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Archive for May, 2004

(technically Day 6)
Three Mile Campground to Rock Harbor Campground (and the Island’s only open Store to buy a propane/butane stove canister)
Rock Harbor Campground back to Three Mile Campground
5.7 miles hiked

Michael:

The WallAt about 2:00 a.m. I was startled awake by a moving rock.

From 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. I tossed and turned in fits of anxiety and fear.

By 3:15 a.m. I was sound asleep.

Let me explain.

Two nights ago, we stayed in one of the Isle Royale’s lean-to shelters at Three Mile Campground. The Campground’s shelters all face Lake Superior. That night the wind sounded like a helicopter rotor hovering nearby overhead. Constant, deafening and menacing. Many times it felt as if its force would lift up the floor beneath us.

We slept there again last night. The wooden shelters have a roof, a hard floor and are fully enclosed on three sides. The fourth side consists of wire-mesh; great for summer breezes and Lake views, bad for spring nor’easters. I needed to do something to protect us from the winds. The Rangers had promised 35-knot gusts. Gale force blows coupled with sub-freezing temperatures. They would not be wrong.

During the cold breezy afternoon, we worked on a wind barrier. We covered the mesh from the chest level to the floor with a combination of our tent’s footprint, garbage bags and athletic tape. We anchored our quixotic wall with large rocks. Feasibility, practicality and shame in our own wimpiness stopped us from wallpapering everything.

The finished product breathed in and out with each wind burst and seemed to make things less chilly. We fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. It was too cold to do anything else. Fires are not allowed at Three Mile Campground. We dozed off in our tent warm, warmer than the previous four nights even though it was much colder around us.

At about 2:00 a.m. I was startled awake by a moving rock.

I turned to Gab, “What was that?”

She answered, “The anchor rocks from our wall. It’s been happening for a while now. I’d be surprised if it’s still up.”

I popped out of my warm cocoon, opened the tent and peered out into the cold. Nothing had moved. The wall was intact except for some loose athletic tape. I panicked. In a sleep walking mist I flattened down the detached tape and hurtled myself back into the tent. In the process, I had lowered my body temperature by about ten degrees. At 2:00 a.m. I was warm, dreaming and content. At 2:15 a.m. I was freezing, awake and anxious.

I listened intently for every sound. The constant roar of the wind coming off the Lake, through the Harbor and into our tent provided no relief. The gusts came about once a minute striking more fear with each reoccurrence. I listened to the wind suck in my wall and then exhale it with such ferocity that it lifted the anchoring rocks.

After every gust, I wondered if my wall was still there. It couldn’t be, I reasoned. The garbage bags must be flapping away, the rocks must be strewn everywhere. I am getting so much colder. I can’t do anything about the situation. I have to get up and fix the wall. When will the sun come up? Why am I on this damned Island? Did the wall ever work? I have to get up and fix the wall. I am on an Island in the middle of Lake Superior. Am I crazy? I am crazy. Nothing was wrong the last time I got up. I am so much colder. I have to get up and fix the wall.

“Gab, should I get up and fix the wall?”

“I am not willing to do that,” she elliptically responded.

“Well you wouldn’t,” I snapped back.

She didn’t counter.

More rocks moved. The wind breathed deeper and deeper. I peered out the tent window. Nothing seemed to be out of place. I tried to get to sleep. More rocked moved.

It was 3:15 a.m. Something dawned on me.

My nose wasn’t cold. It had been the previous four nights. I am in a wooden shelter. The wall is working. I am driving myself crazy. I could stay up all night and worry or I can accept that I have prepared to my best ability. No more athletic tape is going to make me any safer. If part of the wall comes down, than so be it.

I do not need to engulf myself in fear. Yes, its 25 degrees outside and yes, the winds are strong but I cannot let that take over my night.

5 minutes later I was sound asleep.

Missed A Day?
Isle Royale Day One; Isle Royale Day 2; Isle Royale Day 3; Isle Royale Day 4

Read On!
Isle Royale Day 6; Isle Royale Day 7

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West Chickenbone Lake to Three Mile
12.1 miles hiked

Gab:

Invincible Gab“My name is Gabrielle and I am invincible.”

Someone named Brian Tomasetti taught me this mantra when I was still in treatment. Nearly twenty years later, I still carry it with me and when I remember to say it, it charges my entire day. We decided this morning to hike an extra four and a half miles past Daisy Lake, our intended campsite and on to one named Three Mile. Let’s push ourselves. Let’s move! I woke up this morning, put on my pack which gets lighter everyday and said my magic phrase.

Here, you try it: “My name is ______ and I am invincible!” Doesn’t it feel great?

Yesterday was by far the most beautiful day on the island. Bright sun. No people. Six moose. SIX. Today, more people and no moose sprinkled the trails but our day was equally excellent. Could it be that we are both feeling fit? Getting used to the routine of waking up, packing up camp, hiking, finding a campsite, pitching the tent, rolling out the bags, finding and boiling water, starting dinner, watching the sun set, making tea, crawling inside the tent, doing a crossword puzzle, bundling up for the night, then waking up to repeat the process?

Possibly. But as always, as soon as one feels overconfident in his or her abilities and skills, one spills the entire batch of tortellini, ruining the one hot meal of the day and adding about a pound of wet soggy material to one’s pack. Leave No Trace. Pack it in. Pack it out. Wet, soggy, inedible, dirt covered tortellini rendering one to hungry tears.

Did I say one? I meant me.

But the tortellini incident was yesterday. Today is a new day and did I mention, my name is Gabrielle and I am invincible?

Today’s hike took us past more forest, over some rocky climbs and through mud where my head-down hiking stance spotted a wolf print. It also led us over long, 10-inch wide boardwalks built across otherwise impassable marshes. When the setting sun highlighted mist and steam rising from the shallow grassy waters Michael, who is neither a fan of water nor bridges of any kind, uttered this memorable line:

“This is some Lord of the Rings type sh*t.”

You know, the part where Gollum pulls Frodo out of the murky waters filled with the souls of the dead and haunted? Yeah. We were balancing ourselves over that. Somehow, my pack felt much heavier and my steps more uncertain after my darling husband shared the visual. Thanks honey.

Our Campsite - Right Before the Tortellini Incident We made it to Three Mile unscathed and found a lovely campsite awaiting us – the first one with shelters. The shelters are good sized, three-sided wood structures with a fourth wall covered in screening. And there was one open and ready for us to use. Strange how three walls and a roof can seem so luxurious.

This campsite was also the first that we shared with the island’s other visitors – fishers and canoers. There is a cement pier facing Rock Harbor and a small sandy beach which makes this campsite a favorite among water enthusiasts. A few shelters down from us, some fishermen were clearly enjoying their pre-June 1st stay. Beginning June 1st, campers are limited to a one-night stay at the more popular sites. Before June 1st, no rules apply. We spotted at least two coolers, camp chairs and a huge Coleman grill. These guys were definitely comfortably rooted.

As were we, once we heard that we were facing 30-mile an hour winds and a huge storm over the next two days. We staked our claim to the last free shelter and thanked heaven it was May 30th. Tomorrow, we’re not moving.

Missed A Day?
Isle Royale Day One; Isle Royale Day 2; Isle Royale Day 3

Read On!
Isle Royale Day 5; Isle Royale Day 6; Isle Royale Day 7

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Hatchet Lake Campground to West Chickenbone Campground
7.9 miles hiked

Michael:

Moose in the WayAt 7:00 p.m. today, two hikers walked past our idyllic campsite along West Chickenbone Lake and said hello.

They were the first people we had seen in a day and a half. In that same time period we had seen six moose up close and personal. We had heard another trampling through the woods and snorting mightily near to our tent at about 1:00 a.m. What a place.

After two days without a single moose sighting, we had resigned ourselves to a moose-less journey. I even haughtily proclaimed that I did not believe there were any moose on Isle Royale despite the unvarying trail obstacle of moose droppings. They look just like deer droppings, round and numerous, except they are bigger. Which makes a lot of sense.

We had even seen parts of a moose skeleton, picked clean and scattered by the famed Isle Royale wolves and vultures. But no actual moose.

Today’s early early morning visit was trepidatious fun. I was rudely awakened by Gab’s beating left fist on my leg, “I think there is a moose outside.”

“Huh”
“I think there’s a moose outside,” she repeated excitedly.

I listened. Branches snapped and leaves rustled in a major way. You read seven feet tall, 1,800 pounds but the size doesn’t really sink in until you hear them just yards from your piddling tent at 1:00 a.m.

“I think I am thankful you woke me up,” I thought. “Can moose see in the dark?”
“Do you want to put on the headlamps and see what it looks like,” I asked.
“No sudden movements. Remember?”
“You’re right”
“Well, uh, maybe? This could be our only chance,” Gab added after sitting up and exiting her sleeping bag. Then she rethought. “Uh, no. I’m a little scared.”

We both were. Soon, though, the rustling moved away from our tent and up the ridge. It took us a while to get back to sleep.

Our first sighting came today as we neared the beautiful vista from the top of Mount Siskiwit. I came over a ridge with my head down, watching my steps. When I looked up, a young bull was standing on the trail 20 yards in front of me, peacefully eating. I stopped dead in my tracks.

His antlers were just forming. He did not yet see me.

I turned around. “Gab, look up,” I whispered. She kept walking. “GAB, LOOK UP,” I said a little more forcefully.

That caught both hers and the young bull’s attention. He picked his head up. So did Gab. I slowly backed up, giving him his space. We took our packs off. He went back to eating. We were in awe. He scratched his head with his front leg.

After about ten minutes of adrenaline and wonderment, we realized that this guy was in our path. We were at his mercy. It was his Island after all. I walked forward a little. He picked up his head. “You really don’t want to do that,” his expression voiced. He was right. We waited some more until he decided to snack in a different spot. We were now allowed to continue our hike. Thank you Mr. Moose.

In the next four hours, we would cross five more and feel the same overwhelming excitement each time. What a day. What a place.

Missed A Day?
Isle Royale Day One; Isle Royale Day 2

Read On!
Isle Royale Day 4; Isle Royale Day 5; Isle Royale Day 6; Isle Royale Day 7

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South Lake Desor Campground to Hatchet Lake Campground
8.1 miles hiked

Gab:

Our Campsite, Day 2This morning I realized how long it has been since I last hiked with a pack on my back. Three years? Four years? It has been a very long time.

I woke up with aching hips and shoulders because I had been wearing the waist belt of my backpack far too low on my pelvis the entire first day. All 11 miles. I had assumed that I was sore and uncomfortable because I am painfully out of shape. Although this is not untrue, as soon as Michael noticed the problem and we readjusted my pack, I felt much, much better.

In sharp contrast to yesterday’s hike which was over in record time, today seemed to last forever. Where we were fueled uphill by anticipation and excitement yesterday, today we were pushed along by the realization that we have days of hiking and camping ahead of us. We are less than one-fourth of the way through. While yesterday the dozen other hikers on the boat gave us fodder for conversation and speculation all afternoon, today there didn’t seem to be much to say. At least that’s how I felt. I had a hard time of things today.

It rained last night which means everything we are carrying is soggy and heavy and will no doubt have an aroma by the time it is unpacked. Tell me again why I like this?

I like hiking because everything I need, I have. Right here. It’s on my back. I like hiking because it gives me a chance to cook, which I rarely get to do now that we no longer have a kitchen. Making something edible out of Ziploc bags of grains and spices is strangely satisfying to the exiled chef in me. Never mind that I broke our new stove last week in Kentucky the first time I used it. I fixed it. It’s fine now.

I like hiking because it gives me time to myself. It is pure, uninterrupted “quiet time for Gabby” as Michael likes to call it. This I cherish, rainy gear and all.

When we hike, Michael is usually twenty paces in front of me. I bring up the rear. Once I understood that it made no sense for me to scurry and try to keep up with his longer, more powerful stride, and that sporadic stops and starts wear me out, hiking became much more enjoyable for me. This is my pace. This is about me. Slow and steady wins the race. Twenty paces behind, I am left to my own devices – usually singing a random collection of tunes to match the beat of my steps, recounting past incidents and situations and stringing together strange word/song/idea associations, or just letting my mind wander. Every once in a while, I even look up to see what’s going on around me. But then I usually trip.

Lately, whenever I am faced with a physical challenge, my thoughts drift to my friend Sarah who decided last year that she was going to run a marathon. She began training, running every morning rain or shine, honing her body and mind to the task, only to find that at the last minute, the marathon she planned to run would be cancelled due to security concerns. All of that work! How could they?! The morning of the cancelled marathon, Sarah packed a daypack full of water, planned her route and ran anyway. All the way to a handmade finish line. The photo of her triumphant finish is the one I pull out in my mind when I need that extra incentive. Sarah, I was thinking about you a lot today…when I wasn’t thinking about moose.

View From the TrailAre we ever going to see a moose? We dodge moose poop on the narrow trail every ten steps. I can’t stop thinking about moose tracks ice cream. But we have yet to see the elusive beast. I don’t think we have unknowingly walked past any. I mean, they’re huge, right? We’d know it if we saw one, right? People seemed to say it was a foregone conclusion that we would certainly, definitely see moose while we are here. So I’ve been obsessing about moose. And strawberry rhubarb pie in Grand Marais, Minnesota. But that’s another story altogether.

Missed A Day?
Isle Royale Day One

Read On!
Isle Royale Day 3; Isle Royale Day 4; Isle Royale Day 5; Isle Royale Day 6; Isle Royale Day 7

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Grand Portage to Isle Royale (via Voyageur II)
25 miles
Windigo to South Lake Desor Campground
11.3 miles hiked

Michael:


First Day View
Look at a map of Michigan, the Great Lakes or even the United States as a whole. Now look closer, focus in on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Look in the northwest corner. There is an island. An elementary school teacher of mine told me to imagine Lake Superior as a wolf’s head. The island is its eye. That eye is Isle Royale. That is where we will be spending the next week.

We have been anticipating Isle Royale National Park since the early planning stages of our trip. It is our first extended hiking excursion, our first venture into the wild. Isle Royale has shaped our schedule, forcing us further south in order to visit the Park in a moderately warm time. The Park has always been in the back of our minds. Thing is, we know very little about the place and it kind of scares us.

This week has been a crash course. Very few people we meet have been there. “All I know is that you better be prepared. Once you are out there, no one can help you,” has been the ominous consensus. I guess they are right, we will see. We spent two nights in Duluth and one in Grand Marais, Minnesota in preparation. Yesterday we made a last minute purchase of an extra fuel canister, a larger pack towel, 20 garbage bags, long underwear, rain pants and a book detailing hikes on the Island. I think we’ve thought of everything.

The maps emphasize Isle Royale’s isolation. 20 miles from Minnesota to the northwest, 60 miles from Michigan to the southeast. The island itself is 45 miles from end to end and eight miles across at its widest. Park Rangers, potable water, food and anything else you might need are located only at Windigo and Rock Harbor (more or less the Island’s western and easternmost points, respectively). Everything you need is on your back.

I think our packs weigh somewhere in the 30-something pound range. We don’t have a scale. They feel pretty good. We arrived at the dock in Grand Portage, Minn, packs in hand, at 7:00 a.m. Generally, the 60-foot Voyaguer II leaves for the island when everyone gets there. We left at 7:45 a.m. In two hours, we will be at the Windigo Visitor Center.

Gab on the TrailWe have scheduled the Voyageur II will pick us up in seven days at Rock Harbor. Gab and I will hike the 45 miles cross-island, west to east, in about five days. The remainder we hope to spend doing day hikes without our burdensome packs. We will take Isle Royale’s most popular route, the Greenstone Ridge Trail. According to our recently purchased book, the Trail goes along the Island’s central backbone. The strenuous and rocky Minong Trail skirts the island’s northernmost ridge. After much discussion, we decided that we do not need the Minong’s challenge.

The Lake Superior weather has not been kind this week. Highs are in the 50’s and rain has been plentiful. Rocks and rain are a mixture we do not want to face. Greenstone it is. Let’s just hope the Trail is not too crowded. We have no idea what is in store. The Lake can be awful temperamental. We are a little bit scared. Once we leave the boat (the Captain says noon) we have a 12-mile long, uphill hike to where we can pitch our tent and sleep. Wish us luck.

Read On!
Isle Royale Day 2; Isle Royale Day 3; Isle Royale Day 4; Isle Royale Day 5; Isle Royale Day 6; Isle Royale Day 7

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in Lake Superior
Visited: May 26, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 49 of 353
Local Website

Want More?

Click Here to Begin Our Seven-Day Isle Royale Adventure

Isle RoyaleWHAT IS IT?
The largest Island in the world’s largest freshwater lake. Isle Royale NP is a World Heritage Biosphere. Isle Royale is an incredible 99% wilderness. The 1% includes only the Rangers’ living quarters, a small lodge, two Visitor Centers and the campgrounds. The 45-mile long by 9-mile wide island boasts hundreds of moose and three wolf packs.

BEAUTY (9/10)
Spring came while we were on the Island. Wildflowers bloomed in front of our eyes; trees became a luminescent, full lime green. We thought that we had seen a newborn moose calf, but closer inspection revealed a yearling. Much of the hiking goes along the ridge and through the dense boreal forest. When the forest opens, you remember that you are in the middle of Lake Superior. Clear skies enabled us to make out the skyline of Thunder Bay, Canada, 35 miles away to the north. Nothing spoils the serene beauty here on Isle Royale. No cars, no buildings and no unnatural sounds.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
Isle Royale has mildly interesting stories of unsuccessful mining operations and dramatic shipwrecks. We found the Island to be compelling because of its veritable lack of human history. Few people have ever lived here and the forests are still virgin. Moose first migrated here in the 1900’s by swimming! A few wolves crossed the extremely rare frozen Lake Superior to get here in the 40’s. That’s cool stuff.

On the TrailCROWDS (9/10)
We found solitude at Isle Royale NP. There were very few people even on the most popular hikes. The people that we did see shared with us the same sense of personal accomplishment, detachment and amazement. There was a strong kindred spirit among all visitors to the Island.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (1/5)
Perhaps the most remote National Park in the continental United States. You need to take a sturdy sea-worthy boat or a seaplane to get here. Once you are at Isle Royale you must use either its moderately difficult trails or travel by kayak or canoe through its harbors and lakes. Only one rustic hotel exists and even if you are staying there, you need to get out into the backcountry to see anything. You must hike (or paddle) and stay in a tent. There is no other way. This Site appeals to a very small and specific crowd, the willing outdoorsman.

That being said, most visitors come to Isle Royale NP for the isolation and the solitude. They would say the Park’s lack of access is its strongest asset. After a day of seeing zero people and six moose, we agree. But our rating system is not perfect and for continuity’s sake the score must be a 1.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
Both the bookstore and the lone open food store on the Island had ample selections of merchandise but very little that we wanted. The weather effectively holed us in our shelter. There were no cheap paperbacks and no selection of games/puzzles. We wanted a memento from our trip but the T-Shirts, stickers and patches all suffered from a design deficiency. We wanted a pre-packaged meal but had to settle on the salt-drenched Zatarain’s red beans and rice. So yes there is a large selection of stuff, but nothing in that group appealed to us.

On the TrailCOSTS (1/5)
The requisite boat to the Island is not cheap at $100 or more round trip. Staying on Isle Royale costs an additional $4 per day per person. Proper gear and preparation for the whims of Lake Superior will cost even more. Because of the steep transportation fee, most visitors spend at least 5 days on the Island. In fact, among National Parks Isle Royale enjoys the longest average stay per guest.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (2/5)
Plenty of Rangers at the Isle Royale’s two Visitor Centers. No Rangers anywhere else.

TOURS/CLASSES (5/10)
Immediately after stepping off the boat, a lovely Park Ranger gave us an instructive and necessary 20-minute orientation that focused on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Everything you bring on must leave with you. She also answered all of our questions about the Isle Royale. Everyone listened intently to her “What do we do when we see a moose?” answer.

After the orientation, the Ranger issued the backcountry permits inside the Windigo Visitor Center. All hikers had to specify which campground they were to stay at on each night of their visit. We were not yet sure of our plans so the Ranger cheerfully indicated which campgrounds were the best and which vistas we should not miss. Our 10-minute talk with her was more helpful than the 175-page Isle Royale Hiking Trails book.

After leaving the Visitor Center, we felt confident in our journey. We were no longer petrified about what we were about to do. Thank you, Ranger.

Just Before the Tortellini DropFUN (8/10)
Anticipation for this particular park has been mounting for nearly a year even though we weren’t really sure what to expect. We spent over two days in Duluth and a day in Grand Marais, Minnesota preparing ourselves mentally and physically for the challenge of our first real hiking adventure of the two-year trip. This anticipation and build-up added to our fun and sense of accomplishment.

Seven days and seven nights is the longest we have ever been backcountry camping. In many ways, this was a test. Can our sedentary bodies still balance a pack? Will the novelty of pitching the tent wear out within a week? Will we get bored? Sick of each other? Answers: Yes. No. Only on a very rainy and cold day 6 and… hmm… well … No. In that order.

We felt a range of emotions on the island. Excitement, fatigue, awe, hunger (after Gab dropped the tortellini dinner), pride. It was quite an emotional roller coaster, but we laughed and smiled and dropped our mouths in wonder a lot. We nearly shed tears of joy when the sun came out on day seven and Captain Ryan arrived with the Voyageur II. Later that day we were both misty eyed as the boat sped away and we lost sight of Isle Royale.

Morning MistWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10)
We had a great time and were not the least bit disappointed. The beauty of the National Park was well worth the planning, the time dedication and the expense. Still, Isle Royale NP is not for everybody and Lake Superior can be a monster. You need to camp. Transportation must be done via hiking or paddling. Transportation to the Island is available only mid-April through October. Each season provides its own obstacle. If you are not fighting inclement weather, you will be fighting biting flies and mosquitoes. Our trip to Isle Royale NP was well worth it.

TOTAL 50/80

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Munising, Mich.
Visited: May 21, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 46 of 353
NPS Website

Want More? Read about both Gab’s and Michael’s terrific day on the Upper Peninsula

Miners Castle at Pictured RocksWHAT IS IT?
Area hugging Lake Superior’s southern shoreline for 40 miles resplendent with multi-hued sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, lighthouses, dunes and forests.

BEAUTY (8/10)
The Pictured Rocks are stunning 200-foot high sandstone cliffs, molded by glaciers, and stained by minerals. Their oranges, tans, greens, whites, and myriad mixtures in between contrast sharply with the sparkling rich blues and fluorescent greens of the Lake. The Park’s waterfalls charm and the wildflowers emit wonderful aromas. And we saw a bald eagle!

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10)
The sandstone cliffs tell a geological story. Like the concentric rings of a tree, each color tells of a different age of rock. We do not understand geology but the gravitas of the explanatory panel made the colorful cliffs rather interesting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, The Song of Hiawatha takes place in and around the Pictured Rocks NL. The pictured rocks are specifically mentioned.

CROWDS (6/10)
There was a small crowd at each of the stops we made at Pictured Rocks NL. Everyone looked happy, especially a group of excited kids who enjoyed reading aloud to their parents the descriptions provided by the Miners Falls Trail walking tour pamphlet.

The Flowering U.P.EASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
The southern coast of Lake Superior is awfully remote. Once you find your way through the scenic two lane highways surrounded by Wildlife Refuge areas and National Forests the Site itself is well marked if not easy to get around. Most of its interior roads are unpaved and better suited for a 4×4 than our Nissan Altima.

Paths and Lookout points at Miners Castle were all paved and accessible to individuals with physical disabilities.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5)
A quirky selection highlighted by ecological philosophy books and I (Heart) Hiking T-Shirts.

COSTS (4/5)
The Site is free.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
Two Rangers staffed the main Pictured Rocks Visitor Center. They were friendly, helpful and gave good suggestions on lake shore highlights. Other Visitor Centers in the interior of the park were not yet open for the season, so no other Rangers were available.

TOURS/CLASSES (5/10)
The Miners Falls Walking Trail pamphlet was cool. We are appreciative that the box at trail’s head was diligently restocked. There was no video and no museum display at the only open Visitor Information Center. Maybe things will be different post-Memorial Day. Given the stellar publications and exhibit panels we saw at Pictured Rocks we are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

WaterfallFUN (8/10)
We followed the Rangers’ recommendations of where to go and what to see and were not disappointed. Short hikes to the Munising Falls and Miners Falls were easy and pleasant; both falls were beautiful.

We drove to the lookout at Miners Castle where three vista spots offered views of the Pictured Rocks. The best place to observe Pictured Rocks is probably on a boat, but we enjoyed our landlocked view. A large set of picnic tables offered a perfect lunch spot for us to devour our leftover pizza. And, of course, spotting the bald eagle was the icing on the cake.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10)
We didn’t expect much from Pictured Rocks NL. The previous National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, was pretty, but not spectacular. It was fun enough, but nothing to write home about (although we write home about everything). Pictured Rocks NL for some reason captured our hearts. We had such an enjoyable time there.

Maybe it was because the morning clouds cleared just in time to see sun reflecting off the Munising Falls, bringing out the vibrant yellow of the wildflowers. Maybe it was because we made the decision early not to camp out and were giddy at the idea of a shower and a hotel room waiting for us in the next town. Perhaps it was because we had no expectations of the site to live up to. Or maybe it was because Pictured Rocks is a beautiful area that is well maintained and well stocked with information to help you get the most out of your visit.

We imagine this is a highly touristed destination in the summer time. We can see why.

TOTAL 53/80

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