The Porcupine Mountains is probably my favorite place on earth.
Every year, the men in my family take a backpacking trip to "The Porkies" and it's the time we spend together there that really makes it special. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a 60,000 acre wilderness area on the coast of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Just north of "up north" Wisconsin lies a land rich in old growth forests, waterfalls, and miles of rugged trail that's just a little too out of the way for the crowds. In the Midwest, it's one of the best places to go for secluded backcountry hiking and camping.
Over the past year, Anne and I have really enjoyed leading a couples small group out of our home through our church, Epikos. Small groups is one of the many awesome things Epikos is doing in Milwaukee; it's a place where real, meaningful relationships develop while we grow in our faith in Jesus and live life together. When our group first began meeting last fall we didn't really know any of them (aside from my sister and her fiancé), so it's been a joy to see our group transform from a group of strangers into a group of friends over the past several months. Some members in our group share an interest in the outdoors, so, last weekend, Anne and I took our small group to the Porkies for a few days of wilderness backpacking. What better way to test our new friendships?
After a record high 98°F the week before, temperatures dipped to the 40's for our long-weekend trip touching on 30°F overnight. For a group containing several newbies, we were a little nervous about the weather, but aside from a few shivers here and there, it was a terrific escape from the city. There were a few other complications—an ice cold stream crossing, sporadic blowing snow, multiple blisters—but that's what makes a trip memorable! Being amongst the expanse of virgin forest, rocks, and earth that feels at once ancient and pristinely new helps you to forget about those little things.
In case you're planning a visit, here's the route we traveled: We started at the Lake Of The Clouds Overlook and hiked down the Big Carp River trail tracing an escarpment and then descending through a stand of old growth hemlock until we arrived at our first camp at Shining Cloud Falls. On day two, we took a short walk to Lake Superior before backtracking to the Correction Line Trail and hiking to our second camp at Mirror Lake. On our last day we took the North Mirror Lake Trail back toward our cars, skirting along the edge of a steep wooded ravine before rising back up the escarpment overlooking Lake Of The Clouds.
Highlights from the trip:
- The views of Lake Of The Clouds.
- The campsite at Shining Cloud Falls (sorry, no photos!). It's the best site in the park, in my opinion.
- Trails with steep drops and rocky streams below, especially along the North Mirror Lake and Big Carp River Trails.
- Thai Peanut Noodles. Anne and I tried a new recipe out on the group and it was a hit. Recipe: http://tinyurl.com/jbn3quj
- Sleeping with a bottle of hot water inside of our sleeping bags to stay warm. That definitely came in handy.
- Animal noises in the middle of the night: owls, loons, wolves, and something walking around our tents... Deer? Bear?