Summer of 2011’s Last Hurrah; Land Cruising and Beach Time

I am guilty. Guilty of something I think others here can relate to. I tend to come up with these big, overcomplicated trips where I have way too many things to see, too many things to do, and somehow, in a crazy notion, I expect to have lounging around time to chill out and relax. In reality though my over stuffed agenda intervenes and I either end up cutting activities out, setting up camp in the dark, stressing myself out, or a combination of all three. I don’t do it deliberately but I do indeed see a pattern. This writeup is from early September when I had 10 days off between work trips and wanted to take Alyssa out for the weekend to see some sights in the eastern UP that she hadn’t gotten around to yet.

While I didn’t have a rigid plan, I had an idea of where I wanted to go and things we wanted to do…. quite a few things I have to admit. Camp on some remote stretches of Lake Superior beaches, swim, gather rocks, lay in the hammock, hike, see Taquemenon Falls, …well you get the picture. As normal, too many things to do in a two day weekend and drag someone along for. What unfolded however was a great exercise in self restraint, and doing what I always preach to do…. stopping and just enjoying the moment, spending time at camp, and relaxing. It took my better half to help me see the light! Here is a short photo essay of the outing.

I had the Land Cruiser packed up and ready to go so when Alyssa got off her last call with work we could split out. We were heading east from Marquette and following the south shore of Lake Superior.

half buried wooden boat at Sand Point on the eastern side of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

What once seemed like an adventure in itself, driving H58 from Munising to Marquette, across opend expanses of landscape that looks similar to savannah on sandy, blown out excuse of a county road, is now the territory of sports cars and street bikes. H58 has now been paved completely connecting these two towns and creating a tourism corridor along the national park. I admit, I didn’t like the idea at first, but now that I see the numbers of folks who are enjoying Pictured Rocks and utilizing the road, I am changing my mind. The road’s eastern half is sinuous to put it kindly…. what is a blast in say a Porsche 911 or a classic roadster is, well, less fun in a laden Land Cruiser, pitching like the proverbial trauler in heavy seas. Regardless though, its still pretty fun burning the knobbies off of my BFG Mud Terrains. This shot is from a stretch along twelve mile beach as we were heading towards Grand Marais.

We hit Grand Marais well after sunset. We stopped at the Dune’s Saloon, also known as the local brewery. We ordered up a pizza and ran into some friends of mine from the lower peninsula I hadn’t seen in years. They were up on a brief vacation in the area. By the time we rolled out it was 11:30 and we still had to find camp! Luckily I had a place in mind close to Grand Marais I had used before to camp that I loved. Despite a memory that more closely resembles a good gruyere than a gouda, I negotiated a series of two tracks through pine stands east of town to a remote beach on state land. It was a great spot perched up on a small ridge above the beach in an opend stand of pines. We were beat though so after popping the tent, we crawled in and crashed.

We awoke to a nice, comfortably warm day and a great view of Lake Superior.

Getting a proper brew of tea going with the trusty ‘ol Whisperlite.

The short 100 yard walk down to the beach. Some wreckless ATV user’s left evidence of their lack of respect for the beaches I love. Driving on beaches in the state of Michigan is illegal but for a couple of exceptions. Folks from downstate come up and seem to think since no one is around on these remote areas, the law does not apply. The trend is mostly with ATV users, and they usually leave a trail of garbage in their wake as well. Unfortunate.

The mix of colorful stones and agates on these stretches of beaches is spectacular.

After some beach combing and some breakfast, we through on our shoes and decided to go for a hike. Another great thing about this camp spot is that the North Country Trail comes right through it. For those not in the know, the North Country Trail is the longest point to point trail in the US. Sections of it in the UP are phenomenal hiking. This section I hadn’t done, so we walked out for an hour, then turned back. It followed the shoreline for a short distance past our camp then but inland.

It was a bumper crop year for berries. This area is CARPETED with blueberries and huckleberries. It was hard to walk at times because we were just grazing on the goods.

The trail meandered through jack pine forest and seemed seldom used.

After returning from the hike we headed down to the beach. The water was still nice and swam a bit and just hung out. I think I even had a siesta… gasp! This proved to be my last swimming in Superior of the season. Nothing refrehses as much as floating in Superior. Trust me, till you try it, you won’t know what I am talking about.

Looking out on our private beach for two.

Got clarity? This is what water is supposed to look like.

Laying on the beach somehow evolved into laying in the hammock, my memory gets fuzzy but somewhere along the way, perhaps while soaking up the last bit of summer sun on the beach we decided not to go anywhere that day, stay another day, and just enjoy it. So… no Whitefish Point, Two Hearted River, Taquemenon Falls, just the simple bliss of hanging out in a great spot. Less in more!

Late afternoon at camp.

Working on dinner.

Toasted baguettes from Huron Mountain Bread Co with goat cheese, tomatos, and sauteed onions and dates. I got the idea thanks to Overland Gourmet, it turned out great despite my bad memory and winging it a bit. We finished up some leftover pizza as well as had a desert of fire roasted peaches with brown sugar. Very nice meal. All accentuated by Leinenkugal’s finest.

Strolling down to the beach for sunset.

Sunset reflections

I think the best thing about September is the fact that there are zero bugs, zip, zilch, nada. Makes the woods THAT much more enjoyable.

The full moon was just the icing on the cake.

There is something, so entirely soothing about sleeping in the pines along the lake. That whispering of the pine needles in the breeze and the lapping of the waves on the shore just make for the best sleep possible. The moon was large and bright, causing coyotes to howl and yip at times but not even that could really disturb the slumber.

After another great morning we lounged about, played on the beach, swam, well, did alot of it again before packing up and heading back home. So what did we accomplish?? Well we hit one spot out of probably 6 I was planning on seeing… any regrets? Nope, not at all. The tradeoff of just soaking it in was well worth it all. In the quest to cover ground and see to much, we often see too little.

Categories: camping, Lake Superior, Land Cruiser, Overlanding, Upper Peninsula | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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