Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore- Hurricane River and Grand Sable Dunes

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore- Grand Sable Dunes

Ok.   Now there is frost covering the ground, or nearly so each morning as I leave for work. How quickly the average temperature drops in fall, once the seasonal change begins. A month ago, I was paddling in the UP and 70-degree weather. Now we are lucky to touch 60, like last Thursday when a blast of warm air pushed us up to the mid 60’s, before this weekends downward plunge into the upper 30’s for the high…Expecting highs in the low 40’s for the next week….Soon snow and ice until April.

So back to a month ago, (well now it has been 6 weeks), when we were still warm and cozy…September 15th.
Grand Marais Harbor, Michigan

The weekend was looking good for another trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I drove to Grand Marais, Michigan on Friday evening and stayed in the "Grand Marais Woodland Park Campground"  located in the town of Grand Marais.  A nice place, internet, shower, hot water, reasonable price.
Friday evening it was blowing over 20 out of the North, but the wind was predicted to calm down to below 10 overnight as the front passed. 

A friend had recommended that I stop and grab a Pasty from Colonel K's in Menominee, MI on the way up. Of the many choices on the menu, I picked the standard Beef and Carrot…it was on sale. I had never tried a Pasty before and it was a good as John said…thick moist crust and a flavorful filling of beef, carrots, potatoes…a meal in one hand, just like it was designed to be for the underground Miners of old who would carry them to work in their lunch bucket.

What a change in the type of people camping and visiting the area, since school has begun.
Now there are older couples in RVs, middle-aged folks, without kids and young couples with pre-school aged kids.

It is a quieter and more relaxing time, both on and off the water.
The Log Slide looking down

From the Log Slide, looking West toward the Au Sable Light

So I went to where in 1994 my oldest daughter decided to roll down a 300’ sand dune called the “Log Slide”. Not a good idea, when the roll started, both our lives flashed by, her not surviving the roll and me not surviving after I returned home without her. Lucky for both of us after 20 feet of tumbling, she was stopped by some guy standing below her as she tried to bowl him over, but her being only 8 and him much bigger, that didn’t work out, he spoiled her fun and stopped her tumble…and saved my life. The slide was steeper than I remembered back then and unless you walked partially down the hill, the bottom is not visible, but what a view!
Grand Sable Dunes rise 300’ from the shore of Lake Superior and run from this point, east almost 6 miles, then gradually taper down into the town and bay of Grand Marais.

From the “Log Slide”, AuSable Light is about 2 miles westerly, and then another 1.5 miles brings you to the Hurricane River campground, a no reservations, no running water, nice, but rustic camp. Hurricane River was where I was going to Launch. My plan was to paddle west toward the cliffs (Grand Portal) I had visited two weeks ago.
Hurricane River
Luckily, I found a parking space next to the stairway that parallels the Hurricane River to the beach. There were small waves breaking on the coarse sand and pebble beach. The campground of a dozen sites was full. None of the sites are on the water, as there is a barrier of trees and brush between the beach and waterside sites, but they do have walking access. Nice …the campground is hidden from the waterside.
Looking west toward 12 mile beach

The Romany waiting for me on the beach at Hurricane River
I launched through small waves and headed west towards the 12-mile beach and a campground of the same name, which is similar to the Hurricane River camp. 12-mile Beach is about 3 miles west of Hurricane River. An uneventful paddle. It is over 12 miles from Hurricane River to the start of the cliffs near Chapel Falls and the view is much the same. A low coarse sand and small pebble covered beach with trees behind. I saw no one on the water, in stark contrast to Labor Day when it was crowded with kayaks and powerboats; in fact, I only saw one powerboat distantly on the horizon all day.

12 Mile Beach
Reaching 12 Mile Beach I turned around and headed back, thinking...,well I am not paddling another 10 miles to the cliffs from here and I would rather look at the 300-foot dunes that are east of the AuSable Light.

Snacking on the jello with mandrin oranges

Reaching my start at Hurricane River, I beached for a snack and camera position change. The remains of several wrecked wooden ships are along the shore between Hurricane River and the AuSable Light. Some wrecks are onshore so you can wade out for a close look.
Remains of wooden ship, see the drift pins?
Watch out for the wrought iron drift pins that stick up from old wooden hulls, they could poke a hole in a fiberglass boat if a wave drops out from under you.

Au Sable Point

Au Sable Light

AuSable Light is on a rocky point with a lighthouse and a deteriorating concrete dock. It is located on rocky AuSable Point. The shallow water extends several hundred feet north out from shore. East and west of the point is the land gradually turns from rocks into a sand beach.

AuSable Light looking toward Grand Sable Dunes and Grand Marais

Heading East toward the Dunes
See the SMALL folks at the bottom of the old "Log Slide"

Reaching the Log Slide there was a group of Amish looking youngsters climbing down the hill, long dresses, flannel shirts and all. They strolled along the beach and then started the slow 2 steps up, one slide down, climb back up the sand.

Looking East toward Grand Marais, 6 miles away

Sitting on the beach below the "Slide"

Leaving the Dunes behind

Trying to catch that wave coming from behind
Paddling back the wind picked up into the upper teens as I neared the Au-Sable Light and poked around near the old ship remains

Underwater Shipwreck

At the landing...aah I remember the warmth!

Paddled 4+ hours and the trip was about 12 miles…nice day! A distinct change from Door County’s predominantly limestone shoreline.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sept 1st,  Miner’s Beach to Grand Portal+

Looking N on Miner's Beach

Looking S toward Miner's Castle..around the point

Launching on Miner's Beach
The most accessible launch site near the rugged cliffs of Pictured Rocks is at Miner’s Beach.  The downside it the long carry to the beach from the parking lot.  Several hundred feet and down 50’ of stairway gets you to the water…a cart would be nice, which is what the various outfitters used and when they reached the stairway, they just launched their plastic boats down the stairs with someone at the bottom to “catch”.  As this short, pushing 60 year old, walked past the 20 year olds who were rolling along,  I don’t know if I felt good about the carry or foolish because I didn’t have a cart.  The boat and I made it down and up the hill without consequence
The previous afternoon I had stood on the beach contemplating whether to paddle in the evening light to see the near cliffs bathed in a setting sun or wait.  That was on the tail end of the small craft advisory posted Friday…I watched the wind die to the teens, then pickup near 20 mph, 30 minutes later as the 2- 3’ waves broke on the beach.  I had paddled in those waves a week ago at Whitefish Dunes back home, but Miner's Beach is different, there was now no place to land once you reach the cliffs, no kayakers or tour boats around that Friday afternoon, just beach bathers…I waited and went to Grand Island instead.

Saturday morning I packed up the tent, found a quick breakfast at Hardees, and headed for Miner’s Beach. Beautiful, a light wind from the NNE, sunny and warm into the low 70’s, the water was mid 60’s, balmy for Lake Superior.
I'm going to be followed
Launched and headed east toward Grand Portal about 6 miles away, that was the goal. Miner’s beach is ¾ mile, maybe more, of coarse sand. The waves roll up the beach and much of the water disappears into the sand before it flows out, in contrast to Door County’s fine-grained sand, so densely packed the water rolls back out before soaking down. This beach ends and the sandstone begins’ gradually climbing into 200’ sheer cliffs, stained with mineral deposits of many hues, creating the “picture” of Pictured Rocks.

Sandstone Cliffs
Here and there are wave formed caves and arches, a few large enough to paddle in. They are either small…too small for a kayak or huge…30’ or more across.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, wear and tear
The colors of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore through the fogged up camera housing
Looking toward Mosquito Beach 
4 miles away is Mosquito Beach, a shallow flat shoal that is sandier at the east end. I stopped for a refueling and to clear moisture from the Gopro housing by laying it in the hot sun and cracking it open until the moisture evaporated out.
Mosquito Beach, looking West, from whence I came
Mosquito Beach, looking East.  Flat sandstone, covered with sand
Good camping at the mouth of the Mosquito River
Threading the needle, the Petite Portal Arch

Another perspective, Petite Portal

A kayaker in the Arch shows the size

Grand Portal and the rock fall.  Two kayakers are paddling past.
There were two large opening or Portals that I saw, one is Petite Portal an the other is Grand, which is not as Grand as in the past. There have been several rock falls in the Grand Portal Arch, so it more a look at, than paddle through site. Petite Portal, the other large arch, is massive and easily entered by kayak or small powerboats.

Kayaks on tour

A guide tending his flock

Another group of Yakkers on Tour

Ya just don't see too many triple cockpit kayaks!

It was amazing how many kayakers were out, at least 60 yakkers on tours and many private groups in all types of craft, small 12 footers to triple cockpit woodies. I watched as one dude in a short boat was caught broadside by a 4’ tour boat wake that had come from behind…he only made it through by the grace of boat design, not ability…no spray skirt, no life jacket, no shirt, just tooling along blissfully unaware, he must have had an angel watching him.

Just passed some paddle boarders
There were many paddle boards skippered by college kids with backpacks strapped to the deck, no shoes, shirts, or life jackets. Am I wrong to wonder how those paddle boards do when there is any kind of sea, or the lake turns over to 45 degrees as it often does, and the paddler is wet, the air is chilly? So I hope they are never a statistic in the paper, and their experiences build good judgement.  I’m content with a sea kayak until I move to Florida and can bask in the sun year round….that sounds sweet!

Staying cliff side...hey look, inflatables too!

On the way back, I stayed as close to the cliff face as I could. I examined the changing rocks, talked with passing paddlers, played on some waves. When the tour boats passed, the waves reflecting off the rocks created quite an unsteady sea, so a few times I ran outside of their track, then crashed over the wake, and waved with a smile to the tourists aboard.

If I had continued on a few miles Chapel Beach would have made an nice resting point, but I didn’t see it around the last point, so I took a break at Mosquito Beach again. It was mid afternoon and many more people were around than in the morning…backpackers who followed the Mosquito river down to the lake, yakkers, like me stretching a bit, even a pontoon boat who ran ashore whose crew went swimming.

Back at Miner's Beach

The wind picked up into the mid teens by now, so there were a few waves to surf on the way back. I caught a sweet ride when I landed, riding the wave for 100 feet right up onto the beach and jumped out just before I grounded. For the carry up the hill, everything came out, hatch covers; pump, to make the boat as light as possible. Huffing and puffing I made it up, changed clothes, then remembered seeing a DQ in Munising for some energy to drive home.

The Joseph Medill, 2012, anchored ashore in Escanaba, MI

The Joseph Medill in Algoma, 2004
The Joseph Medill in Sturgeon Bay, 2001

Sister ship, Fred A Busse, Sturgeon Bay, 2012
On the drive back, I took a detour around the waterfront in Escanaba and saw an old friend, the Joseph Medill, sister ship of the Fred Busse. The Busse is a now a cruise boat in Sturgeon Bay and ten years ago the Medill was down in Algoma WI waiting to be sunk as a dive boat, but the owner couldn’t get a permit from the WI DNR, so it somehow ended up in Escanaba, MI instead of in a salvage yard.

As I pulled through Marinette, WI, a friend had recommend this old school hamburger joint called Mickey-Lu’s near the south end of town. A throw back to the 40’s the burgers are cooked on a brick charcoal-fueled grill ...inside the restaurant, and were great!...satisfied, I continued on home.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore-Grand Island

Aug 31, 2012

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located between Munising and Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It sits on the shore of Lake Superior. About 40 miles long with hiking trails along the lake, some shore side and some 200 feet above on the sandstone cliffs. About a 5 hour drive from Sturgeon Bay,  the weather was great for Labor Day weekend. It is probably not a good time to visit if you want seclusion, as everyone has a 3-day weekend and are either on the trails or in the water. I was lucky and found a carry in tent site Friday afternoon at the Munising Tourist Park Campground…a nice place and a wonderful site on a sand beach, the tent was 50 feet from the water with a view into Grand Harbor.

I could have launched and paddled from there, but I set up the tent and then drove a few miles to

Sand Point Beach.
I had wanted to see cliffs and Grand Island has a few on the shore side…facing the mainland. There were small craft advisories Friday with a wind from the NW…banging waves into the mainland shore where had I really wanted to go, Sand Point was protected, being in the lee of Grand Island.

I headed to the old lighthouse,
 which is in private hands and now maintained in a rustic way. No waves, little wind, swells surging in and out on the rocky shore. The lighthouse was clean and neat, but in good shape, much better than the last time I was here??, 20 years ago?
There is a sand beach near the lighthouse and an old metal skiff onshore, rusting away and lonely. Paddling NE from the lighthouse, the shore is rocky sandstone, gradually rising up to about 50/60’ where I turned back several miles away.
It is interesting to look at the different layers so obvious in the sandstone. One layer is a mixture of small rocks imbedded in the sand and you can follow it around the island. An interesting book about geology and time dating rocks and fossils is “The Map that Changed the World” by Simon Winchester

There were many small wave formed caves and a few larger ones.

The last one I visited had a ceiling 20 feet high and it was 60 feet across…cool!
(The last picture from the GoPro mounted on the kayaks tail before I bumped into the rock at the back of the cave and pushed the mount down)

If I had kept going around Grand Island the cliffs get higher and more colorful.
Heading back to the mainland, as the sun would be setting soon, I went by the old Coast Guard Station on Sand Point, which is now a museum.

There was an old 30’ wooden boat half-sunk and upside down on the shore. Strip built, once powered, it had a steel protected cutwater. The keel had a nicely fitted and obvious scarf near the propeller shaft.
I landed at Sand Point just before sunset. A couple walked up to me while I was packing up and wanted their photo taken, so I did, then she offered to send a photo she had taken of me paddling in, backlit by the setting sun…I don’t have many photos of myself paddling. Arriving back at the campground after dark, I watched the twilight fade and the full moon rise…took a snooze until morning….
Boatmans Wake from Sand Point