Camping Here, Backpacking There - Superior Hiking Trail & Porcupine Mountains

I went up north, planning to be gone for about two weeks. I intended to lead two group backpacking trips with Laura, who is a yoga instructor. The first was I Am Enough, in Minnesota, and the second, Wild Heart in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Unfortunately a fire north of the Superior Hiking Trail had us changing plans several times. Concerned about air quality issues, Laura and I decided to just backpack on the SHT alone for a few days instead.


The first day, I drove for about ten hours then stopped at a Wisconsin State Forest campground for the night. Along the way I stopped to admire the view of the Mackinac Bridge and spent a little time looking for rocks on Lake Michigan. I'm not very good at long drives and stop often 😂

View from my first campground.

In Minnesota, I arrived several hours earlier to the area than Laura, so while I waited, I hiked a couple of miles up to an overlook to go see Bean and Bear Lakes.

Bean Lake. I believe.. or Bear Lake?

Afterwards, I went to the visitor's center to pay for parking for the next few days. The clerk rang me up and I was handing over money when another park employee leaned over and said 'Hey, you're not going on the Superior Hiking Trail are you?". Of course I was... but I was then told that the trail was closed for overnight use because of the fire further north. Although the air quality was fine and the fire was quite far away, they wanted to keep people off of the trail in case of emergency. Well! I probably should have called before driving up.


When Laura arrived, we booked a site at a drive-in campground fifteen miles north and spent the evening hiking near the Temperance River and up to Carlton Peak. The view of Lake Superior was fantastic, and I love the rocky trails in that area. We also were lucky and saw a bald eagle.

The next morning, we went for a short hike from the campsite then drove five hours to Michigan, deciding to spend a few days backpacking at Porcupine Mountains before the group trip began. We dropped off Laura's car in one location, and planned to hike one way eighteen miles or so over three days. With stopping for lunch and a few other detours, we didn't arrive at the trailhead until the sun was starting to set. I had a roadside dinner of tuna then we headed out, just a mile and a half to the first site in the woods.

Getting a late start.

The next morning, we got an early start, although it turned out we didn't need as much time as expected. The trail to the next campsite goes along the shore of Lake Superior, and was much flatter than I would have guessed. It is prone to flooding, but was mostly dry when we were there. The shoreline of that area is big chunks of basalt, and was a beautiful view at times. The weather was perfect, not too hot and somehow no mosquitoes at all. We took our time and had a few stops, for lunch and to look at various plants. I had a personal goal for the trip to learn definitively the difference between the various conifers, and we debated different trees, using a guidebook as a reference.


As we neared our next campsite, Laura stopped and turned around, hands in the air. She had just realized that she left her car keys in my car, and had not brought them! We would not be able to drive back to my car if we went to our planned endpoint. Well. Another change of plans then 😂 We arrived at the campsite nice and early, around 2:30, and looked at the map for options. It would be possible to go back to my car the next day along a different trail for just nine or ten miles, instead of the planned seven. No problem then! It was so nice to relax at the campsite and sit next to the river. I spent time reading and taking notes, enjoying the cold water.

Big Carp River, next to one of our campsites.

We woke up again when the sky was light but the forest was still dark, with the tall hemlocks blocking the morning sun. We walked back along the Escarpment Trail, which is perhaps the most well-known trail in the park, with good reason. The views of Lake of the Clouds and Big Carp River are incredible, and we got back with plenty of time to rest and start to prepare for the group trip the following day.


This impromptu trip was very enjoyable, despite (or because of?) the many twists and turns and plan changes. It's nice to travel with someone who is flexible and doesn't mind adapting. It was a great chance to see a bit of the Superior Hiking Trail and explore more of the Porcupine Mountains.


To read about Wild Heart, the trip that started on the following day, click here. Below are a few more photos from the trip, some with captions. If you want to be notified of future trips, please sign up for the mailing list, at the bottom of the page.


1 comment