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Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon, MI – October 17-19, 2014


HikerJen
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“The Porkies” is one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest at 60,000 acres. It boasts towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams. It’s located in Upper Michigan along Lake Superior and there are over 90 miles of trails. With 65 wilderness campsites (many with bear poles), some cabins and yurts for rent, you can choose your experience to suit your tastes. Wilderness camping and bushwacking are also allowed.

My son and I left early Friday morning for an 8 hour drive, and arrived at the Visitor’s Center at around 3 pm to get our permits and any pertinent information from the Rangers. They told us we had come during their rainy season, and the trails were pretty wet. We drove to the Lake Superior trailhead on M107, donned our rain gear and packs, and hit the trail. Our targeted first night’s camp was a 3 ½ mile hike set against the Lake Superior shoreline. The Rangers weren’t kidding about the trail conditions, we soon discovered– the trails were wet and soggy, and sometimes they had become streams. We slogged on and the rain stopped by the time we found our campsite, so we were able to set up our tent and have dinner in relative dryness. Lake Superior was pretty choppy and there was a stiff wind coming off the water. I had a difficult time getting to sleep due to the waves crashing onto the shore nearby, even with earplugs.

The next morning we made breakfast, broke camp and headed back out on the Lake Superior trail heading west. Again, the trails were wet and soggy. The weather was better on this day – overcast in the morning, sunny in the afternoon. The trail sometimes went right along-side the lake, sometimes up and over a ridge. There were many water crossings via footbridge or a jump. We headed south on the Big Carp River trail at that trail head, following the Big Carp River for a while. This was a strong rushing river and we passed a couple of waterfalls – it was very pretty. Again, there were many water crossings (one crossing the Big Carp River was actually pretty wide with no bridge – we had to cross over via a downed tree). We made camp when we got to a campsite about a quarter mile past the Correction Line Trail intersection. Made it to our campsite by 3:30 – awesome time! Total mileage logged – 10.5 miles. We had a lot of extra time so we set up camp, did some exploring, and foraged around for dry wood. Around 5 pm we started a campfire and made pizza over the open fire for dinner – yummy!

Sunday morning we had breakfast, broke camp and backtracked to the Correction Line trail. We headed down this trail in a southeasterly direction. The Ranger had mentioned that this trail was muddy and he was right! We were going up in elevation this day, and passed a couple of peaks that topped out at 525 feet. Yes, people – 525 feet. This is the Midwest, not the Grand Tetons…if you want higher elevation in the Midwest, go to Isle Royale…but that’s another trip report. We hiked on to Mirror Lake, skirted it, then turned on to the North Mirror Lake trail (heading northeast), and followed that to it’s end at the Lake of the Clouds Scenic area to view one of the nicest vistas in the area. Then it was a short, 1 mile hike back to our car for a total of 8.2 miles this day. The total miles logged for the weekend was 22.2 miles – not bad for a short trip!

This was an awesome trip – firstly, I hadn’t camped or gone backpacking with my son in almost two years (that’s what happens when they go away to college and work a summer job in another state); secondly, I had heard great things about the Porkies and had been wanting to go for a while. I’d definitely recommend this state park for anyone – there are plenty of backpacking campsites and trails, and if you’re from the Midwest and want a quick 3-4 day trip, the Porkies is a great place for it. Also, it’s the only true backpacking experience I’ve come across in the Midwest where you can actually hike a loop, and camp in a different campsite each night (not that quick in and out overnight stuff). You could spend a week here if you planned it right…

My recommendations – do not bring trail-runners (at least during the fall, rainy season)! There is too much water that needs to be crossed for that type of footwear. Do go earlier in October for the best fall colors – we hit the tail end of the fall season, and while there were still some leaves on the trees, most were on the ground. And finally, be careful of your speed when driving up M107. There aren’t any posted speed limit signs the last 10 miles of road before the Porkies, and I earned myself a speeding ticket – my first ever :(. Do go to the Porkies – it was a great Midwest hiking experience!

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HikeToBreatheFreely

Hey there! It looks like it was a great trip! I used to live in the U.P. of MI for about 7 years. The area up there is truly beautiful. I just got tired of the cold. Haha

Thanks for sharing your adventure, i loved your pictures.

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Really enjoyed the trip report and loved the photos! Extra special you got to go with your son, fantastic.

Also, I'm right with you on the elevation comment. Over 500 is like Everest to me here in Kansas.

Gary M

Olathe, Kansas

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Great TR Jen. And about the 500" elevation. That is about 2/3's of our 45 minute daily hike out the back door to try to keep in shape.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Awesome report and thanks for sharing! Brings back some great memories from my trips there...One of my favorite places to go in the Midwest as well.

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