Day One Recap: Lots of rain, lots of crankiness, and the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had. (Read Part One for the whole story.)
Day Two, Friday, 14 July 2017: We got up bright and early to go to the park office, claimed a “first come, first served” spot that we could keep for the rest of our stay, and proceeded to move our stuff. It sounds like a huge hassle (taking down the damp tent, packing it all into the car, unpacking it, and reassembling the still-damp tent on a new site a mile away), but it really wasn’t that bad. We had it all figured out by 10 am (ish).
We then drove north to Whitefish Point. We paid too much money for the Shipwreck Museum, chose not to spend even more money to climb to the top of the lighthouse, and ended up skipping one of the museum’s buildings because we were just done with it. (Seriously, if you aren’t hella interested in maritime history, don’t pay to tour Shipwreck Museum. It’s overpriced.)
The beach that the lighthouse is on, however, is gorgeous! Jonny and I spent some time walking and looking, taking photos (he’s more into and better at photography than I am), and collecting cool rocks. It saved our Whitefish Point experience. (Note: The beach is free to access.)
You’re probably wondering when I fall on my ass… I’m getting there. I have to really paint the scene of our Friday afternoon before I get to the action.
So, picture this. The sun is finally shining. The air is still cool. We spent too much money on a boring museum, enjoyed the beach, and returned to our campsite ready to take on a 5-mile hike. (Pause. I am not a fan of physical exertion. I go to the gym two or three times a week, and I like hiking well enough. I’ve hiked multiple times growing up, and Jonny and I have done various walks/hikes in England, and I’ve always had a great time. Spoiler: That 5-mile hike was not a great time.)
We left our tent in mixed spirits: Jonny was eager to trek through nature and take some photos; I was accumulating mosquito bites (and irritation) by the minute. It was one mile from our camp to the Lower Falls, and then another four miles (uphill!) to the Upper Falls. By the time we did the first mile and arrived at the Lower Falls, I had seven mosquito bites and a lot of frustration.
I remember thinking that the first mile wasn’t bad and, had the mosquitoes left my repellent-drenched body alone, it would have been nice. It was an easy path through the woods, the sun shone through the trees prettily, and Jonny’s the best company. When we started in on the long stretch of four miles, we had a plan: get to the Upper Falls, eat at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, catch the shuttle back to our campsite. I figured the four miles would be much like the one we had already done, so I sucked up my growing anger at pointless nature demons, and I consoled myself with the thought of a big, juicy burger at the end of the hike.
The problem was, it had poured rain the entire day before and had refreshingly sprinkled that morning — the path was a disaster. It started off as a boarded walkway, but that dropped off to a dirt path, which quickly became a mud path not much wider than my body. The terrain became rougher, the incline steeper, and the mosquitoes more insistent on taking all of the blood from my body. It was just endless mud. Getting around it was pretty much impossible, which meant Jonny and I leapt and climbed and clutched at random nature to cross 15 feet of ankle-deep mud.
And there was a run going on. Like, semi-professional runners in tiny shorts going uphill as quickly as possible. “On your left!” every few minutes, Jonny and I trying our best to move sideways into neck-high underbrush and wilderness. Not only were they wearing more mud than clothing (all the power to you, runners, if you’re reading this!), they were chipper. They weren’t just friendly, they engaged in quick small talk over their shoulders as they whizzed, hopped, and squelched past us.
The first time I fell on my ass was when I slipped on a slightly sloped mud patch. The second time was when I was doing some crazy, wide-legged stance on either side of another mud patch, gaining confidence and speed as I neared the end until I just fell right into the mud. The third and final time I fell was just me angrily blasting through mud right around mile three, slipping, grabbing a tree, and losing my grip on the tree because my hands were covered in mud.
I pulled something in my upper thigh (near my hipbone) toward the end, which was great when I realized that we had hiked up four miles of ridiculousness only to have to climb multiple sets of stairs to reach the top. Full disclosure: I teared up. I tried not to, but it hurt so fucking badly. I ended up pulling myself up the stairs with my right leg so that I didn’t have to move my left leg. And when we reached the top, I had visions of lying on the ground and making dirt angels.
But there was another path we had to follow to get to the falls, and then another 100 steps down to view the Upper Falls! I broke down at that point. Full on wobbly-lipped and blinked away tears as I told Jonny, “I can’t do it. Not in a push-me-because-I-really-can way. I literally can’t go down those stairs.” Five miles through mud and mosquitoes, and I couldn’t even see the falls. Jonny went down to take a few photos, and I sat on a bench near a bulletin board. My phone said 7:50. The restaurant would close at 8:30. (Because breweries should totally close at 8:30 on a Friday night, am I right?) And to top it off, the last shuttle would leave at 8:30. And cost $20.
Imagine me ticking off my fingers one by one for this next part.
Hardest hike I’ve ever experienced. More mosquito bites than I’ve ever had. A pulled muscle. Couldn’t really see the waterfalls. Wouldn’t get dinner. And I hoped Jonny had cash because I wasn’t fucking walking back to the campsite, so we’d have to pay $20 for a 5-mile shuttle ride.
To wrap up this bitchfest of a story… Jonny came back up the stairs a little while later, we wandered a path until I could glimpse the Upper Falls in the distance, and then went to find the shuttle. When we got back to the tent, I didn’t get to shower because all of the runners were staying at our campground and had formed lines, so I gave up on the idea, and we eventually made it back to Paradise to eat at The Inn again. We sat at the same table and had the same waitress, but we tried different meals and enjoyed them.
Now that I’ve bitched for over 1200 words… Let me wrap this up with some realizations and positive spins! 1. My blood is so sweet, multiple layers of bug repellent won’t keep the mosquitoes away. Jonny received zero bites because the bastards like me better. So there. 2. I did an uphill, 5-mile hike through mud and lived! Now, I can do anything! 3. I will never, ever be the sort of person who runs like that for fun. I’ll stick to a treadmill and maybe some flat ground outside. No bugs, no mud, no slipping to my death. And I’m totally okay with not being that person. I’m more of a “glamper” than I thought I was. 4. The Inn saved my life. They were the only restaurant open after 9:30 on a Friday night in that bizarre area of the world.
In the next (and final!) installment of Adventures in the U.P.:
- Jonny and I have our Best Day!
- We find civilization!
- We see pretty waterfalls and pretty rocks!
- And we nearly freeze to death in the middle of July…
Do you like hiking? If so, where is your favorite place to hike?