Pictured Rocks + Grand Island Kayak

I had heard the legends of Gitche Gumme’s bi-polar behavior in the past, some of which was dutifully chronicled in Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” about the Lake Superior freighter that disappeared and sunk in a nasty gale in the 70’s, but the true magnitude of the lake had escaped me. The sheer size of Superior was what amazed me most, and the fact that we were planning on spending four days camping her shoreline seemed a daunting task (see all pictures HERE), as I stared north towards Canada, but saw nothing but aqua-blue 40 degree water.

4 footers pounding Mosquito Beach during early morning coffee

Neé and I had decided as a final Michigan sendoff, we would sea-kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and spend time at Grand Island as well. Being mid-May, we expected not to run into any crowds, and this assumption proved to be correct. Our guide Carl from Northern Waters Paddling assured us he was doubtful that the DNR had even been over to Grand Island to clear deadwood, or ready it for the summer season. He was right.

Our gear being loaded at Sand Point for the launch


Day 1:

After arriving in Munising, MI after a 6 hour car ride north, we were greeted by Carl at his kayak shop right on the shores of Superior. We were fortunate to have his attention to safety detail, and I reminded myself of this as he took us through our 7-hour safety course in order to venture onto Gitchee Gumme by ourselves. “I would rather have you feel what 39 degree water feels like for real, rather than going to some warm inland lake to practice rescues…You are less likely to take chances out there once she takes your breath away,” Carl told me. He was a grizled Superior local who saw her mood swings, and saw rookies like us get into some pretty hairy situations, some life-threatening.

After 4 hrs of classroomm instruction that included weather, waves, gear, and emergency techniques we were finally paddling. The gin-clear water of Munising Bay seemed like childsplay compared to the 1000 foot deep, 40 degree waters that lie offshore. We practiced paddle strokes, and even in-water rescues. Jeneé and I were shocked at the detail of the tandem, and self rescues, but it was great information, and experience to have!

Getting close to the walls – you can kind of see the comparative size and yes, those are huge, full-grown trees

We spent the afternoon on the water, and it was too late in the evening to paddle the shore to find a camping spot, so we decided to backpack in a couple miles and camp atop the massive cliffs of Pictured Rocks.

Pictured Rocks is visual proof of the Great Lakes glaciated past, and her 500-million year old sandstone is painted with various mineral shades that jut up 250 feet off the surface of the lake for 20 miles on the north borders of the Upper Peninsula. Truly one of the most incredible places I have even seen in the natural world.

We were able to set camp near Miners Castle, on a 200 foot bluff looking back towards Munising and enjoyed an evening completely alone under the massive canopy’s of deciduous tree cover.

Day 2:

After an early start and some camp coffee, we loaded the kayaks and shoved off from Miners Castle Beach planning to paddle along the rocks to Mosquito River Beach. I am not kidding when I say we were the ONLY people on the water. As a matter of fact; we only saw 2 other kayaks the entire weekend, and one fishing boat way off in the distance. True solitude. That’s Pure Michigan (I had to say it).

The sheer magnitude of the Pictured Rocks was in full force, and we had pond water calm lake surface to make the 4.5 mile paddle east. It was amazing to see the various rust colored layers, and random waterfalls sprung from the sandstone rock faces.

Battling the winds headed back to Miners – Jenee Daws

Reaching Mosquito River and it’s campground, we had some lunch and decided that this was where we wanted to stay the night. Only problem was our gear was back at Miner’s Castle Beach. The trip east was smooth sailing, but by afternoon, a steady 15 knot west wind had developed along with steady 2 foot swells. This made the trip back along the rocks anything but scenic, and it turned into quite the workout as we slogged back to Miners.

Deciding that Mosquito River was where we wanted to sleep, we shouldered our packs, and actually hiked 2.5 miles back into the park. The trail was woven amongst huge stands of old-growth and huge deciduous trees. We chose a site up on a bluff overlooking the lake, and by then we were ready for a drink, and some sleep. We wandered the beach taking in the changing weather, then huddled down in our tent as a Lake Superior storm bore down and churned the lake into a frenzy.

Mosquito Beach

The next morning, not wanting to tempt fate, we hiked out and drove back to Munising to wait out the weather and let the seas subside. Our next move was to paddle across the channel to Grand Island, an 14,000 acre uninhabited island off the coast of the U.P just north of the town of Munising.

“Lovers Leap” Arch

The Arch

Leaving Sand Point, we paddled the channel, then gained our security by hugging the rugged shoreline of Grand Island and stayed out of the wind and swell. The 5 mile paddle forced us around the thumb of the island and back into pristine Trout Bay. When we landed on the sands of Trout Bay, I was convinced we were the first people to be on the island in 2012. Not a track or sign of a person for miles!

Neé took a nap on the beach, and I set camp for the night really enjoying the solitude. If I could do it over again, I would probably spend two nights in Trout Bay because the solitude is hard to beat, and the views of Pictured Rocks 20 miles to the east are breathtaking!

A roaring fire and a belly of chili made the 5 mile paddle weigh heavy, and both of us were asleep barely after sundown.

Trout Bay – Grand Island panorama

The highlight of the trip came at 6:25 AM the next morning when we were able to watch sunrise over the Pictured Rocks, while sipping coffee on the beach! We had not seen a person for two days, and the wild feeling of where we were really sank in! Such a beautiful place, that so many people in the Midwest, let alone Michigan barely ever experience.

Sunrise from Trout Bay looking back 25 miles to Pictured Rocks


Here is a brief slideshow of a few pictures, but click the link at the beginning to check out all the pictures!

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The Midwest – It’s Phlat!

People who live in areas where the ground actually has undulation maybe won’t be able to relate to this, but still it’s too funny not to share. Here in Mid-Michigan the latest craze has been Nordic Snowboarding or “XC Boarding”. Developed by flatlanders Joel Warren and Tate Evans, Cross Country Snowboarding’s roots are humble. But with an ever-increasing interest in recreation pushing the envelope, this one just may have some legs, especially in parts of the country where you can see your dog run away for 3 days.

Don’t take it from me, watch the 3 minute demonstration yourself. Just as promotional health host Cal Johnson, who decribes Cross Country Snowboarding as “a safe, low-impact cardio activity, with the great cool factor, to get you noticed on the nordic track.”

All Outfitters – One Stop Adventure Vaca Shop!

AllOutfitters


In our frenetic daily lives people want streamlined, organized, and easy to digest information right now, and at their fingertips. Consider the stats: 1 BILLION Google searches each day, and 41.6 MILLION searches an hour mean people have become used to finding the answer or resource they are searching for in a matter of seconds. We are spoiled in that way. Seriously, why waste time searching 15 sites? Imagine a website that acts as a search engine for outdoor hunting and adventure based trips?

Meet AllOutfitters.com. A comprehensive website launched in 2012 by two Midwestern brothers features the ultimate resource for hunting, fishing, wingshooting, and adventure outfitters. The complete resources of the website puts guides, lodges, and charters throughout North America literally at your fingertips, and would make Larry Csonka’s head spin.

AllOutfitters.com is the world’s largest online adventure directory featuring 15,000+ listings and counting, and doesn’t plan on stopping soon. The beauty of it is in the “social” aspect of it. All lodges/outfitters can have a listed profile, and just like Google, if you pay you will get “featured listing” status. Either way the connection to the information you need to make decisions is packaged up in front of you.

What I love the most is the ease of use, and often times websites miss the mark on simple, streamlined flow, and what users expect from their visit. Lately we have been shopping for a car, and sites like cars.com or vehix.com make the car shopping and research process a breeze. AllOutfitters takes this same concept in their easy browse and search functions called “Build A Trip”. Each trip selection that you choose based on sport and location will only display choices from your specific search and preferences of location and trip! You pick what you want, and the options come to you. How Google of them?! So whether you are wanting to knock down a Moose in ‘da Yukon, or slay some Marlin in the Caribbean while sipping a Landshark it’s all right here.

Results are presented with everything you need and all of their information listed (location, accomodations, methods, equipment, guides, seasons, limits, trip durations, prices, travel, weather, and what to bring). Also, they upload photo galleries as well as field reports which keep people up to date with anything they want, such as “check out this 50 inch muskie caught today, what a brute!”, or “limit of pheasant shot before 10 am” or maybe just to post daily fishing reports… whatever they want, and it’s all there.

AllOutfitters doesn’t plan on stopping with trips, all your field needs are addressed. Including a feature for “Gun Dog Breeders” to find your perfect companion when in the field! Check out AllOutfitters.com. Find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @AllOutfitters

Preconceived NOceans

Lake Superior Surfing - Hanging 10 (degrees) credit: Flickr igmaino

One thing is for sure.  Midwestern Surfers are either nuts, the hardcore-est of the hardcore, a mix of both, or something completely all in their own.  Some people would look at this and say “why?” with raised eyebrows. You may have already said that yourself when you looked at the picture above.  Well as I see it, it falls into some of the same categories as to why someone would want to climb a mountain, or run a marathon.  Often times it really comes down to “because I can” or “because no one else has” or “because I want to”.

Famous English climber George Mallory once was asked why he wanted to climb Everest and he replied, “Becasue it’s there.”  The reasoning behind what makes people pursue different adventures may be as simple as the love of the idea that no one else does this, or they relish in telling stories about surfing Lake Superior while gawking faces look on in astonishment.  Maybe it’s the simple fact that they love the feeling of being on the edge, and in their own way hanging ten in the Midwest fulfills that urge and satisfies that feeling.

Any way it lands, the trailer for the upcoming film Preconceived Noceans seems to bite at this urge a bit.  To me, surfing in the dead of winter seems insane but at the same time, I get it because I can see some of my own hobbies and plans causing people to think or say, “why the hell would you want to do that?”

What to wear? Layering systems

Believe it or not, the gear you wear outside functions best within a systematic approach.   The basics include base layers (close to the skin, usually merino wool), a midweight fleece of light jacket (1/4 zip), a goose down insulating system, and finally an outer shell to protect you from rain, snow, sleet and wind!

 

Lake Superior Ice Spray

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does Ed Viesturs do it?  Check out his Mt. Rainier summit pack, and packing list.  Rainier is known to have some of the most unpredicatble weather on the planet, so this list will give you a great systematic approach to warmth and comfort while outside.

 

Ed's Pack

 
 

Ed's List