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.

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