Day 11: Lake Superior State Forest, Deer Park, Michigan
Leaving our cozy campsite, we continue west on Michigan State Hwy 58. The road soon turns from firm, compacted sand to limestone rocks the size of one’s fist. It is the largest ‘gravel’ I have ever seen covering a road.
“Huh,” I think as the rough surface chatters our teeth and threatens to shake the Westy kitchen cabinets loose from their mounts, “musta fixed a washout here.” But the road continues like this, every turn revealing yet another stretch of lumpy boulders, and we soon slow to a more prudent speed. This continues. For eighteen. Agonizing. Miles. By the time we finally hit pavement again just outside Grand Marais, Michigan, our ears are ringing …
It has begun to rain again, so we forego a hike in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We backpacked here several years ago, but the best views of the painted cliffs are from the waters of Lake Superior, either from a tour boat or your own sea kayak.
Just beyond Munising we pause at a roadside scenic overlook and upon disembarking notice that the cobblestone road has claimed one of our plastic wheel covers. It also occurs to me that this is the same wheel cover which I had to remove in order to change the wheel this morning, so perhaps the road is not entirely to blame. I didn’t really care for the looks of the covers anyway, and will later replace them with something a bit less fruity, but they were the factory originals and are pretty expensive to replace. So if you find yourself driving this same road, and you spot my wheel cover lying in the weeds, please pick it up and email me before selling it on eBay …
We putter west to Marquette, then up through L’Anse—French for ‘cove’—at the head of Keweenaw Bay. Continuing northwesterly, we venture out onto the Abbaye Peninsula, pointing like a finger into the vastness of Lake Superior. The roads grow narrower and more scarce, then soon turn to sand and nicely compacted gravel. We see the last of the power poles in front of a lonely cottage, hinting that the small cabins beyond here are without electricity. With autumn shrubs brushing along Vanasazi’s muddy flanks, the double-track threading through the Copper Country State Forest eventually peters out at a small trailhead very near the last bit of land on this peninsula.A short stretch of the legs on the wooded path brings us to Point Abbaye, offering a sweeping view of slate-gray Superior, from the eastern edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula to the hulking headlands of the Huron Mountains, rising 800 feet above the lake. Near their feet, floating just offshore, lie the Huron Islands, about eight miles distant. A national wildlife refuge for nesting waterfowl, one of the two small islands also hosts a tall white lighthouse, gleaming faintly in the waning afternoon grayness. We potter about in the tide-pool-like bowls on this stony point of land as a commercial fishing boat chugs into the harbor with it’s catch, then finally head back down to L’Anse.
After having slept in the Westy for nearly another week, we opt for a room in a motel above the beautiful little harbor tonight, and enjoy long hot showers and sprawling on the queen-size bed. Today is our wedding anniversary, and we quietly celebrate with a fine dinner in a local example of that beloved upper-midwestern institution, the ‘supper club’, before retiring for the evening.