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.
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 beach...orange 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
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.