It’s been a year since our last backpacking trip and I need to get outside!
July 20th we set out to meet a friend in the Upper Peninsula and explore the Porcupine Mountains.
We all met up at a campground in Hiathawa National Forest near Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore for one night.
July 20 – We decided to do a boat tour since we only had one day at Pictured Rocks and it was awesome. I highly recommend doing a boat tour, if we have more time I think a kayak tour would also be really amazing. The views from the water are so beautiful and you can see so much more in a short time. They also have complementary dog kennels so, though Franklin wasn’t thrilled, we had a place he could stay while on the tour.
July 21 – The next morning we got up early and drive the 3 hours to the Porcupine Mountains, picked up our backcountry permits, and headed up the Government Peak trail toward Mirror Lake. Around 8 miles and 1,000ft elevation gain. The trail was fairly muddy and somewhat difficult to keep our footing but overall a great start to our adventure. There is no view, at least in the summer, at the top of Government Peak but there is a sign that lets you know you’ve made it.
We ended the day at Mirror Lake (site ML-1). The camp site is not on, or even near, the water but it is a large site with a fire ring and bear pole and it’s up a little hill so you’re away from the trail. We went to sleep super early because we were exhausted by the end of the first day.
July 22 – The start of our longest (by miles) day we headed out to conquer the whole of the Little Carp River trail. We got up early and we were all still feeling a little sore so we decided to skip the trek up Summit Peak. I think for us this was the smart choice but maybe it’s worth it to go there, we may never know.
Other than a few river crossings the trail is fairly flat and even though it was 13ish miles relatively easy. Even the river crossings were pretty simple, the usually had stones to step on and it’s shallow so if you fall in just your feet get a little wet.
We got to our camp really early which was wonderful because it was by far our favorite site (site LS-7). Right on the shore of Lake Superior we were able to swim in the cool water. Filtering water from the lake was a breeze because it’s basically already crystal clear.
The only downside was the waves. At first you’re lying in your tent thinking “oh this is lovely, hearing the waves as they gently crash against the shore” and then an hour later you think “oh my gosh, waves can you please shut up!” We also had a storm roll in which was a little scary but no rain actually fell. Just huge bursts of lightning and thunder for maybe 30 minutes. I would not have traded those views for a silent night though.
July 23 – Day 3, the Big Carp River trail, another long day with a literal uphill battle. I like to save what I think will be the best views for the last days, when you’re tired and you don’t really want to hike anymore but then, bam, those views make it all worth it. Day 3 did not disappoint. We had a few more river crossings but by far the difficulty came in the elevation gain. The Big Carp River trail ends at Lake of the Clouds and you have to hike up up up to get here.
We picked campsite ES-2 and though it was fine I would absolutely recommend sites BC-1, 2, or 3 as they are right near the edge of the cliffside (not unsafely near) and still away from most foot traffic. Our site was right on a busy trail but with no view. It’s very busy at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook since there is a parking lot about a quarter of a mile from the overlook but that was about the only busy area we came across.
We hiked around 9.5 miles with an additional few miles back down to Lake of the Clouds to fill our water; I recommend filling while you’re still near the Big Carp River, the Lake of the Clouds water is super gross and took a long time to filter. It was an exhausting day and with just one last day to go we went to bed super early to get an early start.
July 24 – Last Day! With just 4 miles back to the car we started our day just at sunrise and it was lovely. The last leg was down (and sometimes up and then back down again) the Escarpment trail. If you were to only do one trail I’d choose this one. With sweeping views of the lake and river running mostly along the cliffside it’s just beautiful. We made it back to our cars fairly quickly and said our goodbyes. Until next time friends.