The Wild North of Michigan
By: Ben Shaw a.k.a. Squanto
Friday October 6th
4:30AM – The alarm goes off. My eyes struggle to open knowing that I’m about to go meet 10 strangers. Within seconds I’m up, dressed and out the door.
5:00AM – I arrive to pick up the rest of the crew.
5:45AM – We still haven’t heard from one of our trip-mates…
6:00AM – I’m standing outside Dan’s house dragging him out of bed because luckily, I’m a good friend…
10:00AM – We’re just outside of Chicago rocketing towards the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
6:00PM – We arrive at the Presque Isle Campground and head to our reserved campsites and there’s already tents and a truck in one of them.
6:30PM – We make some friends, they move their stuff and we head down to the beach.
7:00PM – With the setting sun on a cloudy afternoon in the UP we finally dip our feet in chilly Lake Superior and begin what will be an amazing trip with some just as amazing people.
The first day of this trip was not what I expected. I didn’t foresee pulling a guy out of bed, I didn’t foresee my campsite being invaded by some folks (who were honestly nice people) and I didn’t know how all these people I had just met would grow on me. I won’t drag you through all the boring details but here’s the spark notes version:
Saturday, I woke up to the most annoying drizzle but decided to be nice and wake everyone else up with chocolate chip pancakes. We got backcountry permits and adventured around the Porcupine Mountains to places such as Lake of the Clouds, Mirror Lake and Summit Peak. We finally made camp right along the southern shore of Lake Superior, made a toasty fire and got to know each other better with a few campfire libations and the sound of waves rolling in along the rocks.
Sunday, I had to be that guy yet again and wake up camp at 6AM, unfortunately without pancakes this time… We hiked out of the backcountry and began our drive south to Mackinaw City and Sleeping Bear Dunes. When we got to Mackinaw we dipped our toes in Lake Huron and then walked around town for a bit. I could not have imagined how much money these guys would spend on fudge, pizza and snacks but it made the rest of the car ride to Sleeping Bear more entertaining. About twenty minutes out we turn onto a dirt road and all I can remember thinking was “sh*t, this doesn’t seem right…”, quickly the road turns muddy… and tight… and woodsy… and we’re in a 15-passenger van… luckily, we took it slow, got out and made it to camp!
Monday, we woke up and took our time, got on the road and hiked Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. We hiked back and drove south to Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area where we hiked in about 2 miles to our own private beach with no one on the shore and not another person in site for miles… Definitely a place to check out if you ever get the chance. We swam in Lake Michigan and spent our last night taking turns between staying warm by the fire and laying on the beach looking up at the stars.
Tuesday, the final morning came and we reluctantly packed up camp and hiked away from our paradise. We began the drive home and stopped one last time for a bite to eat, exchanging stories of the trip and contacts for when we got home.
I can’t say that I’d taken a road trip like this before. I can’t say that I’d ever taken off with a group of people that I knew so little about and came back knowing so much. Sure, I’ve traveled all over out west for days and weeks on end. I’ve also taken people I didn’t know that well on big trips but I knew what they were capable of. On this trip we moved like no other and it was luck of the draw. I
can say that I saw some truly beautiful places, and that I made some great new friends and that I learned a lot. What I learned (on top of always expect something to go wrong) is that it’s those random moments, the small stories you create along the way and the people you travel with that make a journey memorable.
So, when you go out on that next trip, whether it be a Saturday afternoon hike in East Fork State Park or a week long backpacking trip out west remember it’s often the people sharing the journey with you that make everything you’re doing that much more memorable and exciting.