Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beaver Lake Basin Hike

A Hike Through Time

The Beaver Lake Basin Wilderness Area
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

On Saturday, September 29, 2012, my two friends (Chuck and Pish) and I hiked into the Beaver Lake Basin Wilderness Area which is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PRNL).  We had wanted to do this hike for some time and the day provided us with the perfect opportunity.  Cool (55 degrees), mostly clear with broken clouds, and not a bug in the air.  The three of us met at Chuck and Pish's house shortly before 9 a.m. for the hour-long ride to the trail head.

Picture Rocks - Some History

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in Alger County, MI.  The Lakeshore extends for approximately 42 miles along the shore and was established by the U.S. Congress in 1966 (the first officially designated National Lakeshore in the United States.  The Lakeshore is governed by the National Park Service.  It covers approximately 73,000 acres and hosts more than 470,000 visitors each year.

The Beaver Basin Wilderness Area

In 2009, President Obama signed the Public Land Management Act which, among other actions, created the Beaver Basin Wilderness (BBW) within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Encompassing more than 11,700 acres, the BBW also includes more than 13 miles of L. Superior Shoreline, and extends some 3.5 miles from the shoreline southeast into the wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The BBW includes individual and small group camping along 8.4 miles of North Country Trails and 8.5 miles of connecting trails.  Hunting, fishing, day hiking, overnight backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, and snowshoeing keep visitors busy.

The two main lakes in the BBW include Beaver Lake and Little Beaver Lake.  Numerous cold water creeks feed the lakes.  Brook trout,  various  species of bass, and norther pike lurk in the depths of the two lakes.  Boating is permitted with electric motors only.

Our Hike

Chuck and Pish
Chuck  and Pish (my hiking partners) are both accomplished outdoor enthusiasts.  I've been fortunate enough to accompany them on many hikes in and around Marquette county (and elsewhere).  As noted, we drove from Marquette to the Beaver Basin Wilderness Area pretty early in the morning.  Fall hiking is always dicey in the north country because one never knows how to dress.  Layers are best.  Snacks, plenty of water, hiking staffs, and some extra layers completed the contents of our day-packs. 
After an hour and 15 minutes, we arrived at the trail head which is located off of H-58, approximately 20 miles east of the town of Munising.  The parking lot at the trail-head was full - not a good sign.  A quick check of our gear and one quick check of the posted trail maps and we headed into the woods.

Hiking through the BBW was an enchanting experience.  The trails winds through many different terrains ranging from swampy lowlands to dry upland mature beech/maple forests.  Unique rock formations could be seen at almost every turn early in the hike.  Our goal was to circumnavigate both the Little Beaver Lake and Beaver Lake itself.  We thought our hike would cover approximately 8.0 miles.  We were wrong!

After about 90 minutes, our route took us to bluffs about 30 feet above Lake Superior; the perfect place for lunch.  Spreading a tarp, we enjoyed a lunch of trail mix, water, apples, strawberries, cheese, crackers, spinach dip, humus and crusty bread.  One must remember that nutrition on the trail is important.

After lunch, we hoisted our packs once again and continued along the Lake Superior bluff for a few miles, then headed southeast back into the woods.  Our route took us along the northwest shore of Beaver Lake, until we curved to the right, heading more  southwest along the south shore of Beaver Lake.  Watching our GPSs and the maps we carried, we soon realized that our distance estimate was off and our total hike would most likely be 12+ miles.  Our legs ached at the thought,but we pressed on through a mix of mature coniferous forest.  When the trail would dip into lowlands, cute bridges would help us over the streams.

Towards the end of our hike (will this trail ever end?), we came across some of the group campsites near the southern most tip of Beaver Lake.  Very nice spots directly adjacent to of of many small bogs we came across.

Arriving back at the parking lot, we unloaded our gear, stretched, loaded the car and headed back to Munising for bottled water for the trip home.  As it turns out, we didn't need to worry about the full parking lot we noticed when we arrived.  We saw about eight people on the trail the entire day.

Arriving back in Marquette, Chuck, Pish, and I enjoyed dinner with two other friends who couldn't hike with us.  The grilled wild-caught salmon in a jerk marinade, steamed broccoli, scalloped potatoes, and more than our fair share of Pinot Noir set the stage for a wonderful homemade apple/pear crumble and vanilla ice cream for dessert. 

Hey, we earned it!

More pictures:

A cave underneath one of the rock cliffs.

Chuck and Pish head down the trail.


Trail through pines.