Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Winnona Visits the Porkies

Friday June 20 & Saturday June 21, 2014
Union Bay Campground
Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park
Ontonagon, Michigan



FRIDAY: We’re going to the Porkies




Today we leave the beautiful Pictured Rocks to venture on along the Lake Superior shore.

  It’s another one of those if David and Sherry are traveling then it must be raining days. 

And it is raining and it is cold and damp.  Sure doesn’t feel like the day before the Summer Solstice.  

We turn on the heater and I smell something.  David does not smell it but he has learned to trust my super beagle nose.  It persists.  We turn the heater off, it dissipates.  Looks like a call to Winnebago next week.  These things always happen on a Friday don’t they?   David thinks it is coolant leaking on the engine block or exhaust manifold from a heater hose or the heater control valve. He thinks he can look into it.  But I love that Winnebago Technical support is only a phone call away 8-5 Central time. 


The trip is 173 miles pretty much straight west with no road changes.  That’s a nice thing about being in the much less populated UP, there aren’t many roads and the main ones go between here and there.   So we just pull out of the driveway of the Munising Tourist Park Campground, turn right and keep going for 173 miles until we end up in the Porcupine Mountains so named because from a distance they look like the backs of porcupines.  They are sharply rounded and covered with trees. 

The park is happy to report that many of those trees are old growth hemlock, yellow birch, maple and pine.  David is happy about this too.

Like all of the Michigan state parks we have been to this one has electric but not water or sewer.  There is a potable water take on at the dump station and given their short camping season you can’t really blame them for not wanting to have to deal with a lot of water hookups.




Our site comes with a great big rock and a great big tree.  Winnona looks very fine there.  And the duckies have a semi-lake view although they have to look through the rainy windows. 

We are right across the road from the Lake Superior rocky shoreline although other campsites for tents and smaller vehicles, as well as trees, block an open view but I’m sure when the winds come off the lake everyone is glad for those trees.





So all in all, everything is fine but it’s mighty cold outside. That damp chilling kind of cold  that says you are right by a big northern lake.   I don’t think I’m going to get to wear shorts at all this summer unless things drastically change.  Maybe when I get to the plains of North Dakota.

It’s STILL raining so we don’t do much of a set up. We settle in with our electric heater and plan what we want to do while we are here.



SATURDAY:  It’s the LONGEST day of the year.

More hours of daylight today than any other day.  Everyone should be outside in the sunshine (hopefully)  celebrating the SUMMER SOLSTICE.  And we are for sure going to be kissing the Earth with our feet in celebration today even if it isn’t sunny here.



First off on this Solstice Day, as on all first days anywhere we go , is a visit the visitors center.  We check out the outdoor kiosks before going inside and find this great Wanted poster.  I think every state that has these 4 footed villains should have this same attitude.  Way to go Michigan!!




This is a HUGE park. In fact, it is the largest state park in Michigan.  To quote their brochure.  it is “comprised of 60,000 acres of majestic, towering trees, rugged terrain, secluded lakes, spectacular waterfalls, pristine beaches and miles of wild rivers and streams.”  Well now, how does that sound? 

And located on Lake Superior just for good measure.   Oh boy, I think we are going to like it here.


We find this park is acting a lot like a National Park.  It has a great informative visitor center with a film and terrific exhibits on the history, geology and natural history of the area.  They have an artist in residence program.  On the wall are several really fine works of art donated from the artists.  I particularly love this watercolor and this waterfall picture of course.  Can’t wait to find this one.





This may be the only state park I’ve been in which has Wilderness areas within it.  Wilderness is among the highest levels of protection.  I wish much more of our land was like this, where there are no roads and humans can hike in to visit, camp for a few days, but then they must leave the area to its natural ways and inhabitants. 




The rugged interior of the Porcupine Mountains limited human activity to its outer edges for long enough that it was able to be protected.  The primary objective of saving the Porcupine Mountains was not only to make available for public use the highest range of hills between the Alleghenies and the Black Hills, but to preserve forever, as a forest museum, the last large stand of hardwoods and hemlocks still existing in Michigan.   The result is the largest stand of old growth hardwood and hemlock forest in the state.   Look at this map.  OH BOY!









I also get the chance to compare my paw prints to those of a black bear and a wolf.  I find it wonderful that I can do this and that they are both still out there wild and free in this place.




Because the park is so large, the distance from one end to the other is over 30 miles, today we are looking for some things relatively close to home. 


Like a National park this one has a park newspaper which gives advice about what to do if you are here for a day, for 2 days for 3 or more days.  It claims the most photographed area and the hallmark view of the Porcupine Mountains is the view at Lake of the Clouds.  This is just down the road from the campground.  So that’s our destination for today.  We pack some lunch and head out.  The parking lot is at the western terminus of Highway 107.



We take the boardwalk to the spectacular viewing areas atop a 300 foot precipice that overlooks Lake of the Clouds and the heart of the Porcupine Mountains.   The Lake is over a mile long yet only 15’ deep.   It is fed by the Big Carp River which enters at the far end of the lake.

I can see why it’s called Lake of the Clouds.  It’s not the greatest day for getting the best views as it is overcast and foggy.  But still this is pretty darn spectacular.





The sign about the cliff is too funny but I guess they have to remind the stupid that when they look WAY down there they should do it from behind the safety net.



The viewing area is all made from native stone and is really extremely nice.  It goes a long way along the cliff so you can get views from many angles. 




We can’t see the river coming into the lake but we can see it going out and winding its way through the trees which almost cover it from sight. 




WAY down there is a cool bridge going over it.  I can barely see it with my eyes and can’t see it at all in the distant pictures I take but my camera zoom can and I want to go down there and see where the trail goes.  

David remarks that if you go all that way down then you have to climb all that way up.   True true but that’s pretty much true in any mountain park you go to.  I’m very used to that in the Shenandoah National Park which was very near the farm.  I really prefer my ups first and my downs when I’m tired at the end of the hike but that isn’t the way it goes very often.



Before we start our hike down we admire all the wildflowers growing naturally all around the rocks.  Small fields of daisies and asters.  




The sign says we are on the escarpment trail.  We aren’t really headed anywhere except to and across the bridge and wherever that takes us.

Pretty immediately this feels like the wilderness it was set aside to be.   David finds a giant pine.  It takes 2 pictures to get it all.  I hold the camera up over my head to get its lofty crown.  BIG trees is right.  We’re gonna like this place. 






The trails here are designed like a National park as well.  Boards and steps are placed to protect the environment if the hikers will only stay on them.









When we come to the bridge it is covered in dragonflies.  Of course they all fly off when we arrive but they alight on a log near the river and I’m able to get some pictures of them.  The bridge also seems to be the home of some opportunistic beavers who have used it to stabilize their creation.












That’s the edge of the beaver lodge in this picture of the lovely river that I sure wish I could paddle.  But it appears the only way to launch into the lake is to carry your boat down the trail to the bottom and back up again.  I don’t think that’s happening.  My kayak cart can’t do the trail so it will have to be just a dream.  It would be lovely to paddle such a secluded lake wouldn’t it?  The river would dump me out into Lake Superior.






We cross the long bridge and head into territory unknown.




Because of all the rain the Great Lakes region has had this year, the trail crews can’t keep up with all the mud so sometimes you just have to try to make your own way.  The fecundity here should take care of any tracks ultimately as long as there aren’t toooo many folks.   But we’ve found that about 75% of park visitors every where we have been go no further than the pullovers and wayside stops provided for them.  More than about 300 feet or half mile at the most and they aren’t game.

Actually even we don’t go very far along because it is just too wet and muddy we have no destination in mind.  We turn around and go back over the bridge where we meet 3 courageous back packers heading out into the mud and the campsites beyond which I’m sure they are hoping are dry.   Each one is carrying his own possessions.





After they leave us on the bridge taking a last look around, I notice the ridge from which we were looking down at the bridge.  It looks like a little bald knob.  I zoom my camera in and get a fuzzy picture of the folks looking down who no doubt cannot see us.







UP we go via the steps and the stones. 







When we reach the top is it is even cooler yet, windier  and the fog is rolling in.  We go back over to check the views and take a selfie.  Pretty windy.  By the time we head back to the car, the view is socked in. 








We head back for dinner so that we can make the 7:00 starting time for the Solstice gathering sponsored by the Friends of the Porkies.  This is the first time in 4 years of full timing that I have been at any park that had  a Solstice Celebration.

I’m afraid though that with the weather being what it is, this will not be an outdoor jubilant celebration as Solstice gatherings are want to be in what is usually very warm June days.


They do have a bonfire though it has to be in one of the park’s metal fire circles.  Apparently some of the friends have done some research on the 8 Earth holidays for some celebration ideas. 

They have their holidays a little confused here and are doing some casting off things which are more appropriate for other times of the year. We joke that they need to recruit a few members of the Church of the Earth to the Friends group but none the less, their hearts are in the right place.  And I am happy to see them continuing this ancient tradition.


There are some “solar songs” including “Mr Sun, Sun, Mr. golden Sun won’t you please shine down on me”.   Some people are singing with gusto, even knowing all the hand gestures to this children’s song which really does have the right spirit of joy for this holiday.  Others are busy and cannot sing.





Those who have lost someone in the past year have birch bark torches to light from each other and then light the fire.   It’s a  lovely symbolic gesture usually done at a Samhain celebration on what has become Halloween/All Saints Day.









Then everyone writes on a slip of paper something(s) they’d like to have less of in their life or get rid of all together and throws the paper in the fire to symbolically banish these things from their life. 






Once back inside one of the friends explains the scientific meaning of solstice, when and why it occurs. 

Then we are treated to some music to end the evening.  These two were my favorite of the entertainers.  The gentleman wrote some wonderful earth based folks songs.  The mother daughter guitar flute duo was very good.  The mother had a really fabulous voice.  I’m sorry I can’t remember any of their names.

Big riotous happy dancing as an ending would have been more in order but that doesn’t seem to be the way of these Yoopers.  :-)   And it’s their party!





Having a party to celebrate is just the thing and I’m grateful to them for having me at their gathering  It’s the first one I’ve been to since I left Charlottesville and I was very happy to have a group with which to celebrate.  I hope this becomes a more popular thing to do all over.
I’d love to see our Solstices, Equinoxes and cross quarter days become Holidays to be celebrated by everyone. 



  1. That's one cool celebration... Also like how nice the paths were...beaver dams fascinate me! A big huge thank you for keeping up the posts...always feel like I'm right there with you!

  2. A nice celebration. I am always glad that the days will start getting shorter.

  3. There has been a huge hatch of those same kind of dragonflies here too.

  4. Super views - even with the fog!.

  5. Wonderful place! Great to have a Solstice Celebration of any kind. Although some of my fondest life memories are the 8 holiday rituals that I did with my women's group in Idaho for almost 20 years. I do miss them, but in this life I seem to have no one around who "gets it". All that stuff sorta freaks Mo out, and my Rocky Point friends don't have a clue. Ah well. I remember most fondly Winter Solstice bells, jumping Beltane fires, and fire burning in a bowl of water at Candlemas.

  6. The Porkies are one of our favorite destinations, we have stayed at Union Bay many times. We will stop just for an overnight if we are in the area. We have traveled US 2 all the way from Glacier NP back to the Bridge. Another area we like is the Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area further west in the UP near Watersmeet. If you are headed that way you may want to check it out.

    1. Sylvania would be an outstanding area to exercise the kayaks

  7. Great pictures--especially of the dragon flies! I never heard of a solstice celebration. Seems I learn a lot of new things every time you post. Somewhere along the line I missed where you are going before heading back (either that or my memory is failing). Love the way you are wandering. I was curious about the "porkies". I had heard we have a large population. I know you may not have the bandwidth but I found this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYwmDr7Is78 They are HUGE!

  8. Interesting that they seemed to sort of mix up several holiday traditions in their celebration, but as you said it is delightful to find an honoring of the Solstice. Here we danced in the bright, very hot, sunshine and embraced the power of the season - whew, did I mention hot?! Love your "no destination" hike in the wilderness, it was beautiful :-).

  9. Beautiful photos of the dragonflies! The Solstice celebration sounds like something I would love, although I would probably rather they stick to the traditional rituals. Anything is better than nothing though.

  10. Looks like a great area to visit! I'll guess there will be much more hiking in your future in that beautiful place. The selfie is awesome!

  11. This is fun...you guys are now beyond where we traveled in the UP, so I love seeing new things through your eyes. The Summer Solstice party sounds so cool. (If you haven't read your update yet, we got GREAT news yesterday. One of the first things Bill said to me was, "you've got to let David and Sherry know.")

  12. Sending your troubles up in flames . . . a great idea. We saw a British mystery that had that as an opening scene, and I thought at the time that it was a great idea. If no campfire is available, perhaps a shredder would do! ;->

    Virtual hugs,


  13. What a cool way to celebrate the solstice! Sounds like another great place to visit for sure. Love the view from the top!

  14. Dragonflies and a sweet puppy - and, all the rest! Lovely! I'm not sure about killing the pigs though...

  15. Thanks for letting us come along with you.

    My very first ever backpacking trip was on the Little Carp River trail to Lake Superior. It was mid July, hot hot hot and the black flies were biting. But I had the time of my life. Love the Porkies!

  16. oh lord?! why am in the south in the summer? you're cold?! haha… oh, I remember… two little ol bitty babies…

    Shoot to kill wild hogs? aw man? they were there before you and all of us… poor ol things… they are mean and here in Arkansas .. .we do have our share … they're the States University's mascot… Arkansas Razorbacks… mean dudes …

    ahhhhh good to see those gorgeous big ol trees and what a fun celebration. !

  17. Im not sure which is better, the rain/cold or the hot and humid …we are sweating like crazy so I think I prefer your rain and cold for now.
    The solstice celebration looks fun and interesting. I have never been to one.

    Sherry, I had to laugh watching you trying to take a pic of those big trees! And I can definitely relate to that.

  18. I'd like to throw into that fire a slip of paper saying I'd like to see less of Murphy...

    Hope you find the source of that antifreeze smell. Maybe the heater core is leaking, a know issue on older Winnies.

  19. I'm sure you must know...The Dragonflies favorite meal?........Skeeters!!!!
    Love those winged dragons!!

  20. Beautiful falls and nice selfie at the top! Impressive park even if they are celebrating like it's Fall. Nice fire picture...those flames were celebrating!

  21. I am enjoying the jackets and long pants. It is mentally helping me weather this humidity of the east I so don't enjoy. Oh, to be cold enough to need pants and a jacket:)

    What a neat hike down to the bridge!! Glad you made the journey:)

  22. Great park! I am hoping we follow your route along Lake Superior as we move west. You have found some beautiful hikes. Glad you made that hike down to the bridge. Sure looked like fun (til you had to come back up). Hope the weather improves a little but doesn't heat up.

  23. And yet another delightful location to visit along the Lake Superior. Looks like you'll be very busy in this big park, if the rain stops. Nice to have a celebration, even if not everything jived with a true Solstice.

  24. Looks like a great park and a beautiful hike -- but I'm with you, I prefer my hikes to start uphill and end downhill. But that's what CHOCOLATE is for!! So cool that you had others to share a Solstice celebration with -- even if they did mix things up a bit.

  25. Glad your enjoying Michigan!!


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