Okay. So this blog took an (unintentional hiatus). Other things were consuming my free time, but I hope to be posting again on a semi-regular basis.
And what better way than to blog about my awesome summer vacation earlier this year?
In July, my boyfriend traveled north to Michigan, where we spent 7 days hiking, kayaking, dining, hiking, camping, swimming and hiking. The coming blog posts will be a mini-series on different portions of our trip.
Before I start, I’ll answer the “why Michigan?” question I’ve heard a lot of and one asked frequently by our Buckeye friends.
Well, to stay true to my “life on little” roots and, more importantly, budget, my boyfriend and I knew we had to find something relatively close to Columbus and something relatively inexpensive. Earlier this year, I recalled a beautiful billboard I had seen a year ago on Weber Road in Columbus. The billboard featured a photo of an arch (think Moab, Utah-esque arches) above crystal blue water, clearly taken from a kayak. It was stunning. The only text on the billboard read “PureMichigan.org.” Call me a sucker for advertising (or just really good photography), but it was love at first sight.
I was immediately on the hunt to find where the photo was taken – my scientific research was a Google Image search for “beautiful Michigan kayaking.”I immediately discovered that the picture was taken on the lakeshore of Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, and I knew that I had to go.
From there, we planned a 5-day trip to the UP so that we could camp and hike at the lakeshore. On our way back to Columbus, we planned a 2 day trip to Ann Arbor.
So begins the journey of our 2012 vacation . . .
First up: a trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the UP of Michigan.
The Lakeshore sits on the shore of Lake Superior and is 42 miles long, between the cities of Munising and Grand Marais. It was about an 8 hour drive from my parent’s house in northwestern Ohio, which wasn’t bad, given the beautiful scenery of northern Michigan (and the fact that I didn’t do the majority of the driving). The Lakeshore is operated by the National Park Service, which allows backcountry camping for a mere $5 per person, per night when obtaining a permit in person at the Visitors Center, so we only had to pay $50 for our five night stay.
All 42 miles of the Lakeshore actually run with the the North Country Scenic Trail, which is the point of access to all of the backcountry camping sites. If you haven’t heard of the North Country Trail, it’s the longest of the 11 national scenic trails in the U.S. (including the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail). We tried to plan our camping permits so that we would hike about 7-12 miles a day and camp at the next point the following night.
Our plan worked really well, although some of the camping sites were full when we tried to book them at the beginning of the week, since they’re reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis. What we both really admired was that none of the camp sites were over capacity and each site was so secluded that you didn’t feel as though the trails or the lakeshore were crowded. It was all so beautifully secluded that I felt as though I could appreciate nature without realizing there were other people within a few miles.
After seeing the kayaking photograph in the billboard I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t stand the thought of traveling all that way not to take advantage of the beautiful lakeshore from the water. But it turned out that bringing or even renting a kayak wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Because of some reckless tourists (or so we were told) who weren’t quite prepared for the potentially rough waters of Lake Superior in years’ past, all kayakers must not only have a kayaking permit or license but open water certification as well. So we made plans ahead of our trip to go with a tour guide from Paddling Michigan – this was the “splurge” part of our vacation.
The guide brought everything we needed – a tandem sea kayak and paddles, and they even had someone drop our backpacks at our ending point so we could camp near the beach we had paddled to.The exposed sandstone we kayaked by includes some of the oldest rock in the world (anthropologists haven’t been able to find fossils), and we learned more about the gargantuan size of Lake Superior (enough water to cover all of North American by 1’ deep).
Kayaking was definitely the highlight of our Lakeshore trip for me. We did about a 15-mile trip, and the clear water of Lake Superior made it possible to be about a half mile from shore and to still see the bottoms of the same rocks we were seeing 200 feet above us. Also visible were remains from shipwrecks, dating back about 200 years, when there were no lighthouses on the UP.
And I got that kayaking picture I saw on the billboard . . .
All said and done, we hike about 38 miles and kayaked 15 during our 5 day stay. I was really sore and am a slightly embarrassed to admit the breakdown I had the day we hike 12 miles in the rain. But I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Next up in this mini-series on our Michigan trip will be what I was able to fit in my backpack for a week-long trip, and after that will be a wrap of what we saw, did and tasted in Ann Arbor. Stay tuned!