2 Women, 3 Days, 27 Miles, and an Entire Can of 40% DEET Bug Spray

What sort of weekend excursion should two 30-something, slightly overweight women with desk jobs take? If you said “Hike 27 miles of the rugged backcountry terrain at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore” you’d be right. We might not be the most fit people in the world, but my sister and I are rabid lovers of the outdoors and luckily don’t mind taking on a challenge in our down time.

Our reward for this was great conversation (sans interruptions by children or commentary from anyone else), fantastic scenery, and true appreciation for things like cold water, cool breezes, food in non-bar form, and soft beds and pillows. Oh, and showers.

Here are some things I learned whilst on the trail.

1. 12 miles is really about 4 miles too long for the first day.

2. If you get 40% DEET bug spray on your lip, it will start to go numb.

3. I now fully appreciate John the Baptist’s cry in the wilderness to “make His paths straight.”

4. My sister is really awesome at her very stressful job.

5. When you know you have to climb yet more inclines, you can somehow make yourself do it.

6. Michiganders are blessed with some of the most stunning scenery around, yet too few of us take the time to get out and appreciate it.

7. During the past 46 years of national park status and funding, the National Park Service has failed (or hasn’t seen the need) to put mile markers on any of the trails at Pictured Rocks. This would be helpful.

8. The ubiquitous Nanny State has yet to extend its reach to Pictured Rocks, where one can stumble around on the very edge of sandy, unstable cliffs (and, in fact, must do this in order to reach many campsites) without a railing in sight and without signing any sort of waiver. (The only rails are in place only to protect a few choice natural features from erosion. Human beings are left to their own devices or stupidity.)

9. There’s nothing quite like standing completely alone on an empty rocky shore after sunset and contemplating the vast darkness of Lake Superior.

10. When my little son is old enough, I will bring him to this amazing place.

To see more pictures from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, click here.

9 thoughts on “2 Women, 3 Days, 27 Miles, and an Entire Can of 40% DEET Bug Spray

  1. Great photos. I am glad you had a good time. I really miss backpacking there.

    I fully understand your concern about the mile markers. A friend and I backpacked from the Chapel Road parking area to the Hurricane River campsite (~17.5 miles) all in one day, because the maps the USFS gave out did not include the distances from the parking area to Chapel Rock. The ranger insisted it was only a little ways from the parking lot, which we had no way to confirm and there were no markers. This was 12 years ago, but it sounds like it has not changed.

    And the butterflies you photographed are Great Spangled Fritillaries. This time of year they and the smaller Atlantis and Aphrodite Fritillaries are all over the place up there. The Great Spangled ones are larger, but look very similar to the smaller species (http://davemarvinphotos.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-06-29T17:30:00-04:00&max-results=5). These ones are definitely Great Spangled ones base on their ventral wing markings. They are also most likely males, as they are “puddling” or licking up minerals from the damp sand. Generally, only male butterflies do that.

  2. I am so glad you recognized and appreciated the lack of nanny state in this park. That is the essence of the UP in general, but is is slowly creeping into special places with fences, boardwalks, signs, rules

  3. Sounds like a fun trip and brings back so many memories for me. Chad and I backpacked the 42-mile route along Pictured Rocks just weeks after our wedding. I’m certain we ended up doing that 17.5 mile hike David mentions in one day as well! And we overslept our last morning and had to run, yes, run the last couple of miles to catch the shuttle. It was a memorable trip. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I’m planning a bike trip up there next year.

  4. We go up to Garden, MI every year at least once and stay at our family home there. We took the kids and their friends up to Munising a few weeks ago to see the waterfalls and some of the pictured rocks areas for an afternoon! Gorgeous!

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