on the exposed top.
I figure it was probably sometime around 11 a.m. when I final reached the top of Hogback Mountain and on a day like this I can't honestly say I'd rather be anywhere else. I think the one drawback to the day was that I never saw a break in the weather so my glorious view from the summit was a little disappointing. But I knew the weather coming in and was prepared to face this reality. The final push to the top was exhilarating but with such warm temperatures I had definitely begun to sweat. Standing there in a lightweight synthetic tshirt covered by a completely non-windproof MH Monkey Man fleece, the sting of the wind was slowly penetrating my body. Looking around and snapping a few photos on the top, I only spent about 10 minutes on the summit before turning around and heading back down.
Victory on Top
The Way Out
I find going down always to be more fun than hiking up. Half walking half skiing down on my showshoes I made real quick time to the bottom of the mountain. Besides a couple of short water breaks and taking time to snap off a few more photos, I more or less hiked solid back to the road ignoreing my increased persperation as I knew I had fresh clothes to change into once I reaced my car. Getting back out and changing clothing and stowing away the gear, the clock in the car read close to 12:30. Not too bad of a morning hike if I don't say so myself.
Back at the Road
Well overall I definitely have to say I recommend this trip to anyone who has a half a day to kill in the U.P. The woods were alive with the songs of the birds, the chirping of the squirrels, and I even managed to cross paths with a couple of doe. With the snow constantly falling and a light breeze blowing I did pretty well on staying cool and comfortable while I was out there. The trail was more than adequately marked out at all points and the snowshoeing was a great workout on a Saturday morning. I'm also told that the view from the top is magnificient as Hogback's summit is almost completely void of trees and vegetation. Hopefully I'll make it back in the summer and experience the panorama.