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.