My favorite type of adventure usually spans at least 5 days and averages 100-150 miles. This type of trip gives me the range to really explore an area and the time to become completely immersed in the process. Not all days are equal though. The first day is a gradual process of letting go of mundane stresses, expectations for the trip, mileage goals, and other thoughts that detract from the experience. By the second day, I am in the zone. Sense of time is lost and there is a heightened appreciation for the little moments like meals, views, or any experience that differs from the process of putting one foot in front of the other. This continues until the final day, when again I am all about goals, specifically to finish the trek and find a local restaurant. At trip’s end, I am usually both drained and elated, and the euphoria often lasts for days.
Unfortunately, there isn't always enough time for this sort of trip. I still need to get in my dirt time though, and this is where the 24 (or overnighter) comes into play. The problem with the 24 is that there is only the first day and the last day. Lost is that crucial middle part so vital for recharging my spirit. Additionally, it is hard to get the same sense of accomplishment because mileage and consequently ability to explore tends to be significantly more modest. If not well planned, the 24 can be a letdown.
I have two strategies for avoiding this. One is to take advantage of other means of self-propelled travel like biking, packrafting, or trail running to get out into the wilderness farther and faster. Dialing up the intensity and allowing me to see the wilderness in different ways enhances my sense of adventure and accomplishment. The second strategy is to focus on a goal other than hiking, like fishing or foraging. Here, participating in an activity with successes that are measured in ways other than mileage allows me to slip into a relaxed state relatively more quickly.
The snow had begun to fall in Michigan and I badly needed a night out. With only a limited time available, I was wracking my mind trying to come up with a suitable challenge. I had initially been thinking about a backcountry ski/packrafting trip but jettisoned this idea once Stephen M and I started talking about a Manistee River trip in the upcoming month. Instead, I decided to go up to Pictured Rocks in hopes of finding some ice to photograph. Ever since last winter’s trip, Pictured Rocks had haunted my dreams.
I woke at 1:30 am to the sound of our puppy asking to go out. Afterwards, as she snuggled back into bed warmly with my wife, I headed out into the cold darkness to begin my journey. The 6 hour car ride lulled me into a reverie that not even the flashing red lights in my rearview mirror could diminish for long. In my eagerness to begin, I had let my speed creep up on one of those long stretches of deserted highway.
Skiing out on the snowed in Little Beaver Lake Road. It was easy to make good time in this area, and I soon reached the White Pine Trail which would take me to the lakeshore. A narrow singletrack with many hills and tight turns, this trail greatly challenged my skiing ability.
Still smiling after a series of controlled falls
Along this trail, I discovered a large cave I hadn’t seen before. It even had a nice sleeping alcove in the back.
I continued along until I reached Twelve Mile Beach where I was momentarily disappointed not to find any shelf ice. Putting aside my expectations, I was quickly mesmerized by the surreal beauty of the lakeshore
Slabs of mud formed by the crashing surf
Waves batter the frozen shoreline in the Coves section of the trail
A secluded cove
Looking out over layers of color
A precarious perch
My grumbling stomach reminded me that I hadn’t eaten in hours. Thanks to a recent trip with Stephen Mullen, I was deep in the throes of a raging cheese addiction. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to have a little sausage and cheese. Now I had to have a whole freaking cheese board.
Shown here: Chorizo, red dragon, drunken goat, and onion and chive cottswold.
The cliffs were hung with yellow ice, a product of the same mineral that colored the sandstone
Looking toward Spray Falls. Note the stunted forest of ice frosted trees, hapless victims of the freezing mist from the falls
Nearing Spray Falls, the trail became nearly impassable. Along the cliffs, I had struggled with the constant entanglement of my skis in the dense growth that choked the trail. Now I had to literally crawl through this ice maze, dragging my pack and skis and cursing cheerfully
I won’t comment on where I was standing to get this shot
At the top of Spray Falls looking out
My favorite tree
A frozen Chapel Creek flowing into Lake Superior
Chapel Rock battered by the waves
Looking toward Grand Portal Point as daylight fades into dusk
Grand Portal Point
Cliffs at dusk
An angry sky
As darkness fell, I continued on towards my chosen campsite at Mosquito Beach. Not wanting to waste time with shelter, I tossed down my bivy on a thinning patch of snow and got to work cooking dinner, my favorite pasta with chicken in a San Marzano tomato sauce. I snuggled into my downy quilt as I ate, content with the way the day had gone. I was asleep by 7 pm.
I woke in the darkness, firing up my stove from the comfortable warmth of my quilt to brew some coffee. I was on my way by first light, skiing the trail from Mosquito Beach back towards Chapel Lake Road. The trail was wide and easy to navigate, making for some of the most enjoyable skiing of the trip.
Arriving at the snowed in trailhead, I skied the 5 miles up Chapel Road and another 5 along H58 back to my car. This section was no fun (rutted, rocky, uphill all the way), but I looked at it as due payment for the trip. Arms raised in victory as I caught first glimpse of my car, I headed out in search of breakfast.